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Ed. note: Drawing on materials from his recently published book, Work for Money, Design for Love, graphic designer David Airey shares the story of two designers who took something they loved—wood type—and turned it into a passive income stream.
later, the idea of self-employment without the need to deal with clients—that
is, being able to generate passive income—is going to enter your head. Don’t
get me wrong: I love working with good clients, but I chose self-employment because
there’s a bit of an entrepreneur in me, and who doesn’t see the appeal in
earning while asleep?
only a couple of years into my business when I began thinking of a future exit
strategy. And if I were to do it all over again, I’d be planning my exit from
the outset. Again, this is not because I don’t like clients. It just makes
sense. You can earn even when you’re not actively working, and you can devote
more time to your family without needing to worry so much about money.
the service industry. We sell our time, our creativity and our passion. But that
doesn’t mean we can’t offer a product, too.
Braun and Matt Griffin are the designers at Bearded, a Pittsburgh-based studio.
Here the duo shares their experience of how and why they launched Wood
Type Revival, which seeks to locate and acquire the most prized fonts of wood
type and “carry them over into the world of vectors and Opentype font-ery.”
we’re primarily focused on web design and development,” said Griffin, “we spend
the majority of our time with our faces glued to a variety of digital displays.
But we’re also both letterpress printers, and we really like wood type. The textures in wood
type prints are lovely, the unexpected turns of the letterforms refreshing, and
the vast variety of approaches delightful. Not only that, but the process of
physically engaging with type is often a terrific contrast to our standard
many creative entrepreneurs, the pair used Kickstarter to fund their project.
“Once we became aware of Kickstarter,” he explained, “we immediately thought of
letterpress and wondered how it might fund a wood type–related project. Over
the course of a week or so, [Matt] Braun kept coming to me with new project concepts,
and for one reason or another they didn’t feel right. Then one day he asked,
‘What if we buy fonts of wood type, scan them, turn them into digital faces
and give the files back to the project funders?’”
to Matt Griffin, “Good ideas are like falling in love. When it’s not the real
thing, you can debate about the pros and cons forever. But when it’s really
right, you know it when it happens, and you’d be crazy not to act on it.”
not to say things were easy. “Promoting and managing the Kickstarter project
was hard work,” he noted. “So was everything else about getting Wood Type Revival
off the ground: finding type, negotiating purchases, drawing the fonts,
learning new software, building the website to sell the fonts—but it always
felt worth it. Every time a package of type showed up it was like
designer-Christmas. Proofing each face on our press felt like some kind of
Indiana Jones tomb-opening. Typing with the digital fonts for the first time?
Revival now provides Bearded with a passive income stream. It’s relatively
minor compared to the income generated by the firm’s client work, but the money
doesn’t matter to them all that much. It pays for itself, and it brings more
joy into the work they do every day.
income alone is great, of course,” conceded Griffin. “But if you can take
what you’re good at, and what you love, and mash them together into something
useful… Well, that’s the real trick, isn’t it?”
David Airey has been successfully self-employed as a graphic designer since 2005. Specializing in the design of brand identities, he works with clients of all sizes from his studio in Northern Ireland.
He is the author and editor of three of the most popular design blogs on the Internet:
identitydesigned.com, with the sites attracting hundreds of thousands of subscribers and more than 600K visitors every month.
He is also author of two books, the first of which is currently available in 10 languages:
Logo Design Love (2010)
Work for Money, Design for Love (2012).
While it costs money to turn down a project, saying “yes” to the wrong client
can be equally as costly. Drawing on stories from his recently published book, Work for Money, Design for Love, graphic designer David Airey shares some tips on how to identify and avoid problematic clients.
Section: Tools and Resources -
One of my biggest worries in the design business
is where the next client will come from. It was a worry when I started, and
it’s a worry seven years later—albeit to a much lesser degree. When
one approach to bringing in business doesn’t work, you need to learn from the
experience and move on to the next idea.
Section: Tools and Resources -
advertising, freelancing, job search, networking, advice
Should designers recapture terminology that has become muddled in controversy? Heller argues a good design phrase is too important to waste.
Section: Inspiration -
critique, Voice, design thinking
What role does expression play in graphic design? Jessica Walsh shows us the way forward.
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