Dan Robinson Miller is the man behind Losttime Design. He is an incredibly talented graphic designer with an expert eye for layout, color and balance. Away from the day job he is equally super savvy with creating amazing illustrations in Illustrator too; a really gifted guy. I have had the pleasure of working with Dan on some Cherry Sorbet projects as one of my team, and his versatility and creative eye always impresses me. We actually met via Twitter – which demonstrates the value of designers having social media presence – and have worked together for over 18 months.
To find out what gets Dan’s creative juices flowing I put him on the spot.
Losttime Creative spans design, illustration, branding, artwork and corporate design; which elements keep you the busiest, and which do you enjoy most?
At the moment I would say the illustration is keeping me the busiest – I do a couple of cartoons for publications every month and also produce a cover illustration for a piece of direct mail on a monthly basis through another agency. Along with that, I would say the work that I as most regularly asked to do is logo/visual identity design which I really enjoy taking on. I think you can be very creative and clever with logo design… it should be able to say a lot in a very simple way.
How do you normally find clients?
I have been lucky enough that a lot of my clients have come through word of mouth and recommendations. However, I have struck up relationships through social media which have brought in work and, on the back of that, further projects and contacts.
How do you showcase your work online and off?
I mostly showcase my work online, I have my website and blog, which is much more regularly updated; I also am quite an advocate of social media and have Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. I am still holding out hope for Google+. I think there is a skill in using social media to showcase work, to strike that balance between being interesting, relevant, and not just bombarding people with links to your latest work.
As far as offline goes, I have written a few tutorials and articles for magazines explaining illustration techniques or answering readers questions and keep threatening to organize some sort of exhibition for my illustration work, which would be really exciting (for me at least).
What brief process do you follow, and does it differ for design or illustration?
I have a simple briefing form which I created to try and get the simple questions answered, but I must admit that doesn’t usually get used. When a project comes in both design and illustration, I try and just find out as much information as possible. For illustration, I try to ascertain which style the client would like the work produced in, then I will create a number of sketches and start to work from there.
With design work – and especially logo design – I find out if there are any set specifications, colors, imagery and so on that needs to be included and so on. For both, I always find it helpful to ask if there are any reference material the client has seen and can send over. Most people have at least a small idea of what they want so if you can narrow it down to near this I find it really helps with at least some of the routes I present to them at first stage.
What techniques do you use to create illustrations?
I have a few illustration styles I work in, but I would say nearly all of it will at some point include Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. I have been developing a more personal style which is all drawn directly into illustrator, and then textures and extra details are all added in Photoshop. My character designs and a lot of the illustrations I produce for marketing campaigns and so forth will be sketched out in pencil and then drawn up and colored in Illustrator.
Do you often undertake self initiated projects for fun, and/or to broaden your portfolio?
I try to continually have some personal projects on the go; as I mentioned, I have been developing a more personal recognizable style for a while which has been all self motivated or requested by friends which has been great for expanding my portfolio. Just before Christmas I had my first portrait commission in this new style which I was really excited about. I would say that all my self motivated projects have been more geared towards the illustration side; I get inspired and then feel like creating an image. When it comes to design I work much better with a brief and a problem to solve.
Do you use social media to make potential clients aware of your work?
I try, I think it can be a very powerful tool. As I mentioned earlier, I try to keep up-to-date with social media trends, partly for my work as well as always good to know how people are consuming information. I will admit, I am a little addicted to Twitter, but have struck up some really good relationships with agencies and individuals which has led to work. I post work on Pinterest and Instagram (always being careful to only post work I am allowed to of course, make sure your clients are happy for you to do so) but this is more to just get work out there, I would not say they have led to many leads.
I try and post regularly to my blog and then use social media to point people towards this. I do think that people can put a little too much importance on their social media, how many followers, how many likes… the amount of likes is in no way a direct relation to getting leads. It is great to know that people like what you are putting out there, but very few of them will actually be looking to commission or e mail you. But, I am a very active advocate of using it as a way to increase your online visibility, it is there, it is not going anywhere so why not use it.
What was your route to work, did you go to university or college?
I went to college and did a BTEC Foundation in Art and Design, and then on to University (University West of England) to do a degree in Graphic Design. I took art at GCSE, but had a bit of a falling out with my school so did not take A level art (instead I did History, Geography and Politics), so getting into college was not straightforward. But, if you put the work in and you have the talent it is possible. I would recommend the Foundation course to anyone that is even slightly considering a career in the creative field. Most degrees will insist you have one before they will take you on, but for a year you will have the freedom to discover yourself and really work out if it is what you want to do for the rest of your life… also one of the best years of my life so much fun.
What is your favorite aspect of your work?
I would say I enjoy all my work, I find the illustration work easier to be motivated by, but once I get into a design problem I can easily get lost and thoroughly enjoy it. I do love a logo and take real pleasure in thinking of a graphic or design that can communicate what a company does or represents in a clever accessible way. However, I would say that throughout my career the bit I love the most is hearing that a client is happy. I think everyone that works in a creative field wants to be recognized for what they have produced, be that an illustration, logo, magazine spread or website. It is something you have created, thought of, you have put some of yourself into it, so to hear it has been accepted and liked will always give me a buzz.
How do you stay fresh and creative?
I try to read magazines and websites about what is going on in the industry. There are some great blogs out there showcasing design, illustration and packaging from all over the world. I try to get out to galleries and shows, not as much as I would like. Again, I think social media is a great place to see what is going on in the creative world and a way to keep your finger on the changing trends. But I just keep trying to create, trying different styles and challenging myself.