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Word to the Wise – David Ottley

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Published date 15 July 2014

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Who would you most like to create work for?

I do have a dream project list – it goes a little something like this;
Re-design a national or regional newspaper
Design the shirt numerals for the England Rugby Union Team
Design an experimental low impact signage system for a national park
Design a book celebrating Brutalism for Phaidon Publishing using my typeface Erno
Design, publish and distribute a commercially successful text typeface

How did you juggle working on projects whilst setting up your own business?

I’m not a natural business person – but I understand how design does create value for my clients. Graphic workman has grown and evolved around my work rather than setting out with a business plan and quarterly aims, therefore the process of building the business has been quite organic and gentle, becoming more serious over time.  My advice would be to employ a good accountant and get your head around a few simple accounting and project management concepts, then when the time comes to manage your business it won’t seem like such a dark art.

How would you suggest new graduates pursue a freelance graphic design career?

For anyone considering entering the graphic design profession I would suggest that any graduate find work in a studio where they can learn professional skills and methods of working. I started out working for Turnbull Grey and spent four years learning how to manage projects, speak with clients, present work and think commercially about graphic design. Once you reach a senior level and have a good solid skill set it’s much easier to pursue a freelance career as your skills are much more valuable and transferable to a potential client.

How do you go about meeting new potential clients?

Finding new potential clients is always a challenge, as a small business I often struggle to find the time to actively market myself or call people up and introduce myself. So I rely on word of mouth and opportune moments to seek out new work. I do believe that if you produce good work, are easy to work with and are easily approachable then clients will find you.

What are your goals for the future?

I’m in the process of starting an exciting relationship with an up and coming type foundry and am working on my first commercial typeface for them. So that may be one of the dream jobs ticked off the list in the not to distant future! As always I want to continue to produce creative and engaging work for clients that I enjoy working with – I don’t have plans for huge studio expansions – rather the other way. I want to keep Graphic Workman niche and specialist and concentrate on developing typographic projects and keeping really hands on with design – after all that’s why I started out in the first place and has got me to where I am today.