Charles Daoud: Design geek, branding specialist, type aficionado and overall awesome dude.
04.05.2019 | Share — Twitter Facebook Copy link
Charles is a multidisciplinary graphic designer and typographer that works with a wide variety of SMEs, large corporations, firms and advertising agencies across the province of Québec and abroad. He has been internationally recognized for my work with major clients, such as Netflix, Brocade and Radio-Canada, as well as my typefaces, including the ever-popular Dense, which has been downloaded by over 1,000,000 users.
What led you into your current career path?
To be quite honest, I kind of stumbled into it. I’d be lying if I told you that I had been dreaming about designing logos and typefaces since the tender age of 5. Truth is, I didn’t even know what graphic design was until college.
I started college in computer science, it took about 5 minutes for me to realize that it wasn’t for me. I then tried my hand at psychology but that didn’t work out either. I really had no idea what to do at that point. I then decided to see a guidance counselor. When I told him I liked sketching a lot, he talked to be about graphic design - which in retrospect, doesn’t make much sense. I decided to give it a shot and fell in love.
My first few years were very Web driven - I did a lot of Flash (RIP) work and Web design. Then came the branding, print and typography aspects.
How do you keep in touch with the creative world and community and how does the creative scene look like in your city?
The creative scene is pretty active in Montreal. That said, I think there’s still room for improvement; I wouldn’t mind seeing more design related events, festivals or conferences. There is just so much talent here, it’s really impressive.
I admit it’s not always easy to keep in touch with the creative world or design community when you’re a freelancer. I work alone on most projects and it takes some getting used to. Luckily, it’s really easy to connect with people in this day and age and I fully take advantage of that. I love to bounce ideas or sketches with other designer friends be it through Facebook messenger or WhatsApp. I also start most of my days browsing design blogs and other resources such as Brand New and designspiration.net just to name a couple.
Every year I try to take some time off to go to a design-related event. A personal favourite would be the Brand New Conference that’s held annually. I try to go whenever they’re in NYC, it’s just a 7 hour drive and it’s really worth it. I’ve realized that taking time off work is what actually keeps me relevant in this business.
What’s your workspace setup?
My workspace kind of sucks right now to be honest. We moved into our new home last summer and although most rooms are pretty much finished, my work setup is still a bit lackluster.
You can see half of my setup on this pic. First thing most people will notice is I work on a Windows machine - crazy for a graphic designer, right? I actually also have a Mac that I use for designing fonts, mainly. The two posters on my desk are quite important to me; the black one was one of my first personal projects as a designer and the red one is signed by Massimo Vignelli. You can also see a small portion of my design library on the right. I love books - I can never have enough.
What are your 5 favorite work tools/apps and how do use them?
1. It’s hard to be a graphic designer without working with Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. Those 3 applications have been part of my daily routine for the past 15 years or so.
2. Photoshop is obviously my go-to app for retouching but I also use it for Web design.
Illustrator is probably the app I use the most along with PS. I use it to design logos and when I start a new typeface.
3. Indesign is obviously for layouts and whatnot. When I was in college, we learned how to use Quark but I quickly switched to ID, it just made so much more sense to stay in the Adobe ecosystem.
4. When it comes to typeface design, I now use Glyphs. Although I designed most of my commercial typefaces using Fontlab, it never felt “right” to me. I decided to give Glyphs a go when I designed Grand and the process seemed so much better. The workflow was seamless and the experience was very positive. I can’t imagine using anything else for now.
5. Finally, I can’t make a list of tools/apps I use without going full on oldschool. My most important tool, I think, is the pencil. I start off all my projects with sketches. I really helps to get my ideas out on paper quickly. There are no limits when you’re drawing out ideas, anything goes and it happens very quickly.
Last year, I decided to switch to Glyphs for my type designing needs and I have to say, I love it.
From logo design to type exploration - I don't know what I would do without Illustrator.
It's by far my most used application.
My go to tool when doing some web design - Good ol' Photoshop.
What other creative(s) do you admire for their work? Have you collaborated or thought of collaborating with other like-minds?
I’m a big fan of simplicity and minimalism. Like most designers of my generation, I have a huge respect for Herb Lubalin, Saul Bass, Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser and Paul Rand. They’ve each influenced my work early on in my career in some way or another. I had the chance to meet and talk with Vignelli before his passing and I was astonished by his humility.
In recent years, I’ve been a big fan of Michael Bierut and Paula Scher from Pentagram NY. There’s a deeper level of intelligence in their work that I connect with. It’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about rationalizing creativity, which in my opinion, fits well with my definition of design.
I haven’t had many opportunities to collaborate with other designers lately - I guess that’s one of the downsides of being a freelancer. I have worked with other creative professionals such as photographers, illustrators, interior designers and architects - that’s always fun.
What’s your favorite hack to get work done?
I’m not sure if I have any hacks… One thing that’s been helping me stay creative is taking some time everyday to check out what’s new in the design world. I take half an hour every day, almost at the same time, to see what’s new on my favourite design blogs or resources. Not only does it keep me up to date but it always gives me new ideas on how to approach certain projects.
What creative or non-creative challenges do you face at work?
I think my biggest creative challenge is… to continuously be creative. It might sound strange but when you work a lot, it’s easy to try to take shortcuts to save time in order to jump onto the next project. It’s actually really difficult to always come up with THE idea. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and that’s something I need to work on.
My biggest non-creative challenge would probably be to manage my time off better. I’m actually really good at work-related deadlines and deliverables but when it comes to planning some vacation time, I’m horrible. I always put my clients first, and that’s not a bad thing, but it should never be at the detriment of your physical or mental health. We all need a vacation, especially when we need to refill our creative juices.
What projects are you most proud of and excited about? Are there any side-projects you work or worked on?
For the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on the branding for État de choc, a luxury chocolate boutique in Montreal. When the client first came to me, she just had the idea on paper, nothing else. I managed to put together an awesome team and we built everything from the ground up. From naming to packaging design, nothing was left to chance.
Everyone worked really hard on this project and we’re all really proud of the result. We also won a couple design awards which is always nice.
Another project I’m really proud of is the typeface we designed for Radio-Canada, our french public broadcaster here Canada. A lot of time and effort went into it and it shows when we look at the end result. The typeface is perfectly balanced and offers excellent legibility, which was our goal. It’s always fun to turn on the news and see your work right there in front of you.
This project was also critically acclaimed and even made the cover of the Communication Arts Typography Annual - that was a serious achievement.
What’s your morning or evening routine and habit after work?
Most of my routines revolve around my kids now. It’s really all about them. Mornings are about getting them ready for daycare and evenings are about supper and getting them ready for bed. Typical parent stuff. I often joke around about having two work shifts a day. The 9 to 5 one and 8 to who knows when one.
When I’m done with work, I like to decompress by watching TV or playing video games - I’m a huge gaming nerd.
What does a typical day look like?
Typical day is waking up anytime between 6 and 7am. My girlfriend and I get the kids ready for daycare and I drop them off around 8:30 or so. I check my emails and browse design-related sites for about 30 mins and then start working.
I work from home so I have the privilege of taking small breaks whenever I feel like it. I have lunch anytime between 11am and 2pm and get back to work afterwards. We pick up the kids from daycare around 5pm and play around with them until suppertime. At that point, the whole night routine kicks in - dishes, baths, sleep, etc.
Once the kids are asleep, around 8pm or so, I often go finish up some work for a couple hours. Most days end with me playing video games. It’s one of my favourite ways to really disconnect.
8am: Time to bring the kids to daycare.
9am: Eat a little something and browse the Web to see what's new in the design world.
9:30am: Time to start working.
12pm-1pm: Have lunch! I like to eat outside on my balcony when it's nice out... which isn't the case today.
After lunch: Back to work. I love going through some design books when looking for inspiration.
3pm: I like to take short breaks every hour or so - why not get a few punches in to decompress?
Any advice for ambitious creatives starting out?
Be humble. Let’s face it - a lot of designers have an ego problem. It’s nothing new, we just think we’re always, or almost always right even fresh out of school. Hell, I thought I was the next Saul Bass when I graduated; I was so very wrong.
Truth is, design school can only teach you so much but true experience comes from real work situations. It’s important to keep an open mind in this industry and to accept the idea that there’s always going to be someone better than you at something, somewhere, and that’s okay. Never stop learning and growing because the day that stops is the day you’ll start being a bad designer.
Something I’ve also learned through the years is to always do business with people that respect the value of your work. Never work for a bad client. Bad clients attract more bad clients and you eventually end up in a shitty vicious circle hating your job. It sounds idealistic, I know, but it’s true. Always trust your gut feeling - if a project or client doesn’t feel right, just move on, the negative vibes just aren’t worth the hassle. I promise there’s something better waiting for you.
Also, maybe one of the most important things to remember; our job isn’t to design for other designers, it’s to design for our clients and target markets - don’t ever forget that.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
Designers are always looking for fonts, right? I currently have 5 commercial type families for sale and each one has some freebies. Check them out here: https://www.myfonts.com/foundry/CDType/
"Never work for a bad client. Bad clients attract even more bad clients."
Quote by Charles Daoud