What led you into design?
From around the age of 12, I was obsessed with comic books. In particular, the cover and interior designs of them.
When I got my pocket money, I would buy as many comics as I could afford too. The Simpsons were my favorite! I would cut out different elements (imagery, typography, shapes) and create my own comic book. Simply for the enjoyment of it!
Fast forward 17 years later, and I'm pretty much doing the same thing (minus The Simpsons involvement).
I genuinely have a love for editorial design, paper stock and creating self-directed publications. Each project I've created, whether it is for a client, a collaborative or a personal one, the process of design is one I enjoy.
From studying art & design at college, to getting my BA (Hons) within Graphic Design, Marketing & Branding, I always start any design process with pen to paper. This would involve drawing layouts, usually with different highlighted pens.
What does a typical day look like?
Firstly, it starts with a strong coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice!
Then, I'll go through my emails, whilst creating my to-do list for the day ahead. I tend to write my to-do lists down, rather than digitally. I guess I like the old-school feel of crossing my tasks off, once they're completed.
As we're in this 'new world' of video meetings as a result of lockdowns, I do tend to have one or two video meetings within a day. Whether it's with an existing client or for briefings with a new one. As we're slowly going back to some normality, I will certainly try and have a face-to-face meeting, (usually over a coffee). In my opinion, this is much more productive and more ‘human’ of course.
After a video call, I like to have a walk to the lake which is near our flat. This allows my brain time to reflect and digest everything discussed within the meeting. This is so important for me, especially before I go into the real flow of the day. This allows me to produce my best work and be my best self!
Usually at lunch time, I'll eat whilst reading the news, browsing design blogs or I’ll call my grandparents, as we speak most lunch times.
I do my very best to end my day at 5pm. This is so important, so that my mind can switch off after a busy day. Easier said than done, as I’m sure we all know this feeling too well.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have one-to-one weekly Spanish lessons. As I'm getting married next year and my fiancè is spanish, I've set the goal of learning my entire wedding speech in spanish...Bring it on!
What's your workstation setup?
Where do you go to get inspired?
I tend to find inspiration from various places.
Since we've been in lockdown, I've tried to find a balance between how much online content I consume, with going out for regular walks.
Luckily where I live, there are a lot of parks and lovely woodland areas. I usually take a notepad and pen out with me, and start drawing or writing down ideas.
Inspiration could come from things I've seen on design blogs, the news or even from just people watching!
I also tend to find inspiration from having conversations with design graduates.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
Recently my fiancè and I bought our first home (happy days)! Like most new homeowners, we spent hours searching for new furniture to make our home feel cosy.
One purchase that I'm very happy we got was the Embrace Storage Unit, designed by Product Designer, John Green.
The overall design is beautiful, however the smart use of storage and the overall simplicity of the design, certainly caught our attention.
Also, the fact that it can also work as a desk and seat is a brilliant alternative use.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
Recently, I collaborated with Harper Inspire & Harper Collins to design a very powerful publication which focuses on 100 influential black men and women who share their experiences on racism within Britain.
The publication is titled, Still Breathing: 100 Black Voices on Racism, 100 Ways To Change The Narrative.
I created the cover and interior of the 300 paged hardback publication. This is one of the biggest projects I've worked on to date, which is a personal achievement for me.
The theme surrounding this book has a personal impact on me. As a black designer myself, all the experiences included I can fully understand/relate too.
Some of those featured include Bevelery Knight, David Lammy, Kwame Armah and Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin.
The official release date will be 24th June 2021 and will be available to purchase in most leading bookshops, as well as Amazon.
Lawrence Okolie is a British professional boxer. He held the Commonwealth cruiserweight title from 2018 to 2019, and the British and European cruiserweight titles separately in 2019.
I was commissioned by Penguin Books to design Lawrence's first-ever publication cover titled, 'Dare To Change Your Life'. The publication goes into depth on 40 short life lessons which inspired Lawrence to his successful career.
From a design perspective, I had fun (perhaps too much fun) at the experimental cover design stages. I designed numerous first drafts, exploring how shapes could integrate with imagery and typography. These can be found on my website. The image featured is the final deliverable.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
As a freelancer, there are many challenges you can face. Whether it's discussing quotes, timings or amends.
Two important aspects I always remember when working with a client (new or old) is to always be 'transparent' and keep things 'simple'.
Sometimes I might have the occasional client who wants everything in terms of deliverables, but I do like to question the client on whether certain deliverables are actually needed and could it potentially dilute what you're trying to really achieve. I've always had the mentality that one impactful deliverable is better than several average ones.
By questioning them (in a respectful way of course), you can find out what the client really needs, which not only allows me to produce the best work I can for them, but it's also cost effective from the client's side too. This approach for me tends to lead to more ongoing work, which is the key for any freelance designer.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Whenever I give a talk at a college or university, I always have one important piece of advice, which I always keep in mind without my own line of work.
JUST DO YOU!...
It's so easy to compare and self-doubt. Especially since we've all been in lockdown, and perhaps spent a lot more time on social media. We all have different goals, ambitions and things which inspire and drive us. Find what drives you and nurture it!
I'm officially freelancing now, but leading up to this, I've had many full-time roles. If I’m being completely honest, I would usually get bored after the first year and I never really knew why, until now.
My drive, passion and love came from self-directed projects and editorial design. The more I fed into that, working on my side hustles, alongside my full-time job, the more courage and confidence I had to take the leap from full-time into freelance.
Also, one more piece of advice I would give to ambitious designers is to collaborate when possible.
I regularly collaborate with a freelance photographer, Olga, to create Olga & Kay. This on-going and self-directed collaboration, which allows us to work on projects that really inspire us.
With the combination of my skill set (graphic design) and Olga's (photography, film), we compliment each other to create impactful work.
If you're at uni (or even at college), why not collaborate on a small passion project with those in your course and see where it takes you!
From all the job interviews I've conducted, the projects which really stood out for me within a portfolio, we're those self-directed/collaborative projects. I believe it displays a genuine interest for our discipline.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
Currently I'm working with Penguin books again on another exciting cover design and I'm also working with Levi Strauss & Co, who is a new client. Full coverage on both projects will be uploaded to my website in the coming months: kieronlewis.com.
You can also catch me on the following channels too: Instagram | Pinterest | LinkedIn | The Dots