06 May Featured: The Office of Dominic H. Roberts Graphic Design
Dominic H. Roberts is an independent graphic designer. He is inspired by art history and interested in the way different art movements add to and develop previous ones. He says that this informs his critical thinking and approach to problem solving. By looking at his work, it’s apparent that Dominic is something of a perfectionist, favouring neat, clean lines and simple graphics. We asked Dominic to tell us more about his approach to graphic design, as well as let us in on how he juggles all the things that come with running, and being, your own design studio.
Please tell us briefly about yourself, and how you’ve got to where you are now.
I’m originally from Port Elizabeth where I studied Graphic Design at NMMU and then moved to Cape Town in 2011. I got to where I am now by learning how to get back up.
What was the first project you undertook as The Office of Dominic H. Roberts Graphic Design, and what’s changed since then?
Well I actually began working under the title by chance. I resigned from a company, shortly after got retrenched, then was introduced to the right people, by the right people (Thanks Andre & Justin).
My first project was deep etching photographs that were meant for real estate agent signboards, heavily conceptual as you might imagine. Little by little I started getting more design work and meeting more of the right people who trusted me enough to give me an opportunity. You always start at the bottom.
Where do you look for inspiration on a daily basis?
Art. Well art history, I’m not that current. Not just for visual cues, but for critical thinking and problem solving. The way that art movements can react against and grow from one another interests me. Music also plays a big part.
What does your average day look like?
Depends what version of me wakes up that day. On a good day, a 6am run, at work 7.30 with a coffee and music. On a bad day I’ll stay in bed till 11, have brunch and coffee, then play catch up till the early hours of the morning.
How do you manage client relationships?
I’m honest. I was a human being before I was a designer. If you can communicate with your clients efficiently and deliver your best work at a good price, then this type of approach is not only sustainable, but also well rewarded. Nobody can put up a front for their entire career. You have to find what is sustainable to you. This is the rest of your life we’re talking about.
Working independently must have advantages and challenges – can you share a few examples of this with us?
I love being involved with the process. I get to meet new and interesting people on a daily basis. It’s not like a brief just lands on my desk, a whip cracks and go. I don’t think I could do that. Handling it all is a little time consuming. You have to be client service, designer, traffic, post production and still put out your best work.
What are the design principles that you work by?
There are loads. The list is constantly growing and changing.
I’ll try keep this short:
Be Curious. Sometimes what I’m working on will lead me down a 6-hour rabbit hole of exploration. Just go with it.
Play more. Do things that aren’t work related but involve creativity. Cook, sketch, write and doodle. Make something from nothing, even if it’s just for you.
Put in the work. You need to prioritise things in your life in order to do this.
Drop the ego. Really, just drop it.
What are some of the influences that inform your style?
Styling usually comes after concept and that is based on the brand. With that being said, I usually look at the basics then redefine the borders. My 4th year research paper was entitled ‘Typography’s evolution into ornament’. This played a huge part in my approach, especially in the work I did for Tidy & Co. I found a simple Art Deco inspired sans serif typeface then got a colour pallet from a Tamara de Lempicka painting. I then looked at the angles and stroke widths of the typeface and from that I made a pattern. It’s really interesting how the pattern relates to the logo.
You have to look at words as shapes for stuff like that. I think it’s called semantic satiation? Where words lose meaning and just become shapes. Sometimes just those simple shapes have so much to offer.
Tidy & Co.
Has your style changed over time? Please tell us about this.
I wouldn’t say it’s changed. Evolved maybe? As time goes by you find things to incorporate and things to let go of. By being self-critical you can find focus quicker.
What is the best piece of design work in the world?
Tough question. Right now the work Vignelli and Noorda did for the New York City Subway. Actually, The Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual recently was reproduced thanks to crowd funding. The sheer scope of work and time that went into it is incredible. It just works so well, problem solving at its best.
What are you looking at on the Internet right now and what are you listening to?
Open in my browser right now, I’m streaming a Dazed and Confused mix: Throwback Thursday: 94 minutes of 1994 hip-hop. So damn good.
I’ve been listening to Hot Sugar’s album Trauma quite a bit. It sounds like an underwater love story set in the bad part of town. It’s great.
What exciting work can we look forward to seeing from you soon?
Well, I’ve recently just finished work on Rootbar. It’s a health/juice bar that I did full branding and implementation for, that was really fun.
I’m starting to explore product design, in collaboration with Tidy & Co. It’s a solo project that should keep me busy for a while, and I am really excited to use my design skills in a new medium. We’ll be launching some new products at the end of July.