Graduated – 1990
David considers himself ‘a wandering Scotsman’. He started working at Williams & Phoa moved into designing for fashion clients at Gary Rowland Associates, gaining valuable experience in art direction.
He then spent 12 years freelancing in London for a variety of small to medium sized consultancies – David Story at The BOX, Darryl Ireland at The Foundry,
John Michael Design, Fine White Line, Identica, Tango, Sieglegale, Bear, Curious, Next Big Thing, European Marketing Group, Inaria, Turquoise, Irving, Zeal Design, 300Million, Pocknell Studio, 35 Communications, Lloyd Northover, Start Design and Conran Design Group. He set up his own small venture DWHD with three friends in 2010.
The Disciples of Design Q&A
How and where did you secure your first job?
My first job was with Williams & Phoa, but it was about four months after graduating. I popped out of Preston all fresh faced and full of optimism right in the middle of a recession. I spent those first four months doing bits and bobs for studios, sleeping on friends floors and making myself as annoying as possible contacting everybody that I could and applying for as many jobs as possible.
Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Yes, Preston gives you the tools to make you a better more rounded designer. The sandwich element also helps to give you a better start – it makes you much more employable as you have a better idea what design is about, not the clichéd media idea. Preston also makes you come at a project from a different way, interrogating it and then coming up with creative ‘solutions’.
How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
It’s still all about communication and problems solving, the only real change is the pace at which clients expect you to solve and create. There are also now more channels to communicate in. There did seem to be less of a care about the craft element, but I’m happy to say that seems to be changing.
Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
A mixture of both, but a good brief will always give you the answer. I find that on most occasions when I read a brief I get an inkling of what the solution could be. I work closely with a creative writer and we believe that good communication comes from the combination of good writing and good design. I’m a great believer in a pad
and a pen and spend a lot of time doodling and writing – if I get stuck on something then I just leave it, do something else and the solution normally comes.
I like trawling through sites like Ffffound, FormFiftyFive, Ministry of Type, The Coolist, Change Thought and Swiss Miss – all of these are full of visually stimulating reference, interesting stories / case studies and sometimes that’s all you need to get you inspired.
What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
A lot of design is about collaboration – I would have liked to have done more of that, setting up a small team for particular projects. It helps you to compromise, not be too precious about things and develop as a designer. I would also have pushed myself more, played around with really pushing projects.
I’m not suggesting that you end up with a portfolio of non-commercial work but you need to have fun and college is the one place where you can really push ideas and not have too many people reigning you in or pushing back. I would’ve done some personal projects at the same time – these are a great way of demonstrating your passion be it illustration, typography, photography etc.
What’s the best thing about your job?
That I get to do something different every day. This week I’m designing a website for an online magazine. An issue of a
quarterly magazine for the Emirates as well as Direct Mail promoting Dubai to Chinese businesses/investors, a brand refresh for an American IT client, an educational handbook for a registered UK charity as well as finishing the design for our website. (Just want to point out that these are all ongoing projects, I haven’t started and finished all these in one week). What other job lets you work one day with a kitchen appliance manufacturer, a fashion retailer, a law firm, etc.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Being a listening designer with a hands on approach, a willigness to work hard and an ability at the same time to be able
to question and interrogate a client /brief.
First and foremost I love design. It’s what I trained as, not as a manager of other designers or a new business person (all
of these things you have to do when you run your own business). You have to see every job as an opportunity to demonstrate how a design project can benefit your client and help to build a productive relationship.
What’s the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
A 32 hour day for a client, starting with a 7am flight in London to Munich. I had a full day of meetings with the client and a stylist and then art directed a shoot with Uli Webber starting at 7pm in the evening finishing at 5am the following morning.
Then a series of meetings later that morning with the client to show them the fruits of our labour, then back on the plane at lunchtime to London and into work to finish off my day taking my Creative Director through the shots.
What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
It’s a lot more than just good work. A lot of it is to do with personality, you need to be enthusiastic and willing. I like people with opinions, who push me. Adrian Shaughnessy said that he tried to employ people that he knew would be likely to leave his company in the future and set up their own businesses.
Practical things – have your folio available as an emailable pdf. Listen to what the interviewer is saying about your work and consider, if more than one person expresses that opinion take it on board and sort it out.
Never say – ‘but the design got compromised because the client…’ design is a collaborative discipline and the final outcome will always be about compromise, be it from the client or the designer. Don’t be overly grand about how you present the work, let it stand on its own. Don’t be late. Leave enough time to get lost or delayed by public transport. Most of all be yourself, smile and enjoy the interview.
Any advice for students entering the industry?
Network. Get out there. Keep at it. It’s tough but if it’s something you really want to do then keep going and make it happen. Grab every opportunity that you can to demonstrate what you can do, even if it’s a flyer for a group of mates who are playing at your local pub. Remember that not everyone gets the opportunity to design album covers. Continue to learn and be enthusiastic. Always listen to other people in every industry, pick their brains.
Treat everyone you meet as a potential client – you never know one day they might be in a position where they need a good designer.
Graphic Motif - Amore Pacific
Poster - DWHD
The Art of Persuasion