An Interview with Derek Carroll, Creative Director of Branding Agency Truly Deeply

creative brtanding agency

18 questions you always wanted to ask…

We get a lot of questions about what we do and how we do it from clients, students, partners, suppliers etc. This month I’m helping a student out with her Industry Engagement. She’s asked a lot of questions we get asked all the time so I thought it’d be good to blog about them. So here is my response to the 18 questions:

The Interview questions:

1. Hi Derek! Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the Creative Director at Truly Deeply. I moved from Ireland to Melbourne several years ago and after working freelance for a while I joined Storm Design as a senior designer. A few years ago Storm joined Brand Strategy Agency Brand DNA and became Truly Deeply. I live in north Melbourne with my wife and our young daughter. I’m an avid mountain biker and enjoy riding to work when I get the chance. I’ve got a very sweet tooth.

2. How would you describe Truly Deeply? What is the atmosphere like?

Truly Deeply is a medium-sized boutique agency with a balanced mix of strategic and creative people. It is an easy and friendly place to work. We share an open studio and value our work environment. We’ve been careful to establish and maintain a place where we want to come everyday and enjoy what we do.

3. How do you work at Truly Deeply? Do you work in teams? Do you collaborate with other designers/photographers etc?

It all depends on the size of the project. Naturally, the bigger the project the more people will work on it. That said we work inclusively and share our work, through pin-ups with everyone for feedback. We work with many specialists: photographers, illustrators, printers, programmers, researchers, PR, media buyers and all kinds of different production and fabrication houses. We work with clients internal teams and preferred suppliers. Anyone who has something to bring to the table for the clients brand.

4. How come you decided to pursue a career in graphic design? Did you always know that a creative profession would be your thing? How did you start up your career?

Nope, when I finished school we weren’t as focused as I think kids are today. I started doing animation in a local college before going to NCAD in Dublin and specialising in Visual Communications. I always had a talent for art but didn’t really know what to do with it till I got my first job in design.

5. How do you find new clients? How do they find you?

Traditionally reputation and word of mouth are the two strongest channels for new business. They take time and are very network centric. Establishing your credentials and always looking for opportunities is a way to start. We found this blog to be a great reputation builder which has opened up doors for us.

6. Does Truly Deeply have a special process or “way of working”?

We always try to provide what we call a third option which, rather than being anything numerical, is a concept that can redefine the conversation. It may not be the right solution but it is one that pushes the boundaries. It is a concept that pushes the brief to the limit of what is possible and appropriate and while it’s not generally approved it moves the safe point and helps provide a braver solution.

7. How do you deal with difficult situations / conflicts with current projects?

Talk, Listen, Understand, Explain and find a Win-Win. Issue resolution is a skill, a very important one for designers. Personal contact is key, talking through the issue with the client, supplier or whoever is good, doing it face to face is better. Give yourself time to understand what the issues are so you can explain a possible solution. Find a win-win, something that will make everyone ‘happier’. Sometimes a win-win for you will be keeping the client.

8. What is appropriate dress for Truly Deeply?

We’re all about expression of personal brand so we don’t have a dress code. Account managers and more senior staff can be more formal but that’s a personal choice. As a creative service business there’s value in us looking creative. Me, I role with a T-shirt and jeans most days.

9. What is the best thing about working as a graphic designer? Is there anything you dislike about it?

New challenges everyday. We’re really lucky that we get presented with unique problems to solve everyday of our working lives. We get to explore different markets and categories each week. We get to meet new people and learn new things as part of our role.

10. Can you describe what your design process looks like? From the arrival of a new job through to the finished product.

In a line: Meet – Brief – Immerse – Research – Strategy – Design – Develop – Present – Refine – Artwork – Proof – Production – Review.

We start with getting to know the client and their needs, usually in the form of some sort of brief. Then we go through a learning phase, this can be anything from desktop research to partnering with market research specialists. This should provide us with the background knowledge to properly advise the client. Next is strategy, normally developed with key client stakeholders through workshops to create a narrative of what needs to happen. This forms agreed goals for the project. Finally we start the creative side of things, I normally lead our designers in visualising a solution of the strategic narrative: usually a brand identity but it can be anything. This is then presented to the stakeholders and refined if needed before finished artwork is created and the job is sent to production and when fully proofed and signed off the job can be produced.

11. Truly Deeply is all about branding. What is it about branding that makes you so passionate about it?

Branding is the science of emotional problem solving. If a brand is an emotional response to an entity, branding is the attempt to mould that response into the most positive feeling possible. It takes what design does for visual problems and allows us to use all our abilities to create solutions that connect with all our senses.

12. What do you think is the absolute most important skill to have as a graphic designer?

Communication is the bedrock of everything we do. From the first conversations with a client, to the selling of your abilities, to drawing creativity out of others, through to presenting creative and the creative itself. All these rely on being able to communicate ideas.

13. Have you ever refused new work? If so why?

Nope. I’ve never been asked to work for a client that is in some way morally questionable and I think that would probably where I’d draw the line. We have resigned from some jobs because of what we thought were serious workplace issues. But it’s extremely rare for things to go this far.

14. How do you deal with clients that have a hard time communicating what they really want?

Educating clients is a life long occupation for any creative, get used to it. Normally the solution is to look past the communication roadblock  and uncover what the underlying need is. Why are they asking for this or that change. If you find the reason they need your help, and communicate it, you’ll be able to provide appropriate solutions that can be a win-win.

15. So far, which job/project are you the most proud of?

I’m lucky to love so much of the work we do. I’m always proud when we provide real solutions for our clients that help them achieve their goals. Wether it’s for small startups like Bounce or Gelati Sky or bigger brands like GMHBA. No matter how humble or simple the project there’s always credit in doing it well.

16. What is your dream project/client?

As a young designer album covers always seemed cool, for a while I thought it was all about working for big brands, but now I know my dream client is the next one. It’ll be a new challenge, in a new market, with new relationships and new problems to be solved.

17. What do you do when creativity and energy is running low? How do you get the creative juices flowing? Do you have any tips on how to nurture and develop a creative thinking mind?

Push through the creative blocks. Keep doodling, sketching and drawing solutions. Look for new stimulus. Look for different ways of seeing the problem. Take inspiration from other fields. Go to far, look for a third way, find some way of reframing the whole concept. Don’t give up.

18. What do you think the future looks like for graphic design and graphic designers?

The tools of our trade will change. The platforms we work on will change. But as long as people have eye’s there’ll be a need for visual problem solvers. It’s not something that can be automated, it needs to be created and so there will always be creatives to do it.

Derek Carroll
Creative Director

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