One of the great things about the internet is that I’ve met so many fabulous and generous people. Dennis Salvatier is one of those people who just makes you feel so welcome. Since I started my blog he has been a constant vocal source of encouragement. Today it’s an absolute pleasure to take some time and talk to Dennis and find out a bit more about what makes him tick.
Tell us about your design business?
Salvatier Studios is a design and illustration studio that focuses on branding, web apparel and print. It’s great to work on a branding package one day and design a set of graphic tees for a major brand the next. We’re all about versatility and translating the fun into the client’s work. We firmly believe that great and effective design is the product of creativity, knowledge and information.
What did you do to prepare to go out on your own?
Well, you can say that I’ve been preparing since I first took crayon to napkin. I feel that, as creative professionals, you are preparing from the very first moment you create something and know in your heart that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. I was very fortunate that my parents nurtured my creative side by placing me in painting and drawing classes. That changed my way of thinking. In high school I attended an animation program where I was taught the value of story. No matter how pretty a film may look, story comes first. In design school I learned the fundamentals of design and how to think your way out of a problem. The lesson of “less is more” finally began to make sense. After over a decade of working as a designer, illustrator, marketing director and media designer, I was laid off from my full-time gig. That’s when I decided it was time to start this new venture. It’s been a couple of years now.
Why did you start your design blog?
I started my blog while I was still a full-time designer. At that time is was daily sketch blog shared by myself and Dayne Henry Jr, a friend and fellow artist. When I started Salvatier Studios I realized I had a wealth of knowledge thanks to experience and valued mentors. I wanted to share that. The blog turned into a fun place where you can talk about the importance of branding, see works-in-progress, sketches and get design inspiration. Lately, I have been highlighting talented illustrators and designers I’ve found throughout the web as well. It’s now affectionately known as the Tanoshiboy Chronicles: the design blog for Salvatier Studios. Tanoshiboy being a nickname I’ve picked up in the last few years.
Has your blog impacted your business?
Absolutely. It’s made it a more of a pleasure. Many readers have been able to relate and share their own experiences, which has led to meeting some great designers and business professionals from all over the world. The studio has even picked up a few gigs due to the blog.
What are the most simplest/most underestimated ways to find new clients?
If you see life as whole as a networking opportunity, you’ll see that everywhere you go is an opportunity to find new clients. You could be at a fund-raiser, marathon or a wedding reception and you’ll meet new people. As creatives, we tend to not be the friendliest people on the planet, but if you step away from twitter and meet people, you’ll see how many of them have problems you alone can solve. This business is about establishing and keeping relationships.
What is the best lesson you’ve ever learnt in running your own business?
Be kind to people and it will be returned. Respect your clients no matter how ill-informed they may be. Always be an educator, salesman, and customer service rep before you are a designer.
What tips could you give to someone considering starting their own design business?
There is no shame in working on small projects. There is shame in small thinking though. Every step, no matter how small, counts. Also, make it a chore to go to one networking meeting a week. And always give the client a list of deliverables before you begin on their project and communicate constantly. Most importantly, value yourself. If you don’t, neither will the client.
Favourite productivity tool or software and why?
I’m going to sound like an old man, but nothing beats a pencil. You don’t have to boot it up, worry about it crashing or need to get updates. It’s reliable. But since were talking about software, I’d pick Adobe Illustrator. I feel I can do most of my work using that program.
What do you love doing outside of design?
I’m a storyteller at heart, so I enjoy sketching and coming up with new stories and characters. I collect comics, enjoy reading and love going to the movies. My Wife has slowly been making me into a foodie, so we like to find mom-and-pop restaurants and rate our meals, even if we only rate it to ourselves.
What is your favourite piece of work you’ve designed and why?
This is a tough question. I’d have to say that the snowboard deck design I did for Hood River Distillers for their ULLR spirit, is my favorite. They left the art direction completely up to me and it turned out great, but I also love the album design and art direction I did for Adrina Thorpe’s last album, Halflight & Shadows.
What would be your dream design job and why?
Honestly, I would love to take all the crazy characters I’ve designed over the years and create toys, prints and apparel based on them. I would have the most fun with that. I’m slowly working on that now.
Dennis, thanks for taking time out and sharing about yourself. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter. The Interview is posted on Wednesday’s. If you know anyone who would be good to interview drop a comment below and I’ll follow them up.