David Airey is a graphic designer, author and since going out on his own in 2005 he’s become a touchstone for people working outside of the office. His post on how to transition to a life as a self-employed designer caught my attention in March of last year. Looking back through emails we’ve been dancing around this interview for a while now. I’ve reposted some of his writings here on Lifework but now we get a tour of his home workspace in Northern Ireland. And we’re not alone in our admiration of this designer – his design blogs Logo Design Love, davidairey.com and brand identity showcase Identity Designed attract more than one million monthly Pageviews.
You’ve undergone major changes in your worklife – first when you moved from working in an office to basing yourself out of your home and then again when you moved homes. Can you tell us about those transitions? The first change (switching from an office to working from home) was in 2005 when I chose to become self-employed. My past employer became my first retainer client, giving me two or three days of contracted work per week (for 18 months or so). Because of which, I can’t remember too many nerves about going it alone.
People ask if it’s hard to motivate myself. I mean, there are always plenty of distractions when your home doubles as your workspace. Thankfully, I’ve never had much trouble. Maybe it was my upbringing — my dad made me appreciate the value of hard work.
What do I miss? Walking to work. I used to walk through the centre of Edinburgh each morning and evening. Loved it. Nowadays my daily commute takes five seconds. 10 if you count both ways.
Moving house is something I’m used to. Since first leaving my parent’s home when I was 19 I’ve lived at about 15 different addresses. That’ll be why there’s not a lot in my office — you tend to shed the junk each time you move.
You’ve set up a home workspace twice now – what did you do differently the second time? It’s six times. Six house moves since 2005. Each time for the better, though, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely happy with how my workspace looks (typical designer).
How does working from home impact your work? It’s hard to say. The work I produce now is of a much higher standard to what I was doing in my office days, but I’ve learned a hell of a lot along the way. Maybe if I stayed in an office, with more ease of receiving feedback from others, I’d be doing better. I don’t know.
You’re not only running a successful design business you also manage regularly post insightful pieces on your blog. How do you manage your time? I just do one thing at a time, whether it’s working on a client project, publishing a blog post, replying to emails, spending time with friends and family. But I limit the number of clients I work with at once, and each of my three blogs are only updated once or twice a week, so I’m probably not as busy as it might seem.
What inspires you in your work? Inspiration isn’t easy to pin down. I don’t think it’s necessary for the work I do. For me, what’s more important is motivation, and there’s one main aspect that keeps me going: I hope that one day I can fully support a family of my own, and if I’m to do that, I know I need to keep improving, keep streamlining my process, keep learning new skills, new approaches. The fact that I love my job and have a passion for design is a big motivator, too.