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If you have a degree in what field is it? A bachelor’s in graphic communication from St. Norbert College.

Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? That's a tough one, there are so many I admire. I'd say it's a toss-up between Joe Duffy and Michael Bierut; to consistently create brilliant work for as long as they have is truly inspiring. Oh, and Marian Bantjes’ typography work is absolutely incredible.

What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? I once had to completely redesign a large identity project after it was approved by the client because the client’s husband didn't like it.

If you weren't working as a designer what would you be doing? I’m not really sure what else I would do. Maybe be a full-time illustrator, a Mac IT professional or something having to do with music. Whatever it is, it would have to involve as little math as possible.

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? The T-Mobile identity could use a refresh.

From where do your best ideas originate? They usually happen when I least expect it—right before I’m about to go to sleep, while driving, reading, in the shower—and not when I’m trying to come up with the “big idea.” Mostly I just try to sketch, read, write, research and pay attention to even the seemingly insignificant details and experiences of everyday life. You never know what will spark your next idea.

How do you overcome a creative block? I’ll go back to the brief or research materials and read, sketch and write down thoughts, lists of keywords and concepts. I also like to collaborate with others, get their feedback on the problem and on any potential solutions I’ve had up until that point. Then I’ll get away from it for a while and let the subconscious work on it. After a break I can come at it from a different perspective and see new possibilities and solutions that weren’t apparent before.

What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? Designing gig posters, album artwork and other promotional materials for rock bands, record labels, independent record stores and/or music venues. I love music and those types of projects are the perfect blend of design, illustration and typography.

Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? I’m a chronic doodler. I draw on everything and anything. I have piles of sketchbooks and folders filled with drawings, doodles and ideas for designs and illustrations on sticky notes, scraps of paper, receipts, cocktail napkins and takeout boxes. I find that all that doodling keeps the creative process fresh. Sometimes they even end up in a client project.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I really enjoy what I do, so most of the time it doesn’t feel like work. That being said, I try to make time every day for family and other interests not related to design. My wife and son are very good at helping me keep things in perspective. It’s good to have balance (to not neglect the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life), to always work hard, do your best and take the work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

What product/gadget can you not live without? A Mac. I can’t design without it.

What’s your favorite quote? “Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.” —Bob Dylan.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Design isn’t limited to logos and Web sites. There are so many design career possibilities out there; find what interests you and seek it out. Above all you need to be passionate about design and be willing to work very hard. Always remember that the computer is just a tool, knowing a software program does not replace having a great idea.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That “command-z” would severely hamper my ability to create non-digital art...and that sometimes, believe it or not, design requires math.
Brian Danaher is an art director/designer working in Minneapolis. With over a decade of professional experience he's led strategic branding, advertising, print and interactive design initiatives for brands both large and small, in addition to working as a freelance illustrator. Prior to relocating to the Twin Cities, he began his career in magazine publishing before moving on to work for design and advertising firms in Chicago. His design and illustration work has been recognized by Communication Arts, Print, How, AIGA Minnesota, Creativity, Society of Publication Designers, American Corporate ID and Logo Lounge.

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