Rick Raby’s one of our designers. Great at concept-driven design and really bad at counting, he caught our attention by pitching for a place here with a bottle of beer. We pinned him down for a quick chat.
What’s your story? What brought you to AHOY and where were you before?
Before coming here, I was studying graphic design at Stockport College. I’d done a two-year foundation course at Manchester college, learning the basics, and then another two at Stockport college. I used that time to build my portfolio, doing my coursework and trying to keep up with extracurricular stuff like lecture posters and degree show branding, which is what led me here.
We invited lots of Manchester studios, and the creative director from Ahoy got in touch. They were looking for a junior at the time, and that ended up being me. Three years later, I’m still here.
Is there such a thing as a typical day or week at AHOY?
No, it kinds of ebbs and flows. You get weeks where I’m working on a lot of retained work, and tidying up projects that are near completion, contrasted with weeks working on pitches and fitting those around the other work, so there’s a lot of plate spinning.
What do you see as your strengths as a designer?
It tends to be more idea-driven stuff. It sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think of myself as a particularly visual designer; I’m more concept driven – that’s where my designs starts, and it’s the concept informs the rest. I really don’t like projects where the only aim is to make something pretty.
Do you find that working with the other designers improves your work?
Yeah, it always has done. I take inspiration from both their work and their methods. I learn from the way they pitch jobs in, and from opening various artwork files and saying, “Shit, I would never have set that up like that, in terms of the technical set-up, but actually, it’s much better.”
What does good design look like to you?
That’s a very difficult question. Do we produce good work? Yes. But, other times, we’re asked to produce stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily say is good. We can advise, but there’s not a lot we can do about it if a client puts their foot down.
Is that good by virtue of the fact that’s what your client wants?
Ah, but you can’t be a purist
No, but we’re perfectionists by nature, so we have to try.
Describe yourself at work in three words
This is the question I was dreading! “Not bad at pool” – no, wait, that’s four…
Oh dear. Try again, then: describe yourself at home in three words
Ask my girlfriend!
If someone’s wondering whether AHOY’s going to be the right agency for them, what would you say?
If they’re wondering, we’re probably not right for them. They have to really feel it. It kinds of follows on from the question about what makes good design. I’d say the clients who’ve done the least research into us tend to be the ones who are the most difficult to work with. If you’ve seen our work online but you’ve still got to ask if we’re right for you, I’d say we’re probably not going to be a good fit.
Who is a good fit, then?
The people who’ve been the best to work with are open, they treat us as collaborators as opposed to service providers.
What about budget? Does a big budget make for a good project?
Not at all. We don’t need someone throwing loads of money at us – the important thing is that mutual respect: the client likes what we do and they’re happy to let us do it, and we can see the value in what they do. We believe in their project, and they believe in us – that’s what matters.
Does the client have to give over to you completely creatively? What if they come to you with a bit of an idea – does that help or hinder you?
Constraints to work within are always good. It could be things like main touch points.If a brand will communicate in print predominantly, then there’s not much point in us focusing our attention on animated artwork because it just won’t get used.
What’s difficult is when a client wants a rebrand and they don’t know what they want – they don’t know their own business well enough. We’re problem solvers, and if the client doesn’t know what the problem is, we can’t solve it. And that’s frustrating for them and equally frustrating for us.
Design isn’t a science but sometimes there’s a right answer, or there is something that’s as close as you can get to a right answer. We want to achieve that, we don’t want to be miles away. If we are miles away, we might as well not have done the project.
Do you like being a graphic designer?
I wouldn’t do anything else, I don’t think. It satisfies that part of me that has to organise and create. As clichéd as it is to say, I get to come and work with my mates day to day, what more can you want?
Where can you be found when you’re not here at AHOY?
Altrincham, usually – the gym or the market.
What do you do at the market, just eat?
No secret fruit and veg stall?
Nope, just hang about.
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised by.
I’m actually pretty boring.
Any final words?
This could’ve been worse.