10 Top Tips
Working with Superfried
Hi, Mark here from Superfried, a Manchester design agency. I understand from experience that placing your business in the hands of someone you have not worked with before can be a daunting prospect. I have recently invited experts to analyse and scrutinise my own design company, and I was shocked at how challenging I found the process. It requires considerable trust. Consequently, in the following 10 points you will get to know more about me, how I work, my ethos, and my approach to help you decide if Superfried will be a good fit for your design or branding project.
01 Different hats
In some ways being a graphic designer is similar to being an actor. Like every role, every project is unique – different people, sectors, problems, target audiences etc. Starting with the people, although I have a process by which I develop brand strategies, where possible I try to adapt to the way the client is used to working. For example, the method and frequency by which you prefer to communicate? Which platforms and packages do you use to manage your workflow?
For each project, during the discovery and research phase, I must learn as much about your industry, business, and customers as possible. I know how to solve communication problems and can provide an essential, objective viewpoint of your organisation. But despite my best efforts, I will never understand your business and market better than you. Therefore, client collaboration is key. Unfortunately, this will require me to pester you with a lot of questions. I listen and learn about your organisation and target audience to ensure we can then convey your message to the right people with the right tone of voice.
Selected projects by Superfried
02 Different tools
In addition to wearing different hats, when you are working for yourself in the design industry it is essential to also use different tools. By this I mean dabble in multiple disciplines. Before the Adobe subscription model, it was more difficult to try different techniques or learn new skills such as animation or 3D. The benefit to you the client is that now I can offer more options before requiring additional support. However, I will never offer a service I can not deliver. If you require a simple animated ident or illustration for a symbol or logo I can usually cover this. But if you require something more elaborate, such as web development or a complex database system to supply digital ad display panels, then I will call in the experts to join the team.
Digital projects – Working with external specialists
Collaborating with external specialists
03 Straight talking
My general philosophy is to always look forward and to make things better. This is probably one of the reasons I am now a designer – it is very rewarding to see the dramatic improvement from the beginning through to the final creative solution. But this can only be achieved via alignment and trust. In my experience this this works best via straight talking. Trusting that one party will not be offended when the other has an opposing viewpoint. It is my job as a design consultant to question the brief and the way you have previously conducted your business. This is not because I am suggesting you do not know what you are doing. This is because there may be a more effective way of achieving the same or improved results.
When we are too close, it becomes more difficult to see the gaps – something I have experienced myself firsthand with my own design agency, Superfried. It is so much harder to advise yourself.
Conversely, if a creative solution I have proposed is not right for any reason, I need to hear about it. Only then can I re-think the approach or potentially conduct further research to find a more appropriate creative strategy. Ultimately, the final execution will represent you, the client, it is therefore essential that you feel comfortable with it. To stay quiet during the process out of politeness will not be beneficial to either party. If you are not happy, you will never recommend me. And if you are really unhappy and rebrand, I will not be able to use the project for my portfolio.
04 Down to earth
I am sure you have seen or heard many examples of us ‘creative types’ behaving like complete divas if we do not get our way or we are asked to do some actual work. I can assure you, that is not me. In fact, I have not met many divas in my 20+ years in the industry – perhaps I have just been lucky. One of my key USP’s is my work ethic. I have rarely found myself beaten in this department.
I would describe myself as just a normal person. Like most people, I had part-time jobs – paper round / shop assistant / bar tender – as a kid and I attended a normal state school. Consequently, I think this is one of the reasons I find it easy to empathise with clients across multiple sectors serving an eclectic mix of customers.
05 What's so different about Superfried?
There are so many good designers out there, so it is pointless to start suggesting I am the best or most talented.
So apart from the peculiar name, what’s my USP?
I would say the fact I am self-taught with a scientific background gives me a slightly unconventional approach to developing creative solutions. It is probably not the way most graphic designers were taught, but this can be advantageous as the results are more likely to be different and stand out.
An educational background in Environmental Chemistry, although mocked at the time, is now being acknowledged. It enables me to help clients navigate the complex requirements and expectations of modern, forward-thinking organisations.
My unconventional route has always made me feel less confident and lucky to be in the industry. The consequence is that I care too much and feel I need to try harder, leading to over-servicing projects. This is obviously bad for me, but great news for my clients : )
One of the main reasons I set up on my own was because I just wanted to be a graphic designer, rather than progress up the ladder to become a suit in a big design agency. This is also why I have not grown Superfried. I have heard too many friends say that once they hired permanent designers and creatives, their main concern was to switch to the welfare of their staff rather than doing the work. This is something I have always strived to avoid, so when you hire Superfried you will always be hiring me.
I am a self-taught graphic designer and actually studied Environmental Chemistry. Therefore it will come as no surprise that I am keen to adopt a sustainable approach whenever possible. However, please note, that I am not a sustainability expert – I went to Uni a long time ago! I also appreciate that no one wants to be lectured or preached to. So where possible, if better options are available, I will advise accordingly. But, if for various reasons the proposal is simply not feasible for your organisation, I will totally understand and promise not to persist.
If you are keen to adapt your company, you may wish to consider registering for B Corp status. But be warned, this is a challenging commitment, not to be taken lightly. For smaller organisations an alternative option could be 1% for the Planet. This was the approach I adopted for Superfried.
I promote sustainability in business whenever possible, but what about Superfried? What about me? I need to walk the talk, so I have been reviewing both myself and my business – the conclusion is that I must try harder. With this in mind, I have started to look at the carbon footprint of the Superfried website. It is alarming how much CO2 a simple site can generate over a year. So far I have implemented changes I can make myself, such as optimising image and video content size to increase efficiency and speed. The next challenge will be more technical, utilising the expertise of the original developers and regular collaborators in the Superfried network – HiFi.
I will then fine-tune further by consulting eco specialist web agency Jut-So in Germany – a new addition to the Superfried network. I am also reviewing the current hosting and eco benefits of the current static website strategy.
I was also getting frustrated seeing lots of corporations with no integrity grabbing a lot of media attention with false promises of good intent. Whilst organisations, genuinely trying to make a difference were unseen, unheard, or simply ignored.
So I wrote a book – well, an ebook. Yes, I am as shocked as you are! 10 tips to help those with genuine intentions to cut through the incessant Greenwash. See the link below. I gathered these case studies – Superfried and external – to provide a useful guide on how to convey your eco credentials with authenticity and to build genuine trust with your clients.
From a personal perspective, I also need to do a lot more. I find it hard to stick to new routines, so I decided to document my endeavours in the hope that it would lead to permanent change. You can read about my progress towards a more sustainable lifestyle on the Walk the Talk pages – see the link below. I will be considering the carbon footprint of my purchase options. I will also test out eco friendly products to see if they are practical, affordable, and actually any good.
Environmental projects by design agency Superfried
Environmental projects by Superfried
Third party accreditation
1% for the Planet
1% for the Planet
Effective corporate donations
Surf through the Greenwash – Tips to ensure your genuine messages are trusted and heard by Superfried
Surf through the Greenwash
An ebook by Superfried
Walk the Talk – My transition towards a more eco conscious lifestyle and business
Walk the Talk
Transition to a more eco lifestyle and business
07 Superfried is not a logo design firm
This is not strictly true. I obviously design logos as part of branding design projects. And for some, very specific clients I will create just the logo marque rather than a complete brand identity system. This will usually occur when the customer has an in-house design team in place and they require the marque to work within existing brand guidelines.
But, I would not call myself a logo designer and in most scenarios, I will turn down individual logo design requests. The reason for this is that if I were to carry out this work, I would not be providing a complete solution and advising the client to the best of my ability. From experience when I have only created the logo, I have seen how ineffective it was. Armed with their new logo in hand, the client would subsequently supply it to a web developer, a printer, a merchandiser etc and each would employ their approach on how it should be used. Unsurprisingly the result was an inconsistent mess. For branding, consistency is key.
The other reason is price. When developing a brand identity, I have consistently found that up to 50% of the time can be swallowed up just by the discovery and logo development phase. This is because these stages set the style and direction from which everything else should follow and it is therefore essential to get these right. This requires time and consideration. Consequently, if I were to propose a price for a logo at 50% of the rate for a complete branding solution, very few would be keen to proceed.
So in summary, Superfried is a graphic design and branding agency. It is not a logo design shop.
Logos by Superfried
Logos by Superfried
I have been designing for over 20 years now and my experimental project – Superfried – has managed to thrive for 16 of them.
Two decades have allowed me to work across a wide range of sectors from health, the environment, and non-profits to start-ups, retail, law, technology, music, entertainment, editorial, and the arts.
I have been fortunate to work with organisations of all shapes and sizes from individuals and small start-ups through to global multinationals. Advancements in technology have also enabled me to work with clients throughout the world in the most unexpected locations such as South Africa, Indonesia, Russia, Sweden, NYC, LA, and Stockport.
But so what? How does that help you?
The benefit of extensive time is the opportunity to make and observe a lot of mistakes, which has enabled me to learn. I can now help you to navigate the same pitfalls and challenges regardless of the size, sector, or location of your organisation. Why make a mistake if it can be avoided?
Eclectic projects by design agency Superfried
Eclectic projects by Superfried
09 Typography and personal projects
My involvement in typography has been a completely organic process. When I was a kid I had no real direct interest in type, but what I was obsessed with was logos. I used to draw a lot and consistently tried to replicate them. I would then use the same typographic forms for my own creations.
When I started to design professionally, for branding work I always found there was some element of an ‘off the shelf’ typeface that was not quite right. An element would be too distracting, inconsistent, or causing too much negative space. This led me to create my own bespoke letterforms.
This approach was hugely beneficial for my clients since their logotype would be unique. It is also cost-efficient since the common ‘use as a logo’ license fees would no longer be a concern.
Over the years I noticed I had accumulated a lot of rejected, unused typographic styles and experiments from branding projects. It seemed crazy to let them all go to waste. But what use were they?
Years ago, creating an actual typeface was complex and required expensive software. Then came along Glyphs. This affordable package made it easy to take designs straight across from Illustrator. So with many of the distinct, unused styles, I started to see if it was possible to build the complete character set. For others that were too experimental, I focused on just the numbers to create personal projects.
This experimentation was highly rewarding, both personally and professionally. It led to the development of 15+ commercially available typefaces, professional commissions, and personal projects that have received numerous press features and even design awards. This process taught me to never let a good idea go to waste. Reuse and share – it could become the starting point of the next design project.
Typography by Superfried
Typography by Superfried
Personal and professional projects by Superfried
You work for them – Typefaces by Superfried
You Work for Them
Typefaces by Superfried
MyFonts – Typefaces by Superfried
Typefaces by Superfried
Marbles – Designed by Superfried. Built by F37.
Marbles – Designed by Superfried. Built by F37
As alluded to in point 9, experimentation has always been a key aspect to my work. When I was a child I used to draw a lot and was good at art. However, I was missing the skill I craved and that my sons now have – I could not draw from my head. I could replicate with reasonable accuracy what was in front of me, but extracting the ideas and pictures from my mind was a constant frustration. The perfectionist in me would be persistently disappointed with everything I created myself. So I resorted to only drawing what I could see in front of me, which limited my opportunity to experiment with ideas.
But then I had access to a computer. Like everyone else, I had lots of games, but unlike the rest, I also had an art package with a mouse.
Now for the young readers, this will be confusing – duh, every computer has a mouse!
Not back in the 80’s they didn’t. I even had an art package on my ZX Spectrum +2 – this was a machine with only 8 colours and a tape deck! However, I found it provided a way for me to create and constantly refine until it looked right. Until it matched the image that was in my head.
After the Spectrum came the powerhouse of the 90’s – the Commodore Amiga 500! This 16-bit machine was the next level with over 4,000 colours and even the potential to animate. The art package was called Deluxe Paint and it featured a digital representation of Tutankhamun’s mask on the cover. I was mesmerised. It was so influential I even used the machine to create some of the pieces for my GCSE art coursework.
This may all sound like I am a complete tech nerd. But in fact, I am not particularly interested in computers or gadgets. What I am interested in is what they enable me to create. Like a painter and their brush, or a street artist and their spray can – a computer is just the tool that works for me.
When I eventually went solo as a graphic designer, I traded under my own name and the majority of my design work was very corporate, since this was where most projects resided. But this was not why I wanted to become a designer. I had been inspired to take this risk by amazing design agencies like The Designers Republic, not stylised data in annual reports. I required an outlet to be free and experiment.
I could not afford to risk what I already had, so I was reluctant to include any experimental design work in my portfolio. Therefore I decided to create a risk-free alter ego to showcase my more flamboyant design ideas. Superfried was born. This platform was fun, but I never thought I would ever be able to make the switch. But just two years later, Superfried was promoted to full-time and here to stay.
Great, but how does that help you?
Experimentation is hugely beneficial for the client. It is through this approach that we get to the unconventional idea or the happy accident that ensures the design work will be different, stand out, and remembered.
ZX Spectrum + 2
Zx Spectrum +2
My first computer
The Artist II – My first art package
The Artists II
My first art package
Commodore Amiga 500
Commodore Amiga 500
My second computer
My next art package
The Designers Republic
The Designers Republic
My inspiration to become a designer