Identity Designed

We chat with the man behind a few of our favourite things aka. ID & Logo Design Love, David Airey about everything from Elon Musk to baby #2 entering the world. David has some of the best insights in the industry, and some killer advice for students over on his website. Get stuck in!

What do you look for in a great portfolio?

Ideas, more than anything. They need to be well presented, but if I had to choose between good ideas and a professional appearance I’d go for the ideas every time. It’s more straightforward to teach software skills than it is to teach creative thinking.

And it’s always nice to see some behind-the-scenes — where an idea came from, sketches or digital experiments, the discarded directions.

Are you involved in any teaching and if so, how does it shape your practice?

Not exactly formal mentoring, but there are some student designers I help through email and Skype. They’ll show me their work and ask me questions, and I’ll offer the best advice I can. It’s not something I advertise — more a case of wanting to help and finding it tough to say no when people ask. I’m thinking of creating a more structured set of lessons on a subscription basis or one-time payment, because I love seeing the progression in others, and if I can reach more people while helping to pay the bills, great.

Design work by Identity Designed The Design Kids interviews Identity Designed work-2

Do you ever wish you were an in-house designer?

Not really. I sometimes wonder about the bigger projects I could work on as part of a team, but being independent shouldn’t put too much of a limit on the type of client I collaborate with. It’s more a case of getting better at what I most enjoy, then showing that improvement in my portfolio.

Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for?

I wouldn’t do anything, but it’d be an honour to work with Elon Musk — someone wanting to make things better for the world, and in the face of harsh criticism from people he most admires.

Or I remember when I saw the coin designs Matt Dent created for the Royal Mint. Imagine having someone ask what you do for a living, and you pull some change out of your pocket. “See these?”

Design work by Identity Designed The Design Kids interviews Identity Designed work-4
Design work by Identity Designed The Design Kids interviews Identity Designed work-4

The polish of a project can always be improved with better knowledge of software. That’s the easier part.

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

I recently signed a contract with Rockport to create the Identity Designed book. It’ll put the spotlight on 20–30 design studios from around the world, giving readers an insight into their project workflows, from pricing and invoicing, to generating ideas and presenting. There’s a lot of work ahead, but some amazing firms have already come on board, so I can’t wait to have it on shelves.

At the same time, I’m working with a couple of clients in the US and one in the UAE, designing and redesigning logos and their broader identities.

On a personal level, my son Isaac was born six months ago, giving my four-year-old daughter Scarlett a sibling, so that’s something amazing in my life. The lack of sleep can be a challenge, with Scarlett pushing boundaries, too, but there’s a lot of laughter, music, and learning in the house. Some special memories being made.

I’m incredibly fortunate for all I have.

What advice would you give students starting out?

Don’t be afraid to ask the most obvious questions. Even when you think you know the answer, what you hear will differ depending on who you’re talking to.

You’ll make a lot of mistakes. Don’t worry. We all do. Learn from them, move on.

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Master typography.

Value your skills, and always talk money in your initial client discussions. If you leave pricing until later, you’ll waste so much time with clients who either can’t afford you or who want something for free.

Read non-design books. The best designers are also the most curious.

Treat all clients as if they’re your best yet. You can make the most amazing work for people in any profession. You’re only limited by your imagination and your ability to persuade.

You don’t learn anything when you’re talking.

When things go wrong, and they will, be quick to accept responsibility, then act to make things right.

Be as clear as possible when setting expectations at the start of a project. The more you know about what your client is looking for, the less stressful your job will be.

When you critique someone else’s work online, talk as if that person is standing in front of you.

The design company is not the only place to be a designer.

Don’t be disheartened when you see work that’s much better than yours. Use it to help narrow the gap. It’s much better to judge your current level by comparing it to your old projects.

Have fun. Being a designer is a brilliant job.

Design work by Identity Designed The Design Kids interviews Identity Designed work-6
Design work by Identity Designed The Design Kids interviews Identity Designed work-6

Where to find Identity Designed online.


Facebook: /davidairey

Twitter: @DavidAirey

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