A Few Minutes with David Airey

Graphic Designer David Airey at Work

David Airey needs no introduction in graphic design circles. But, in case you haven’t yet come across David’s work, he describes himself as “a graphic designer and occasional author [of the books Logo Design Love and Work for Money, Design for Love] who specialises in designing brand identities.” He lives in Northern Ireland, but his clients are scattered across the far reaches of the planet. David was kind enough to answer a few questions for today’s blog post.

You’re a well-known graphic designer & blogger [Logo Design Love, David Airey.com & Identity Designed], how is it that you’re able to take time to answer questions from somebody you’ve never met?

If someone takes the time to contact me, I do all I can to help with whatever he or she asks. It’s not always possible, unfortunately — I receive a ton of email as a result of my websites — but much of my time is spent replying to messages.

How did you get into logo design?

After my GCSEs I went to a local college to study art and design. From there, it was obvious I enjoyed design more than art, and my focus shifted to graphic design. Creating logos was a favourite part of my course, then after further studies and some time in general design employment, I made the switch to self-employment where I could focus solely on brand identity work.

Should every business have a logo?

From a designer’s viewpoint I’d say it depends on your definition of logo. For me (my definitions have changed during my learning, and perhaps will again), a logo is the combination of a wordmark and a symbol. A business doesn’t need both. Often, a wordmark is enough, particularly when the brand name is distinctive, such as Google or Sony or Honda.

Who and what inspires your design work?

Nature, architecture, engineering, my parents, my peers… I think you can find inspiration in almost anything if you’re curious enough.

Many of your logos are very clean and contemporary. What do you think of the trend towards ornate and embellished logos in recent years?

I often see various styles classified as recent trends, but if you look to the past, the styles have been done already. It’s just that people don’t immediately remember, so they think it’s new. The more simplistic the appearance, the easier it is to remember at a quick glance, and the more enduring the design becomes, hence my favoured style.

Do you always start design projects with a pencil sketch?

I start by asking questions. Lots of them. But a pencil is always used when it comes to recording preliminary ideas.

What was your favorite project?

I really don’t know. I’ve had a lot of fun working with most of my clients. I couldn’t pick one over the rest.

You grew up in Bangor, Northern Ireland, do you think there’s anything “Irish” about your designs? For that matter, is there any “regional flavour” in contemporary design at all?

I hope there’s nothing more Irish about my work than the fact that it’s the designer’s nationality. Most of my clients are overseas, and none have an Irish product. But the “regional flavour” you mention could be important depending on the project. If a product or service was (and always would be) distinct to a geographic location, then it lends itself well to a design style that locals are familiar with. The Peru identity comes to mind.

To quote sign-painter Ira Coyne:  “If the guy who’s been working at some job that he hates moves on and opens that coffee shop or store he has always wanted to own, that will change the landscape of America.”  What advice would you have for someone starting a small business (Clearly yours has been a success)?

In the words of Nicholas Bate, “Be brilliant at the basics”. Here’s a short excerpt from his free PDF:

What’s the best logo ever?

Tough one. A few of my favourites are listed on this Creative Review piece, but there are many more I could reel off.

Thanks a lot for your time, David.

Now, for some of David’s work:

Feru Wordmark Logo

Tudor Bourn Logo

Giacom Logo

Henri Ehrhart Logo

Campus IT Logo Canvases

Work for Money Design for Love

David’s newest book, Work for Money, Design for Love, published last year.

From Pencil Sketch to Pristine Logo

"Stu" from Pristine Video Productions

Event photography is always difficult – trying to capture every special moment at a wedding or graduation without ruining it – any photographer will attest to that. There is a skill in capturing the image before it passes. But if snapping beautiful pictures is an art, creating nice video footage is pure genius (I know this from the many hours it took me to create a very short and rough YouTube clip). But that’s the daily grind for the crew at Pristine Video Productions, in Narooma.

Unlike their stunning flicks, however, their corporate logo left a little to be desired. In May, Lorraine Boggs contacted us about creating a new brand mark that was a “fresh, light and breezy”. She had seen our logo and signage for the Amooran Hotel and wanted us to try our hand at a new logo for Pristine Video.

Amooran Oceanside Logo

The logo we created for Amooran Oceanside

At first, we juggled a few different concepts around – the Glasshouse Rocks (a landmark of Narooma), a purely typographic wordmark, a “play” button – I filled several pages with quick-and-dirty pencil sketches before developing a few concepts.

Pencil Sketches for Logo Design

Pencil Sketches

Pristine-Logo-1-mono

A Jon-Contino-Style hand-drawn logo concept

 

Pristine-Logo-2-colour

A concept based on the Glasshouse Rocks

 

After plenty of discussion, we decided to pursue a “tree of life” concept, rather than the Glasshouse Rocks, which – although locally relevant – may not be familiar to clients further afield. Lorraine sent a few images that inspired her and her husband Stuart:

Tree of Life 1

Tree of Life 2

Original Artwork by Artist Chris Chun

 

Tree of Life 3

Tree of Life 4

Here’s the first tree design we came up with:

Pristine Logo Concept

Pristine Logo Concept

Although nice and clean, this concept looked a little too “dead”. Lorraine wanted something more leafy and alive. This time we started with a painting:

Tree Painting

and developed it into a logo:

Pristine-Logo-Colour

Yes, this is a vector (if any graphic designers are wondering)

Lorraine and Stuart were happy with this final version. For the lettering, we used the typeface Carolyna Pro. It has a certain “wedding” look to it, which was just right for Pristine.

Carolyna Pro

Just as I was working on this project, the liquid amber (sweet gum) tree out front began to look a lot like the symbol on the Pristine logo. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the moment, but here’s what it looked like after a rain in the night:

Liquid Amber Leaves, Oswald Street, Inverell