A few (okay, a lot) of words about me..
I’ve been a professional graphic designer for the better part of thirty five years. I’ve been an illustrator, magazine art director, a publisher, photographer and freelancer. Most people have no clue who I am, but many are aware of my company, a small design studio based just west of Toronto that specializes in, well, logos.
Lots of logos.
My ‘story’ and personal brand has been linked with that enterprise for such a long time now, and reflects the ups-and-downs of “who I am”, it’s probably worthwhile if I tell you a little about the colorful history of my studio rather than some biographical puff-piece.
A simple idea. Marketing a-go-go.
Back in the mid-90s and after my own publication, Max BodySport, went belly-up, I went to work for a ‘Marketing Company’ as their ‘Art Department’. I used my Amiga equipment, software, light tables, drafting tables, etc. Complete rip, but I needed the money to save my house. After 9 months of that, they owed me $8,000.00 – my debts were still piling up and I simply couldn’t finance their art department anymore. I managed to recoup about $5,000 but the business relationship was finished.
Scraping by with freelance.
I moved back into a home based office and went the freelance route. Shortly thereafter, my marriage collapsed. As did my Amiga (enter my trusty Macintosh – a 6100 PC). I managed to scrape up a few freelance gigs, design and a few book photography jobs (photography in those days paid very well). I starting sending resumes and flyers to local studios, agencies and magazines. Out of frustration (and if I remember correctly, after a few pints) I sent out a flyer that basically said –
“If I can’t Quark it, Illustrator it, or Photoshop it #*@*$# it!”
Funny thing was that at this point, I still didn’t know Photoshop. The Amiga software Pro-Draw was almost exactly the same as Illustrator, but Photoshop was unrepresented. The Amiga bitmap-software Brilliance sucked. The flyer was so ballsy that I got a call from a local advertising agency, Crunch Inc. Communications – to help with some overload work (a pool supplies catalog). The owner – a terrific guy called Garret Klassen – liked me and I was asked to stay on. Between my work there, and efforts at home, I managed to get a real handle on Photoshop and Illustrator. The pay wasn’t great, so I was always on the look-out for freelance gigs, and my experience with illustration helped me land a few high-profile jobs.
The big gig.
One of them was a job the City of Toronto website (they wanted me to create an illustrative image map like the old Apple e-World) and when I was interviewed they asked me if I knew HTML.
I had never heard of it.
In fact I had never heard of the internet at all. As part of the gig I was invited to spend two days surfing this thing called the web. That was end of 1995. I knew then that this ‘triple w’ thing would be big (even Bill Gates didn’t).
This thing they call the web.
At my day gig for Crunch!, we landed a job for a show called Futurcom – a ‘high tech’ (for the day) display at the Canadian National Exhibition – and as a ‘perk’ I got free tickets for me, my new lady Sue, and my kids. We journied to the EX and went to see my work (icons, banners, etc) at Futurecom where one the exhibitors – a company called Interlog – were selling domestic dial up Internet access (2400 baud). Sue (who’s now my wife) convinced me to get home internet access (she even had to put it on a credit card as I didn’t have one). Part of the home access was a free 10 meg web site, and I posted a small web site (5 or so pages) that featured ALL my work. Illustration, photography, graphics, layout, and….logos. I set up an image map like the one I had built for Metro and called one section The Logo Factory (after an idea I had a few years earlier). The other sections were The Library, The Gallery, Web Design 101 and The General Store. I then created the factory icon based on the house I was living in. That would later become the logo for The Logo Factory Inc.
I started getting requests for logo design from all over the world – the first was for a drum and bugle corp in California called The Black Knights. Right away I saw a business opportunity. In those days search engines were easy to manipulate and I had figured out how to get my site to #1 on EVERY directory (there also wasn’t any one else doing what I was doing). I quit my day job, revamped my site (concentrating on logo design and The Factory motif) and began building the business in earnest. I couldn’t copy anyone as there was no-one to copy, and I flew by the seat of my pants, making it up as I went along. There was no online credit card forms in those days – everything was by check – and business began to boom thanks to regular deliveries by Federal Express. There wasn’t a day went by that I didn’t get at least one request for a proposal.
Then it become two.
Who’s a naughty boy?
In 1997, my site was banned by the Infoseek search engine (I had gotten carried away with keywords) and I had to quickly register a web address. I originally registered Logofactory.com, but let it expire because I wanted to be ‘The’ Logo Factory (despite some of the grammar problems it causes).
I officially incorporated the company and registered thelogofactory.com in March of 1998. At the same time, I made the dreaded mistake of taking on a partner (an old business associate and friend.) That arrangement ended up as many do, and I had to wrestle control of The Logo Factory from him (almost giving myself a heart attack in the process) . I never recovered the money that was lost, but I managed to get the entire company (I promised him I wouldn’t sue.) The old studio was in his offices so we had a week to vacate. We moved into my new house (complete with designers) and turned the place upside down. Bodies, computers and ethernet cords everywhere. It might have cost me my relationship with Sue if she wasn’t, as she always is, so understanding. After 6 months of working from my house, we found a new office (our present location) – a two storey job just west of Toronto with reception, kitchen, etc. I started to hire staff and at one point (just before 9/11) had 7 designers working for me.
Growing up and out.
Since then, I have hired over 30 people full-time. We now have a staff of four, though some old staffers are on call for when things get busy. We bill $400 – $2500 for logo design projects depending on what the client is after and how long we spend. We do not use clip art, pre-fabs. etc. We try to do the best we can.
Each and every day.
Thanks be to all.
Thanks to The Logo Factory, I have a lovely wife, I now live in a nice house, my children are looked after and my staff are fairly content. From time-to-time we’ve been criticized by designers on everything from our pricing (a reflection of reality I’m afraid) to our name. That’s all part of it, I guess. While a “logo factory” has some negative connotation with designers now, it didn’t have when it was developed in the “pre-internet” days. It seems to resonate with our market too. At the end of the day, I’m kinda proud of where we came from and what we’ve managed to accomplish over the years. We were online before Google, 99designs, Logoworks, Logo Design Guru or any other of the logo design companies you’ll find on the internet today. I might go as far to say we were one of the first, if not THE first to hang a ‘logo design’ shingle on the internet. We’ve had mostly ups. We’ve had some downs. But everyone that works at The Logo Factory, and everyone that’s worked with us in the past, all have/had one thing in common – a love for design. We could do things cheaper, or faster, but then we wouldn’t be as proud of our little company as we are now.
This ramble was originally part of a waaay too long interview I did for Design Inspiration back in the day. That interview is still up if you’re into such things.
Don't Be Shy
Drop me a line anytime, and I’ll try to respond to you as soon as humanly possible.
Unless it’s a weekend. A holiday. Or I’m really, really busy tinkering with someone’s brand.