One Minute With…
Brandon Rike

Poster for Brandi Carlile

Hi Brandon, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

My name is Brandon Rike. I’m a full-time freelance graphic designer. A huge portion of my work is music merchandise, you know, band shirts. I work out of my home office in Columbus, Ohio.

Walk us through a typical day in the life of Brandon Rike.

I like to wake up early. Ideally, I get up around 6:30 am. I take a shower, get dressed, put on shoes, eat breakfast, make coffee, and get to work. I am usually at my desk by 7:45 am. I try to focus on one band per day, and put all of my energy into that one collection of graphics. But the reality of my workflow is that deadlines are tight, and revisions and file requests pop in throughout the day. Many days I end up juggling work for 4-5 different bands. I try my best to stay focused on my original project, but also trying to keep everyone happy in the process. I work into the evening, and try and finish up in time for a late dinner and a few tv shows with my wife.

Brandon

How did you get into design?

I don’t know that I can remember a time when I “got in to design.” I was just always into art, in any fashion that I could be. As soon I was able to hold a crayon, I was drawing. I was that kind of kid. I had plenty of fun with my friends, but I was also found hunched over a pad of paper drawing all sorts of characters. Around the age of thirteen, my friends and I started a band. I quickly found myself creating logos for our band, making fliers for our shows, and designing tape jackets for our demos. I started experimenting with Microsoft Paint and various fonts in the process. I wasn’t until my junior year of high school, that I found out that this whole art form was called Graphic Design. I then took advantage of the Graphic Design program at a local community college while I was in High School. I learned a lot there, but doing shirts for my band, and the bands we played with, was really what got my foot in the door.

How do you approach a new project? What’s your design process like?

For my industry, a new project starts and ends every day. Often, several projects occur each day. Ideally, I go to bed thinking about the next day’s project. The next day, I will sketch out several thumbnails in a sketchbook, and get a very direct idea of what I’m going to create before even touching the computer. The best results usually happen when I’m away from my office. The reality, however, is that I’m often dealing with extremely tight deadlines, and the steps of a traditional design process don’t always fit in to my limited timeline. I do my best to analyze the client and their demographic the best that I can, and come up with something that will work. I hammer out ideas all day, and try and make sure everything I do is a quality product.

The Wholesome Home logo

You’ve carved a pretty successful niche for yourself in the world of designing for bands, concerts, etc. Was this a niche you specifically decided to go into, or did it just fall that way? How important is having a niche, do you feel?

I’m currently learning how important a niche is to have. In design, there are two categories of niches to take into consideration. The first is the specific area of design that you work in. Mine is Music Merchandise. Others are magazine illustrations, or sports logos, or corporate branding, etc. I am very lucky to have found a home in the Music Merchandise niche of graphic design. It has allowed me to shrink the vast world of design down to a smaller area that I can be a major player in. I may stand out in the Music Merchandise world, but I am little fish in the huge pond of graphic design.

As a freelancer, I took whatever work that I could get. As I did more and more shirt graphics, more and more people requested shirt graphics from me. I never sought out this niche, but I’m quite pleased to be able to get a lot of work from one small area of the design world. The niche keeps me extremely busy.

The other niche is your distinct style that comes out in the majority of your work. Some designers’ style is extremely pronounced. Others will design in any style depending on what fits the client. There are pros and cons to each. The pro of having a very distinct style is that you often get public recognition for your work; either in magazines or blogs, your work is recognizable enough to get you noticed. The con, however, is that your style is a trend that could fade away, and you must be prepared to constantly reinvent yourself. The more versatile designer will be able to be unfazed by the switching trends, but may never get the spotlight that the more distinct designers enjoy.

The grass is always greener, I suppose. Any designer that works inside a niche tends to want to do a little bit of work outside of it. It’s only natural. While I do want to expand my horizons as far as work type and style, I am extremely grateful for what I already have.

Awesome Fest 2010

Music is obviously a massive part of your work, and your life. What music do you listen to whilst you’re working?

I like to keep a pretty chill atmosphere. I’m usually playing stuff like Ulrich Schnauss, The Album Leaf, Bon Iver, Death Cab, Postal Service, etc. But productivity can really increase if I blast Glassjaw, Deftones, or Rival Schools. Plenty of days, I’ll also just listen to the band that I’m working on. It’s not uncommon to hear Katy Perry or Bruno Mars spinning in the office.

You are in the band Dead Poetic, a relatively successful post-hardcore band. How does being a designer compare to being in a band? Are there any parallels to be drawn, and which do you prefer?

Being in a band, touring, and recording albums are thee most fun things I have ever done in my life. I often equate the years when Dead Poetic was active to other peoples’ “college years,” where every day was a complete blast, and you were making memories that would last forever. The main parallels between the two is balancing the perception that the band has of themselves with the perception that the fans have of the band. Knowing the balance is what helps me be successful at what I do. Art and design, however, is my first love. I feel like myself when I’m designing. I had always wanted design to be the priority, and I’m glad it’s been my main focus for the past 6 years.

Merch for Def Leppard

What design tools could you not live without?

As technology evolves, our needs will change. My current necessities include a 27” iMac, a five-button mouse, a Wacom Cintiq 12WX, Illustrator, Photoshop, Font Explorer, Sharpies, Mechanical Pencils, Top Bound Notepads and Sketchbooks, and a few other tools that I’ll keep secret.

And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?

I guess my best advice is to first learn how to be a responsible adult and to work harder than everyone else. There is the design skill, but your dependability and work ethic are what will give you longevity in this field. Don’t be lazy. Obsess over design, and always be wanting to learn and see more. Constantly demote yourself to being a “student” of design. The day you think you have it all figured out is the beginning of your demise as a relevant designer.

Thanks Brandon!

Thanks so much to Brandon to take time out of his schedule to talk to One Minute With. I personally found his answers very interesting, and hopefully you do too!

Why not check out Brandon’s site, and follow him on Dribbble and Twitter?

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