So Rich, tell us a bit about your background and how you came to find your niche of designing for the sports sector?
Growing up, like a lot of children, I was passionate about sport and wanted to be a footballer. However, plan B was to be a car designer and when my art teacher suggested I try graphic design, first as an O Level and then in sixth form, it made sense. On leaving school, having abandoned the plan to be a car designer, I trained to be a cartographic draughtsman (drawing maps) and worked in the MOD for four years before moving to work for the Office for National Statistics in their Graphic Design Unit.
In 1998, I finally returned to my passion for sport and went to work for Dunlop Slazenger. Initially, I worked for Dunlop as Senior Designer, bringing the Slazenger brochures back in-house along with working on product styling, packaging, and accessories, before switching to work on the Dunlop brand three years later. After ten years at Dunlop (including four years heading up the design team as part of the Sports Direct Group), I felt it was time for a change of industry and, recognising the opportunity for design in technology, I moved to Nokia. I headed up a colour material design team, which was an exciting challenge. However, I soon came to miss working in sport and being creatively hands-on on a daily basis. It was at this point that I decided to branch out on my own.
"I was put to work on a packaging project printed in full colour which, naturally without the right skills, I didn’t get completed and was shown the door. Vowing to myself
never to be in that position again, I took a deep breath financially, and purchased a Mac, monitor, and all the other necessary equipment."
My first client came about kind of by chance. I’d seen an advert in a magazine for working at Tushingham Sails - a popular windsurfing brand and distributor. Using the design skills I'd gathered over the years and my passion for sport (mainly windsurfing!) I applied, met with the owner, and secured my first client, Tushingham Sails. But I’m not going to lie, it did take time to establish myself and when I was first starting out I had many sleepless nights wondering when the next project would come in. Although I’ve continued to work in the sports industry, there have also been non-sports related clients. But as the majority of my business has been, and continues to be, sports focussed, it has made sense to use that as my unique selling point when setting up my own business.
What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
Two things; firstly my art teacher giving me the opportunity to study graphic design and secondly, failure. I once interviewed with a really big design agency. At the time I’d mainly been working with single and duotone colour print, and following the interview I was invited in for a days trial. If I survived the day, the job was mine. I was put to work on a packaging project printed in full colour which, naturally without the right skills, I didn’t get completed and was shown the door. Vowing to myself never to be in that position again, I took a deep breath financially, and purchased a Mac, monitor and all the other necessary equipment. I taught myself how to use all the software and, in the process, built a portfolio that I believe really stood out.
Designing for sports is a hugely competitive sector. What have you found most challenging about making a name for yourself and maintaining success in this industry?
A lot of the time it comes down to who you know. I’m a big believer in word-of-mouth and building a reputation in the industry in order to encourage clients to keep coming back but I’m also aware that you’re only as good as your last project. To keep coming up with creative solutions can be a challenge. Therefore, as a designer, you don’t ever really switch off and everyday you’re looking around for inspiration that sparks the next idea.
Not too long ago you made the move down to Bournemouth. What prompted this move, what do you like most about being in this part of the UK, and how has it affected business?
One of the perks of running your own business is that it gives you the flexibility of being able to work anywhere you like as long as there's a wifi connection. And lets face it, who doesn’t dream of living by the beach! So, when my wife took a new job for a company based on the south coast it gave our family the opportunity to move. We’ve been down here nearly three years now and we love it. The best thing is being five minutes from the water for a quick windsurf or paddle board. I divide my time now between my home studio and a co-working space in Bournemouth. I still make time for face-to-face meetings with my clients and regularly use Face Time and Skype, so it hasn’t had any negative affect on business.
"I’m a big believer in word-of-mouth and building a reputation in the industry in order to encourage clients to keep coming back but I’m also aware that you’re only as good as your last project."
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I’ve had lots but recently, I was involved in helping Dunlop with their product development as part of the brand re-launch. I’m really proud of the tennis racket and luggage ranges. And to work with Dunlop again, having been away for so many years, was very exciting. Another stand out project was working with Samsung as their Creative Director on the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Most of your work is focused around creating design work for tennis and water sports brands. Are there any brands/type of work, which may be outside your current realm of style/expertise, but that you’re keen to get your teeth into?
Yes! In design you can’t stop. You have to keep learning new skills and techniques and over the years alot of marketing skills, including design, have started to blend. I recently bought a GoPro, and would love to learn more about video editing.
It seems 2018 was a really great year for you and somethingcreativ. What are you looking to next?
Yes, 2018 was a great year for me, both personally and professionally. I’ve got a couple of projects with clients that are continuing into 2019, and I also have a personal project that I’d like to finally get cracking with. I’m also excited to be getting back into football. I'm getting back into it as a coach this time, and in the next year I’m looking forward to making a start on my FA coaching badges.
Finally, as our name suggests, here at Mantra we’re curious about what keeps our favourite creatives driven and pushing forward. What’s your personal mantra, Rich?
Never give up, chase your dreams, and be patient - as one day it could happen!
Check out more of Richard's work here.