An interview with George Bokhua
In this episode Ian speaks to George Bokhua, a truly talented graphic designer, who’s worked with companies including Disney, New Balance, NFL and Wired Magazine. Having followed his work for years, Ian describes George as one of the best practicing logo designers in the world today, so this interview dives into his life as a designer, his logo design process, idea generation, using grid systems, using social media, pricing a logo and so much more. It’s an insightful interview with a real master of logo design.
Ian Paget: Could you talk through your journey to becoming a logo designer?
George Bokhua: Yes, I definitely can. Basically, I was dirt broke in 2006. And I was playing poker online. I was not doing too good. I ended up having no money, so I had to find a job. I lived in Ukraine-Kiev, Ukraine back then. So I started searching for work opportunities. And this one guy in Kiev, he asked me to come to his studio. His name was Ian Tishenko. He was an art director of this company. When I entered, I introduced myself. We talked a little bit. He sort of had this sympathy towards me since I was from country Georgia. He was Ukrainian, so we had some sort of common themes that we shared politically as well as culture, at least. He said, I’ll teach you some things, and then he accepted me in his studio. That’s where I started learning logo design, it was in 2007.
Ian Paget: Was there any important books or mentors that was key to your development early on?
George Bokhua: Not really. I always loved Müller-Brockmann works. And the first book I bought on Amazon was Raster Systeme, The Grid System by Müller-Brockmann. And that was sort of an eyeopener that gave me just some insight into how designer’s mind works. And pretty much, by just … that was pretty much the only book I actually got some knowledge out of that, and then utilised it in my work.
Ian Paget: Now, I know that all of your logo designs are always fantastic, they’re not only great ideas, but they’re beautifully executed as well. Could you talk through your logo design process from start to finish?
George Bokhua: Well, basically, when I get a brief, I … I read it, of course, I start … I sit down or relax, just … get into the zone, sort of thing, and, just I’m sketching, and I just keep sketching for several days. There are some moments when I get a brief, I read it, and I let it settle for several days, I don’t do anything, just let this ideas burn on in my head, so that … usually they just start popping up sometimes after few days sometimes, could be a week, but, I always ask for ten day period before my initial presentation, and usually, some are … could be a first day, could be a seventh day, this ideas just start coming, and then I start doing rough sketches, and after the whole sketching thing, I have probably more than hundred notebooks of sketches, and I never take sketches … I never get too … particular with my sketches, I usually do very rough, very pretty much ugly sketches, but, in each of them learned how to see … what could be good, and what could be … what could turn into a nice, aesthetic element. So, after I’m settled with that, then I start, I just take a photo of it, or scan it, or somehow import it into Illustrator, and I start executing.
Ian Paget: I noticed on your Instagram, that you use tracing paper quite a lot in your process. Can you talk through the tools that you’re using as well, because I don’t personally use tracing paper in the way that you do, so, would that … would you be okay to talk about that as well?
George Bokhua: Definitely. The whole idea of tracing paper is the … if you look at the clouds, and you see some sort of a platonic image, let’s say it’s a deer, you can’t … doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to get the deer out of the clouds, and put it on a paper. So, the tracing paper sort of is something that if put over a cloud, which is a very rough sketch, and, there I see the more defined form, and that roughness, and the tracing paper is just the best, best tool for that … nothing can substitute it. So, that very rough form, I can just find the … that thin lines that, you know, bring the feel of all this much stronger, and better. So, it’s … in my process, it’s absolutely associated, I advise everybody to just learn how to use it correctly, so, it makes everything much easier.
Ian Paget: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Is there any tips that you can give to learn to use tracing paper in a way that you are?
George Bokhua: I’m looking at it as a sculpting process. It’s not like some painters when you look at the object and say it’s a … it’s an apple, you know what to copy, and you feel the form, you already have a form that you need to copy, but, here, you have some very rough ideas, so, you have to sort of sculpt it out … out of this rough … pencil dust, let’s say, so, you have to just bring … somehow bring it out, and, this paper gives you a better chance, better … let’s say, more flexible, it’s more flexible way to get that form, somehow, bring it out.
So, when I do … for example, if I’ll trace something, then I fold the paper on top of … fold the tracing paper on top of that image … and trace it over that, then I fold it again, I trace it over that, so, I keep the … might have six, seven stacks of tracing papers just tracing that one initial image and just trying to bring the form out more and more, but the difficult part is to understand when form is already developed. That’s when I think that most people have hard time with the … they just … they might miss things out, they might not see potential in that line, you know what I mean? It’s kinda hard to say it, but I believe some designers, especially the newer ones, they don’t know how to catch the right form, and it’s just a lack of a practice, so, more concentration, and sooner or later, you get this better feeling.
And I’m saying this because I know I don’t have … I don’t have any … I some art background, but I never … I was never a good painter, never, you know … I have a lot … people were much more talented than me in copying, let’s say forms, but, here you just have so much time, you have … when you painting something, let’s say an apple, you have certain time, you can’t erase things so much, you know what I mean … you can’t keep erasing the form, you know, changing it, cause the paper is dirty, and all that … it messes up with aesthetics, et cetera, but here, you have so much time. You have three, five days of just finding that right solutions, and each parts of … I mean, everybody can do it, unless they stick to it, and just keep on doing it until they get it right.
Ian Paget: So, with the layering up of tracing paper, are you focusing on refining idea, or are you doing it, so to do like variations of it?
George Bokhua: Well, I’d say tracing paper usually is for refining it, I’d say variations, and accidents usually that’s due to the sketching process, but, accident I have to highlight it, but, accident is a key component of the whole process. Accidents happen, and those are the magic ones, because when you do a lot of work, you try a lot of things. There might be something just really random while you’re doing it, and Illustrator, that goes out of it’s way somehow, and, you start seeing, then voilà, that just magically there’s something appeared there, and, this is … that’s why I think it’s a little bit of an abstract process, rather than just concrete, just get an idea make a form, and you’re done. It’s very abstract, very sculpture like process, other than painting.
Ian Paget: I know you’ve always got really fantastic ideas, do you have any tips for the idea generation, or is everything just coming out of your head? Is there something that you’re doing to kind of extract all of those ideas that you’re coming out with?
George Bokhua: Well, it’s very … logos are meant to make impact right away. So, good logos always make impact right away, and they made strong impact maybe, you know, something you see ten years back, and you don’t remember, it’s still there. And, they come back out when you start working. So, you have … it’s a good thing if you start recognising, and having that memory to make sure that you don’t … don’t copy some other people’s works, but, now we’re so saturated with logos all around us, this language is in our heads I believe, it’s there, but, it’s the best thing, the hardest thing is to make a new combination out of all this language you have. And, majority of people they … for example, this is some solution of a dog done by another designer, and they had … their own interpretations of the body, or the … some other parts, and, they, they call it their own. Usually, that’s not how it works.
I think … it’s … let’s say if you come up with some sort of solution, like let’s say, the negative space animals I did, I found out how to fold the head into the body, and just, at that moment was … now that ambiguous, but it was quite original. I have seen some other people that done it, but, I have seen couple logos in that sort of style, but, when I figured that out, I started branching it out, and started making more works on it, so, utilising it, cause a good designer can only come up with maybe five, ten different, you know, different techniques that you strong at, and the key is to find the technique, just branch it out, dig deeper, you know what I mean? Just conquer it, so, that … you need to own it, and, that’s the … yeah.
Ian Paget: Can we also talk about how you’re presenting your work, are you just providing one solution, or do you present multiple options?
George Bokhua: Well, I always … from the commercial point, I always ask money for 3 initial concepts, which usually is enough, but, at the end I’m not too strict with that… I just want the official part … 3 initial concepts usually is enough, but, I end up doing, maybe, eight, ten … there have been cases of fifteen to twenty concepts before it’s finalised, so, I stick to it, I keep working on it … I mean, there been some cases where you hit the grid lock, you feel like there’s no way out, but most of time, when you work better, you understand what your client wants, and at some point it gets finalised, but, three is the number that I assume makes sense.
Ian Paget: And, with the presentation, do you ever find you get a specific feedback from the client that you might not agree with, and, in those cases, how are you handling with that?
George Bokhua: I used to be very defensive … At the beginning, I was not as good, but I believed I was … I was a genius, I believed I was the greatest of all time, so, my attitude was … my attitude was wrong, because now when I look at those works, they were just… most of them were piece of craps, and, I was… but my belief and my ego was so high, I would always be aggressively defending them, but, eventually, now, I listen all the time, I always take feedback very well now a days, I’m fine with it, I understand it, it’s still work done, it’s still gets out there, people still get inspired by it, so, I don’t sweat over it if a client doesn’t like it that much, that means I gotta do more, and more is gonna be more out, and that’s more inspiration et cetera, so, it’s always, you know, it’s a win-win.
Ian Paget: In those events when the client doesn’t particularly like something, how are you handling where you never find the solution? Have you ever needed to fire a client, because of something like that?
George Bokhua: It has happened, yes. We have hit the … this part where we can’t go on, and, cannot tell him… that alright… well… client… usually if you try your best, and if you try your hardest, client also understands that, alright, he did his best, and if he doesn’t have it in him, let’s go to another person. So, that happens also, but, not so often lately, so, I’m head to where I am this point, in regards to client relations.
Ian Paget: Yeah, it sounds like you’re in a good place with your work, and trust what you are doing.
George Bokhua: Yeah, that’s, yeah, that’s … that’s a big plus that, you know … people usually do trust what I do, they do listen to what I suggest, so, yeah.
Ian Paget: Now, I understand that using grids is an important part of your process, and I’m aware that you’ve got a SkillShare course on this that it’d be worth that who hasn’t done that, but, for the purpose of the interview, could you talk through the best way to apply a grid to your work, at what stage would you do that, and how would you go about doing that?
George Bokhua: As soon as I import the sketch, I just start seeing where can I use the prefect geometrical shapes, like circle, like square, even, you know, like a triangle, I will see it didn’t work, and I just put right away, I put it over them. To get it out the way, to know that everything is taken care of, that thing is the easy part. So, afterwards, there are some details, where they need less perfect shapes, they need some adaptations, so, usually try to do it with a hand, with … do some interpretations, do some manoeuvring, let’s say, and, after I’m done with that, then I start to simplify those small forms, too, it’s kinda hard to explain with words, but usually the grid gives me … Gridding in sense of the layout design has a different purpose. You need that grid to put some elements in the spots so you get more consistent layout. But here you use those shapes as a part of a logo. You use it as a cleaner elements for the logo so it’s geometrically better looking and better rounded, let’s say. Some people think the gridding is like you do the grids, and then you pour in the information inside the grid which, I rarely do that. I just use it as a part of a logo, a more perfect part of a logo, that’s with gridding, in terms of a design is in my world.
Ian Paget: I think that’s good advice because I think a lot of people do make the mistake of, say, taking the Golden Ratio and trying to force their idea into that but I like your advice. How you are basically sketching the idea however you want to with no limitations. And then you’re applying circles, shapes, lines and so on just to make the perfect form. So I think that’s really good advice. On that note, can I ask your thoughts on the Golden Ratio because it’s one of those things that is very much debated online. Any time it’s mentioned you’ve got two extremes: Either the people who will never touch it but then you can look at some pretty prominent logos and they are using the ratios. I know that in your Skillshare course you’re also using the Golden Ratio so I’d love your take on that as well.
George Bokhua: I mean there is with the Golden Ratio, initially there was some mystique about it that drawed me into it cause you felt that there was some sort of a universal form that occurs in a lot of … Actually the first movie that got me thinking about it was Aronofsky’s Pi where he goes around and sees this environment around him and there’s this number everywhere and that the spiral is just, really most lovely shape in every natural phenomenon. So this sort of got me inspired and I was drawn to it.
But in actuality the ratio … I’m not too fond of it. I like to, for example, if it’s A4 paper it’s, in my experience one of the best ratios, you know, the x-y ratio, there is. Or let’s say a pack of cigarettes or a credit card. I like that ratio more because with the logo design also it’s more flexible, it’s less longer, so you can get better, let’s say, you have a better field in that ratio. So I’m not too fond of the Golden Ratio, but the idea of the spiral and using it wherever I can just to pay homage and just to respect the idea keep it alive. So this is sort of a personal thing between me and Golden Ratio.
Ian Paget: I think it’s one of those things, like I’ve tried using the Golden Ratio on some work recently and I find the moment you start to apply any kind of shapes and forms and you start to think about the overall weight of things and the balance you know you really start to focus on that. I find that just doing that makes your work more perfect. I find it really interesting that, from your perspective, you’re not really using it because it has any big impact. It’s more for personal reasons. So thanks for being honest with that.
George Bokhua: Yeah. I love the idea but it’s not necessary and I hate … You said it right. Some people force it and when you force it you can’t sacrifice the good design for the sake of some idea just to get that idea going. So occasionally I’ll always break the Golden Rule if I subjectively believe that other ratio will work better, let’s say.
Ian Paget: I like that. You’re basically using it if you feel it makes the work better but if it looks worse you’re going to use your own intelligence to dictate how it’s going to look. So I think that’s really good advice and I’m glad that you said that here.
George Bokhua: Exactly. Very well put.
Ian Paget: Now, I know that you frequently post your work to a number of platforms. You’re always posting on Instagram. You’re on Behance. You’re on Dribbble and I know that’s a lot of different platforms. All of these have incredible engagement with your work and I understand that because, like I said, it’s probably some of the best work out there. Can I ask you which platform has been the most successful for you in terms of actually finding clients?
George Bokhua: Dribbble is by far the most active in terms of clients. Then it’s Behance. Instagram is usually very last.
Ian Paget: Why do you think that is?
George Bokhua: Well, I think that Instagram is … I’ll just say what I think. I think Instagram has more general population involved. So you will … usually clients will look for logo designers. They have a harder time finding it via Instagram. So you get more general population there. On Dribbble they’re more concentrated. People come to find freelancers. Same with Behance. So that’s what I think.
On Instagram usually I find there are some clients who, first time see the good logo design, let’s say, and they’re like “Alright. Well, I want a logo now too.” So they usually contact me. They say that “Okay man. You have good stuff. I want it on my hat.” or “I want for my boating club.” or etc. Usually they’re very spontaneously just finding that they might need a logo. But on the Dribbble actually there’s more dedicated, more well-rounded client. But I have to add that the great clients, the big ones, always come from, in my case, they always came from Behance. Yep. Not from Dribbble.
Ian Paget: So, I’m curious. I personally don’t really post on Dribbble and Behance and that’s mainly cause I’m part-time. I get all of my work through my website. Through Google Search and such. Now sites like Dribbble, I know it’s kind of an invite-only platform. Is it actually companies that are coming to you? Because I’ve always assumed a site like Dribbble, it was primarily agencies that might be hunting for people. Is it actually like business owners that are actually going through the portfolios on Dribbble?
George Bokhua: Well, I’ve asked couple guys how they found me. I’m not sure what the whole mechanics are really. But a lot of them find me via Pinterest. Re-pinned the shots, then they click it, they find themselves on Dribbble, then they sign up, and that’s how they contact me. So I think Pinterest is really good. Let’s say it’s a starting point because it’s very commonplace website for people to search for graphic materials. But the lot of them, they’re just regular clients who just sign up on approval and contact me. Usually start-ups, they’re just one man sort of people.
Ian Paget: Very interesting. I need to start using it more.
George Bokhua: You mean the Pinterest?
Ian Paget: Yeah. Well Dribbble.
George Bokhua: Oh, Dribbble.
Ian Paget: I was going to ask you with Pinterest, are you actually posting your work directly on Pinterest as well or is it like other people re-posting your content that’s gone onto Dribbble?
George Bokhua: Yeah that’s mostly other people doing it. Occasionally I’ll do it but I have a very low following on Pinterest because I never took care of it enough. But I have a lot of exposure on Pinterest by getting things re-pinned by other users. So, yeah. I’d say the most likes I ever got for one project I think on Pinterest it had 630,000 likes or something. It was just a huge number. It just happened without me even noticing. Just one day I’m just, you know, looked at it and it’s like “Alright. Here I go.” There’s a lot of people who know me on Pinterest now. So, yep. It’s a good platform. Good starting platform, I believe.
Ian Paget: Whilst we’re on the topic of Behance and Dribbble, are there any particular tips that you can maybe give the listeners for optimising their work in some way in order to get the clients as you are?
George Bokhua: I’d say they need to find their … I see a lot of new designers just being all around, searching, grabbing some stuff from one guy, taking some stuff from another guy and they just do it for years. They just grab, grab, grab from others but they don’t get their own things going. It is hard. It’s really hard but it’s possible. I know there’s limitless possibilities in forms and I think each one of them, I’d say, needs to find their own voice because everybody who goes above others and who have better following and are more originals, there’s only a handful of those people. Let’s say 20, 30 who are actually original and always working. So that’s the space where you’re actually getting well paid and you’re comfortable and you get bigger exposure. Everything under that is pretty much, you know, you’re just a person who… how to put it well… you need to find you’re own language. You need to be original to get it up there, let’s say.
I know a lot of people who, their work is great, their work is very solid. Their skills are really good but they’re still stuck. They don’t get paid as well. Eventually they just dip out. They go. You can’t do this for years and not be well paid because usually, you just, you know, on the way we’ve lost actually a lot of good original designers that somehow lost their batteries, let’s say. They’re losing their drive.
I’m not saying like about … When I was younger … I’m 40 now … When I was in my 30s I could come up with new directions much more often. Let’s say once a year I’d find some new ways. But now I’m sort of stuck with my style and I’m trying to find solutions within the style and anything outside of it, my public doesn’t like. So, it feels like to get up there means also you have to lock down your language. So that could be also sort of hindering development but as I said earlier, I’m still finding new things in the forms and I believe there’s a lot more to discover and I encourage everybody to take the trip and dive into this wonderful world of creativity.
Ian Paget: Now in terms of actually posting content, I know that you’re putting stuff out there all the time and I can see that you are creating your own content like you said. How are you kind of managing your day in order to actually create that content like that. Are you creating Instagram-specific work or are you just literally working away on a project and just taking some kind of snapshot of what you’re working on at that specific moment?
George Bokhua: If I’m not working on a project, or if I have a day off, or a couple days and do things for fun, very rarely I do things specifically for the Instagram. Most of times it’s a part of the process I’m working on at the moment. My day is very … I work a lot. I wake up at, let’s say, maybe 9:00, 10:00. I’ll work out in the mornings. Get to the work at 12:00 and I’ll leave the office at 12:00. So I have 12 hour working day every day including Saturdays and Sundays. So usually I just … And there were years that this regimen … for years, maybe six, seven years I did this non-stop. I blame all this on the, let’s say, perseverance more than the talent cause I never felt like I was talented before.
I always had this certain type of, let’s say, fear before presentation or a fright before presentation. I don’t know how you want to name it but I always had this like “OK. I have to present this. I can not fail.” And I forced myself out of that, let’s say, weakness. Forced myself to just dedicate completely to the project and get more out of it then, say, other designers would. This was probably my weakness turned into one of my talents.
Ian Paget: It certainly sounds like you’ve worked very hard and I think with anything, people that are successful, it’s more about working hard as you have done rather than specifically having talent cause it seems like you become talented because you put in the work to keep practicing and improving your skills. So, I think that’s really amazing.
George Bokhua: 100%. I’ll say one thing about talents. We’ve had some younger talents that, another thing, that they’re very talented. They got to the points very quick. Had a good sense of shape. Good sense of composition. Very good feel for colours, but they never worked. When the going got harder, when inspiration was lowered down, since after some age, I believe you just lose the passion on the way, that working etiquette or working attitude that you developed for years, that stays. That’s part of a character. While the talent is sort of when it digs out, you feel weak and you just relax and let things slide by. You don’t get that, it doesn’t become part of your character so you can’t carry your talent for too long.
If I may say this, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve had couple of fellas who just eventually their passion died out and now they’re just doing completely different things, so it’s quite a pity.
Ian Paget: Yeah. No, I totally agree with your thinking. All the people that I know that are doing well, actually making money as a graphic designer, they’re the people that just sit down and get on with it. So I think what you said is absolutely true, I mean, there is obviously some talent to it, ’cause you need to be able to have those skills too, but in terms of actually continuously working as you are, it’s just down to perseverance and attitude and stuff like that, so, yeah, it’s good advice.
Now I know you, you mentioned earlier on you kinda go to your office, are you working on your own or do you have a small team of some kind?
George Bokhua: Well I used to have a team, permanent team, for years, but now I just … it’s the same people who I work with, there is a couple of them do logo design, some of them do 3D design, etc, so I just hire them for occasionally and… Depends on the project, I hired them according to the project.
Ian Paget: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, in those instances where you are working with other people, how are you- Are you publishing that as your work under your name or do you have a company as well that that’s going out under?
George Bokhua: No, I never- Any work that is done or any help I get from anybody on any piece of publish I mention their names, I am very strict with this. I give everybody their share of due. Most of times, I’d say some person I hire, they’re working and they’re doing sketches, if I go there, I put my hands on it, I change things there- The major solutions of the work are, we both feel are mine, then I ask them to write me as the art director when they post it. Usually it’s very fair and square. We don’t- we’ve never had problems with that with anybody or each other.
Ian Paget: I think that’s a really good way of looking at it. It feels very ethical and also you are able to spoil other people that are doing hard work, so I think the way you work is really good.
You mentioned earlier in the conversation about young designers or designers, at their different stages, don’t know how much to charge or just don’t get enough money. Do you have any advice for the sales side of things?
George Bokhua: The one thing was being getting charged more- When you ask for more, expectations are more. If it’s- if you tell them like $10,000 for a logo, you know you have to engage and get this thing finished and do it good. The client notices when you slack. The client always notices when work is not complete. They might not have the right reasoning to explain why they don’t like it, but they know they don’t like it. Sometimes they come up with stupid reasons why they don’t like it, the designer hears it and they’ll go, “Alright, this client is stupid.” The fact is that good work always wins. It’s never the case- When you do good work, the client feels it, everybody feels it. You feel it, client feels it, the public feels it.
So, when it’s appropriate, when it’s right for the brand, they don’t complain when you do it right. If there’s something lacking, if a design is bad – repeating myself, but it’s important that the client doesn’t know, doesn’t have right wording to… Maybe doesn’t have enough design intellect, let’s say, they don’t have the right ways to explain it but most of times they’re right.
Ian Paget: So your advice in terms of getting more money, is it simply that you just consistently do good work and that’s how you get clients to come to you?
George Bokhua: I get a lot of inquiries. Usually what I do, I have a certain type of set price. I tell the clients to have a set price, and when I’m working on the project there’s more inquiries, I tell them, Okay. I’m going to double my regular price now for the newer clients. If they go, I’m still fine with the job I’m doing now. I’m still getting paid for this much. If they come and I have to hire another person to help, etc., so I’ve raised the sum. It’s like fishing. Sometimes they just come with more money, sometimes a little less but I have this one set amount that I don’t go lower. So I know that my time is reimbursed every time.
Ian Paget: In terms of how you’re pricing, do you have one fixed price for everyone and you increase that when you’re busy? Or are you pricing specifically based on the type of company that they are?
George Bokhua: I used to think that it would be fair to have one set price, but now I don’t. I usually see a client, if it’s a big client, if it’s a re-branding, it’s definitely going to be higher priced because companies are already established. They’re financially doing well. They want to re-brand it, they didn’t pay much money to begin with, now they want to improve it, so I ask them for more money. Re-branding processes usually are harder than developing the new logo. In my case, most of times because, most of times, clients are used to their logo and when they see change they don’t react too well so it’s a harder process. So I ask for more money for the re-branding.
If I see a client is a big client, established brand, of course I’m going to tell them more money. If it’s a start-up, it depends what type of start-up there is. Let’s say from the clothing industry, start-ups, they never have money. So it doesn’t make sense to tell them, several thousand. For tech companies, for software companies, etc. that have more money, sometimes we charge them more than others.
As I said, again, I have one set price that I don’t go lower than that, usually. Usually it’s higher than that.
Ian Paget: It sounds like you do it similar to how I do it where you kinda got your usual price and if you feel that the client should be paying more, you’re increasing that. Am I understanding that right?
George Bokhua: Well, it might sound wrong, but yes. That’s the world we live in. We have to monetise. It’s gotta be- It’s funny to tell, let’s say, NFL the same price for logo development than to say that to another start-up.
Ian Paget: It seems to be the way that a lot of people are pricing when it comes to logo design. I spoke to a lot of people in the past. When it’s someone like- If it is a company like NFL, for example, there’s more risk involved and there’s more people involved and the exposure of it so you want to put more time into it. Even if you’re not, that logo has more value to them as well than it does a start-up fashion brand, for example. So, the way that I always see it, it just makes sense to do that.
George Bokhua: I’ll tell you that NFL story. So I was in the ship cruise on my vacation, I had this 14 day cruise from Europe to India. The NFL contacted me, they wanted to do a re-branding of the Jets logo. It’s the New York Jets. I think, originally, Pentagram designed it. It was my cruise, I was already in my hangover mode. I’m like, “Alright. This is probably one of the biggest projects I ever got so I have to take it.”
As a creative director of, what’s the- It was one of the big creative directors of the company. I told him, at that moment, I’m like, “Alright, I can’t scare him away, I can’t tell him $50,000. I’ve gotta be reasonable.” Let’s say $10,000 sounds reasonable, because again, as you said, exposure, etc. I’m like, “Alright, I’ll do it for $10,000.” I had really big hopes that this was good money. This guy comes back to me and said, “Oh, we only have five.” I’m like, “Damn, man. Really? Five thousand NFL team?” He’s like, “Yes, and we need it in six or seven days.”
I’m like, “Alright man, I guess my cruise is not gonna go well, etc.” So I just- That’s where I got the type of resentment that you work all your life to get to this moment where this big client discovers you and you wanna make your fortune on it, but you don’t go for it, you tell him your lowest price and he even starts bargaining with you. So actually, I failed that project miserably just because I just didn’t feel right working for that money even though it could have been my big breakthrough let’s say, but whatever. It was a fun experience. That’s why I don’t like big brands.
Ian Paget: Also, you was on holiday as well.
George Bokhua: Yep.
Ian Paget: I think it’s important to have that down time.
George Bokhua: Exactly.
Ian Paget: I don’t know if you was with anyone at that time but I’m sure it would have ruined the holiday for everybody who actually took that on.
George Bokhua: Yep. That’s true.
Ian Paget: I’ve got one last question for you. If you could offer one piece of advice to designers who are just starting out, I want to do the same as you, working primarily on logo design. What would that piece of advice be?
George Bokhua: Easy. Again, talent it’s overrated, especially in this field, I know if you don’t have a painting tell them it’s much harder to get the form or get it right or your hand-eye coordination is weird, whatever. It’s much harder if you don’t have musical talent or you don’t have a singing voice, you can’t sing. It’s much harder to sing better if you have a talent, let’s say.
But, in our field, it’s all about working and getting the form right and engaging and putting more and more and more time into one piece until you get it right. It’s all about how much time and how much love you have toward the field and how much you want to get to the success and the higher levels. One thing I can tell them is, “Everybody should sit their butts down and keep on working until they get it right.”
I know by fact that in my studio, I would not say this if I didn’t have this- In my studio I had a project manager who had absolutely no education in logo design or any culture in related fields. She was just doing some financial reporting and just doing some project management. At some point, as a form of experiment, I asked her to design something. She did. She did some design. It was pretty bad. Then I gave her some feedback and some art direction and she improved it and I was surprised in the time of two or three months, the things that she did was pretty much as good as any designer. In three months with no education… She didn’t even know software. She learned in three months, she improved her skill from zero to fifty in one hundred skills.
She was actually really good at it. What she lacked was that creative urge, that spark that drives you to create. You have to want to create. That could be something that missing link in most people that you have to want to create. When you wake up, you have to want to do something and make something and to fix or improve something. So, that’s the drive that is the deal maker. I believe it can be worked out if the person is healthy, if it’s fit and psychologically stable, you can get this worked out and everybody could achieve levels of good designers.
Ian Paget: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think you’re totally right. Sometimes I’m quite active in the online communities and sometimes you see work that is a good idea, but it needs further development. I like your advice that you’re basically saying to focus on that and get it the best it could possibly be. I think that’s really strong advice. It supports everything else that you’ve said in this interview.
So anyway, George, I’ve gotta say thank you so much for your time. It’s been a really interesting conversation. I know that a lot of people are really excited about hearing this interview with you so I’ve just gotta say thank you so much for your time and for sharing so much information.
George Bokhua: Thank you Ian. I appreciate this call and hopefully people will get advice with this interview and will get inspired.
Ian Paget: Sure. Thank you very much.
Sponsored by FreshBooks
I’m incredibly thankful to FreshBooks for sponsoring the Logo Geek Podcast, because without them I could not make this possible.
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