Graphic design is part of daily living. In a capitalist world the easiest way for companies to communicate and sell to us is through the visual world of graphic design. We spoke to Avery Grimshaw about breaking into the industry, approaching work, and his creative process.
Have you always been a creative mind?
I think that I’ve always been a creative mind in the sense that I’ve always
enjoyed tinkering. I used to play with LEGO a lot as a kid and, while building
according to the instructions was enjoyable, I really loved taking what a set gave me
and trying to make something new out of it. I think that’s where I am most
comfortable: having the freedom to create within boundaries. It helps me find
different ways to solve problems, and it is something that has always stuck with me.
That being said, I think that studying design has helped me grow in this area.
Do you think an institutional education is required to succeed in creative industries?
It depends on the industry one is trying to succeed in, and it depends on the
desired profession. For example, a bassist doesn’t necessarily need a degree in Jazz
Studies in order to perform with a band. The same applies for studio art in my mind.
Higher education in the arts is largely a time of experimentation and finding a style,
so I think it’s important to have like-minded people around you to help you grow and
learn, and the university is a great setting for that. However, if you’re able to succeed
outside of a classroom setting in your art/design pursuits, then the need for a degree is
What kinds of opportunities should aspiring graphic designers look to complete?
Internships are a great way to get experience in the real world. Even if you
have no interest in working for a company, it’s still a good idea to have that
experience. If you’re near a design studio or firm, shoot them an email about possibly
taking a tour, even if you’re not seeking a job. If you have some work already but are looking to improve, a portfolio review from someone in the industry (or a professor)
can be an insanely insightful source of feedback.
And what opportunities and experiences can they create themselves to help them gain
Taking on projects on your own accord (i.e. not for a client or class) is a great
way to practice your workflow and strengthen your style. Look for examples of
design that you hate, and fix them. My girlfriend and I are about to start seeking out
bad logos around town for the sole purpose of redesigning them, just for our own
accord. Anything can be an opportunity for design, as long as you seek it. If you find
a void that can be filled through design, then fill it!
What’s a recent trend in design that you’re enjoying and why?
Vaporwave art, for sure. The feeling of nostalgia is something that I seek often, and vaporwave art and music gives me that feeling. My grandfather got way into computers in the early 90s, so as a kid I enjoyed messing with his Windows 98 machines. Vaporwave art brings me back to that time when things were simpler and screens were square.
Do you think working digitally has enhanced the work of graphic designers?
Yes and no. Working exclusively on a computer, in my opinion, inhibits
creativity. Starting a project on paper is the best way for me to approach something,
because I have more control with a pencil on paper than I do with a mouse or even a
graphics tablet. That being said, I think Illustrator is the most useful, important piece of software for a designer to have, and being able to use it in its full capacity can lead
to great things. Even something as simple as color is so much more easily realized on
What are the benefits of working freelance?
As a freelancer, you have way more control over what you’re working on, and
you have way more creative freedom. In most cases, you’re not required to conform
to a design language or guideline, so the possibilities for problem-solving are truly
endless. Plus you don’t have to be cooped up in an office, which is nice.
How do you approach a brief from a client?
If it’s a logo or symbol, I just start by sketching on paper. I do anywhere from
20-40 thumbnails over the course of a week or two (depending on the deadline)
before sending a scanned copy to the client for review. This gives me enough time to
explore many possibilities. I’ll typically ask the client for their top 5 or 10 favorites
from the thumbnail set, and from there I move to Illustrator. Then, it’s just a matter of
iterating, going back and forth with the client, and making choices until I reach the
final product. For layouts, I will lightly sketch some mockups using simple boxes to
represent images, text, etc. I move to InDesign from there and just work with what I
like best. Once I have a rough layout, I send that to the client to get their thoughts.
After that comes iterating like before.
I haven’t done many websites, but if my client wants to use Squarespace, then
my work is already halfway done! Ironically, I prefer using Webflow because I have
unlimited control over how the site looks without having to code everything by hand.
Anyway, when I’m working on a website, I just start on the computer; that’s where
the product will exist, so it’s a good starting place.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy playing video games and working on personal non-design related
projects. Like I said before, I like tinkering, so I tend to gravitate towards electronics
projects that involve fixing or building something. It’s been a while since my
engineering days, so I get a little too excited when I have a chance to use my
What advice would you give to other aspiring graphic designers?
My number one piece of advice is this: don’t be afraid to ask! Some of my
favorite client projects came from just simply asking if the person needed anything
done. Additionally, if something is unclear to you, ask questions. There’s nothing
worse than being halfway done with a project before realizing that it isn’t what the
client wanted at all.
Next, stand by your work. Be excited about what you’re working on,
especially if it’s a personal project. If you get excited when you talk about your work
and speak to it with love, people will be drawn to it. I promise. This involves putting
your work out there. Instagram and Dribbble are places where creatives thrive. If there’s a design competition around, submit a piece. Show people what you’re
working on. It can lead to numerous things. I recently read a Cracked.com article with
this quote: “The Internet has given literally everyone a pedestal in this day and age.
No matter how divergent, how depraved, or how utterly mad your worldview is, you
will gain an audience. Your insane mind-drool will be seen and bolstered by
somebody, somewhere.” This was from an article about Epic Meal Time, for context.
This can also lead to new connections being made, which ties into my fourth piece of
Make connections. When you’re starting out, take on projects that you may
not enjoy (work is work, after all). If your uncle’s boss’s neighbor’s cat’s best friend’s
owner needs a logo for their The Office fan club, you can probably extend your
services. Do a good job, and you’ll get recommended!
To see more of Avery’s work you can find his website here
and his instagram here