I recently had the opportunity to interview Rob Morris of Digitalmash. You may be familiar with Rob’s work, particularly his portfolio site which has been featured in countless design galleries and blog posts. Rob is a very talented designer and I hope you get something valuable out of the conversation in this interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
My name’s Rob Morris. I design stuff under the moniker Digitalmash. I do most graphic design stuff, but the biggest chunk of what I do goes to web-based work.
Your portfolio site has been included in a number of design galleries and blog posts. Has this exposure had an impact on your business?
Well not really. It’s hard to say though. The type of people who use design galleries are usually people wanting to build their own site and are looking for inspiration rather than to employ a designer. But I’m sure whatever impact it has had, it’s mainly been positive.
As a designer who does print, identity, and web design, how do you meet the challenges of being proficient and effective in several different types of design?
This is a big misconception about design, I think. Being proficient is about knowing the methods for achieving a desired effect. But this isn’t really design. Similarly, drawing a line with a ruler isn’t architecture. Anyone can do that.
Solving problems is always the greatest challenge in design and it’s not something that changes between a logo, website or poster. That’s always the biggest challenge. Execution certainly plays a big part, but I’d argue what separates bad designers from good ones isn’t their proficiency. If I don’t know how to do something (which is a lot of the time), I find a book or website that can help me learn how.
What types of projects do you enjoy the most?
Projects where you have time, money and good people. If we’re talking specific tasks, I actually really get a buzz building static designs (when I’m happy with them) into actual web pages.
What were some of the main factors that led you to operate under the name Digitalmash as opposed to just using your name?
Factor 1: Rob Morris is a pretty boring name.
Do you have any advice for other designers who are facing the same decision?
My only advice is not to stress about the name too much. If you do good work it’s not going to matter. A name is just a name. If you met the man/woman of your dreams you wouldn’t care what their name was.
That said, it’s there’s no reason to handicap yourself. So if you’re considering calling your company ‘Binary Sphincter Inc’ or something, maybe reconsider.
What are some of your main sources for getting new clients?
If you do a good job and you’re not a jerk, past jobs nearly always lead to future jobs. Sometimes it will be through networking and having a designer bud who needs a hand.
It’s so weird because nearly every job I get has some strange serendipitous way of coming about. Don’t underestimate word of mouth.
You have a Master’s in Internet Communication. What is your view on designers and formal education vs. being self taught?
Well everyone’s different, so it’d be silly to argue one way or the other. Some of my favourite designers (and this is especially true for web designers) never studied design formally. The common theme, however, is that they are all pretty switched on, culturally-literate people. So if you’re going to be a decent designer, it will pay to be able to string a sentence together and organise your thoughts clearly. Whether you get that from reading the newspaper every day or a degree in History is irrelevant.
For readers who don’t know, you are an Australian living in Japan. What have you enjoyed most about being able to live and work in a different culture?
Well even though I was living in Japan, my work was almost never for Japanese clients or had any bearing on my location. That’s one of the awesome things about being in the web business — as long as you have an Internet connection, you have the potential to work anywhere.
The best thing about living in another culture is that it forces you into an ongoing state of openness. Of course, this wears off eventually and you start taking the amazing things you first discovered for granted. But that insight makes you realise we live in a very exciting world, even if we walk through it with our eyes closed most of the time.
ps – After two years in Japan I recently moved back to Australia.
What future goals or plans do you have for your career?
My goal is to find a situation where I can work with great people on interesting jobs and share the success that comes from it. Being a one man show is a lonely road sometimes!