Anyone Can Design: A Q&A with Self-Taught Designer, Elliot Ulm

Elliot Ulm is a freelance graphic designer based out of Sydney, Australia. Elliot has amassed a cool 60k followers on Instagram, with his retro style. But it’s not just Elliot’s unique design style that catches the eyes of many—he is self-taught, and thus an inspiration to all. Elliot put himself through the school of Youtube, spending hours upon hours drumming up designs. His work is proof that anyone can design if they’re willing to put the time and research in!

We spoke with Elliot a bit about his process and his thoughts on the future of logo design. Look out for our logo design challenge near the end!

Q: Elliot, can anyone be a graphic designer?

A: Yes, of course! I think that anyone can develop an “eye for design” after being exposed to it for long enough. You start to learn what you think looks good and what doesn’t – then it’s just a matter of learning the technical elements which are only getting easier to master!

Q: What was a great lesson you learned in teaching yourself to design that you still apply today?

A: A designer friend of mine who I met through Instagram told me to just “be myself” in every aspect of design, and the more I keep designing the more I see my own personality and quirks in my work which I think is really cool. Who knows if I would’ve learned the same thing at a design school (I imagine I’d have a more traditional approach, maybe) but treating my work as an extension of myself has really helped my career.

Q: What does good design entail for you?

A: I’ve always thought that good design is work that knows its good. You can tell when you look at a real established designer that there is intention and confidence behind every choice that’s been made, and I absolutely love that. Originality is huge too. In a time where it can be awfully difficult to feel like you’re creating original work—I just want to be surprised!

Q- What do you think is the biggest mistake a person can make when designing their own brand assets?

Just aiming for it to look ‘good’ and not incorporating your brand values.

View this post on Instagram

Uh oh redesign time! I've been wanting to redo this business card for ages since my style has dramatically changed and I also don't think I will ever write something better than this… Also I posted the original on reddit and people hated it so much lol it was hilarious ? #graphicdesign #design #designmemes #adobeawards #poster #designfeed #thedesignblacklist #collectgraphics #fruitsartclub #snapmagazine #inonica #graphicindex #certainmagazine #metamoderngrotesk #theposterists #generaleclectics #citysodaclub #itsnicethat #TDKpeepshow #blkmarket #adobepartner #madewithadobe #adobedesign #postereveryday #businesscards #carddesign

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Q: What are some of your fave logos of all time?

I really love some of the classic Australian logos that I grew up with like Vegemite and the ABC but on a smaller scale, there’s this Italian restaurant in Sydney called Ragazzi who had their brand designed by EASILY one of my fav studios, Something Creative Co, and the logo really is just something else. It’s just exactly what I want to aim for when I work for clients.

Q: What makes a logo really eye-catching?

I think everyone has a different response to different design elements but I LOVE really bold colors used in bold ways. Same goes with fonts!

Q- What are the top 5 questions you ask when designing a logo?

  • Does it embody the brand’s message?
  • Is it flexible? (As in, can the logo easily adapt to different mediums, like a favicon or on a billboard.)
  • Do I like it?
  • Do all the design elements feel right together?
  • Am I being myself?

Q: Walk us through your process of designing a logo?

I start every design just through experimentation on my computer. I would love to be a designer who starts by drawing in a notebook or something but I can’t draw. So I’ll open up whatever program I’m using and then just start typing out the logo and playing around with fonts and spacing. I will then add some real Elliot stylistic choices and then strip them back from there to try and get a closer idea of what suits the brand. And then it’s just a matter of more experimenting! Adding color, trying to see how it would look as a full brand identity.

Q: Favorite color combination?

A nice off-white/cream and a trio of bright and bold red, yellow, and blue. And I wouldn’t even say I’m inspired by Bauhaus. I just really like primary colors.

Q: Where do you see logo design heading?

It feels like there’s been a formula for a ‘good’ logo for the last decade or so. I think people are heading away from the standard corporate side of logo design and going for a more artistic approach – which I find very exciting.

Q: Very exciting! Can you elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by “artistic”? Do you mean hand-drawn?

Not hand-drawn as such but rather making a logo that breaks the traditional rules of logo design. More abstract, creative ways of representing a brand’s message than a minimalistic symbol in a block color.

OK! Ready for your design logo challenge?  Using Looka’s logo maker, design a logo for a professional cleaning service, but make it cool and eye-catching. We want to understand right away what the business is, feel a sense of trust and reliability, and feel compelled and drawn in.

Logo made in Looka

You can find Elliot Ulm on Behance and Instagram to see more of his work!

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