Designer Interview With Tom Muller
Tom Muller is a designer and creative director who has worked across graphic, digital, brand, and product design for more than 20 years. He applies a craft-like finesse to the creation & execution of visual communication across platforms — and makes work that is relevant, that resonates and inspires.
Named as one of the top 100 designers working in the UK today by The Drum; He regularly speak at design events worldwide such as (Reasons, OFFF, FITC, Glug, the Apple Store), while his work has been recognised by The Eisner Awards, The Harvey Awards, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, New York Magazine, Boing Boing, The Guardian — and featured in over 100 design & industry publications worldwide including Design Week, Creative Review, Design Boom, Grafik, Computer Arts, and Varoom.
Tom has been fortunate enough to partner with — and design for — clients and brands across technology startups, film studios, Fortune 500 companies, producers, publishers, artists, and cultural institutions that include Google, HSBC, Canon, Magnum Photos, IRC, DC Entertainment, WGSN, WIRED, DIESEL, Darren Aronofsky, Image Comics, Paramount Pictures, Samsung, Universal Pictures, Disney, Sony, MTV, Zonza, Konami, PlayStation, Vertu, Flipboard, Valiant Entertainment, Getty Images, Vertu, The ICA, Lenovo, Hearst, the BBC, and many more.
The Logo Creative — Thanks for taking part in the interview Tom
Tom Muller — Thanks for reaching out, I know your blog and read some of the interviews, Really nice!
The Logo Creative — What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Tom Muller — I always knew I’d do something creative as a career (thanks to growing up in a family of interior architects, painters, architects, and fine artists), but it was after failing my studies as an industrial designer — I was really bad at the physics, mathematics & engineering courses, while thriving in the creative department — I saw graphic design as a viable alternative of a discipline that combined all the things I wanted to do.
The Logo Creative — What does your day consist of?
Tom Muller — When I’m working from my home studio I usually start my days by making a big pot of coffee and then settle in for the day. I usually spend a few hours answering emails and generally catching up on *stuff*, which is anything from general admin, going over the work I did the previous day, to reading news, and chatting with collaborators, before I get stuck into design for the rest of the day, which is interspersed with emails, chats, and reading.
The Logo Creative — Are you a morning person or night owl and is there a reason why?
Tom Muller — I’d say I’m a night owl. I like the quietness and stillness of working at night. Having said that, most of my publishing clients are based in America (I’m in London, UK) so my inbox usually gets very active between 8pm and midnight.
The Logo Creative — What was the first logo you ever designed?
Tom Muller — The first logo I designed was for a sandwich shop close to my high school back in Antwerp, Belgium in 1990. I think I was 16 or 17 at the time. I made around £20 (which would be £50 nowadays when adjusted for inflation), which I duly spent on comics.
The Logo Creative — What is your favourite logo you have designed?
Tom Muller — It usually changes, because I always get excited about the work I’m doing now; but if I had to pick one I’m still proud of it’d be the WWR/WORLD WAR ROBOT logo I designed for artist Ashley Wood, which was used for a series of graphic novels and is still in use as a toy line brand from his 3A Toys company.
The Logo Creative — What is your favourite logos of all time?
Tom Muller — The two that have always stuck maybe are the ones I saw growing up and spending time in my dad’s studio: the Knoll logo by Massimo Vignelli, and the Tecno brand by Roberto Mango.
The Logo Creative — Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Tom Muller — It always starts with pencil/pen sketches of typographic shapes, letters, forms… that capture the essence of the idea that needs to be communicated. Sometimes it’s an abstract distillation of that idea; sometimes it becomes a wordmark, a type treatment… It all depends on the task at hand.
The Logo Creative — What brands do you most admire and how do they influence your creative thinking?
Tom Muller — I admire brands that manage to become timeless or at least ubiquitous through a consistent application of design and strategy.
The Logo Creative — What do you consider your most successful design project, and why?
Tom Muller — I honestly couldn’t tell. It really varies, because what’s the benchmark of success? Is it about longevity? Impact? Sales? I always feel that the work I do now is the most successful because it builds on everything I’ve learned along the way and I feel that I’ve made something new. I also feel that once I pick something that becomes could become a benchmark to judge everything else against. (The answer is the “Coenfographic” infographic which was seen by 1+million people over a two-week time span, and hangs (apparently) in the offices of the Coen brothers.)
The Logo Creative — How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Tom Muller — Anywhere from a few hours to 6 months or more. There’s no real average because the needs, goals, and deliverables (effort) on each project is completely different.
The Logo Creative — What are you recommended design books to read?
Tom Muller — Anything by Unit Editions, anything that is on design theory and history. Try to avoid books that are about current trends. Read books on other creative disciplines than the one(s) you practice. I have always loved Taschen’s model, creating great books that are affordable and accessible to everyone.
The Logo Creative — Which software do you use frequently and is there any you would recommend to designers?
Tom Muller — I rely as much on the Adobe Creative Cloud as any other designer.
The Logo Creative — What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Tom Muller — I have a weak spot for very bold and graphic logos. Clean typography, timeless (abstract) symbols, needs to work in black and white.
The Logo Creative — What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Tom Muller — Anything around me. I’ve gotten ideas and inspiration from the most mundane things imaginable in my studio or my neighborhood.
The Logo Creative — When you’re not designing do you have a favorite free time activity you like to do?
Tom Muller — It’s usually more designing. I feel I’m very lucky I’ve managed to turn a passion into a job.
The Logo Creative — What was the biggest challenge you ever faced on a project?
Tom Muller — The biggest challenge is always the gap between available time and time you’d like to have (or sometimes need to have) to spend on a project.
The Logo Creative — In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job as a designer?
Tom Muller — Best part: Being able to make and inventing new things.
Worst part: Always having the urge to make and invent new things, which can often derail you if you’re not careful. Learning when to stop is a skill in itself.
And company admin.
The Logo Creative — Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Tom Muller — My parents, for setting me up on a creative path. A lot of my contemporaries and friends — I always get jazzed when I see people I know make cool stuff.
The Logo Creative — Who is your favourite graphic designer and why?
Tom Muller — Massimo Vignelli, for his unwavering discipline in his approach to design and the resulting work. Herb Lubalin, Wim Crouwel, Lance Wyman, Gaspar Saladino, Saul Bass, Pablo Ferro,… the list goes on.
The Logo Creative — What’s your favourite design quote or quote in general, and do you have a mantra or saying you live by?
Tom Muller — “Adapt and improve.” I’ve been living by this mantra for so long I can’t remember if it’s something I made up or not.
The Logo Creative — In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Tom Muller — Visual communication through an exciting combination of type and imagery.
The Logo Creative — What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Tom Muller — It took me a few years to feel confident enough that I had built up enough experience to be able to do my own thing. When I made the jump I was lucky enough I had lined up a few projects that got the ball rolling. I think the biggest sacrifice is spending all the time you have on getting yourself out there.
The Logo Creative — Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Tom Muller — Not really. I always feel that it’s through all the decisions I made in the past I got to this point.
The Logo Creative — If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Tom Muller — There’s more to life than reading comics (which is what my dad used to say, and he was right).
The Logo Creative — What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Tom Muller — Look beyond your little bubble. Everything is connected. Look around you and what you’ll learn will make you better at what you’re doing.
The Logo Creative — What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Tom Muller — Practice, practise, practise. Don’t treat it like a 9–5 job; and learn to be patient. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
learn more about Tom Muller | hellomuller.com
Check out designers interview discussion on Linkedin
Originally published at The Logo Creative | International Logo Design & Branding Studio.