Today a Designer Interview With Simon Charwey a Asanteman-based Brand Identity Designer based in Kumasi, Ghana. Simon’s twitter account @LogoMyth Documents logo myths and useful brand insights shared by Logo & Brand Identity Designers, we and many others have been featured on there. He also has another account @Logoonmymind which is about creating & anthologising both existing and new logo ideas (Adinkra symbols) in monogram. Also writing about adinkra logo systems & West African symbology. Logo on my mind was the inspiration behind Simon’s Museum Of Adinkra project he is currently working on.
— The Logo Creative© ✏ (@thelogocreative) July 5, 2017
The Logo Creative – Hi Simon really appreciate you taking part in a Designer Interview
Simon Charwey – I’m honoured you thought of me and it’s something to encourage Andrew. I always believe sharing ideas and insights on what we do; seeing how other colleague designers are thinking and the way they are working. So creating this platform is a positive thing to support especially these designer interviews.
It must have taken you allot of work getting all these designers to do interviews so keep up the great work and keep them coming!
The Logo Creative – Yes i put allot of hard work in to get these designers to agree to take part then editing it all into an article is hard work. But like you said we all learn from each other and learning is key to develop down the right path, and i certainly love what we are doing here at The Logo Creative.
The Logo Creative – What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Simon Charwey – To begin with, I recall my childhood days growing up as this quiet kid who seems to love nothing but his sketchbook, pencil ✏ and crayons. The idea is not really that I saw myself, at the time, as becoming this Leonardo Davinci I later read about in high school; but rather a place (in my sketchbook) where I find this peace and joy in my heart. At least that’s the only thing that made me look so different from the pupils in the class.
That said, I end up participating in a National Illustration Competition, Ghana, when I was in Junior High School (1996-1998). Though my school teachers and colleagues celebrated my masterpieces — “Moses and the Burning Bush” and “The Hunter and His Wild Dog” [my dad’s hobby] — I received a ‘Certificate of Participation’ in the National Illustration Competition. I can still hear those loud voices cheering at me and the raved faces at the RC Assembly Hall. My confidence level quickly shifted from 7% to 99%, and everybody became my best friend — including the teachers (of General Science, Pre-technical Skills, Vocational Skills, and Agricultural Science) who continue to engage me in drawing diagrams from their notes onto the blackboard for my classmates till I graduated in 1998.
One thing I couldn’t quite notice along this journey until everything begun to make sense to me was, coming to terms with what Graphic Design is about while in Senior High School as a Visual Art student. I noticed I’ve been collecting and pasting anything that has been graphically designed — from toffee wrappers, biscuit packs, to iconic stickers — into any reserved space I can find in my notebooks and especially jotterpads. When our Graphic Design teacher started teaching us about scrapbook creation and its relevance to design process, I realised I’ve already being playing the design game all along (from Primary School) without knowing what I was really doing. This I believe is the turning point in my life when I decided I’ll become a Graphic Designer.
But that wasn’t all. I zig and zag along the way; I successfully gain admission to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana, to pursue a degree programme in Communication Design. Then, I saw something amazing — Animation and Video Production. This is when I zig from Graphic Design to major in Multimedia (in my second year), because I saw the discipline of Design in both; I was looking for something more daring I thought to myself. Needless to say, in a class of, say, 200 Design students (in my case), 37 have opted to major in Multimedia. Out of the 37 only 19 graduated with Multimedia as a major, and the rest (18 [37-19]) run back to join the 163 who right from the onset opted to major in Graphic Design. Now the number is 163 + 18 = 181 graduated with Graphic Design as a major.
As the saying goes, “When others zig you zag”; I zag to Design again, as Brand Identity Designer. I guess the number is 182 [181 + 1] now, and you can tell the kind of difference I’m bringing on board as a ‘Multimedia’ Designer, an autodidact, a great reader, and a lifelong learner.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Simon Charwey – I’m currently working full-time as a Senior Technician, at the School of Medical Sciences, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana, where my usual DAY consists of managing the Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre (CSSC) of the Medical School as Head of the Unit. However, I think and work with Design. So apart from my key duties, I work as part of a team on the Medical School’s website, brochures, souvenirs, infographics, and other design related projects that enhances teaching and learning process at the Medical School.
At NIGHT, I am the living nightowl and, strangely, the chronic earlybird creature. What do I do with this gift — of being both a nightowl and an earlybird? I worked passionately and persistently on my skillset as a Designer, a Brand Identity Designer; reading, doodling, sketching, vectoring, and more importantly, contributing, promoting, and collaborating with some professional designers, thought leaders and influencers from different parts of the world, whom I’ve not yet had the opportunity to meet or work with in person yet; except with some medical practitioner working on WHO projects. [Refer to my LinkedIn Bio for the list of names]
I am seen almost each day sharing design and brand insights @simoncharwey, @logomyth and @logoonmymind, and also contributing in useful discourses on professional social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and my favourite group (Millo Mastermind) on Facebook. I love posting my works and useful insights on Instagram and Facebook as well.
On Tuesday, 29th January, 2017, I had the opportunity to give a lecture on “Personal Branding,” to third-year Communication Design students at KNUST — something I’m including in my life (organising public lectures and/or workshops on Logo, Identity Design and Brand Development).
The Logo Creative – What was the first Logo you ever designed?
Simon Charwey – In college, level 100 (2006), I recall trying my hands on a self-initiated logo design project I called “Clip.”
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo you have designed?
Simon Charwey – Alliances Française Kumasi CineClub logo
The Logo Creative – What’s your favourite Logo of all time?
Simon Charwey – Totem learning. [LINK: http://www.totemlearning.com/about-us/ ]
I know, you’ll be surprised. But you’ll understand if you’re a logo designer from my part of world — West African. I believe certain prototypical elements (or visual archetypes) will evidently become ingrained in our collective consciousnesses when that’s what we see every day. From where I come from, I’ve become fondly obsessed with the dynamic use of the West African Adinkra symbols from mud houses to architectural buildings (like Adinkra Heights in Accra, the capital city of Ghana), from the design of souvenirs of state institutions to financial banks (Databank), from recharge vouchers of Network Providers to giant billboards announcing the burial rite of the Asantehemaa of Asanteman, Kumasi, Ghana, from Ashesi University logo through to what I coined as “Adinkra Logo Systems,” as a research terminology. The list can go on and on.
I believe the Totem Learning logo is successful because, “What it means is more important than what it looks like.” (Paul Rand) The designer has successfully and creatively incorporated the “Nea onnim no sua a ohu” Adinkra symbol, which has its literal meaning as, “He who does not know can know from learning” and the symbolic meaning as, “Knowledge.”
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Simon Charwey – My process fucuses much on this quote I printed out, framed and position directly in front of me on my table where I can see it whiles working any logo project: “In creating a unique logo, the designer’s role is to capture the ESSENCE of what s/he is trying to say and see, more than what s/he is actually saying.” — Simon Charwey
1. Design Brief: This initial stage allows me to start building a lasting relationship with the client by communicating in a way that inspires trust; and, more importantly, understanding of the client, the problem, and the industry in question. Sending the logo design questionnaire to (or conducting an interview with) the client and getting feedback should be a fun process for both parties (the designer and the client).
2. Research: I rely passionately on research to create a unique solution for my client. A research about the product/service, the industry, and the existing competitors helps me to create a memorable mark that is meaningful, timeless, functional, and culturally relevant to the customers and the industry in question.
3. Mind-mapping and Moodboarding: I usually write down keywords that resonate with the project at hand by simply mind-mapping related keywords. I most times rely on Visual Thesaurus 3.0 by typing in each keyword that comes to mind, snipping (and saving) a screen-shot of the mind-map (the related keywords) that show up. Previously, I love this weird but fun process of collecting and pasting any associated imagery (photos) on a sizable strawboard or in my scrapbook while going through the second stage (Research). The only stifling thing about this is that, I had to dispose off the moodboard each time after the project is completed and launched. Of course, I keep a digital version on my virtual storage space (Dropbox or Google Drive). That said, I mostly create—right from the onset—digital version of the moodboard nowadays, and curiously observing it on my computer screen.
4. Sketching Ideas: I think God use Adam as a “rough” sketch before actually creating
Eve out of that prototype (Adam). Nobody can argue with me on this thought; even the blind can feel the difference (between Adam and Eve). What conclusion am I driving at? Sketching the initial ideas with pen ✒ or pencil ✏ on paper naturally adds some uniqueness to the forms and shapes of whatever mark you stroke on the paper — to uniquely identify and differentiation. That’s the essence of logo design, isn’t it?
5. Selecting one concept: I rely on channeling my creative efforts on a “one concept approach;” where I present the initial sketch ideas to the client to select one best option that s/he believes is relevant and can best represents h/his brand, customers, and the industry in question.
6. Fine tuning: After the client is satisfied with the one concept, I will spent hours (or two days) finessing the logo, digitally, till my eagle’s eyes are optically satisfied; and more importantly, applying the the final mark on real-world items before presenting it to the client.
7. Presentation & Getting Final Feedback: As mentioned in stage 6 above, I learn from some friends (colleague designers) outside my geographical location, like David Airey, Aaron James Draplin, Jacob Cass, Kyle Courtright, Ian Paget, Ben Loiz… that, “Don’t present your logo in isolation. Nobody will ever see it that way. Instead show the logo in use on real-world items [before presenting it to the client.”] (Ian Paget, Logo Geek)
Follow-ups: One unique lesson I’ve learned from Chris Do, Brand Strategist (BizofDesign) recommends that, designers need to present themselves more like a consultant than just a designer to the client. So I follow up periodically to see how the new mark I’ve created for the client is satisfying the need as required. It’s always important to maintain a good relationship with good clients even after the project is done; clients will obviously bring you referrals of their kind — follow up on good clients
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?
Simon Charwey – Great question! My answer on this will be more elaborate.
I prefer working on a fixed rate (based on value and the project; fixed rate based on hourly rate is not really feasible in my part of world, I know, it’s debatable). Conversely, working with customer budget is always a shortchange situation for me, where such customers usually comprise my neighbours, friends, colleagues and, guess what, my boss’ wife whose businesses are yet to start off in the first place. And where most referrals I generate are usually friends of their kind — “I’m now starting, and I have a very low or no budget at all. But I promise I’ll bring you more jobs once my business is up and running.”
The point is, it’s a choice one has to make, and I’ve made mine (to go with a fixed rate); I learned this the hard way though. One can work with this approach by first creating a niche (where you focus on, say, creating brand identity for private hospitals, or private universities) and of course, knowing your value and the demand you’ve created for that industry.
The last thing I would do is to work with a customer budget, so that the customer in question will give me more work later. It’s better to do business with one or two good clients in a year than generate breed of bad clients who will keep promising you this “damn” exposure! Lol I’ll rather continue with my stupid and fun side projects, like @logoonmymind (researching on Adinkra Logo Systems and documenting great logo ideas on my mind, in monogram, before they disappear. And more importantly, creating an open source new Adinkra symbols), and @logomyth (insights from great designers, brand developers, and thought leaders all over the world, on logo myths and other useful insights).
Let me recount a logomyth insight that seeks to answer just that:
“I’ve had many people approach me with the whole ‘if you create my logo or brand identity, I cannot pay but I promise I will give you exposure…’” — Peter Butler (Brand & Marketing Designer at Urban Creatives)
“If the exposure from your project is high enough that it’s as good as money then you are successful enough to pay. If it isn’t, then you aren’t successful enough to promise exposure.” — Michael J. Patrick (Principal Director at Deloitte)
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average Logo Design project from start to finish?
Simon Charwey – “Every logo doesn’t need 6 months of incubation brilliance. Just knock it out and keep it moving.” Sounds familiar, right? Yes, I shared this insight sometime ago @logomyth. Here’s one of the interesting comments I’ve received on same post and loved so much, “Well, I’m making them on my phone but they become great, some of them 🙂 They take 20-50 minutes to make.”
The answer then is, “it depends,” on many factors — the problem, the client (delaying feedback, unreasonable deadlines, posing as the designer), and budget (the client budget, the industry in question, or the kind of research to undertake).
The Logo Creative – Are you a MAC or PC User and is there a reason for your choice?
Simon Charwey – I’m a PC User, and the reason for my choice till now is, the price is affordable. But I’ve now saved enough money for an iMac and wouldn’t settle for a low specs. Thank God, a brother who’s pursing his PhD in UK is helping me process my order and will be bringing it personally when coming home (Ghana) this year — I can’t wait to lay my impatient hands on those sensitive keyboard and magic mouse.
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently?
Simon Charwey – Adobe Illustrator CS6.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Simon Charwey – I don’t really have a favourite “style” of logo design; in fact, I wouldn’t like to be tied to “a style,” though, most of the logos I have worked on seem to consciously incorporate both the existing West African Adinkra symbols and the new set I’m working on with the help of some linguistists/custodians of the Akan language of Asanteman (Kumasi, Ghana). Evidently, every logo design project has its own triggers (of inspiration) and, consequently, the kind of solution you bring out for the problem at hand determines the rendition and finishing.
And, I believe Paul Rand would’ve said the same thing, “A logo is less important than the product it signifies; WHAT IT MEANS is more important than what it looks like.”
The Logo Creative – What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Simon Charwey – “Today is another great opportunity to prove my worth or competence as a Brand Identity Design.” I commit this to mind everyday and that motivates me to punch harder to leave a memorable mark whenever the opportunity shows up. Practically, I consciously draw daily inspiration from being a passionate reader and an autodidact learning from great ancestral marks like the West African (Ghanaian) Adinkra symbols, emblems, regalias, cherished monuments and well-esteemed artefacts, which are over 200 years old. Emphasising that, much of my inspiration or design process is driven by research and, love and appreciation for African culture. Evidently, I demonstrate this daily with side projects such as @logoonmymind (Anthologising new Adinkra symbols created by Simon Charwey); @logomyth; writing about “Adinkra Logo Systems,” and gleaning insights into brand strategies from Africa brandscape.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion what’s the best or worse part of being a designer?
Simon Charwey – The best part of being a designer is, you always get to share in the success story of both small and great brands (or clients) you’ve worked with. And, am I the only one who benefit from meeting different people, learning about different disciplines and industries? The worse part I can think of is, you’ve got to be a nightowl most times; and *gets paid for loving what you do. [*Most clients hate this idea]
The Logo Creative – Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Simon Charwey – David Airey…Why? I started following David Airey with one of my colleague, Mark Okyere, while in the University and especially during my National Service as a Teaching Assistant at Communication Design, KNUST.
David’s LOVE and passion for everything iconic or trademark (symbol, logo/wordmark) has and continue to remain my reliable source of information and inspiration. Reading his two trending books, “Logo Design Love” and “Work for Money, Design for Love,” makes me feel like meeting him in person one day.
The Logo Creative – Who is your favourite Graphic Designer and why?
Simon Charwey – Massimo Vignelli…Why?
- The world resonates with me much, much more the same way it did for Massimo; “*The discipline of Design is the same; once you have a DISCIPLINE on your hands, [and] on your mind, you can design anything. Just that the specific might change; you can design graphics, you can design furniture. You know, I design tables that look like Bodoni.” [*Excerpt from an interview of Massimo Vignelli with Debbie Millman, Design Matters]
- I’m always fascinated by geometric shapes or construction, because I always find myself thinking visually — “distracted” from one shape to the other — and, see, the world around me presents enough inspiration, especially from the Ghanaian culture, where West African Adinkra symbols of Ghana are creatively incorporate in almost all the design disciplines one can think of. If I had another chance, perhaps, I opt for Architecture in college, which is pretty much the same discipline to me — to design. I’m passionately looking forward to partnering with a dynamic lady architect or an intelligent lady who loves to talk about anything Design and knows how to listen deeply — the kind of Massimo and Lella Vignelli’s designs — where husband and wife team up to design “*one thing to anything.” [*My version]
Below are some creative ways I’ve incorporated the well-known Adinkra symbols to design lamps.
The Logo Creative – What’s your favourite design quote of all time?
Simon Charwey – “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” — Massimo Vignelli
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is Graphic Design?
Simon Charwey – Problem solving; effectively communicating ideas or experiences with visual.
The Logo Creative – What steps did you take to start your Graphic Design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Simon Charwey – I still see myself a Designer exploring as a startup yet to take the “business” (or well established company or agency) approach. That said, it does not mean I don’t make profit; I do, and most times thrice the amount I received from my day job salary/paycheck per month as a senior technician and designer at the Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre of the School of Medical Sciences, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana. I intend to free myself one of this days and go full-time as an independent Brand Identity Design Studio.
It’s honestly difficult to quit my day job, I must admit; especially when you’ve develop professional relationship with your immediate colleagues and staff you work with daily, and most importantly, an unrestrained the institution you work for — your Alma mater. But, remember, “some birds are not meant to be caged.”
The Logo Creative – Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed earlier on in your career?
Simon Charwey – Yes. I regret neglecting my childhood skill — illustration. As a child I always run to the movie centres to draw my favourite characters copying from those big canvas hung to a frame by the roadside, only to find out I’m surrounded by my peers and passersby in awe wonder — it was fun. While in high school, I could draw any weird scene, lovely characters, and the hateful beast. [All the ladies want me to draw them.] Then, I begun to slow down; I stopped practicing as before, and obviously it wasn’t really becoming fun as before.
At the University, I wanted to learn animation so I majored as a multimedia student. I graduated with first class honours degree, but I couldn’t become the best as I thought I could work it out; though I could contribute my failure to some sane and plausible reasons, no excuse will exonerate me from not becoming the best I could have been. I guess I failed as an illustrator/animator. But I guess, it’s all for the best what I somehow ‘neglected’ it for — Design. Not that I cannot draw again, but the level of commitment I used to have for drawing each day, especially, at dawn and late in the evenings continue dwindling and I simply couldn’t fix it.
The Logo Creative – If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Simon Charwey – “Do not neglect the gift you have…” (ESV) or more germanely, “Do not be careless about the gifts with which you are endowed…” (WNT) — 1 Timothy 4:14 Be persistent; practise, practise, and practise and never become complacent when everyone is cheering you as the best of the best in your area of expertise. You’ll need someone; look out for a great teacher or a mentor, illustrator or designer — don’t be alone.
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a Designer that’s helped you?
Simon Charwey – Thanks to Mr. Adam Rahman, Senior Lecturer, Communication Design at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana; he introduced me to a friend called “Read.” Read, read, reread; research and learn about your profession, area of expertise, and listen to interviews about thought leaders, great designers, and influencers. I do this often by listening to podcasts on Design Matters with Debbie Millman and yet another interesting Nice To Meet You (NTMY) show by Tobias van Schneider. I invest so much in books on Design, Branding, and other worth-reading books like “Selling To A Group: Presentation Strategies” by Paul LeRoux [A book which is just a year older than me], “The One Thing” by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan, “The Art of Profitability” by Adrian Slywotzky, “Focus: Your Company Depends on It” by Al Ries… PS: PM me, I’ll send you the tall list (including my favourite Design, and Branding books).
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Simon Charwey – I’ll advise new logo and graphic designers in one simple quote, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. [Pablo Picasso]” In other words, don’t wait till you have this “big-agency” project to show the world how creative you are; rather, put your pencil ✏ or pen’s nip ✒ down on the damn sheet, or screen, doodling and working on your skills set from dusk to dawn till it all begins to scream out loud and lovely! — as Tobias van Schneider once said, “Let your side projects be stupid and fun.”
Also published on Medium.