How the pandemic forced me to take action on something I had been stalling for years
Leo Carter began designing since he first learned how to hold a pencil, what started with pictures of flowers and animals eventually evolved into complex logos and creative assets for small and large brand names. Now with over a decade of experience working for agencies, helping others build and establish their identities he has finally decided to take the next step and begin building his own brand.
In this interview we chat with Leo to better understand how it all began and why he decided to make this leap of faith in the midst of a pandemic.
Where did you learn to design?
In reality we all learn to design at an early age but like any other activity, dedication, precision, and the hunger to learn sets you apart. If I ask you to draw your hand, what you will give me the 100th time will be extremely better than what you gave me with your first sketch. Now imagine you have teachers, peers, and colleagues who are all genuinely interested in you doing better helping you along the way. I have been fortunate enough to go down that path and continue learning every day.
When was the first time you got paid for designing a logo?
I remember it really well actually. I was 13 years old and my father and his friends wanted to start their own company. He asked me if I had any ideas for a logo, For one week in school all I did was doodling designs and getting frustrated because I had a clear idea of what I wanted to give them but could not translate that on paper. I think eventually after filling up more than 30 pages of sketches I finally nailed it. I shared it with my dad, the partners approved and a few days later he handed me his business card with my design on it! The satisfaction of seeing your work in real life is incredible, till date I still haven’t got used to it and when I see my work on a billboard or a magazine or on a website, it still takes me a second to process that I created this.
By the way my dad and his partners didn’t really pay me for that but he did get me a full set of color pencils and design equipment that paved my way of starting to take design more seriously.
You recently decided to start your own business, why now?
To be honest this has been in the back of my head for the longest time. The pandemic and the lockdown if anything helped me put brakes on the direction of my life and allow me to get very honest with myself. I love designing but what I really love is not to help the big names but to help the small business owners, the guys who are in deep need of a fresh new look, who need a makeover, and with that their whole business can suddenly turn around. I understand that their budgets are limited but I also know there are a lot of them and if I become a freelancer and reduce the overhead of an agency I can offer these people affordable rates for high quality work and much faster speed.
After elaborating with myself in front of the mirror, in my head at night, and almost everywhere else, I realized if I want to do it, this is the time. The world is changing and I think this decision is very aligned with that change.
As you know we are not short of freelance designers, What makes you stand out?
I believe like a sports match we all start from 0, but our experience, our capacity, our talent, our will, and dedication during the course of the match will slowly win us points and we eventually start rising above others.
My goal is to bring all the good that I have learned in a corporate environment and remove all the bottlenecks and bureaucracy that a corporate environment offers to make a perfect balance for a large audience.
Yes there are a lot of freelancers, but to be frank many of the mare not good. I am building a structure that every single customer who puts their trust in me becomes an amplifier of my name and the quality of service I demand from myself for them.
You have worked in many different countries all over the world in the course of your career, how was that?
I loved it. Getting to know people from all over the world, having friends in every country, with different cultures, different upbringing, this has really helped me expand my perspective. I have probably designed over 3000logos in the course of my career in different industries, but that is only one dimension, learning that for example colors have different meanings from one country to the other, an animal mascot in one country can mean power and in the other can be a sign of disrespect really adds a dimension to your work where you can view things in a much more globalized fashion.
I really appreciate the opportunity life has given me to be able to experience these things first hand. I think given I also want my clients to be from anywhere around the world, this experience will come in handy.
What is your process when you start a new logo for a client?
I think I always start with asking a lot of questions. I really want to see the business exactly as the owner of the company does. I know they had a vision when they started and I want to make sure I am aligned with that. Once it is clear I can quickly understand who this is catering for and that really turns on the engine in my brain to think how to mix the name, the idea, the vision, and elements in the world together to represent all of that in a single design.
I will usually have a draft or two ready to share with the client in a few days and from there it is just a matter of fine tuning together till handover.
The process is usually simple, I try to make it fun and interactive. The unveiling is always exciting … for both of us.
What would you say to other designers who are also contemplating going freelance?
I would say, dig deep before making that decision and don’t justify your flaws, accept them and ask yourself if you are able to overcome them because they could be the reason for failure and you need to be straight with yourself from the beginning. A good comparison of becoming a freelancer or working for a company is like going to a gym on your own or with the push of a personal trainer. Some people can do it and others can never do it without someone pushing them. It goes the same with freelancing. Yes you are the owner of your time, but you are also working 24-7. If you are doing this to not have to do the regular 9-6 I would tell you right now this is not for you.
If you are doing it because you believe you are hard working and that you can make more of yourself than what your current situation offers, if you are passionate about what you can offer then by all means jump into it.
Just remember, working for yourself is scary, you doubt yourself in bad days but in the end of the day it is yours and in your control to fix and run.
One final advice is that we should also remember that our reason for leaving is not always defined by financial awards. Of course we all want to make enough money for that to not be a concern anymore, but what I mean is you may decide to become a freelancer, reduce your income but have more control of your life, and that is completely fine. Success is defined by happiness not by cash, and we should sometimes remind ourselves of that in this fast paced world we live in these days.
As a final question I want to ask how can someone get in touch with you?
I am back in New York now, and I am actually starting slow with just a facebook page and only doing logo designs for now. Giving myself time to work out the website, social media accounts, and general processes. I don’t want to spread myself too thin at first.
If you want to contact me you can either send me a message directly on my facebook page https://fb.com/leocarterdesigns or send me an email on my personal gmail account firstname.lastname@example.org.