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Probing the creative mind #7 David Taylor

So, What If… Probing the creative mind – David Taylor, Graphic Designer and Art Director

The seventh in a series of posts wiggling around in the grey matter of creative people. Copywriters, Art Directors, Creative Directors, Graphic Designers, Photographers, Illustrators; they’re an odd, mysterious bunch – or are they? Introducing David Taylor, Graphic Designer and Art Director.

Hello David, let’s kick this off by you telling us what it is you do.
Hi Jonathan and Happy New Year. I work at Saentys; I’m a Graphic Designer and Art Director. Our studio is based in London, Shoreditch, and we also have offices in Paris, Geneva and Lyon, bringing together ideas for real estate, corporate and retail branding.

I work alongside a fantastic team of well-rounded and talented individuals, and this year we became 10 years young. We creatively push every project we take on and ensure that our clients always receive a design that is uniquely theirs. Obsessing over the details and experimenting with finishes and formats is a thing I really enjoy. I love to deliver beautifully crafted ideas that inspire and visually communicate to an audience.

So what first got you into a creative career?
At a young age I would be constantly doodling, creating posters with friends, replicating logos over schoolbooks, bags, whatever the ‘fad thing’ of the time was. I would write short story books and spend days designing the cover, which in turn would give me further ideas on the stories I wrote.

Family and friends told me that I was the ‘artistic’ one in the family, but I wasn’t sure of which direction to take. One day a good friend, Nathan Hallet, put his college portfolio in front of me and suggested I take a look. I flicked through a mix of photography, hand crafted illustrations, bold and subtle lettering and proclaimed, “fuck, I want to create stuff like this”. He wrote me a brief to design a fashion label and I got started. Visually designing for purpose fascinated me and studying design felt like the next thing to do.

Where did you study design and how did you land your first design job?
As an Essex lad, I started at the South East Essex College of Arts & Technology with a BTEC in Graphic Design. From there I went on to study in North London at Barnet College, for a Higher National Diploma in Art & Design and then onto Middlesex College to study for a Graphic Design BA Honours. I met some interesting people and friends along the way, with whom I shared digs, crazy nights out and some very in-depth, late night design theory discussions.

A lot of my study work involved creating design elements by hand – back then the Apple Macintosh Power PC was pretty slow by today’s standards. I learnt a lot from lecturers, but a hell of a lot from other students. Looking back at my study days it wasn’t about what was taught; it was about the effort and enthusiasm put in. The level of creativity other students produced really pushed me to stand out with my creative ideas, which helped me build my folio and pursue my career.

My first job was as a Junior Designer at the North London design agency, David Mills Graphic Design. I landed the role through sheer passion and willingness to learn design, that and recommendations through good friends and businesses in the industry I met whilst living in the local borough. Once I had mastered the tea and coffee process, I would help to create illustrations, logos, typesetting etc. to add to the outgoing studio work.

As a Graphic Designer and Art Director, what’s your go-to starting point to get the creative process moving?
A pencil, paper, good coffee, Spotify and gut instinct. I research, pull ideas apart and then put them back together. It’s good to get lost inside a thesaurus, take note of words that leap out, doodle, gather related patterns, explore colours, textures and images, then research some more.

When on a Mac, I collate folders of photography, Illustrations, typefaces, colours, finishes etc. to help me clarify a starting point. If you’re able to sit down with other designers and get opinions back, then do; from then on just keep exploring.

Who have you worked with along the way who has influenced you?
I had the privilege of working with Brand Strategist, Peter Bonnici many years ago, who sadly died in 2013. We shared a similar visual language in how to see design from a different angle and pull apart the obvious.

Since my study years, idols in design and music, all have influenced me in one way or another. Glazer, Fletcher, Tschichold, Barnbrook, Crouwel, Carson and Brody opened my mind’s eye, made me question design, its form and function. Magazines like Raygun, Blah Blah Blah, The Face and ID all flipped ‘the norm’ on its head. Working alongside many fantastic Design Directors in the past at various design agencies, each mentored me creatively in their own unique way.

Putting you on the spot, what’s your favourite piece of work you’ve been involved in?
I’ve created brand concepts in various sectors such as The Crown Estate’s Regent Street and St. James’s, The British Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe and East Village E20 to name but a few.

Working at Saentys, I’ve produced a vast amount of property and marketing campaigns all over the heart of London, and each I’m proud to say I’ve been involved in. Currently I’m designing collateral for the transformation and refurbishment of The Minster Building in London’s ever-growing iconic business district. We are strategically re-branding and marketing the property to challenge the market’s preconceptions of the building and its location. The identity campaign has repositioned the building as a new leading City lifestyle destination for 2018 and I’m looking forward to the next stages.

Also, the re-brand for our Saentys identity was a great job to work on. There have been so many different design proposals, concepts and logo marks crafted with all the Saentys team input, thoughts and ideas. To help change the tone of voice of the company I began working for 6 years ago and to see how it has grown is really inspiring.

What ingredients make up the ideal client?
An open mind, honesty, enthusiasm and forward thinking. One that values your services and wont dilute the creative ideas. One that believes great design can communicate more effectively. A client that doesn’t mind being asked questions, then more questions, even the peculiar ones in order to strengthen a brief. A client that pays on time with a budget that lasts all year. Perhaps most importantly, a client that doesn’t drive you crazy with changes at the eleventh hour.

I could go on with a few more descriptors, but you get the gist. When you meet a client that you get on with, respects your opinions and gives you the creative freedom to do work you’re proud of… look after them.

Tell me one thing you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to other creatives.
Know when to shut up and listen, research and define your audience, observe trends, collect and share inspirations, always be learning (sorry you asked for one thing).

Collecting inspiration on Pinterest turned into an obsession for me, this led me to start a blog called Collected.

Sites like Pinterest are a great source for ideas, but I wanted to create a more personal go-to collection of inspiration that informs and inspires, often making me think “damn, I wish I had done that” and that keeps me on my toes.

At the beginning of the creative idea and talks, there is no such thing as a bad idea. Bring all of your thoughts to the table, as I have learnt that the bizarre and smallest ideas can ignite the first seeds of a great concept.

Keep in mind the ‘tell me I’ll forget, show me I’ll remember’ analogy.

As a Graphic Designer and Art Director, what three pieces of work do you wish were in your portfolio?
There are so many pieces of work that I’m inspired by right now. Three that spring to mind would be:
– The TV identity for Channel 4 directed by Jonathan Glazer, with fonts created by globally renowned design agency Brody Associates and commissioned by 4Creative.
– The 2016 Graphic Design Festival Scotland designed by Freytag Anderson.
– The design proposal for Norway’s new bank notes designed by Snøhetta.

I’m constantly spotting design that I wish I had worked on or could have been involved in, and those I’m particularly inspired and somewhat envious of.

Channel 4 rebrand

Graphic Design Festival Scotland

Design proposal by Snøhetta

What one thing would make your job easier or better?
I think all designers would agree that more time to explore ideas would be heaven sent, but that’s not always the way. Procrastinating about an alignment, colour or typeface can sometimes cloud the imagination, so my advice would be to sometimes go with it and move on, step back, step away from time to time.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I wanted to be a magician at the age of 7, a boxer at the age of 10, an author at 11, a musician at 14 and a painter at 16. As a designer now, and without sounding corny, at the moment I wouldn’t want to be anything else. Visual communication is always changing and I like to think that I’ve always got my eye on future design trends, doing what is right for brand and brief.

No doubt, as a Graphic Designer and Art Director, there’s a little bit of the magician, boxer, author and musician in everything you’re doing now. Thanks for the interview David, and here’s to the next 10 years of Saentys.

Connect with David on LinkedIn
Check out David’s ‘Collected’ blog

Read more creative probing here:

Scriptwriter and Producer: Mick Sands
Graphic Designer: Riz Jaffer
Photographer: Alex Bamford

Art Director: Mick Brigdale
Photographer: Stephen Ambrose
Creative Director and Graphic Designer: Chris Harrison