We’ve been longtime fans of Top Level designer, thisisremedy (aka Callum Humphreys). He joined 99designs back in 2014 to connect with a larger, more global client base—and his efforts have certainly paid off.
Today, he’s a full-time freelancer with a diverse clientele ranging from food trucks to furniture stores. Throughout his many successes, there’s no doubt his fresh take on retro design has been the secret sauce along the way. His sought-after branding work boasts a mix of whimsical typography, bold colors and stylish nostalgia that connects with clients across industries and around the globe.
Working through 99designs on a weekly basis, Callum has enjoyed a lucrative blend of contest wins and 1-to-1 Project work (thanks to plenty of happy clients). Here, we sat down to chat with him about his career so far, how to build a client portfolio and where he sees the design field going in the next few years.
Name: Callum Humphreys
99designs profile: thisisremedy
Location: Isle of Anglesey, North Wales, UK
Specialty: Logo & branding
How did you learn design?
I attended college straight after high school and studied a national diploma in art and design, I specialized in graphic design in my second year. I left college and went on to study graphic design and communication in University of Swansea, but only studied there for one year and I left. The course wasn’t for me and I knew I didn’t really need a degree to be a good designer.
I have always wanted to do things my own way. When I left uni, I knew my passion was in design and I knew what I needed to do to improve my skills. To this day I am constantly learning.
Describe your design style
I’m not 100% sure I have a specific style… I think it’s just a hybrid of a ton of different styles. For the most part it has a retro feel, bold lines and fun vibe.
How do you get your inspiration?
The usual sources on the web—Pinterest, Dribble etc. But my favorite thing is just to flick through my books, I have all sorts from sign writing books to straight up Logo and Identity books.
I am also a bit of a hoarder of weird “design-y junk” that I like to look at. There is something a lot more gratifying seeing a logo printed on some old beaten up box rather than just staring at it on a screen.
Do your surroundings impact your design style?
I don’t think where I am based impacts the aesthetics of my work, but it does definitely affect my workflow. If I’m frustrated with work I usually go for a walk in the forest near my house to clear my head.
I live in an area that lacks any sort of real “design scene”. The creatives here tend to be more landscape photographers and painters. What it lacks in design it more than makes up for in forests or beaches to walk and just have some time away from the computer, which is always welcome!
Are there any other art mediums you like to work in?
I like shooting 35mm photography. I’ve always been drawn to the documentarian style of photography that is raw and gritty.
One of my favorite(s) are Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. Their photography can be quite dark and sometimes upsetting, but I think it tells a real story and evokes a lot of emotion—which good photography should do. I would recommend their book Ghetto. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but I imagine its what a Wes Anderson film based in a mental institution would look like!
What do you think is the most important part of the design process?
The brainstorm and doodle stage is probably (in my opinion) one of the most important. That’s where most ideas start, and where you can separate the good ones and weed out the not so good ones!
It’s a means to and ends. One of those scribbles will evolve into the final product… plus it’s where you can have the most fun!
What led you to start using 99designs?
It was a way to connect with different clients and businesses that I would more than likely not cross paths with if it wasn’t for 99d.
There is a good mixture of projects spanning many different industries, meaning one day I can be designing a logo for a food truck in London, the next day something for a furniture company in Amsterdam. It keeps work interesting!
These days I am on the site every week working on something, either entering contests or working on 1-to-1 projects.
What is the #1 benefit you’ve found from using 99designs?
For me, it’s the variety. My brain works a million miles an hour, so I like bouncing from one project to another.
What kinds of client relationships have you built?
I have won a number of contests that were followed up with 1-to-1 projects. It’s always nice to know you have gained their trust through your work and the way you conduct yourself that makes them want to use your services again, thats how you know you are doing something right!
What are your three tips for designers who want to build their clientele and skills from 99designs?
1. Be creative, think outside the box and don’t fall into the old “generic” trap! Draw inspiration from a number of sources instead of just relying on this month’s trend. This is the only way you will stand out as a designer.
2. Don’t be a YES-man ( or woman ). Engage and talk with clients, explain why you have used that typeface, colour or imagery etc. If you are confident and can explain the reasons and thought process behind your design, this will help you both get on the same wavelength and help in developing ideas further, together.
3. Love what you do, it will show through your work! If you ask any good designer, they will tell you the same: it’s more than just a 9 to 5.
How would you sum up graphic design in one sentence?
“Design is thinking made visual.” – Saul Bass
How do you see the field of graphic design changing in the next few years?
In the last few years I think freelance design has become a more viable and profitable career choice. A lot of well known and established designers have left their big studio jobs to go it alone!
Let’s hope the freelance side of the ‘design industry’ carries on going from strength to strength.
In your opinion, what are the key differences that separate great design from poor or mediocre design?
Firstly an understanding and grasp of the basics is essential—kerning and tracking, type selection and type pairing, color combination, overall flow, composition, scalability and legibility.
If any one of these are not right, the whole design will suffer and result in a poor, mediocre outcome.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Now is the time to tell us.
Just a quick thank you for reaching out! I’m always keen to collaborate with like-minded people on exciting jobs, if you have any ideas feel free to drop me a message!