Once upon a time there was a design agency call 3 Dogz in the great unexplored region north of the border in Toronto, Canada. This was a very talented bunch of folks who are as much fun as they are creative. One of the Dogz, let’s call him Dave Dog, was the most irreverent of all. Completely at home in a full-sized bunny suit, his catch phrase was “f you, you f’ing f” a saying he picked up during a design conference in New Orleans.
Dave Gouveia is the Dogz real name. After 20 years in “the business” and 10 years in the agency, Dave now works as a freelance creative on some very diverse projects. “I provide freelance creative services for a wide range of clients over multiple disciplines,” Dave says on his website. “My forte is print design, but I like to dabble in anything creative, and have worked on everything from mobile apps to movie titles and interior/space design consultations. Along with actually doing the work, I also excel in creative direction for those who just need an experienced eye.”
A very funny guy, Dave’s work is seriously good. Along with fellow Dog and former partner Chris Elkerton, they authored “Creative Stuff: An Activity Book for Visual Thinkers” published by HOW Books. His designs are contemporary, edgy, and diverse. He has a wildly creative mind and flair for the dramatic.
It’s been a while since we shared some Canadian Whiskey, Cheers buddy! Ok, that’s not a question, but the sentiment is real.
Oh how I long for the days when our group of seriously creative people got together around a table and waxed poetic about all things innovative and visionary. Has it really been so long? It’s good to know that we all haven’t lost our creative touch, even if we’re not in the same location and there isn’t a bottle of Crown Royal between us. (even though there should be)
What is your “Why,” the thing that gets you going and designing each day?
Truth be told, design is hard. Most people in other industries don’t realize that they are hiring us for our brains. Not because we know the Adobe CS. Not because we can draw. Not because some of us are good with colour and others with type and yet others with copy. It’s because we use our brains to solve their problems in a variety of (typically) visual ways. And unless you’re also a good salesperson, there’s no guarantee that what you try to pitch will hit its mark. Design, like fine art, is subjective. What moves one person will do nothing for another. It’s our job to ‘sell’ why it works…. That’s what keeps me going. Knowing that beyond all the creative goodies I can conjure up for my client to look at, it’s getting them to truly understand why I did what I did, and why it works to solve their problem. Having a client get that lightbulb moment is a great feeling… because many of them are not always visual or creative people, so they suddenly begin to understand the process, which makes future projects much smoother.
Who or what inspires you?
Back in the day I used to watch a lot of movies and I have very diverse tastes in music. Film posters
Feel free to name-drop. What designers inspire your work?
There was a time when I would rhyme off names like a rolodex, but I just haven’t been able to keep in tune with things since having children. Mainstays like James Victore, Sagmeister and Chip Kidd are always in the background—having interviewed them and spent candid time with these visionairies has kept them in the forefront, so I occassionaly try to see what they’re up to. When I was teaching I was really inspired by the students… the standouts that you know really went above and beyond to visually solve issues. Their process was inspiring. Sometimes it’s not the big names that have the most impact.
Since going out freelance, what challenges have you encountered? What rewards?
The biggest challenge as a freelancer is, dare I say, money. When you have a steady job you can plan ahead as you can anticipate when the next influx of cash is coming. As a freelancer you could literally go months with nothing (because typical clients take 30-45 days to pay) and other months it’s like winning the lottery. But that is terrible for planning ahead and dealing with the daily expenses of life. Also, being in charge of handling all that paperwork and invoicing is an additional task to the work I’m already doing. I’ve completed jobs and forgotten to invoice. I’ve invoiced and forgotten to follow up. The horror stories abound. It can get overwhelming. As for what I love—no question, it’s the flexibility. I can be honest with my clients about my day—pick up my kids, take a day off to take them to appointments, take a week off to go to the cottage. It really is a reward that would be hard to come by unless you worked for a great company that would allow that—and those are few and far between.
When you are designing, what is your process? What do you do to find your solutions?
I try to sketch first…get a first idea down in visual form. It then all flows from that. I also do a lot of research depending on the project—what are others in that industry doing? What are the colour trends? Then I like researching fonts. Not all clients can afford custom fonts, but there are those rare times when you can get your hands on something truly unique, and you know because it has a cost associated to it that you won’t suddenly see creative all over the place using that font (there was a time where almost 75% of all movie posters I saw were using Trajan). I also find inspiration in font research as many times samples of artwork using that font are included, and that might strike an inspiring nerve. When I present the work, I also make sure to describe to my client my thought process—why I picked this font, or colour, or composition. It helps sell it (which I mentioned earlier).
How important is community to you and your work? How to you maintain your community?
I’m embarrased to say that the concept of design/creative community has diminished for me over the last while since having children. Because I work from home, there is a definite disconnect from the industry, putting the onus on me to ‘stay informed’ and in the know. And that is hard. I haven’t seen my peers in a long time, and when I do it’s clear that they are more up to date on things than I, and I understand that fault is totally my own. But time slips and before you know it months have gone by. I figured the easiest way to get back into the groove was to explore teaching. I could provide guidance to students from a fundamentals perspective—no matter what the newest version of CC is, if you don’t have the basics of design down, your work will suffer. That’s how I try to maintain my connections to the community—by teaching and helping shape those future design minds.
You describe your portfolio as “a cornucopia of different disciplines.” What are some of your favorite projects?
Ha! I say that because I literally feel like I’ve worked on everything—web, mobile, wayfinding signage, interior work, movie titles, print, packaging…if it’s part of the business I likely explored it at some point. I’ve been lucky to work with some very creative and fun clients since going freelance (Levi’s and 9 Story Entertainment) and it’s always a pleasure to work on items for them. 9 Story is a company that mainly deals in children’s programming—so many of the shows my kids watch—and it’s a great feeling when my kids see the items on my computer and feel proud (and in awe) of dad. And because it’s kids programming the projects are always fun, colourful and I can’t say enough about how fantastic my contacts there are. With Levi’s you know you’re working on a well-established brand in the now, and that also helps keep my design game in tune with trends. And again, my contacts are amazing people. That’s what makes it all worth it for me—working with fantastic people who appreciate what I do and understand the value in it.