January 2, 2009
We interview Philip Hepler, owner of graphic design company, 316 Graphics.
TM: So, what is 316 Graphics all about?
PH: 316 Graphics is all about creating fresh, creative graphics and giving the glory to God. The way I see it, he has blessed me with a creative talent and he deserves the credit. I’m just trying to point back to him wherever I get the chance.
TM: You’ve doing professional graphic designing for over a decade. What are some major things you’ve learned over the course of that time?
PH: Always push yourself to the next level. As deadlines allow, ask “how can I make this graphic even better?”, “How can I expand the boundaries of my own abilities and style?” If you are not growing, you are dying. For the type of work that I do, drawing skills are a must. An artist can always learn more computer illustration skills, but if they do not have the drawing fundamentals it will show up in the final product. You can’t overlook the importance of putting pencil to paper! Next, do not take criticism or yourself too personally! There will always be critics. Knowing which ones to listen to and which ones to ignore comes with experience. But keep your ego in check and know that you will be better artist tomorrow than you are today. Use criticism as a tool to improve your craftsmanship.
TM: What has been the best part about working as a graphic designer?
PH: Simply being able to do what I love for a living and getting paid for it! A lot of folks dread going into work on Monday, but I actually look forward to doing what I do. Having a passion for what you do makes all the difference in life and makes it much more enjoyable! As a kid I was always drawing and coloring. I’m blown away that today I basically get paid to draw and color- albeit with some fancier tools and equipment than the crayolas of my childhood! I’ve also have the privilege to work along side a lot of very talented artist and designers who have helped me grow. Collaborating with other graphic designers that I respect has been an awesome experience.
TM: Out of all of the clients you’ve worked with, which one was your favorite to work with? Why?
PH: That’s a tough one! I’ll have to break it down to two…
The first would be Kohl’s. I’ve been doing long term projects with their children’s area for a few years now, and they are a great group of professionals to work with. They offer clear direction and have been gracious enough to fly me out to their corporate headquarters a couple of times. Second I would say that my Christian apparel clients are a favorite, because it’s such a great place for me to combine my faith and my artistic talent. Graphics with a faith message is where my heart is.
TM: What have been the best methods you’ve used for promoting and marketing 316?
PH: Word of mouth has lead to a lion share of my business with 316 Graphics. I’ve worked with a lot of apparel designers over the years, and as they have made career changes and moved around, it has opened up opportunities with new companies. Occasional email updates to my mailing list helps promote my services as well. Subscribers are notified about updates to the “Inspiration” section of my site, portfolio updates, and other news. I’m always looking for an opportunity to promote and market 316 and find that I have to dedicate quite a bit of my time to networking as opportunities become available. You have to stay in contact with your client base so they will remember you when that next freelance project becomes available! I guess the squeaky wheel does get the grease.
TM: What do you plan to do with your business during 2009?
PH: 316 Textures is a new project for 2009. “Wear & Tear v1” and “Paint v1” are texture packs that artist and designers can use to add distressing or paint effects to their graphics. I’ve used these mostly in Illustrator, but they can be used in Corel and Photoshop as well. The texture packs are for sale at 316graphics.com, and you are entered to win a iPod or iTunes with your purchase! Next, I’m hoping to diversify my business by adding new clients. A lot of my work has been in the children’s wear market, but I’m looking to grow into the young adult and adult apparel markets. Starting my own indy graphic tee line of apparel is another big goal for 2009.
TM: What are some helpful tips you can give to other designers out there?
PH: Be nice! I know it sounds elementary, but being a nice guy or gal to do business with can make the difference in getting repeat work. Communication is another biggie. When taking a project, ask as many questions as you can, and don’t forget the obvious ones: “What’s the deadline?”, “OK with my hourly rate or quote?”, “What looks do you like or dislike?”, “Who is the target audience?” I don’t think you can ask too many questions when you are starting a project with a client, and making assumptions can lead to big problems later on. That communication continues during development as well. I always send the client my rough concept sketch or rough layout as I’m working on the project to avoid wasting my time and the clients money. I try to send jpegs of my progress on a graphic all trough the creative process so my client is in the look and can communicate what they like or dislike.
Although you are trying to make a living, never take financial advantage of your clients generosity of a freelance project. Don’t overcharge or milk your client for more coin. Your client will appreciate it if they can tell that your trying to save them money and are concerned about their pocketbook! That being said, don’t sell yourself short either! Communicate with other artist and designers to see where your rates compare with your experience and abilities. It’s a fine line to walk, but being honest with the client and yourself is the best policy.
For more on Philip Hepler and 316 graphics, check out his site.