Owner of Flory Design
I got the chance to sit down and chat with Trent Flory, Owner of Flory Design in Lawrence, KS, and talk with him about Graphic Design, owning his own business, and got him to answer the age old question: Apple or PC?
Who were your major influences in Design when you first started?
When I was in college, I really liked Arnold Sax. I liked the simplicity of it, and his design philosophy. What I took away from it is that there is a perfect solution for every problem, and it's your job to find that solution. Looking at his style, it is very consistent within itself, whereas if you take his statement literally, then you should be able to adapt to multiple different styles depending on the client you are working with.
What do you look for in a good designer?
It really depends on what you are designing. If we want to just focus on logos, for instance, I think the logo designer is going to be someone who wants to search for that perfect solution. Second, they want to ask themselves, how can I show something that represents this organization in the most efficient way possible.
If I'm showing a tree, for instance, what is the least I can get away with, in a design element that conveys that image. I don't want to focus too much on the details to make it look like a tree. I want to be able to say, “that's a tree with the least amount of elements possible.”
A good logo has a unique quality to it, but at same time is minimalistic, and the way it's shown to us makes sense. There’s something in that logo that makes it unique. The classic example is the old Microsoft logotype. It’s just Helvetica, but there’s a notch or that that S that makes it it’s own unique logo.
So how has the school graphic design changed since when you were a student?
My guess would be the introduction of software. Initially, when I started this business. I found that students had a good design approach, and a good understanding of design philosophy, but they didn’t have as much experience on the computer. That was then, but now people have so much more hands-on experience with the software like Adobe and other like it.
Do you find that most designers find their style early on or does it come to them later on?
Well, hopefully it's always changing, as the environment is always changing. What people are attracted to always changes, as well as what is effective in the marketplace. What you design could end up only being effective towards people of the same age.
I think an effective Graphic Designer is not stuck with a particular style. It's just so connected to marketing and how people are putting their image out there to be adapted to their environment.
Do most clients expect you to help them understand your design process?
I don't know what their expectations are in the beginning, so I usually try to give them a cursory over that, before we get started. I share my approach, I’ll come back to them with some concepts, get some feedback, and work from there.
Hopefully it’s the collection of them all that says who I am.
What do you have the most fun working on?
For me, I would say logos, but I enjoy a good balance of everything. I don't want to spend too much time in one place or the other. I think what's me helped me survive is diversification and going through all different types and sizes and shapes of clients. Now, a lot of advertising money goes into web development, whereas before it seemed to go into brochures and publications, and other print mediums. Diversification is key.
Looking through your company’s portfolio, I’ve seen many of these designs throughout Lawrence. Do you have a particular project that is your favorite?
The City of Lawrence logo was probably one that's been the most significant. Early on when I started my business like I was able to design the Eagle Bend Golf Course logo. Maybe it's not the most beautiful logo, but it’s been effective and It's been one of the things that has helped me get my name out there.
Design-wise, my work for the Douglas County Fair was fun, since I was in 4-H when I was growing up. It changes, though, and it depends on the time and day. I don't want to be defined by any one particular project. Hopefully it’s the collection of them all that says who I am.
Do you find yourself working more with pencil and paper, or more computer work? Or is it a healthy combination of the both?
I mean for me I have to start from scratch with thumbnails and sketches
So then, has your design process changed a lot since when you were in school?
A lot of people will completely skip the concepting stage, but what happens is that they get hung up on how to execute something on the computer. The idea they have in their head takes forever to construct on a computer. It’s best to start with thumbnails, get feedback and narrow down your concepts. You can’t hide behind effects. The software gets better and better with what you can do with it, but If it’s not a good idea in your thumbnail, it isn’t going to work on the computer.
Do you feel like creativity can be taught or is it something you are born with it?
I think there is a lot of creativity out there that is unbridled. Some people have more than others, but everyone is created in their own. From a design perspective, it just depends on the person. Some people have more natural talent than others, but I’ve seen designers are effective and maybe not very creative, and vice-versa. You need to know your limits, and how far to go down the rabbit hole. It takes discipline.
Do you have any advice for a designer who is just starting out in the business?
If you can get a job with an ad agency, that is a great place to start. They are going to work you hard, and you’ll put in a lot of hours, but you're going to be surrounded by the about every aspect of the business, from the account services to print services to web application and development, creative directors and production artists. That stuff is all there in one place, with an ad agency, so you get a good feel for the whole business. If you just started cold turkey on your own with none of that behind you, you might have a skewed idea of how it all works, and I think it’s a great move to get a foundation of how the business works before you head out on your own.
I started out working, right out of school, for a display company that did point-of-purchase display, design, and production for Hallmark. Then, I went to work for a design firm here in town for a few years, and then started my own thing. But, when I went out on my own I did a lot of freelance work for Callahan Creek, when they were working in Topeka. I got in on some pretty big clients and then learned a lot about the business, so I feel like that really helped me on the first few steps towards my own design business.
Do you have any advice on working with your first clients?
Make sure you communicate with them. Tell them what it will take on your end, how the process should work, and establish parameters. For example you could tell them that you’ll do a few rounds of concepts, and maybe one or two rounds of changes. That doesn’t always work, but it helps the client.
Another thing I’ve learned, you’ve got to be willing to eat some time. If something should take 10 hours, and the client’s work will take 15, in the end. You need to be able to say, “it was originally going to take 10 hours, so that’s all I will bill you for.” That gives you more opportunities down the line.
The word going around is that print media is on a serious decline, heading towards a possible end. Have you been seeing these trends as well?
Yeah I mean I used to do a lot of it. It used to be probably 75% of my work, even as much as ten years ago, but now it's you probably around 30%-35% of it now. Logo design is still up there, but people aren’t willing to pay as much for a logo. People are buying stock images online and placing their name on that, which opens up a whole new group of competition.
Working with an ad agency allows you to do a lot more print media, as the big companies need it. But, that also depends on the budget you have to work with, and the demand for it.
The printing process has completely changed. It has been getting smarter, but it seems that printing companies are now on the decline as well, at least here in Lawrence.
The tough question: Mac or Windows?
Mac. They seem to care about the designers more than Windows. It makes sense for creatives to use Mac in terms of security, but the Mac environment is more intuitive for us as designers. Sure, Mac may have more controls on you, more boundaries that they are in control of, but we want to live in that simpler world, than the more unfettered PC environment. .