Interview with Robert Brown
Award-winning designer photographer and instructor. 13 years experience. Affordable rates. Contact Brown through his website
Robert! Introduce us to your design practice, do you have a philosophy of aesthetic you design from?
Hey my name is Robert Brown and for the past 13 years I have been the principal owner and Art director, creative director for Brown Eagle Studio which is a multidisciplinary graphic design and now web design and videographer, multimedia firm that operates out of Birmingham, Alabama. And as far as a design philosophy or aesthetic, we don't stick to a certain aesthetic across clients because some of them may require more if designing something like an architecture firm they may require something that's more that has more texture visual texture to it versus the clean designs that I personally like to work with. But we'd like to, if I had to capitalize it into a central philosophy, it would be it would be simple but also symbiotic or symbolic. I don't believe in taking the easy route when doing like a logo or doing like a flyer. I believe that things can and should tell a story but they shouldn't be so dense that someone's seeing it for the first time can't figure it out. Or even multiple times can't figure it out. I think that there's a and I try to do this a lot. I think there's a fine line that if you hit it- it's great. If you miss it and it's simple it's still fine. But if it's too dense for somebody to understand then it didn't. You didn't really do your job.
Describe a past project where you took a client's concept through to creative design.
So a design project I'm always really happy with, my students are super sick of hearing about is a Mission patch design that I did for a leadership course for the greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The staff that was on that particular course were extremely willing to participate and they wanted to instead of doing the traditional embroidered piece of cloth, which they did that too, they wanted to experiment with different things including they wanted to make like a like a challenge coin type thing. They wanted to experiment with different screen printing processes but also keep it really simple. And they told me originally to do whatever I want to- which when you're a designer. That's the worst thing you want to hear. So I kept asking him for more detail and they finally gave me a story. I think it was I think was Cambridge University or one of the original like England universities that set up in America that had the foresight when they build a church and they had these giant oak beams supporting the church. They had the foresight to know that eventually there was would need to be replaced so they took the they planted an entire grove of old growth oak trees what would become old growth oak trees and then two hundred years later when they needed to rebuild the church they already had the trees right there, the material or right there to build with them. That's like that's a great concept. And if that's the central idea you have with this course let's run with that. So we took it. We simplified it down to a basic greening gold color scheme and basically remix the elements of that story from from the seeds the acorns to the trees to the bar and incorporate that with the required images for the for the patch. And it came out looking really good. We had a really good collaboration with the maker for the coins the embroiderer for the patches and came out with a really good set of branding designs for that translated to an award winning design later on.
Talk to us about your project, The Makers. How would you describe "Maker Culture" and what is the community like in Alabama?
So Alabama has always had an amazing history of contributing to the creative fields be it in movies be it music- the Muscle Shoals documentary was a great example of that history that has contributed to the larger kind of kind of American pop-culture scene but no one's really aware of that segment of it in Alabama. Out of that has kind of grown a an underground Maker-culture where people are very interested in making handmade goods either through either through their own skills or through technology. And we've had a we've had some startups that have shown, that have cropped up especially in Birmingham area they've taken advantage of that and I've kind of grown out of that. We have two giant, really well known, really great maker spaces that have workshops 3D printers laser engravings everything that you that you would need to get started but you would have to buy because that's a significant expense. And basically all of these have stories- Birmingham and Huntsville especially Florence is known for music are getting known for like technology but Birmingham especially for Food but no one has really kind of tapped into this kind of independent maker/craft culture that is in Alabama. What I really want to do with the makers is talk to them, talk to the huge makers like the print shops that are in Birmingham as well as just very independent, very homegrown work in a garage type makers and tell their stories in an interesting way. Either edit that together in a movie and put that a competition hopefully at Sidewalk, which is another homegrown festival event that we're really highly proud of down here but also maybe do what I'm referring to was like a serial documentary where we put it in extended episodes on YouTube or Patreon and not haven't really figured out the distribution method of that but there are plenty of great stories that have been approached by tons of people tons of businesses who want to tell their story and can't wait to get started on it.
What's some advice you would give to a younger version of yourself? What's a skill or program or coping mechanism you wish you had learned sooner?
Some advice I would give my younger self is don't be such a damn perfectionist. There's always going to be something that you wish you had done better or you wish you had added more detail or had more time on and it's OK to say this is good enough. Nothing's ever gonna be perfect, nothing's ever gonna come out 100 per cent exactly the way you want it. And that's OK. You know clients will still pay for it. You'll still be proud of it. You can still exhibit it and people will enjoy it maybe get inspired by it. And the only person who knows it didn't come out the way you expected it is you. And I would have told myself not to let that hang them up and hold them back. So that's probably the biggest. It's definitely a skill and a coping mechanism. But other than that pragmatically I would have I would have also advised getting into film sooner. There's a lot of early opportunities especially like YouTube and the independent filmmaking community that really I mean even before the iPhone you know if you had like a handy cam and some DV tapes you could do really you could make some really awesome content and put it out there, but my younger self was always waiting for better technology, better equipment. You know this isn't professional enough so I haven't used it you know. So it's the false first step. Don't let equipment or trepidation hold you back. Just get out there do the damn thing, learn from it make something better. Facebook likes to say move fast and break things. That's a great analogy for anything you know we only have one life so the more experimental we can be with it and the more we can learn from those experiments the better we're all going to be. And I think that's the best advice I can use now for myself.
What are you working on right now? Where can we see your work next?
I'm a traditionally trained print maker and graphic designer my bachelor fine art degree was very centered in hands on crafting and hands on designing and one of the one of the things the makers project has really inspired me to do is scale back and make very disconnected or limited technology pieces using the screen printing Linotype printing some woodworking projects. I've got a friend who's to leave and I've been practicing with with wood turning on that and as well as making larger art projects and more involved filmmaking projects especially. I really want to scale back and do some limited Ryan prints and either sell those or exhibit those combination thereof and just get back and do just get back into doing that kind of stuff. And also also writing I've had a project idea called The Hitchhiker's Guide to branding kind of percolating for a while where I would interview small business owners that aren't necessarily makers but have a don't necessarily fit into the corporate lifestyle mold that you would put a lot of businesses in. There's a lot of food culture a lot of food business owners in the Birmingham area and just ask them you know what the hell do you do. What kind of advice would you give somebody who wants to start right now. Basically the questions I have every day as somebody who's looking at you know we've all got a startup idea and the best way to figure out what how to do that and go about it is ask somebody who's been there and I really want to whether it becomes like a podcast or it becomes like a book or a combination thereof. I really want to have like a resource that asks people who's like OK well you don't have a million dollars in venture capital funding right now but you know how do you get to that point. How do you eventually get to being a success when all you have is an idea and no money to really to really explored that idea. Because we're all there we've all got great ideas we don't know what to do with it. And I think that I think that's that's an opportunity that people were just waiting to waiting to see and read.