One Minute With…
Hi Rob, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
My pleasure… I’m a British typographer and designer based in Clerkenwell, London. I spend most of the day and sometimes night designing logos and custom fonts. My clients are varied – I work directly for clients and also together with design and advertising agencies… Oh, I’m also happily married with two wonderful children.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Rob Clarke.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m not a morning person, but I am quite strict with myself over punctuality. I get to my studio around 9.15am, a quick cuppa and I’m off… I try to ease my way into the day, tweeting, reading blogs etc, but then pick up the pace until the end of the day. I say end, it’s more like end of the day shift. After putting the kids to bed I begin the late shift at about 8pm… I think I need to address my work/life balance!
How did you get into design? Was there a defining point in your career, and if so, how did it shape you as a designer?
I actually wanted to be a computer programmer – I loved my ZX Spectrum! But I guess I was always pretty good at drawing and was thankfully guided towards art school where I first became interested in graphic design.
I studied the work of Eric Spiekermann in my final year at university and was invited to go out to Berlin and meet the typographic guru. I don’t think I need to explain, but the guy is inspirational.
I guess another significant moment was that I finally plucked up the courage to leave my first and only job, as an assistant to a calligrapher, and go it alone. This threw me right in at the deep end, but proved the challenge I needed to kick start my career.
How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?
It varies… I work on all stages of a project from initial ideas through to little tweaks. I would say a very important part of the process is research. You can’t underestimate a good percentage of time spent on getting under the skin of the brand you are working on. Then I start frantically doodling – I find you can be more expressive and creative when scribbling something down quickly. After this it’s a combination of Illustrator and sketching until finally refining as vectors.
I think more than anyone I’ve interviewed on the site to date, your list of clients is just phenomenal – PC World, Rowntrees, Dulux, Hovis, to name just a few. How do you find working with such big brands? How does it compare to smaller client work – Which do you enjoy more, and why?
Ha ha… I don’t really worry about the size of the brand, it’s just marks on paper at the end of the day. However working on big brands can be rewarding. It’s great to see your work up there in big shiny lights. Going to the supermarket can be a pain for the wife and I’m constantly reminded of work when watching TV. However, the bigger the client, the bigger the committee. The design can become diluted and lack the original spark – or the opposite and become too tricksy. I definitely enjoy the freedom of working for small clients.
You are now obviously best known for your lettering and branding work. Did you approach the industry with this niche in mind, or did it simply evolve? How important is it, in your opinion, to have a niche in an industry as large as ours?
Nowadays I believe it is very important to stand out from the vast crowd and I guess subconsciously I did seek a niche. I was never into becoming a bit-part in a huge company. I’ve always been interested in actual designers themselves, the personalities behind the work. Twitter is great for this, there seems to be a growing community of niche designers out there.
If, in some Freaky Friday-like situation, you could live the life of another designer, illustrator or creative, for a day, who would it be, and why?
Does it have to be a designer? Can’t I be a footballer or a rock singer? …Okay, maybe Jonathan Ive, sorry Sir Jonathan Ive… what a cool dude. Do I have to explain why?
What design tools could you not live without?
My Moleskine diary which combines as a sketchbook. I’m a list maker and a doodler and I take it everywhere.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Take a look in the mirror… are you ready for hard work? The initial years in the industry can be tough but if you are passionate it will click into place. The key is to grow a slightly thicker skin and obviously enjoy yourself.
By the way, if anybody wants me to expand on any points or ask any other questions feel free to get in touch!
Thanks a million to Rob for talking to OMW! I really enjoyed interviewing him, and found his answers really interesting!