James Barnard: Designing Logos for an Audience of Millions

"Logo Design with Love": Inside James Barnard's creative process.

May 29, 2024
Creative Stories

Watch the Interview 🎙️

So you've probably seen this good-looking British chap on Instagram with a nice beard, filming Adobe Illustrator tutorials, and making a goofy face with a thumbs-up.

Despite having over 500,000 Instagram followers (and a very transparent Insta stories habit) there's probably a lot about James Barnard you did not know.

Unsurprisingly, there's a lot that goes into running a successful design business, and the chapters in James's life that led him to where he is is a story we can all learn a lot from.

MMG Design had the opportunity to interview James recently, and I made it my PERSONAL mission to learn as much as I could.

So... we sat down and chatted- all things design, logos, process, and building a career off of your creativity and social media. Here’s a brief snippet of what went down:

Views of @Andy

Doing it Backwards

James’ path to becoming a renowned TikTok logo designer was anything but conventional. With a degree in music electronics and a dream of becoming a record producer, graphic design wasn't even on his radar initially.

I mentioned in the interview that James seems to have taken a little bit of a backward path – starting with more complex design on web and digital applications, before moving back to the more traditional sense in crafting logos.

After spending four years working as an administrative researcher, a copy of Photoshop found its way onto his computer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I got a copy of Photoshop on my desktop machine to kind of compress images and make a few little pretty patterns for the backgrounds, and then I realized this Photoshop stuff is incredible. I really enjoyed it."

Process

So, how does James craft those eye-catching logos that make businesses stand out, and garner millions of views online?

James is very transparent about the fact that he isn’t an “illustrator”- at least, not an analog one. James prefers to get into the software as early as possible and begin creating.

This probably comes as a relief to many creatives.... especially the ones who feel they aren’t “artistic” in the traditional sense.

James believes in a thorough process rather than relying on rote creativity. He believes in getting to know his clients inside out, understanding their target market, and even asking quirky questions like, "If your brand was a celebrity, who would it be?" This helps him capture the essence of the brand and create a design that resonates with the audience.

James's tagline- "Logo Design with Love."
"I have a big questionnaire that they fill out, and it has questions about their target market and sometimes I ask a weird one like, 'If your brand was a celebrity, what celebrity would they be?'"

(Pause: answer this question for yourself and your brand. See? I got you, didn’t I. Comment your celebrity under this newsletter)

Our process MMG Design is actually quite similar- becoming a personal expert on the client and REALLY knowing your customer is so important because it’s a big part of what we are supposed to deliver: results, not just pretty images. One can’t happen without the other.

The Art of Iteration

But the real magic happens during the design phase. James sketches jumps into Adobe Illustrator, then back to sketching, constantly iterating and refining his ideas. And when he gets stuck? Well, that's when he takes a break, grabs a coffee, and lets his mind reset.

"You wouldn't believe how much your work improves just by stepping away frequently."

The Business Side of Social

For James, Social media has played a massive role in his success, with 80% of his business coming from platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

This is a refreshing disprover on the idea that social media is a "checkbox task"in your business. James becomes a true scientist, and dissect his past videos, sharing as much value as you can, and a short period as the videos will allow. It's interesting, because the short time frame forces him to speak concisely and clearly-which comes in super handy when talking to clients.

James credits this, along with vigorous preparation, to have success at several Adobe Max speaking events. Give them a watch, and it'll be clear that James prepared beforehand.

James @ Adobe MAX 2023

But he's also candid about the struggles of regulating consumption and creation on these addictive apps. His advice? Set boundaries, take breaks, and even consider having separate devices for work and social media.

The Wisdom of Experience

If James could go back and give his younger self one piece of advice, it would be to start focusing on logo design earlier and get on camera as soon as possible. After all, the social proof and community he's built have been game-changers for his career.

"I guess I wished I had focused in on JUST Logo design.. earlier."

I really look up to James because he has managed to use his skills and experience to architect his day to revolve around the things he enjoys doing most: logo design and content creation. That’s pretty cool.

I think that’s something we should all strive for: balance, the ability to work through problems creatively, and the ability to share it with others.

So- this is your sign to share your work. No matter your insecurities or reservations. Just do it.

You may not have 1000s of thousands of designers watching like James does… but the growth is in the habit of sharing.

The ability to learn from others, especially those you admire, is truly a superpower. That's why I started this show... and it's also why I created the Business Owner's Essential Reading Database- to succinctly keep notes, find books at the cheapest price online, and use the information of those more successful than me to level up.

WATCH THE FULL video.