The economy has been a bitch lately hasn't it? I could insert a little political rant here and cuss out different parites for being idiots but I won't. Get the fonts on the cheap this week only and flip it for a buck on your next project. This offer is only good till the end of the week.
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Joshua Smith, known professionally as Hydro74 , is an illustrator and designer full of seeming contradictions. He's open about tragedies in his youth but guards the technical methods he developed as an adult.
He creates dark, macabre imagery while advocating selflessness and service. In other words, he's an interesting guy. In a recent interview, we spoke with Smith on a range of topics, including keeping clients happy, developing a distinct style, and how design is like a bowl of chili. Smith relies on Adobe Illustrator to create his artwork.
Click the image above to play his reel. Paying attention to trends is OK because it's what becomes the eye-opener and common thread, but if you're just regurgitating a style, you're not adding anything to it. And if you're not adding anything to it, then you're a production designer, in my opinion.
I know people will take offense to that, but the idea of just copying what is there versus adding a creative functionality to make it unique is just that: a production designer versus creative.
I was influenced by them and their work early on. Once I identified that, I realized I wasn't serving the purpose of what I wanted to achieve—instead, I was assuming it was the right direction because it was the trend. Then I started figuring out how to add my own personality to it and develop something that's identifiable as something by my hand.
I can see when someone's copying particular designers or trends. When someone of his caliber blows up, everybody assumes that's what design should be.
There's nothing wrong with the influence, or in taking what Draplin has done and using it as a foundation. I love Draplin and his work and see the importance of it.
But if you're not Draplin, there's no authenticity to it, there's no you in it. If you're just redoing what was done, you don't have a unique approach, and you're replaceable. A client comes to you for a specific reason; they're not coming to you because you're a cheap knock-off of somebody else. When you're young, time is the most important thing you have. Take advantage of it, learn the skill sets, and don't limit yourself to copying what other people do and hoping that it works for you.
It won't—it's only going to work for the person who actually created it. Eventually you'll find your voice. I know we live in the generation of need it now, is it on Skillshare, you must teach me, what pen are you using, what brushes, but none of that matters.
Play the long game. The desire to be better is a beautiful thing. Speaking of Draplin, he knows his history. He knows that before him were all these amazing artists. I enjoy studying them, and I buy old books, too. I found a French monogram book from , I think, that went through all the letters. It was beautiful inspiration by an artist long since forgotten. There is beautiful design created by people we've forgotten or never knew. At the end of all of this, our generation will be in the past, and a few people will be remembered but the vast majority lost by name and only remembered by found images.
There's a beauty in that that breaths humility into what we do, and it's a reminder that this is just a job. How many talks do you go to with plumbers discussing new methods and how they got to do some celebrity's plumbing? I believe that's just as important a career as what I do. Design is like making chili, I guess. If you follow the standard recipe, that'll be good. But by the same token, you're not adding something that makes it a special chili, a chili that only this particular cook creates.
Joshua Smith is sharing several of his fonts with you. Click to download the zipped folder. So if design is a recipe, everything we do or we're taught makes up the recipe book. The true designers, like Jessica Walsh , start with the regular recipe book, but then they start creating their own recipes, and those become the next trend.
They become the five-star standard. It's like going to a chili cook-off with Chef Gordon Ramsey as judge and you use the recipe he developed and expect to win on originality.
We're doing a service for them—they're not doing the service for us. If you're yelled at, or your ideas are taken away, or you're pushed in two different directions that make no sense, and your response is, "Yeah, I'll get it done, no problem," then you're going to do really well in this industry. But a lot of people can't handle that. You see the memes on Facebook where designers complain about clients asking for another revision?
I'm like, you know what you bought into. Or they complain that a client didn't pay enough for a project. No, you didn't quote enough for the project. This is a hard career and an emotionally draining one. But we're just vendors providing a service. If you hired an electrician who acted like you were a pain because you needed something done, you probably wouldn't hire that person again. Or if you were at a restaurant and you ordered chicken, but the vegan server brought you a salad because they believed that's what you should eat, you wouldn't go there again.
Get over yourself. Become selfless, learn from mistakes, build on success, and provide a proper service. There is no shame in asking others how to quote a job or how to deal with issues, but those are your issues, not the client's. The moment you agree to work with someone, you need to accept the terms. You can add to the agreement, of course, but there's a right way to do that, as well. The secret to success in graphic design is that you're not causing problems; you're solving somebody else's problems so they can go home and enjoy time with their family.
They can go home without any stress knowing that you'll get it done. I take that very seriously because if I can be the person who doesn't cause them stress, chances are I'm going to be a continual asset to them.
Sometimes you're working on a big project and it's seven o'clock at night and the client says, "We need this thing by 10 o'clock. I take a five-minute break, get some coffee, then come back and say, "No problem. I'm here for you. How do you want these files sent to you? I discovered that saves so much stress because when you think about it, you realize how insignificant those little things are.
We can take one little thing and blow it out of proportion, when in reality it's so insignificant. Be nice, be polite. I've never said anything hateful. It doesn't fare well for you. We all have our moments where emotion gets the best of us. I've failed more than I succeeded, but that also teaches me how to be better.
Find a way to vent secretly because you never know who follows you and what opportunities could be lost. I show clients a range of options: What they asked for, and another piece that's more exploratory, more along the lines of my thinking if it were my company. I always try to sling out like ideas that I think would be a lot more fun for them.
Sometimes those ideas win, sometimes they don't. It's kind of like if you work in an office with a boss. You know what they're looking for, and you achieve that, but then you start sliding in these left-field, right-field ideas. And once in a while those ideas are accepted, and next thing you know you're doing something that you're truly passionate about versus doing something that's just a job.
In the morning, I'll do little one-off pieces where I just try things. It's my reward, like a kid and a candy bar; then comes work. At least weekly, I force myself to do something that's out of my comfort zone.
I enjoy pushing into new things and trying new styles. It happens. I do my best to not stress over it. If someone takes credit for my work, I might say, "Actually, I did that. If someone sells it and make a buck, it's not really affecting me. It's not affecting how I wake up in the morning, it's not affecting the people I hang out with. I'm not saying that's an open invitation to go through my site and grab whatever you want.
But for the most part I don't know. It's kind of the Zen Buddhist approach. To truly be of service to somebody, you have to have a certain selfless nature. Design in general is an egotistical, competitive market, and I try to filter that out as much as possible. You have to realize that at the end of the day the amount of control you have is zero.
Joshua M. Smith
Joshua Smith, known professionally as Hydro74 , is an illustrator and designer full of seeming contradictions. He's open about tragedies in his youth but guards the technical methods he developed as an adult. He creates dark, macabre imagery while advocating selflessness and service. In other words, he's an interesting guy.
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