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Creativity Squared: Problem Solving and New Opportunities with David Davies

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Senior designer at Design by Structure on growing up in a creative family and being a creature of habit

Creativity Squared: Problem Solving and New Opportunities with David Davies

David Davies is a graphic designer and creative who has been specialising in brand identity for over a decade. Working with the team at Structure for over six years across many of their key accounts, he has taken a creative lead role using his passion for design to bring projects to life. He works predominantly with our tech sector and SaaS clients such as RED Global and LendInvest.

A notable project for David this year has been the rebrand of the integrated payments and mobility platform, Eurowag. This was a 360-brand comms brief and where he championed new projects for the brand such as film, which was key to bringing the company’s ambition to life visually.


Person

I'm a calm and focussed person - to be fair, when you are working in a busy studio, it’s important to have both those traits!

When it comes to creativity, I don’t think it's something that people are born with, I think it’s a skill which can be learned and nurtured. I don’t buy the idea that it’s only for artists, designers, and musicians. Creativity, at its core, is about problem solving and finding new opportunities–everyone can be creative given the right circumstances. As a designer, it’s something that you must learn to hone and craft into a skill supported by processes and logic. 

Despite working in a people-oriented industry, I’m actually introverted by nature. Being a designer is all about communicating with people both internally (my team) and externally (my clients). The hardest thing I’ve had to learn is how to get up in front of a group of people and clearly articulate my thoughts, rationale, and approach. It took me a while to get comfortable with this and it is something that I am continuing to develop. 

I’m a creature of habit and naturally fall into daily rhythms. Having a structure to the day and to the work processes makes it easier for me to stay focused and deliver consistently great work. This is especially helpful when working in busy studios!

I’m always on the lookout to see what other designers and agencies are working on within my specialism. That’s not to say I don’t venture outside of this world but building a comprehensive understanding of the sector helps me see where opportunities lie. 


Product 

When it comes to analysing great work, first, I ask myself, do I understand it? I’m looking for that moment when the concept clicks with the execution. An example that sticks in my mind is Anagrams branding for the Hoxton Campus: I love the core concept of ‘a work space with real character’ and how this is brought to life with characters drawn from the floorplans of the office spaces. It’s simple, effective, and true to the promise of the client. 

I then ask myself; do I remember it? I love seeing brands with real courage to take risks and create something truly unique. I always go back to MultiAdaptor’s brand for OneFlow as a great example of a memorable brand idea and an unexpected execution.

Finally, I ask, do I believe it? A great brand concept and creative expression must be true to the promise of the client, their ethos and speak to their target audience. 

I really think the criteria for great work has become more instinctive and less defined process for me as my career has progressed. 

I think my recent rebrand work for Boxxly, a logistics platform for delivery warehouses, stands out for me. I drew inspiration for the new brand from the visual language of warehouses, with bold typography and a colour palette taken directly from high-vis jackets and packaging materials. 

The logo was even inspired by a piece of packaging tape placed onto a box! For me, this brand has a very simple idea at its core, one that speaks directly to its intended audience whilst also allowing for plenty of interesting design thinking. 


Right now, I’m seeing lots of bravery in the approach clients are taking with their brands. Companies are putting together bold, confident, and unconventional brand pieces that seem to defy categorisation.


Process

My creative process starts by reading through everything provided by the strategy team, the brief, the clients marketing collateral, interview notes and sector specific news immersing myself in the project. 

This process sets me up to begin thinking about how we bring the strategy to life visually. I then amass a broad range of visual references to help to shape my ideas and articulate my thinking. Overall, my process is to explore lots of different creative avenues, branching off into new territories as I go–in a structured and methodical manner. 

I collect project references mostly in Miro boards that I can share with the whole team. This allows me and the team to collect and share pots of references, colour, and type for example, as well as add notes to explain our thinking. 

I am always collecting references for creative inspiration; you never know when something you saw weeks ago will spark an idea for a new branding job. My iPhone is full of photos of things I’ve seen and screenshots of great work. 

One of the main reasons I love working in a team is that you’re never alone with a problem. Sometimes the quickest way to a solution is to stop and talk it through with someone, introducing difference perspectives that further develop the idea ultimately, creating a better result. 

I like to help structure and shape an idea and how it’s communicated back to the client. Having a clear structure to a presentation is as important as the creative concept and its execution.

When starting on new brand, there are always a set of key objectives outlined by the client and our strategy team that set the initial direction of the project. These objectives may naturally evolve over time as you take the client on the journey with you, but it’s important to always have them at the back of your mind as a guide. As a designer, I often want to keep working on something until it’s ‘perfect’: that’s where having a framework of objectives, no matter how loose they may initially be, is a helpful tool to know if a brand piece is ‘done.’


Press

Art and design were always something that I grew up surrounded by. Both of my parents are creative, always drawing, painting, or modelling (think AirFix), and I was always encouraged to join in and be creative. They were both also art teachers, at one point, and even taught me in school! Art was also the only subject I truly enjoyed at school and the only lesson I ever looked forward to. 

I look back always at how I approached projects and processes and learning from what worked and what could be improved. As a designer you will inevitably be working across similar processes and sometimes even similar projects, so there is always an opportunity to reflect. Being honest with yourself about how something went and seeing it as a positive opportunity to grow is a strong mindset to have. I also think having interests outside of the design world and generally being curious is a great tool to develop skills subconsciously.

For me clutter is a trigger. I prefer a clear desk and relaxed atmosphere so myself and the team can focus together. I also take plenty of handwritten notes throughout – even though I can’t read them half the time – and make many sketches during the first stage of the process. The physical act of writing helps me think, and so does gathering lots of reference materials: I am a very visual person, so seeing things in front of me helps. 

I think a mutual trust and respect between the client and the designer is essential. Great work only comes from clients who are willing to trust in our expertise and from designers who truly listen and understand their client’s point of view. There must be respect both ways for the creative process to work and an understanding that both sides may have different experiences that should be listened too. 

Every agency has its own practices and ways of working, but since working from home became the norm, I would say that flexibility is best. Giving people a choice to work in a way that best suits them within a broader structure is a benefit for everyone. Allowing space within the process for people to ‘stop and think’ helps foster curiosity–leading to a wealth of new ideas. 

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Structure, Tue, 17 May 2022 14:33:00 GMT