One Minute With…
Hi Simon, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
It’s a pleasure! I’m a graphic designer currently working in the design department at GSD&M Advertising in Austin, Texas. I do a lot of freelance work in my free-time, which makes up most of what you see of my work online. I have a wife, one step-daughter, and a menagerie of animals in my apartment. I’ve been at GSD&M for 10 years now, but have also worked in San Antonio and Dallas.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Simon Walker.
It varies, but in a nutshell: walk the dog, run, shower, tea, oatmeal, coffee, email, work, lunch, tea, work, dinner, TCM, coffee, walk the dog, bed. I’m English, so nearly every event in my life is punctuated with a hot drink.
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 drew constantly as a kid, but had always been interested in letters, and would find a way to put type into a lot of my artwork. In the 80s, hip hop and breakdance culture came to England, and I developed an obsession with graffiti that I feel to this day informs what I do as a type designer. I gained more of an interest in English and science in my late teens, but I always sketched letterforms in and around my notes. An art teacher in college noticed my tendency to work type into my drawings and told me I was making graphic design, which was something I’d never heard of before. But it was a revelation to me because I was feeling a little directionless at the time, and he was telling me I could make money doing something I was already halfway decent at. He gave me a brochure to the University of North Texas and within a year I was enrolled.
How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?
I hate to say it, but I don’t think I have a very structured or useful process at all. Generally speaking I put on music and sit and stare at my blank white screen for as long as it takes (feels like hours), slowly forming a sort of amorphous version of what I want to do in my mind before making the mental leap necessary to start clicking out some vectors. It’s a matter of slowly coming to terms with the idea of a logo, rather than what it should look like. I might do some very rough sketches within that time, depending on the style of lettering I’m doing, but I’m really a lot more comfortable with my mouse than with a pencil. Probably not a good thing.
Your lettering is most certainly your strong point – Would you ever consider creating a font? How different are the worlds of lettering and font creation, do you feel?
I have one official font in the works, and the beginnings of dozens of others. It’s hard to say how it happened for other designers, but for me, my love of custom type flowed naturally into a desire to try my hand at font design. I’d be working on a logo with custom type and somebody would say “You should turn that into a font”. Other times I’d end up trying the same custom type style for multiple projects, and end up with nearly an entire alphabet of letters when I was finished. At first I was creating basic type styles – geometrically consistent sans serifs, mainly – but I inevitably ended up making serif fonts. It’s an exhilarating thing to jump into when you’ve never done it before, because you feel kind of foolish, like this is something only other people do, and so how could you ever truly make a legitimate go of it? But I found that I really started to learn quickly just by trying and failing and trying and failing until, at last, I actually had some success. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s a really rewarding process – one that I find just as cathartic as working on a good logo.
As well as all them delightful words you draw, you also write the occasional article, and maintain a strong presence on both Dribbble and Twitter – How important is it, in your opinion, to be involved in and contribute back to the community that has fostered you?
I think it’s incredibly important – I owe everything to this community, and I take that pretty seriously. I’m actually kind of a shy person, and horribly afraid of public speaking of any kind, so it’s not likely you’ll see me doing any talks soon. But I do spend dozens of hours a week talking to people online, answering questions and emails and sharing resources. It’s humbling to know that there are so many people out there admiring and studying my work, so I think I have a responsibility to be as open and generous with those people as possible.
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?
Woody Allen. Granted, he’s kind of a miserable old guy with terrible fashion sense and a tendency to be inappropriately Freudian, but I love the way his mind works and would love to have access to that wit just for a day. Plus, he gets to make movies all the time and hang out with very cool people who all think he’s the cats PJ’s no matter what he does or says.
What design tools could you not live without?
Just my mouse. People try to convince me daily to give it up for the Wacom pad, but I’ve tried it and it does nothing for me. I’m sure there’ll be a cure for carpal tunnel by the time it becomes a problem for me.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Go to school, for sure. I realize there are people who’ve made it without going to school for design, but there are specific circumstances behind why those people were able to make it in design that I wouldn’t gamble on. Also, be patient. Most of the truly great designers in the world took years to get where they’re at. I’ve been doing this for twelve years and I’m still trying to get there myself.
Many thanks to Simon for talking to us. I really enjoyed his answers, and hopefully you did too!
Why not check out Simon’s site, and follow him on Dribbble and Twitter?