In a distant past prior to working at Sagmeister & Walsh, or his infamous Complements project (a collaboration with partner Leta Sobierajski that lampoons cringeworthy couple portraits), Aussie designer and art director Wade Jeffree was plotting his move to the U.S. As a graphic design student in Melbourne, he eagerly took on any design job that came his way.

One such project was Jeffree’s very first website design, a portfolio site for photographer Leigh Crow that taught him the importance of presenting work that you actually like to your clients.

The First Thing I Ever Designed: Wade Jeffree, identity for Leigh Crow.

“It’s crazy to think that I worked on this almost ten years ago! I was still at university at the time, I think into my third or fourth year. I was still living in Melbourne and working part-time in a studio (my university had a great industry placement set up).

“I was super eager to get my hands on everything and anything that would actually manifest into something, and very keen to start working with new people and learn about the design process so that I could line up a job straight after graduation. Photographer Leigh Crow was a friend of a friend, and he was just starting to take the leap into freelance photography. Both of us were starting out in different ways, so collaborating with him felt right. He asked me to design his visual identity, including stationery, a newsprint document for prospective clients, and an online portfolio.

“I wanted the project to be more than a simple word mark with minimal application. I felt there was room to push the brief conceptually so that we could speak of photography in a really interesting, uncharted way. I love the mathematical detail of photography; I love that something so detailed presents a result that can represent almost anything, whether that’s the day-to-day, the devastating, the cathartic, or something historical. Therefore, the logotype was to represent that idea of detail, and allow the emoting and spontaneity of Leigh’s photographs to have space and breathing room alongside it.

The First Thing I Ever Designed: Wade Jeffree, identity for Leigh Crow.
The First Thing I Ever Designed: Wade Jeffree, identity for Leigh Crow.

“Leigh’s work is quite candid and uses a lot of natural light, so the contrast of the name’s spacing felt right. I implemented a monospaced system so that it references the typography on the camera—literally taking the details of the tools of his trade, so that anyone who has used or seen a film camera (he largely shot on film at the time) would know straight away that Leigh was a photographer. The identity is based on f-stops and aperture settings on a camera lens.

“The layout of imagery on the site and newsprint was then expressed in a way that complemented the movement and youth caught in his pictures, whilst keeping the written details subtle so that work remained the focus.

“Thankfully there were no bumps in the road, unlike how it is now: I only presented one option, and it worked. That’s my main takeaway from this first job: it’s important to present what you like to a client, and not give them the opportunity to morph and Frankenstein your design by combining motifs from several options.”

The First Thing I Ever Designed: Wade Jeffree, identity for Leigh Crow.
The First Thing I Ever Designed: Wade Jeffree, identity for Leigh Crow.