Interview with Designer Graham Smith

It probably won’t come as a surprise for you to learn that Graham Smith’s answer to the question “why do you think you are great” spanned a full (single-spaced) page. His design blog ImJustCreative gets monthly hits well into the 5 figures and it is growing rapidly. Ask any other designer why they come back and they will say it’s because his design work is outstanding and they can’t wait for his next post.

full-length“Greatness comes from years of experience,” he said and he’s got those years to back that statement up. With over 20 years in the design business plus “a few more” growing up as a kid involved in all things creative, Smith takes pride in the fact that his experience includes stints in industries such as commercial printing, advertising and reprography to name a few. He says those jobs made him the well-rounded, design jack-all-trades that he is today.

Smith has had some formal training in the form of college and a year at an art/design school, which he left early to take on an apprenticeship at a large commercial printer in his hometown. Smith admits that discontinuing his school pursuits is his one educational regret.

As with many designers, his creativity was recognized and fostered from an early age. One of his early memories was borrowing some of his decorator grandfather’s rolls of paper and painting and drawing on hallway lengths of it at a time. While an obvious love was creating art from an early age, Smith attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a member of the local police force, which “just didn’t work out.” In hindsight, the contradiction of careers is almost laughable and it was decided that while the motivation to be in law enforcement from a young age was there, “he had to make the whole design thing work.”

This charming designer lives in Seaford, East Sussex, England in a three-bedroom detached house with dramatic view of the country side and sea. Smith describes the décor of his house using a couple of the same adjectives he sometimes uses to describe his work: “mostly sparse, clean light walls with brown contrasting furniture.”

Smith enjoys the company of a full-time rescue Lurcher named Dylan and has occasional custody of a dog from a previous relationship named Fermoy. An avid runner who has completed several marathons, Smith is big on physical fitness, both mostly of the solitary sort. One any given day, his Twitter followers will see various messages about his runs or bike rides with Dylan and will sometimes be treated to pictures of the scenic landscapes he is privileged to be surrounded by. Not surprisingly, photography is one love that closely rivals design for the first place spot in his life.

When asked what his typical mid-week day is like, he answers that it’s the same as the other six. Most of his time recently has been spent branding ImJustCreative and his new collaborative effort with Adelle Charles of Fuel Your Creativity and Kristi Colvin of Design-For-Users called Fresh ID. What precious free moments not spent working or physically active are spent brewing his preferred non-alcoholic beverage FairTrade Oxfam coffee or imbibing in his preferred alcoholic beverages, white wine or the occasional Stella Artois, (depending on his location.)

It is a popular belief that many artists and creative persons are tortured souls, allowing them the uncanny ability to infuse their work with the raw emotion and fervor that can only be expressed by someone who feels and experiences life deeply. Finding himself turning 37 on January 9th doesn’t mean Smith has accomplished everything he wished to have accomplished by this age. In fact, he confesses that he finds himself “at the beginning of a dirt road, for mostly dark and personal reasons.”

Don’t mistake him for a dark, anguished personality, though. Continuing with this theme of contradictions in his life, Smith has a side that can only be described as a bit cheeky and snarky, at least when faced with the same. When Adelle suggested bringing up Smith’s supposed love for Speedos in the interview, he delightfully played along, describing them as “residing in an emergency glass box like fire ‘thingies.’” He went on to say they are sparkly gold, fur-lined and very expensive. In fact, the answer to the Speedo inquiry was surprisingly detailed, leading a person to wonder how much of the subject actually rings true.

Another favorite activity of his is playing devils advocate and taking part in -if not instigating- heated debates about any subject of the minute. He confesses to having to bite his tongue a lot and being very outspoken, especially when meeting up with people who “push their thoughts or opinions on me, bully or {an} arrogance type thing.” Readers take notice. He claims he is very hard to argue against and is “up for a verbal fight anytime.”

This self-proclaimed “shy guy” will constantly keep you guessing about which side of him you will be graced with on any given day. He admits to this true and ever-present contradiction. While he may not always be a man of many words, he doesn’t need to be, as his designs speak for themselves.

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