Today a Designer Interview With Rob Clarke a British type designer and letterer based near London.
He designs logos and custom fonts both directly for clients and through collaboration with design and advertising agencies. I have followed Rob Clarke’s work for a number of years and you may not be familiar with his work, but you will be surprised. It would be hard to live in Britain and not be familiar with the logos he has created
He has worked on some of the world’s largest brands including Air Asia, Dulux, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Reckitt Benckiser, Carlsberg Export, Polo Mints, Quality Streets, Cadbury and Capitol Records.
— The Logo Creative™ ✏ (@thelogocreative) April 11, 2018
Rob has also won a number of awards including – Type Directors Club Certificates of Excellence, Print Magazine’s Best in Class for Hand Lettering, Computer Arts Brand Impact Award, The One Club Design Merit, Comm Arts Typographic Excellence Award and DBA Design Effectiveness Awards.
He is a member of The Design Business Association, International Society of Typographic Designers, and The Type Directors Club.
His work has been featured on The Melbourne Lettering Club, 8 Faces, Form Fifty Five, Type Worship, It’s Nice That, Under Consideration.
In the past, he has done interviews with Lecture in Progress, Workspiration, AIGA Eye on Design, and with us here at The Logo Creative.
The Logo Creative – Hi Rob it’s nice that you are apart of our designer interview series, I’m a big fan of your hand lettering and type work.
Rob Clarke – Thanks Andrew
The Logo Creative – What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Rob Clarke – I always wanted to be a video games designer at school but back then there was no real educational opportunities to follow. I was advised to do an art foundation course where I did a bit of everything; fine art, product design, photography, textiles and graphic design. I then went on to do a degree in graphic design.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Rob Clarke – I start work at 9am and work without much of a break until 3pm. I then have a few hours away from my desk which involves picking my children up from school, helping with homework and cooking dinner. I then start again at 7pm finishing at 10 or 11pm. This may not always be the case but allows for flexibility when working for clients in different time zones but more importantly, gives me valuable time with my young family.
The Logo Creative – What was the first logo you ever designed?
Rob Clarke – I had no idea what a logo was until during my time on art foundation. Here I redrew a logo for my father’s business called CY. It’s actually kind of okay and is still being used today but I think that’s because it was based on a pretty good hand-drawn design from the 1970s.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite logo you have designed?
Rob Clarke –It’s impossible to say just one although I have a lot of love for the King logo. It pushed me creatively and I think it’s pretty successful in communicating the idea purely through manipulation of type without the use of a symbol or illustration. More recently I had great fun with the Ugly Drinks logo, it’s a great name and the final packaging by JKR is fantastic.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite logo of all time?
Rob Clarke –Again very difficult to say just one but Herb Lubalin’s Mother & Child logo resonated with me pretty early on for communicating so succinctly. It was originally designed along with Tom Carnase in 1965 to work as a masthead for a magazine, but was never published.
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Rob Clarke – Nothing too unusual but due to time restrictions I don’t tend to work up beautiful sketches. In fact, I own very few sketchbooks… I find them too restrictive. I’m quite a tidy person but my ideas and early sketches are rather messy and haphazard. Dependent on the project I tend to scribble away furiously on whatever paper is lying around and then knock something together quickly in Illustrator. Once a direction is chosen I often print it out and trace over before redrawing vectors from scratch.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion regarding logo design pricing do you prefer working on a fixed rate or customer budget and can you explain why?
Rob Clarke – I’m happy to work to an agreed fixed rate on some occasions because then we all know where we stand but it can be dangerous in terms of extra work that was not originally anticipated. I prefer to keep things more flexible.
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Rob Clarke – This is greatly dependent on the particular client and the number of people involved. It could be anything between 2 weeks and 6 months+.
The Logo Creative – Are you a Mac or PC user and is there a reason for your choice?
Rob Clarke – Mac for the obvious reason that PCs suck!
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently?
Rob Clarke – Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Fontlab and just getting into Glyphs
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Rob Clarke – The style is not of my primary concern – it is communicating the brand’s attributes that is important. This may mean a script is appropriate or it may mean a very simple sans serif does the job. The most aesthetically pleasing logos tend to be script logos because of their curves and freedom within the letters.
*Click on images above to enlarge
The Logo Creative – What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Rob Clarke – I look for inspiration in all aspects of life, music, people, art, not just from existing type and logos. I travel quite a bit and take pleasure soaking up local cultures. I often look to the past but I also keep myself aware of the industry and what the next generation of designers are producing.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job as a designer?
Rob Clarke – Unsurprisingly, the least enjoyable aspect of my job has to be the admin… tax returns, invoicing, chasing purchase orders and chasing payments. I’m also not keen on conference calls.
The most enjoyable aspects are having the freedom to work on a variety of projects, seeing my work in the environment and hopefully making a difference.
The Logo Creative – Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Rob Clarke – During university, I had the pleasure of meeting Erik Spiekermann in his MetaDesign studio in Berlin and was lead through the process of designing fonts and bespoke type. But there are so many designers I admire and have studied over the years including Neville Brody, David Carson, Jonathan Barnbrook, Hamish Muir, Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, Milton Glazer, Lance Wyman, Alan Fletcher, Riccardo Rouselott, Louise Fili… to name but a few.
The Logo Creative – Who is your favourite Graphic Designer and why?
Rob Clarke – There are quite a few I like but I would say the ones I admire and studied over the years, those who have been inspirational to me such as Erik Spiekermann, Neville Brody, David Carson, Jonathan Barnbrook, Hamish Muir, Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, Milton Glazer, Lance Wyman, Alan Fletcher, Riccardo Rouselott, Louise Fili.
The Logo Creative – What’s your favourite design quote?
Rob Clarke – Always liked the following quote from Steve Jobs “The only way to great work is to love what you do.” It implies that to be a success you must have passion.
* Rob Clarke was kind enough to create this hand-lettered quote for the purpose of this interview
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Rob Clarke – Visually communicating a message through type, images and colour.
The Logo Creative – What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Rob Clarke – I had become stale in my job and wanted to be more in control of the work I was doing. Although it took me a while to buck up the courage to leave I was armed with small business experience. The sacrifice was giving up a salary; now I was under pressure to earn my own money. I immediately bought a laptop, rented a small studio space and sent my website out to various design agencies. Back then there was no social media and I had very little work to show so I had to be patient and rely on a few lucky breaks with friends.
The Logo Creative – Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Rob Clarke – I just wish I’d left my job earlier but also I wish I’d furthered my education while having a secure salary. Evening courses on type design, public speaking, presentation skills etc. Once you are on the treadmill of self-employment it’s very difficult to find any spare time.
The Logo Creative – If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Rob Clarke – Be more confident and believe in yourself!
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Rob Clarke – To follow your own personal path and goals… try not to look over your shoulder at what everybody else is doing.
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Rob Clarke – There are so many designers around but what is it that will make your work stand out? Be versatile, if you don’t have a particular style then you may fade into the background but having a strong style may also deter potential clients. Have patience, don’t expect things to happen overnight. Challenge yourself, take risks and be proactive, sometimes work can appear from unexpected places. Do your homework, read the brief thoroughly, ask questions and research the client or company you’re working for. Keep it real… being successful is not having thousands of followers or likes. Don’t sell yourself cheap and don’t work for free unless there is something in it for you. Most of all, have fun and follow your passions… and love what you do.
learn more about Rob Clarke | Rob Clarke |
Also published on Medium.