We chat to creative Chad Barnier, who when he’s not freelancing on the go while touring with his band, Drawing North, calls Canberra home. Chad teaches us how to deal with the design disaster we will inevitably face sooner or later (computer crashing and forgetting to save your work) and his future plans for creating a mutli-disciplinary studio!
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
I’ve loved music and art since I was a young kid, I’ve always seen them as the perfect partners in crime. When I hit high school I picked up a guitar for the first time and started a band with some friends. That quickly turned into making album artwork for lots of CDs that never got made or posters for gigs that never got played. After college my band started taking things a little bit more seriously and so did I with my art. It wasn’t until recently that decided I wanted to do this full time and be able to earn proper money while traveling all over the world with music.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Make lists! By nature I am not an organised person and prioritising jobs or budgeting have never been my forté. I can’t tell you how much lists have focused my work process and boosted my productivity. One little list at the start of the day is a life saver.
2. Stand up for the value of your work! You are a creative, but you are also an entrepreneur. Doing cheap or free work devalues you as an artist and devalues the craft as a whole. It’s something we all have to align ourselves with. Non-creatives unknowingly disrespect the industry because young guns are willing to do the job for peanuts. Plan out your pricing early so you can efficiently quote clients and know what your bottom line is.
3. Learn when to say no! Trust me, as much as it seems counter productive, you don’t want to take on every job that comes your way. Nothing kills your creative vibes more than negative clients, unrealistic deadlines and jobs that don’t align with your brand ethos/aesthetic. Saying no can be liberating, just use it at the right time – you still need remain flexible.
4. Everyone is a potential client! Remember that everyone you talk to, every business you deal with and the places you go to eat all have design needs. Someone’s cousin might be in fashion. That guy’s aunt is the owner of the cafe the needs a rebrand. The girl who just made you coffee is a photographer for a great magazine. Learn to talk to people, it’s a rare skill. Oh and a little bit of ego goes a long way (emphasis on “little”). When someone asks what you do, don’t say “I work in admin. But on the weekends I like to play on my computer/camera”, you say “I’m a visual and creative problem solver” or “I freeze time to relive over and over”. Try it.
5. Always be working! Have no jobs on? Start a personal project! On the train? Listen to a design podcast! (I recommend Adventures in Design). You can always be filling your brain with ideas for new projects. You can’t sit behind a computer all day, every day and expect to churn out good work. Take in the world around you, learn a new skill, travel – your design-self will thank you 🙂
How do you deal with non creative clients that don’t see your vision?
How does anyone?! Haha. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and reassess what’s important to you. Is this project going to lead to more work? Is this job worth a lot of money? There is usually a point when dealing with these sorts of clients where you say, “Looks like this isn’t going to be a portfolio piece”. If this particular job is important to you then it’s time to put some war paint on and fight for your idea. After all you’ve been hired for a reason, remind them why!
Whats the big goal in the next five years?
In the next five years I would love to start up my own multi-faceted creative studio with my wonderful girlfriend. As well as graphic design, I am also a photographer, like to play with motion graphics and film and love to see people collaborate.
My goal is create a one-stop-shop for all of these creative disciplines and more. A place where creatives can come together, challenge each other and think outside the box. I would also like to adopt ideas from other industries, like holding short-term residencies for creatives or taking the shop on the road.
What has been some of your biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it?
I think the biggest disasters I’ve encountered are just the standard ones everyone faces. Not getting paid. Clients completely changing their minds halfway through a job. Computers crashing without saving. And honestly, I think everyone needs to be slapped in the face with these challenges. If you have the right attitude, after you experience them once you shouldn’t get stung again. Trust me, after the first time you don’t get paid you’ll learn to not start any work without a deposit, no exceptions. Put it in your contract, pitch differently, work with different clients. Lots of easy fixes to soul destroying situations.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Outside of the design world I am a musician and my band Drawing North are releasing our debut album this year. If you like pop/rock music, keep an eye out for it.
Professionally, just taking positive baby steps towards the dream studio I mentioned above!