Sam Flaherty is a graphic designer and art director based in Paris. Check out our chat with him below.
What made you become a designer?
My mum is an artist and my dad is a computer programmer, so I guess it was natural that I would land somewhere in-between. I was raised in quite a creative household, so a creative magnetism was always there, but I really don’t remember a conscious moment of insight – ‘I’m going to be a designer!’ – I think it was more a slow, drawn-out realisation from influences that I picked up here and there.
“My mum is an artist and my dad is a computer programmer, so I guess it was natural that I would land somewhere in-between.”
You seem fairly well travelled! Do you find it influences your work?
I think that traveling is the best thing a person can do to invest in themselves; it really is a defibrillator for the soul. It shocks you into experiencing new culture, new creativity. My girlfriend and I have lived in four cities over five years, and I think that the biggest way that it influences my work is from the different range of creative people that I come across. For example, tonight in New York I just met up with a designer that I follow on Instagram, and we chatted about our creative processes and how we search for new inspiration. I think that travel allows you to meet and connect with these people, which in turn inspires your own work.
How do you approach a new project? Do you have a process?
The subtleties of the process varies a lot between each job and client, but I always start by establishing a concrete brief of what the expectations of the job are. I also look to see where the project can be pushed in more interesting ways, and establish an open dialogue with the client about this. I find that they tend to get quite excited at this stage; they maybe haven’t considered that a brand identity can work in a larger environment than what they were anticipating. Then it’s research, research, research. You can never do enough research.
“I think that travel allows you to meet and connect with these people, which in turn inspires your own work.”
You have a consistent aesthetic across your work, has that always been the case or has that developed through the type of projects that you’ve worked on?
I think that I’ve always looked for the simplest way to communicate a message, and this has always come across in my work. Not speaking is as powerful as speaking; I use this analogy when I create, and it usually means that my design is quite clean and minimal.
Any favourite typefaces?
A bunch – every designer does! I’m loving the geometric sans movement such as Brown and Circular. I dig the more character-filled typefaces released by Colophon (one of my favourite foundries) such as Castledown and Visuelt. I am also a fan of the range over at Grillitype. I’m looking for a project to use GT Cinetype in as we speak. In terms of serifs, I’ve always been drawn to Arno Pro.
Who inspires you?
My girlfriend; she’s a fashion photographer and blogger – she’s done her own thing from day one, and grown her influence over the last five years into something that we’re both really proud of.
How important do you think social media is for a designer to get their work noticed?
I’m on the fence with this one. Personally, I can’t recall any projects that have come to me through Instagram, but Twitter has yielded some results. I think that if you have a creative voice, social media is a good way to speak volumes, but it often comes down to whether your work is good or not.
What is the most memorable project you’ve been involved in?
There have been a bunch; a magazine that my friends and I launched years ago in New Zealand that lasted for 10 issues – we had some fun launch parties up and down the country. Most recently, I think a project that I worked on for Google with the MultiAdaptor team in London; it involved the use of crazy new technologies that I had never heard of, so it was great fun exploring how it could all come together to solve the brief. You can read more about that over here.
You have some photographic work on your website, is that something you like to get involved with when it’s part of a project?
Absolutely. I think that photography is a hugely powerful tool in any design or brand creation, and I like to be as involved in the art direction as possible to ensure that it fulfils the vision.
Do you prefer working alone or in collaboration?
Both. Smaller branding projects are great for putting your head down and getting lost in by yourself, but it’s often fun to have another person or a small team to bounce ideas around and stretch things a little. Plus, communication is a big part of what we do, so it’s good if it’s inherent in the process.
“We talked a lot about her aesthetic, and what it meant to be minimal.”
We’ve featured your work for Iona Brown on your Instagram. Tell us about how that project came about and how your solution came together?
Iona approached me looking for a visual identity for her new jewellery label. Her aesthetic is super minimalist, which I was immediately drawn to. Iona was a perfect client; open to all ideas and understanding of the importance of the creative process. We talked a lot about her aesthetic, and what it meant to be minimal. This conversation trickled down through the logo (which was a reflection of her thick/thin jewellery style), the art direction of the photography and the collateral. The end result was a really succinct visual tone that suited her brand perfectly and got a great response.
What’s next for you?
I’ve recently come on as a partner with my girlfriend’s business, so I’ll be investing time in growing things there. I currently live in Paris and work globally, so will be keeping an ear to the ground for more creative projects. There’s another city move on the cards at some point soon; possibly Barcelona or New York. Hopefully much more of the same!