Dave is a senior designer here at Toward. For five years, he’s been helping our clients to develop brands that effectively tell their stories. From Yondur to Cardiff City, Dave’s incredible work speaks for itself. But the influences, developments and interests behind these? We asked Dave to share…
What are your influences?
My influences can change regularly, I find it refreshing to try to be inspired by lots of things. However, if I were to define some core influences here are my top 3;
Introducing the top spot, the now widely known genre of music called ‘Grime’. Grime for me captured my youth, very rarely do you get to grow up with a genre of music that's born in your lifetime. I relate to the unapologetic nature it represents and the rough, real and honest aesthetic it carries itself with. I try to take these values into my work, how I communicate and interpret a challenge. Truth is a powerful trait, I find comfort in being honest and creating work that feels true to who I am, so this one was a no-brainer.
If it comes from the heart then you can’t go wrong
Grime MC, East London
Grime was founded in London in the early 2000's by a collective of MC's (master of ceremonies) from different areas. It's a genre that has surfaced to the mainstream in recent years which is a lesson in itself that if you work hard the cream always rises to the top.
Not heard Grime before? Here are 9 tracks to get you started. Love it or hate it!
Secondly, the sister of design - art. Without art I feel design fails to exist. Since a child I've always found comfort in expressing myself, whether it’s making something out of raw materials or sketching my favourite cartoon charatcer, art keeps a creative perspective when approaching logical design challenges and problems. Having this creative perspective can definitely play a role in coming up with a unique idea or brand narrative.
Here are a few of my favourite artists: Basquiat, James Turrell & Salvador Dali.
Finally, home. As annoying as parents can be, they keep me grounded and have supported me throughout my career. The early influences they had on me as a child from music to fashion has had an impact on my life and my outlook.
There’s something powerful that comes from the feeling of ‘Home’ which can really shape an individual if they chose to harness it. My hometown of Aberystwyth always ceases to inspire me, the simplicity and bliss of being by a seaside is definitely an influence for sure. Learning to take a breath in a busy world full of demand is certainly a trait I’ve taken from this influence.
What have been your favourite projects and why?
There’s some new ones in the works! but these two projects come to mind.
At number 1 the Cardiff City FC 2021/22 Adidas kit launch campaign. This piece of work felt like a coming-of-age project for myself, I had the opportunity to combine some of my favourite elements of my profession together and the outcome was awesome. Having superbly talented photographer Will Douglas on the project gave us the quality output we needed to capture real emotion.
Leading Strategy, Art Direction and Visual Design on the project was a big challenge, but it paid off when we saw the reaction from fans and how the campaign became a staple point of cultural significance for younger fans.
The decision to include local Grime artist Mace the Great’s tune ‘My Side of the Bridge’ as the official launch track was the cherry on the cake. Personally, I felt it was something different for the club, something I feel will be a timeless moment that saw a shift in the club’s visual direction, or at least aligned with what was going on in the city at that time.
Number 2 has to be Yondur. The design process of this project felt the most natural I've felt in my role thus far. Discovery all the way to the presentation had energy, excitement and purpose.
The visual output of my thinking felt directly connected to the ideas I had throughout this project. I think it was because the challenge was intriguing, and the client's vision for the brand had elements that interested me such as a graffiti mural painted in their office. Founder - Chris Butt’s vision for the brand was articulated perfectly.
What I love most about this project is its potential. I feel it has all of the elements to become something great, which is always the aim when crafting a brand direction and shaping a vision.
What do you love about design the most?
The feeling a new idea gives you. Interesting ideas are at the heart of all great work. I love being creative, using my imagination and exploring different ways of visually telling a story. All the elements of design have to start with ideas otherwise what do they mean?
The most fulfilling part of being a designer is that you can absorb the world around you and inject it into your work. There’s always an angle to be found, especially when things are changing so rapidly. Simple things like overhearing a conversation at a bar, to the shape of a simple rock-form on a river bank could be answers to a design challenge.
When you see an abstract idea flourish into a commercial success it truly feels like a full circle moment.
Let’s not forget, being a successful designer isn’t just about being creative, it’s about taking an idea and turning it into something that businesses can use as a tool to grow. Oh, and learning from the many mistakes you will make a long the way!
What’s your favourite software/app/tool?
Hmm, if i'm going for versatility it's gotta be Adobe Illustrator. I often start with Illustrator when quickly offloading ideas, building the foundations of a design system or experimenting. It's an awesome tool to play with a loose idea or hone your thinking into something clean and simple. It’s often that brands need to be simple to become flexible enough to adapt over time. That being, Adobe Illustrator is a great tool to use.
If I were to be cheeky and pick another I would have to say Adobe After Effects, with brands becoming less static, AE if the place to bring them to life. It's a tool I'm using a lot more these days.
How can design affect the success of a business?
When talking about the need for design in a commercial environment, I’ve always had a similar answer. This takes me back to a day in 6th form where I had to argue with my head teacher about not wanting to take Geography as a third subject because it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as a career.
My head teacher was adamant that Art and Design subjects were ‘not proper subjects’ and that I had to take a more academic route to comply.
My answer to this question would be, have a look around you… almost everything is designed. Without design businesses can’t operate, you need design to engage audiences, communicate your services, visually stimulate and most importantly capture your company's vision in a way that is true to you.
There are many facets to how ‘affective’ design can be within a business, starting with how willing the business is to use it to their advantage. A lovely-looking website and a punchy brand isn’t going to make money for you. It’s about how you use your brand and website as tools to connect with your audience.
A cliche subject but an important one I find myself reiterating. There’s millions of businesses out there trying to do the same thing you do, so how do you stand out? What do you do that makes you the best choice? How do you do it? And most importantly why? These are some of the questions I like to ask clients when working with them.