Simplicity and clarity are the hallmarks of great logos, so when you find a designer like James Waldner who is able to articulate complex ideas through logo design, you take notice — and we have. James has a unique ability to create beautiful logos while maintaining an uncomplicated, easy-to-understand visual representation.
A striking element to James’ design is the basic shapes he uses — circles, squares, and triangles. Other than a few commissioned projects for crest-type designs, the vast majority James has completed is derived from these basic shapes. Here are a few of the more obvious examples:
From Self-Taught to Successful Designer
James was nice enough to grant us an interview. We like getting into the heads of designers, especially those who have had success, to see what kind of process they have and how they approach their art. James has some excellent tips and insights that we think will help anyone looking to start or grow their own design studio.
Design Festival (DF): Your designs tend to include some form of typographical elements. Where do you find fonts and do you have a process for discovering that perfect fit?
James Waldner (JW): There are numerous websites that provide quality fonts. My favorites are MyFonts.com and FontShop.com. FontSquirrel.com is also a great place for free fonts for designers. It pays to go with premium fonts!
I try to match the icon’s style and personality. They have to be married to each other. Matching them is hard work and can take a lot of time. Finding the perfect type is difficult and is an art to itself. At times, I custom design type, if needed. Using some customization in type is always great because it prevents someone from recreating the logotype easily.
DF: Client interviews are a hot topic and tend to be ignored when discussing what it takes to “make it” as a graphic designer. How important are those first few conversations with a new client and do you have a process for making sure you get it right?
JW: The client interviews are a vital part of the process. I believe that not every client is perfect for me so I choose which clients to take. As designers, we often feel that we have to take on every project that comes our way. If we do, we take on projects that simply won’t pay because they require much more time than expected. Or we take on clients that have an ‘I’ll know when I see it’ approach. In short, some clients don’t know what they want and I find it best to steer clear.
In the interview, I usually ask many project specific questions to determine if we are a good match and if I feel confident I can produce the result the client is looking for. I also get project specifics. The more information I can learn, the better. Is the client open or do they know what they want. Both have risks. An open ended project has many options, and a client who knows exactly what they want might not be flexible enough to your ideas. So it’s a combination.
I look for clients who let me do my job. They trust my personal opinion in design and go with suggestions based on what works well in terms of design. We need an open line of communication so we can discuss the approach.
DF: Do you design on paper and translate to Illustrator or do you start with a digital process?
JW: I believe there is still something unique about the pen and paper process. Every great design begins with a pencil and paper. Once I have a design I like, I either scan it or just redraw it in illustrator. All logos are done in vector using illustrator.
DF: You’re a self-professed, self-taught designer. How did you learn the craft and what do you do to keep learning?
JW: What most people don’t know is that I am a certified teacher. My first encounter with Adobe products was when I was teaching high school design courses. In order to immerse myself into the design environment, I began to design/develop websites for local businesses. I rather enjoyed it and began doing more and more. Designing was a lot more fun than coding, so I focused on design rather than coding and hire coders instead. After working with local businesses, I noticed the demand for logo design and so I branched into that area using illustrator. I was hooked. When I looked at companies providing the service in the local area, I was surprised to see a lot of mundane quality work. This was an opportunity for me to provide really high quality designs instead.
I love reading and learn a lot from professional graphic design books. I regularly purchase books and attend online design seminars. Websites like Dribbble.com, LogoPond.com, LogoLounge.com really helped me because I was able to get critiques from other pro’s in the field and have my work seen by industry professionals.
I am a perfectionist and that has helped elevate the quality of my work. It has been recognized on many logo related websites like: logopond.com, logomoose.com, logooftheday.com, logolounge.com, iheartlogos.com and more. Having my work featured on websites and published in books has helped me find clients across the globe.
DF: How many clients do you typically handle at once?
JW: I believe in quality and not quantity. As such, I only take on two clients at any time to focus on the projects at hand. It allows me to better serve clients and keeps me organized and productive.
With an inspiring story and excellent work ethic, James Waldner is one designer that should inspire the rest of us to greatness in our own line of work, no matter the industry. We see that this designer has embraced hard work, taken the opportunities that has come his way, and continued to produce quality design — and these are all qualities that have helped to make him into the successful logo and web designer he is today.
View some of James’ logo designs below, and then visit his website GoLumo.com to see more of his incredible work, which in addition to logos includes web design, hosting, and even SEO.