September 8, 2009
A couple weeks ago I decided that I wanted to write a post on who inspired me. We always ask designers who pushed them or got them started, and I finally decided to turn the question around upon myself. Through school I worked a few design jobs, including some in house jobs with other designers that I didn’t get along with. I was quickly falling out of love with design when I got an e-mail from Roby. I’d been recommended to him by a mutual friend and I started work at Always Creative a week or two later.
Roby pushed me to learn and progress while I was working at AC and kept me motivated. During our smoke breaks we talked design and dreamed big. Through those 10-15 breaks I fell back in love with design. Roby also pushed me to start DC, and has been a great cheerleader and mentor throughout our trek. So a week or so ago I sent Roby and email with some questions that I thought would be cool to share.
Born in Houston and now residing in College Station, Roby Fitzhenry is one busy dude. He has been a (graphic) designer for eight years with a love and focus on identity and print design. He is a self-taught web designer and brand strategist who also does a variety of event planning and promotion. Roby is co-founder and Creative Director of Always Creative, a Bryan Texas based brand and web development company as well as co-founder of The Creative Space, Texas’ first co-working space. He’s won a few (lame) awards and has been featured in LogoLounge Volume Five which is his biggest honor to date. Besides these things, he is also serving as Creative Director of Desired Hearts, a small fashion label focused on passion and the entrepreneurial spirit. Roby’s designs focus on simplicity through purity and the goal of creating design that survives the test of time. His career goal is to be a respected and trusted designer that creates designs and strategies that change the way people look at things, especially business owners towards their business and the way people revere designers/design in general. He also drinks way too much coffee, loves sneakers and fashion as well as loud music of all varieties.
Do you remember the first time you had the desire to be a designer?
Absolutely. I was 15 and an avid BMXer that created my own fake company and started sketching bike frames, pedals and other components. I named the company, developed a marketing strategy, focused service offerings and even designed a (crappy) logo. This all started without me even knowing that graphic design and branding were actual career options… However, I remember lying in my bed when I was 17 and just finished high school. Had to choose between graphic design or culinary arts as a career. As you can see, design was my decision and from that point on I’ve never looked back.
What is the first project you remember completing for money?
Latham, a local punk rock band of my youth, was my first client. I designed a CD and some t-shirts. The funny thing is that their lead singer Jeff is now my business partner. We been friends for a longgg time though.
If tomorrow the entire design/branding field went away. What job would you pursue and why?
Event promotion, writing, teaching or open a streetwear/sneaker shop. Hell .. maybe all of them.
What would you do differently if someone gave you the
chance to start AC again?
Save up a ton of working capital, clearly define all of our processes, develop a marketing strategy and work up a simple business plan. Beyond that, I would sit down and design the hell out of everything from stationery to the website so we had it from day one. All of those things are VERY important .. trust me.
I use to think it could but not anymore. It’s more about the message behind the design, not the design itself. I think conversation can save the world and graphic design is just a different form of having a conversation. Hippie propaganda FTW?
If you had to pick 3 typefaces to use for the rest of eternity
what would they be?
Easy. Gotham, Helvetica and my own handwriting. Handmade type is very important to me. Still can’t decide who would win in the epic battle of Gotham vs. Helvetica (so I’ll take both). [cheater]
Name one designer that has shaped your work more than any other.
Paul Rand deserves credit for my overall aesthetic. Benny Gold is currently the designer that I’m following because his work, client list, approach to projects and overall lifestyle are all something to look up to.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where will AC be?
Where will design be?
I don’t know where I’ll be nor Always Creative. If things keep going the way they are, hopefully Always Creative will be a big name in the design field. Design will continue to expand within mobile devices, their applications and overall uses. I’m confident that crappy web design will continue to be frowned upon by users (potential customers) and good design will help companies command a premium.
A man’s closet says a lot about him. What shoes are you
rocking these days?
I own the Skate or Die dunk lows and the Tie Dye mids. My other kicks are the Stubbs x Supra Skytops, Air Max Lights (my beaters), and of course a wide variety of Vans. The Dunk Hi Caution Quickstrikes and the Air Royal Mid Premiums are my next to cop.
If AC had to have a highschool style mascot what would it be?
A dodo bird or a duckbill platypus? We’re a bit of a hybrid team that can’t be categorized per se.
You and Jeff grew up together and you worked around Travis before starting AC. Do you find it hard to take/give criticism to and from your friends?
Any designer should value their network of friends and family. Running a business with friends can be tough at times but I really enjoy the mood it creates in our office. We don’t really act like a company, we’re more like a tight knit team that likes to have fun, pay bills and do great work. Having a network of friends, especially designer friends, is awesome because we share ideas, tell someone when they need to step it up and give each other the necessary props. That’s really what it’s all about.
What time would I have to get there? I’m an insomniac. Plus, no one will pay me $200k .. I’ve asked. haha
You are really involved in the design community even helping put together things like Design Camp. What motivates you to do more than the typical 9-5?
Bryan/College Station is awesome but lacks a lot of things I need. So, I decided to do them with my friends rather than complain about their lack of existence. “Shut up and do it” is my new motto. The list includes: The Creative Space, Desired Hearts, IS Conference, RefreshBCS, Rock The Republic and Big Ass BarCamp. And people wonder why I’m always working …
Can you handle the truth?
The truth shall set you free.
I just wanna say thanks to Roby for being an all around good dude, great friend, and bad ass designer.