Featured Designer: Leighton Hubbell

Tell us a little bit about your background and work.

My name is Leighton Hubbell, the guy behind the one-person design shop, Leightonhubbell.com and Hubbell Design Works. I started out many moons ago working in several capacities in the communication arts industry including employment and project work at various design firms, ad agencies and promotional branding agencies. I am most widely recognized for my logo design, even though I offer a complete range of other design services.

For the last 13 years, I've had my own small studio focusing primarily on logo design, icon design, identity, branding and illustration. Although I've worked with many large brands, a significant portion of my business is working with small to mid-sized companies on their marketing and design efforts.

How would you describe your style?

Although I have several styles that I work in, I guess you could describe my style as colorful, simple and clean, with illustrative influences sprinkled in there somewhere. I love wood type, bold line-weights, unique color palettes and of course, a good concept. It's whatever seems appropriate to the job.

How would you break down your workflow in steps?

My first phase is going through the information that the client shared in our meeting and see how it may work visually. If I need to do any additional research, this is the stage I will fit that in. I start working out thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook or any scrap paper I can find. There are usually a dozen or so concepts I can glean out of the thumbnails. If not, I let it sit awhile and get back to it, or go for a bike ride. From there I will weed out the weaker ideas and concentrate on a select few.

If it's a logo illustration I may work out some tighter sketches before I proceed to the computer – especially if there is a pose or position that is particularly difficult to solve. Good visual reference is important here in making the pose believable and read well. With logo illustrations, I usually run the tight sketches by the client before proceeding any further. It's much easier to adjust them in sketch form than making very time consuming illustrations and then having them scrap the whole concept. I like to work smarter, and not always harder. Then, it's working out typefaces and color palettes that seem appropriate for the strongest directions.

After presenting the first round of concepts, the selected direction will go through refinements and adjustments in consecutive rounds until there is an approved logo design. If there are any special applications, I may present possible designs to help with the client's final decision. There's a general process, but every project is different.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you left college?

The biggest thing I would say is how much your portfolio continues to evolve over time and experience, and how important it is to stay relevant throughout your career. I had no idea what to expect.

When you graduate, you don't know what you don't know. You've learned so much new information, your brain is still processing all of it. You aren't able to sift through what's truly important to your working style and what to disregard, because you're still developing it. I know it took me a good year and a half before I could finally go back through my book and know what to keep and what to replace to really create my own voice. I'm still working on it all these years later. It really never stops.

As designers, our work is so timely. Even though we try very hard to do timeless work, it can't always be. It's a rare piece that transcends for years in the marketplace and even one's portfolio. Even then, it gets old in our books. We see it all the time. And, just like how some work can get stale in the portfolio, the career can get stale, too – unless you're often refreshing it.

What would be a dream project / client for you?

I would love to design the logo and type treatment for the intro of a major motion picture. Oh, and design the credits, too. That would be cool.

What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore next?

A natural extension of logo design and illustration is icon design. No longer are they just a graphic tool in a user interface/experience setting, but an important part of the corporate branding, as well. Although I have been working pretty extensively with icon and icon sets in the last few years, I am just beginning to delve into the technical parts of working with devices and apps on a major scale. It should be interesting.

If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?

I think I got antsy early on in my agency career and should have stuck it out at a couple places that were really liking my work. Sometimes I wonder if I had stayed there a bit longer, where would my career have taken me? I guess you just take that risk and hope it works out. Overall, I'm still very happy doing what I do for a living. Not many people can say that.

What's the last thing that made you say ‘wow'?

With the internet, there is so much cool stuff you can see people working on every day. That's hard to pinpoint.

I'd have to say the venue design for the 2014 Sochi Olympics was pretty impressive. So many applications, pieces and parts go into something like that. A lot to consider and plan for. What a design challenge that would be! Maybe some day, right?

You can check out more of Leighton's work at leightonhubbell.com, and get connected with him here as well. Leighton also has been working on some fun and interesting personal projects you don't want to miss - 300 Random icons and 98 Skulls icon project.

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