We talk to the talented brand-monger and author of Smashing Logo Design, Gareth Hardy
This week Creative Chair is in Birmingham for an interview with designer Gareth Hardy of Down with Design.
Hi Gareth Hardy, how did you break into the creative industry?
I graduated from the University of Wolverhampton in 2006 and soon learned that it is extremely difficult to get a job in the real world. My course was really broad, so I had a lot of skills in various design disciplines, but I wasn’t really a specialist in anything. A jack of all trades, master of none so to speak. A year later I landed a job as a Graphic Designer at a small design company in Warwickshire.
I was the only designer in the company (surrounded by programmers) so there was a bit of pressure from the very start. I spent about 18 months there, mainly designing websites, before realising that if I was really going to make a decent career out of my artistic abilities that I had to work for myself. My employers at the time didn’t really match my ambitions, so I decided to put a plan into action of how I could achieve my dream of being a full-time self-employed designer.
All the work I had previously completed was the property of my previous employer so of course, I had no portfolio of my own, which is a massive drawback if you want to start landing your own gigs! To overcome this, I took on small freelance logo design and print jobs for local businesses and started to amass a portfolio of identity work that I would publish at Logopond. This is where I really honed my skills and learnt from some great designers with much more experience than myself. When I wasn’t designing, I was working full-time in the day as a Thermal Insulation Engineer to help pay the bills.
That was five years ago now. I eventually felt confident that I was getting enough enquiries to make freelance a full-time possibility in 2009, and I’ve been doing it ever since. If you’ve got a dream, you really have to go for it no matter what sacrifices you have to make. You can’t make a giant leap forward without taking a step back first.
In your opinion, what exactly is a brand?
A brand is an identity given to something to help differentiate it from others. And that ‘something’ can be ‘anything’.
What are your top three favourite brands?
Adobe & Apple (without them I would be screwed), & my football team Manchester United (don’t hate me.)
How did your book, “Smashing Logo Design: The Art of Creating Visual Identities” come to fruition?
It was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. As I’ve already mentioned, when I first started out I didn’t really have an online portfolio as I was completing small freelance jobs and working full-time in the day so I didn’t have the spare time to make one! I was however, trying to get traffic by voicing my views on current design issues. I like to think I don’t hold back and speak my mind and this seemed to go down quite well In 2010 Smashing Magazine put a tweet out asking their followers if anyone knew of any topics that they think should be covered. I got talking to Vitaly of Smashing Mag and ended up writing an article entitled 10 Common Mistake in Logo Design. From there, a publisher at Wiley spotted the article and loved my writing style and so asked me to put a pitch together for a book as part of the Smashing series.
Is there anyone in particular who has inspired you within the creative community?
My favourite designers are those that push the boundaries, break the rules and don’t follow the crowd like headless chickens. I love Salvador Dali, Herb Lubalin & Banksy for those exact reasons. Getting to interview Milton Glaser for my book was a very inspiring moment. I’d have loved to have been able to speak to Paul Rand too.
On the Behance network you are the most appreciated designer in Birmingham, how do you feel the network has aided in furthering your creative endeavours?
I didn’t know that, thanks! :) Behance has been a massive help as I was lucky enough to get a logo design collection featured and so that brought with it a lot of traffic and enquiries. Recently, though, I haven’t been getting as many from there as I think they changed their algorithm so that search results are by default the most recently most appreciated rather than the most appreciated of all time. So it just goes to show how important it is to keep your portfolio current and fresh.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully still alive and possibly working with bigger clients. I work in partnership with my brother who is a web developer so I’d eventually like to revisit my roots and do some more web design work than I currently do now. My sister is a phenomenal artist at just 18 years of age so to collaborate with her on some projects one day would be a dream come true.
The 6th 366 Award goes to Gareth Hardy for his outstanding creative work.
And finally, if you died and were reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
I’m pretty sure there is an app for that if there isn’t there will be one eventually. Anyway, I would have to pick: Gunshot – Maths & Stats