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Interview with Neil Adams – Graphic Designer

The world of online marketing has changed the way we think about content and design. Especially when it comes to business marketing, it’s the online campaigns, PPC ads and SEO which have become the driving force behind getting a company’s name out there. Indeed, running a successful company without even having a website is pretty much unthinkable … today.

Interview with Neil Adams – Graphic Design and Content

Today we’re having a chat with Neil Adams. Neil is now a USA-based graphic designer, but started his career in the UK in 1973, honing his skills to a level where he opened his first company a few years later. Since then, he’s been providing his clients with product solutions from small promotions right through to full scale brand and corporate management.

Vikki: So Neil, have you always worked in graphic design? How did you market your business without the internet?
Neil: Initially, I worked for a large London advertising agency (Hicks Oubridge) and advertising was a relatively new industry. There weren’t that many agencies, so the need to advertise your talents wasn’t really necessary.

Colour television was relatively new, printing in colour was becoming the norm, plus, billboards were also relatively new with their shiny new images plastered around the country. If you were a business wanting to sell your goods, you wanted them to look as good as you’d just seen on your new colour TV, or in the Sunday newspaper’s colour magazine. Plus, typography, including the ever-improving process of getting type into the design, was blossoming. Creativity was getting smart.

Later, with my own companies, it was word of mouth that produced business. If we did “advertise”, it was done by “pitching”. We would approach a possible new client with suggestions for a new advertising campaign, or new corporate image, whatever we thought would persuade the client to switch agency to us. At times, it was ruthless. Agency life could be rather cut-throat. I’ve had an instance where a new recruit to the agency was in fact an informer from another agency.

V: Can you tell us a bit about the design work you do? Next to the illustrations, what kind of content do you deal with?
N: In the last 15 years or so, I’ve moved away from the “hi-energy” advertising world into the more sedate world of packaging. And yet, as unlikely as it sounds, most of the design fundamentals still apply: Visual impact, aesthetics, clarity, message, information etc.

I principally work in healthcare, providing packaging designs for a huge range of global wound care products – clinical hardware, instruction leaflets and manuals, promotional literature, illustrative guides, as well as multi-language translations, copywriting, editing and translating. This has been important for my more recent work, dealing with a global healthcare corporation handling their international brand packaging.

However, more critically than I encountered in the advertising arena, I also have to satisfy international legislation and local regulations. This means that in addition to the design, those regulations must be met whilst maintaining the aesthetics, and that gives an extra level of satisfaction that straight advertising doesn’t. As I’ve dealt with so many international regulatory details, I often have to advise clients to adapt their design requests right from the word Go. That’s so rewarding for me and for the client too, as it saves them from any – potentially very expensive – necessary reworks down the line.

V: Apart from aesthetics, what kind of role does content play in your everyday work?
N: Graphic designers use such a vast range of disciplines in their work, from understanding the client (yes, maybe a bit of pseudo-psychology involved), their market, their end-users, interpreting the brief, creating the words and how they’re displayed, the pictures, styling, colours used, any print or screen limitations, legal parameters, and so on. And when you take a look at what’s lying around you at any minute of the day and see how and where graphic design has been used, from the typefaces used in your mobile phone to the logo on your branded sneakers. It’s EVERYWHERE.

And it’s fantastically interesting. And all of it was produced from a brief with content needing to be manipulated and placed in the landscape or media.
Of course, the way the brief arrives on the designer’s desk or screen is equally diverse. I know one designer that has clients all over the world, has never met any in person, and never uses a sheet of paper. Absolutely everything she produces is on the screen, irrespective of it being design for the web, or packaging or an exhibition.

It doesn’t matter. As long as the design process is followed, and the solution works, everybody is happy.

V: The world of website design, graphic design and content has developed significantly over the years. What have been the most significant changes for you and why?
N: Looking back over the years, THE biggest thing that changed my workday was in the late 80s when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak produced the Apple Mac computer. Bearing in mind the creative concept time has not changed, that new technology allows me to produce a similar piece of graphic design in a fraction of the time.

V: Neil – thanks for your time!

About Neil:
When he isn’t designing, Neil enjoys road trips and shredding his vintage electric guitars, and is looking forward to an adventurous retirement in the States, including the never-ending pursuit of the perfect IPA beer.


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