Hi David and thank you for accepting my invitation to this interview, a lot of people are looking forward to it and so am I.

01. Let’s begin by finding out something about your early days of life, how did you grow up, and maybe there’s a story you’d like to share with us that brings back memories?

I grew up where I’ve since returned to, and where my closest family live, in the coastal town of Bangor, Northern Ireland. I was fortunate to have a settled childhood, no major trauma, and two great parents who I have a lot of love for. Things that bring back fond memories: my Raleigh Burner, rope swings, Ghostbusters in the cinema, skimming stones at the shore, tents in the garden, renting films on VHS cassette, the Atari 2600, Action Force figures, treehouses, catapults, dressing up as a rat for the Pied Piper school play (I’m the one in grey).

02. Did your creative nature manifest itself from an early age?

My mum would tell me I was always drawing, but I’m fairly sure that’s the case with most kids who have the opportunity. I remember a phase of drawing elaborate tunnel networks with stick people inside. I remember copying the logos of bands I listened to, cutting them out and sticking them on my bedroom wall. I remember one of my classmates in primary school always picking up a pen and doing dot-to-dot with the freckles on his arms, but that was a stage of doodling dedication I never reached.

I think as we get older we’re taught our way out of creativity. There’s a fantastic 2006 TED talk by Ken Robinson titled, Do schools kill creativity? It’s been watched more than 50 million times so you’re probably aware of it. I wish our education ministers paid more attention to his words. “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

03. Is there a specific period in time when you decided to be a graphic designer, or this was something you came up to?

Art was my favourite class in secondary school (aged 11–15), but my grades across all subjects weren’t good enough to carry on in the school I was at, so I enrolled on a two-year art and design course at my local college. That’s where where I was properly introduced to how graphic design can be used to solve a problem. A life as a designer began to feel realistic, and my full-time study continued until I was 22.

04. What is the first logo you designed?

It was for my dad’s tyre business. He wanted it to include wheels to the left and right of the brand name, making it appear like a side view of a car. In hindsight, it was terrible. Thankfully he only ever used it at the top of a few letters printed at home, and now it only exists in my head.

05. What is the weirdest or funniest experience you’ve had with a customer?

None stand out as being funny or weird, but every project is fun in its own way.

06. What is the ideal number of options one has to present to a client?

It depends on the working relationship. For example, if the project’s pro bono then the deal should be that you as the designer decide on the final outcome, and what you choose is what gets used — you give up your time and the client gives up the ability to choose. On the other hand, if you’re collaborating with a large team then there’s the challenge of finding consensus among a number of people, and that’s where showing a variety can help.

You’re more likely to produce a lasting result when the client feels a sense of ownership, and to do that the client needs to be involved. If there’s a choice between this and that it becomes easier, but that doesn’t mean a single option can’t work, too.

07. I am pretty sure you are familiar with the “One Concept” approach based on a “take it or leave it model” what is your take on it, and have you ever used it?

I’ve used it successfully and unsuccessfully. It’s more common for me to present two ideas, left and right. It’s no good presenting ideas that are similar because then there’s really no choice. While every project involves a broad range of ideas, it’s wrong to share them all with the client because it can paralyse. How can a client be sure about the best of anything if they’re selecting between 10, 20, 50 options? I think even five is too many, as it shows a lack of belief in what you’re doing.

08. What was your first book and what exactly determined you to start on it?

The first edition of Logo Design Love came about after Nikki McDonald sent an email out of the blue. She was senior acquisitions editor at Peachpit, a US-based publisher, who found me through the Logo Design Love website. Nikki wondered if I’d like to write a book on the topic. It’s not like I was searching for a publisher, but it seemed to be a good idea at the time.

09. What should a personal website contain (besides great work) in order to get the attention of prospects that later on could become clients.

Content that inspires trust, whether that’s through videos, a podcast, blog posts, links to interviews, mentions of awards, published or self-published books. It’s a risk for clients to hire a designer, because they pay you based on past design work, and the impending result is unknown, so the aim is to make yourself as risk-free as possible. It could be as simple as including an FAQ page that answers typical client questions, or offering a free initial consultation after the client sends you details of the brief.

10. How important do you think it is to have a degree in the graphic design industry and do you see any difference (if there is any) between a designer with a diploma and a self-taught one?

The degree itself isn’t as important as the experience of being on a degree course. That said, the freedom you get as a design student will also depend on who does the teaching. Generally, spending a few years getting critiqued by your teachers and peers is invaluable, especially when you begin working in the profession. It helps you to understand that criticism isn’t about you but about the work, and the better you are at taking it on board, the faster you’ll improve. Of course, you need to pay attention to who’s giving the critique, because remarks from one person don’t necessarily hold the same weight as those from another.

Ultimately, where client trust is concerned, a degree doesn’t matter. It’s your work and your words that do.

11. At this point you are a great designer and published author with books that cover a great amount of knowledge. What is your WHY and what drives you?

There’s a lot I love about working as a designer. With every new client you get to learn from business people striving to make a difference in their respective fields. The only limitation on what we learn is our curiosity. Compare that to sifting through landfill sites for plastic, or spending most of our waking hours in a coal mine. People in any creative profession are incredibly fortunate when you consider the alternative paths we might be on.