A prolific creator of brand identities and logos, London-based type and lettering designer Rob Clarke has amassed a wealth of experience in his dozen years as a professional. Here, he offers a few wise words of advice.
What was your training? Did you work in other areas of graphic design and focus on typography later on, or have you always specialized? I would class myself as self-taught—I did a degree course in general graphic design, but had no formal training as a type designer. Following my degree I headed for London and worked alongside a calligrapher, which is where I picked up many skills.
When working on logos for large companies or their products/services/advertisements, are there any “do’s and don’ts”? I don’t find working on logos for large brands different than any other logo. With every project I strive to create something of high quality. Yes, the larger companies have bigger budgets and can utilize more of my time, but the smaller companies may allow more freedom and creativity. The bigger brands tend to have more people involved in the process, which can bring different challenges. You have to make sure you have a clear brief, but also be accommodating and understanding. I would avoid becoming too emotionally attached to a route. Having said that, smaller companies can become too close and protective, which can also hinder the process. Working on large, well-known brands can be very rewarding, but they’re unlikely to win the most coveted design awards. If you do want to work on large, well-known brands then, more often than not, you have to work for the largest and best design agencies around the world. To work for those agencies, you have to get your foot in the door and, once it’s ajar, you must deliver solutions. Listen to the client, meet deadlines, and never get complacent.
Is there a different approach or methodology when your client is an agency or studio and not the company you’re creating the typographic design for? The agency/studio may approach me further along in the process where my part may be less conceptual, but more about the craftsmanship. The brief may be much tighter, so my direction will be more focussed on a particular direction. When designing directly for clients I may have more time to get under the skin of the product/service. The deadline may not be as tight, and hopefully I can set more of my own goals.
How do you keep it fresh? Are you ever worried that you might repeat your own work or some other logotype that’s already been made? I’m constantly inspired by every form of creativity—art, architecture, photography, music, and fashion. But I’m overly conscious that trends exist and it’s something I’m aware of while designing. I believe a large percentage of each project should be taken up with research and inspiration. My most important objective is to be creative. What’s your favorite tool you use to create your designs? It has to be the plain old pencil.