Brian Steely is an American designer who hails from Atlanta Georgia. He is quite possibly the foremost authority when it comes to monoline structures, also known as line art. His unique take on logos and attention to detail will surely stand the test of time.
What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer?
Straight out of college I was working as a PR intern at Jackson Spalding. I wasn’t very good at PR and I was starting to worry I had made a bad decision being an English major. Management came to me one day and said the graphic designer was leaving and did I want to try out that role. I fortunately had kept up with my art throughout my school days and was still doing concert posters, so the interest was there. It sounded a hell of a lot better than what I was currently doing, so I went back to school for design.
Where are you from? And what can you tell us about the place?
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia – born and raised. The city is full of energy and electricity. On any given night there are so many things to do. Great bars, restaurants, music venues, and a big airport to take you anywhere in the world you want to go.
What does your day consist of?
Mornings I get the kids up, feed them breakfast and take the dog for a walk. My wife takes the kids to school, so I can get to work early. I like to be in by 7:30 so I can get some work done before everyone arrives and the interruptions begin. I work until noon and try to take time at lunch to get out and stretch my legs a bit. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to clear my head mid-day. I usually leave work around 5 so I can miss the traffic on the way home. I spend some time with my family, have a beer and relax. Then family dinner – maybe some backyard basketball after dinner. A couple more hours of work. A little TV and that’s about it.
What gave birth to your unique style of line-art logos?
I’ve been designing a long time and have always loved creating logos the best. Something clicked one day and I started doing monoline work. Honestly just making up company names and designing just for the love of designing. It was refreshing. People started showing interest and it blossomed from there.
What was the first logo you ever designed?
I think I designed my first logo when I was 16, I used to put it at the bottom of my art. It ended up becoming my first tattoo a year later. It’s an “S” with sun rays around it – you know, the cool shit you do when you’re 16…
Are you a Mac or a PC?
MAC all day.
Which software do you use frequently?
Adobe Illustrator – all the time. I use Photoshop occasionally. I have a texture that I like to create for my logos using Photoshop so open it for that. InDesign once in awhile.
Three important logo design tips?
1) Keep it simple; 2) it’s got to work in black and white first; 3) make it your own.
What is your process in designing a logo?
Sketch, scan, refine. Lately, I’ll let it sit for a day and come back to it. I inevitably notice something that I didn’t the day before.
What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
I love minimalist logos. When done well, they are so simple and smart.
What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Most mornings I get on dribbble to see what’s new – I’m truly inspired by the work I see out there. Music for sure – I’ve got a nice system in my office and am able to listen to it most of the day. My walls are covered with work from fellow designers who inspire me.
What are your top 5 favourite logos? (from all the logos ever created by mankind)
Never really thought much about this, but great question. Probably NIKE and then the other 4 would be Saul Bass logos.
Do you think monoline will continue as a trend?
Maybe not a trend per se, but there will always be a need and place for the design style.
Tell us about Steely Works
Steely Works is my boutique branding shop within Jackson Spalding. I focus on building brands for any size company. It came to a point this past year where I had to make a choice – go freelance, take another job or try to make this work within my current agency. I was working all day and coming home and working most of the night. I’ve worked at Jackson Spalding for 18 years and love all the people here. It’s a smart, driven crew. I liked the idea of helping to create a brand for someone with the many resources and talents of Jackson Spalding to provide additional assistance if needed – for example, I create a logo and hand it off to someone else to build the website under my art direction.
What’s the best part of what you do?
I love creating a logo or illustration for a client and seeing their joy with the finished product. They are just so thankful. And it wasn’t always like this, there were many years of designing with very little appreciation, so it’s really nice to feel the love.
One thing you always carry with you?
Field Notes. I’m always writing things down and sketching ideas. You never know when the next great idea is going to come, and so you have to be prepared.
What’s lined up for Brian Steely in the future?
I’m excited about Steely Works and getting it off the ground. That’s really my focus for now.
Who is the most inspiring person to you?
So many people inspire me, but I if I had to pick one person it would be my Dad. Because he taught me to have a strong work ethic while staying humble and most of all enjoying life.
What is your message of inspiration for budding logo designers?
Work on finding your style and own it. Get out and meet other designers. Go to design conferences. Find ways to stay inspired and you’ll grow much faster.