A Fireside Chat with Retro Review: Pro Tips for Designers

A few weeks ago we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing legendary artist and DBH designer Retro Review (aka Matthew Heald) for "12 Games of Christmas". Wait, you guys already have your retro game sweaters on order... right? Ok, good. Anyway, because he is such a fantastic and creative guy (and rather quite British) he was more than forthcoming in bestowing his plethora of knowledge upon us. For your consideration, we bring you... a fireside chat with Retro Review. *editor's note: this interview was definitely NOT conducted by firelight, despite the fact that the writer had a fireplace on his monitor at the time.

DBH: Ok Matt... any advice for all those up and coming graphic designers, slackers, and starving artists out there?

A highlight so far was seeing Alex "Bill S. Preston Esquire" Winter holding one of my 'Wyld Stallyns' designs.
RR: I have a few top tips I have shared with design friends in the past that have helped them so I will quickly give you my preacher like sermon.

1. Surround yourself with like-minded artists!
Benjamin Franklin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison all met with like-minded people on a regular basis to help one another achieve common goals and grow. I joined a few artist groups on Facebook and made good friends with a lot of guys on there. We bounce ideas off each other and really push each other's designs to the next level.

2. Learn Marketing and PR fundamentals
As a web designer I have had to teach myself a lot of Search Engine Optimisation, as you could have the best looking website in the world but if nobody can find it you haven't done your job properly. The same goes with the shirt design industry. For example, keyword research and planning would really help you out, which involves doing some research before choosing a design name for your brand new shirt. You can optimise this further with relevant tags and descriptions.

I can create anything that comes in my head from 8 bit designs like my 'Sesame Streets of Rage' to vector art like my extremely popular 'Obey Cthulhu' designs.

3. Keep up to date with design trends but never be afraid to do your own thing
There are two ways to bring a design to market. The first is seeing a demand for a new trend (like the Deadpool film due for release by Marvel). This is a good skill to have in order to get your work viral, so try and keep up to date with the latest pop culture themes, films and games coming out. The second is creating a design on something that you love yourself - whether it is in trend or not. My target audience is just like me, which means I can better target them and create designs we would both love to wear... and I have a steady flow of people buying designs, rather than a big spike of buyers when it is on trend and then nothing thereafter.

4. Reach out to relevant pages and tackle social media head on

Interact with your followers and fans! They will love you for it and you will get really good insights into what makes them tick - which is valuable for your designs. I really do enjoy talking with other gamers and ranting about games we love and hate, and this gaming hobby is the backbone to my Facebook page and designs. You want to be posting daily and less than 10% of those posts need to be about your art. If you are constantly bombarding followers with a call to action to buy they will eventually unlike the page or not interact with you. Contact other people and get your name known in online circles; it is brand awareness at its finest. Never be afraid to contact new pages with high amounts of followers about your latest designs or projects. Just remember you can always use your strengths to help you get your work out there to new followers.

More recently I have got into typography design... there is a real attention to detail needed to create beautiful flowing designs and I am really enjoying the challenge of learning.

5. Overall just have fun!

Remember you are designing for fun... every design that is in my catalogue was designed because I couldn't get the idea out of my head and wanted to share them with the world. I had fun creating them all, and it is always a great feeling to see them out in the wild.
I have seen artists fall into that trap of just designing on trends that don't even interest them just to make a quick buck and you can see in the end product that they didn't put all their passion into creating it. Try not to go down that route and you will be much happier and your work will be a lot better for it.

The office where I work, my brother designed the building and my uncle (another creative in the family) built and brought the initial sketches to life. It is an awesome environment to work in and it is here that I have many of my design ideas.

And there you have it!!! Retro Review's top tips and tricks for becoming a successful designer - so you better listen what the man said... if you wanna' make it in the big leagues, that is.
Want to see what all the hubbub is about? Check out a few from Retro Review's collection of designs here:

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