when line + dot met
Damian Graham //
Recently Line and Dot caught up with Pentland Brands Graphic Designer Damian Graham. He gave us the low down on trends to look out for, revealed the importance of authenticity in design and provided us with all the inspiration an upcoming designer needs.
We even got our creativity flowing by attempting our signature drawing challenge…
1//What has been your career journey?
I did Fashion and Textile Design at university and graduated in the late nineties. In my first year of graduating, I set up a childrenswear brand with a friend and we got into a few shops. After a year we decided to part ways as we had different ideas about the direction of the brand. I then moved to Manchester to work for a supplier as a Junior Graphic Designer in licensing. That was with the likes of Disney, Debenhams and Warner Brothers creating licensing characters for children’s nightwear. In 2000, I lost my job so I became a freelancer and tried to cobble a career from that. During those seven years of freelancing I worked for Pentland, GUS Catalogues and I worked in Istanbul for a couple of months. From 2011 till now I’m working full time at Pentland Brands - I work over 3 brands including Canterbury, Mitre and Speedo. I’m amazed I remember half of this stuff!
2//What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I think a designers role is to steer and elevate the brand from where they currently are. At the moment designers tend to put their ego in. Instead, our ethos should be: ‘How do we elevate that brand? How do we make them better? How do we as designers make ourselves better?’ My aim is always to make things easier for brands - which isn’t always glamorous, but it’s important to me because I’m interested in design on a macro level.
3//What are your favourite upcoming trends?
I was at the Birmingham Design Festival recently and noticed lots of people are calling out for authenticity and truth within design. That can manifest itself in all sorts of areas! It’s poignant because with the world we live in today, you never know what the truth is. You can watch channels like CNN or Russia Today and you have no idea if the person is telling the truth. I was just listening to a podcast by Safrah Manzoor, he talks about truth and how to get the truth out there and be authentic. I think this applies to design too. If you’re producing design and content which you know is going to get algorithmic likes, is that your truth? That’s why authenticity will always be key for me.
4//How can authenticity translate into design?
It comes down to who is your consumer - how will you target them? Do you know where they want to get to? You want to always elevate and that’s really tricky because you might not know where the end point is. I think it’s about noticing a consumer’s needs and wants but also their aspirations and desires. There are a couple of brands that are’nt just about the product anymore - you’ve got to be fully embedded in the lifestyle. When you look at the likes of Rapha Cycling, they do that well. The CEO of the brand said: ‘it’s not really a clothing brand, it’s a movement’. When you look at brands now they’re not just products anymore, they’re much more lifestyle driven - how you eat, how you work, how you socialise.
5//Coming back to your work, can you tell us some designers that influence your work? Apart from Line & Dot obviously!
Obvs! Haha. Jessica Walsh has been doing some interesting stuff recently. She set up her own agency called ‘And Walsh’ and I think that’s going to do really well.
I think she’s amazing! She had this stat that only 0.1% of females were business owners.
Her company is going to be really interesting to watch because within the realms of graphic design, I think she’s the poster girl for inclusion, being a female entrepreneur and being authentic. Other brands, it’s not so much a brand but a resource. I’ve been watching a lot of The Futur (a graphic design and marketing resource). I’ve been watching their Youtube channel and they practically give out free advice on everything from social media strategy to design strategy. Their idea is disrupting the education system and it’s more community based which is great to see.
6//What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a similar career path to you?
If you’re just starting out in your career, don’t specialise too early. Learn all facets of design - be it product, be it textile, be it graphic design. Try and get a rounded view of all the design disciplines and then specialise later. In the education system we tend to specialise too early!
I agree, we’re always told to pick a niche and sell yourself for that specialism which doesn’t give us enough freedom to experiment and try a bit of everything.
It’s hard because employers want to see a steer but what you do now might be something completely different from what you do in 10 years time. I believe it’s better to look at thing in five year chunks - I wish I looked at it like that. With the birth of social media and how fast paced it is, it’s created jobs that weren’t there 12 years ago. The route that you take when you’re 18 doesn’t determine your whole career. I think some teachers can be guilty of this - they put a lot of pressure on kids to go in certain directions and go to university. Another piece of advice would be working different locations globally. I was talking to some designers recently and they just float. They have their phone, laptop and they pick up and go.
That’s the whole digital nomad lifestyle now, you can work from anywhere.
There’s loads of opportunities around - it’s such a different landscape from when I graduated 20 years ago. You can actually make yourself recession proof by travelling all the time and exploiting that to your benefit. There’s low hanging fruit and it’s there to be picked!