I have been lucky to be given a chance to tell all in this interview by Top Graphic Designers. I’m stoked to share this news. This is my first interview, so please support and check it out. I have included a transcript of the interview here.
April, 2012

1) Can you tell us a little bit about your business and the graphic design services you offer?

What I do is still really subjective to business owners and they are, primarily, my customers. A businessman once said to me that logo design is overpriced in Australia and that it is “just a logo”. I’m not sure how to help business entrepreneurs to understand what I do.

A logo, in this instance, is not “just a logo”. It is a brand. It is what your business will be represented by. It is not just a pretty symbol or coloured block. It takes hours and days of research, understanding your business, conceptualising, pushing the limit and virtualising the impossibility. Most importantly, a logo is a face to represent your business so your target audience/customers can relate to and understand what you do. A logo is not just a logo, it is a symbol of your business’ success.

I have been working as a graphic designer in boutique design and advertising agencies for over five years, after graduating from university with a degree in graphic design. I recently started my own freelance business offering top-notch and affordable creative solutions to people who appreciate creativity. I provide a wide range of design, advertising and creative services: branding, layout design, desktop publishing, web design, logo design, advertising design, environmental design and graphic design.

2) What’s the history behind your business and how did you get started in design industry?

My hidden creative abilities were first discovered during my last year of high school. It started with hand drawings and then painting. I didn’t know I had the flair and imagination. I explored these abilities in web design and then decided to study graphic design at university. I entered the design industry straight after graduation. I slowly came to realise that this industry is very much driven by budget, money talks pretty much. Often I find graphic designers are pushed to populate large volume of design at the expense of quality. Hence, many business owners are hesitant about commissioning a graphic designer. After five years working in design and advertising agencies, I have decided to start my own business to offer complete creative solutions with an affordable pricetag. To me, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.

3) What kind of design project is your favorite (or specialty) and why?

I don’t have a particular favourite type of project. I like challenges though. Being a designer, it’s not just about allowing myself to go wild in imagination, it is also about fostering relationship and trust with my clients. I listen to my clients’ needs, and come up with solutions to meet their needs as well as my own expectations. It’s a partnership. All my clients welcome this approach. I take my clients’ feedback on board at the same time I share my professional opinions. I can blindly follow instructions if that’s what required of me, but often I would add a little something to make it special. Every project I have worked on is special. My specialty is my resilient attitude towards every project and ability to meet expectations for all parties.

4) How difficult is to achieve customer satisfaction while keeping your own design style and originality?

It can be extremely difficult because design is so subjective. My clients and I share different views sometimes, and in the end it is up to me to be open to accept their opinions and take on board what they need. I always take their feedback into consideration. It is always better to have a direction rather than no direction (even though no direction is a direction). So far I am lucky to have clients that are willing to work with me and open to my suggestions. My clients like my style and my approaches to their design projects so they give me room to explore originality which I appreciate a lot.

5) What is a typical day in your life as a graphic designer?

My typical day always start off with two cups of coffee and breakfast in the morning. It has become some sort of a ritual. I have to start off the day with a full stomach and a topped caffeine gauge. Then I practically sit in front of my beloved Macbook emailing clients/suppliers, phone calls, designing, meetings, and more coffee throughout the day. In between work, I’ll procrastinate over iTunes library (usually which playlist I should play) or buying more music. I’m always on the go.

6) Graphic designers use different techniques, software and tools. What could be found in your arsenal? What are your favorite tools?

My favourite tool is my Macbook. I can’t live without it. I have tried using Windows-based computer, I just can’t work fast enough on them because the shortcuts are different. I’m running Mac OSX Snow Leopard, equipped with the industry-standard software such as Adobe Design Creative Suite 5.5, Suitcase Fusion 3 (font management software) and Microsoft Office 2011. I also use online file transferring sites as a means to transfer large files to clients and suppliers. The most common ones I use are Dropbox and YouSendIt. I sometimes communicate with my clients via Skype.

7) What are the most challenging aspects of working as a graphic designer? How do you overcome them?

I think every designer goes through mental block, I call it the “creative seizure”. It is really important for me to keep some magazines and design books around for inspiration at times like this. It can last all day sometimes and this will not be good for me because it would mean I’d be behind schedules and would probably need to work all day and night to catch up. After 2-3 hours of the seizure, I usually just move on to another project and give my creativity a little time out. It sometimes works and sometimes it doesn’t. The seizure gets worse if I’m on a tight deadline. That’s why I try to make sure I have sufficient time to work on the project. I think taking breaks really help me that’s why I never miss a lunch break or just making sure I have some food.

8) How important is it to remain updated with new techniques and trends in the industry?

Very important. I go to design conference whenever I can afford, I attend seminars and catch up on YouTube videos to learn new techniques to add to my arsenal. I also participate in forum discussions mainly for technical support. I buy a lot of design magazines and books to keep up with the trends. Some elements and treatments date a design so it is important for me to know these characteristics.

9) What should we look when looking for a graphic designer? What are the signs that we need to look for?

Honesty. Reliability. Flair. Affordability. Personality. You need to find a designer whom you’re comfortable working with. As I mentioned before, design is subjective. If your designer isn’t willing to listen to your opinion and/or at least take them into consideration, the working relationship will be quite unpleasant. Also to remember, designers can have huge personality. So find the one you’re comfortable working with and you usually won’t go wrong if you trust your feelings about the designer. You need to enjoy the process of working with the designer too.

10) Regarding your work, what can you tell us one of your favorite designs? Can you describe the creative process behind it?

This is hard… I designed the Sparc Design website recently. It was an open brief. My client and I have worked together on a number of projects so far and we share a productive working relationship. So when they asked me to design this website, naturally they know I would take their suggestions on board. They sent me some references like colour schemes and the look and feel. I started my process with research on the web, looking for the right colour combos, so forth and so on, for inspirations. I think about what I wanted to achieve just putting together a few snippets here and there in a folder and printed them out for inspirations. They’re mainly made up of colour schemes used on other design materials (or paintings), fonts and imagery. Then I start designing the homepage first, putting together textures, choosing fonts, the layout…all that jazz. I always provide at least two concepts for my clients to choose from. I worked on both concepts simultaneously because very often I get inspired to do something different while working on one concept. I would quickly put something together while it was still fresh in my mind, and then refine the design later. After my clients have seen the concepts, I worked closely with them via email or phone, discussing feedback and what we could refine, etc. The whole process was a pleasure because my clients were involved in the creative process from the getgo. So the designs they received met their requirements from the beginning and it was just small refinements from then on. I had so much fun working on this project.

11) Now it’s time to promote your services. Please invite our readers to contact you for their next graphic design project.

I don’t have a business name. I go by my real name, Leanne Chow, because you will be working with Leanne Chow, not a company. You get personalised services to suit your design needs. If you need help promoting your products or brand, or just designing an invitation you need, just send me an email. There’s no obligation fee to ask for my help. I’ll be happy to help. Thanks for reading.