WHO ARE YOU :
Tom Ralston, a Graphic Designer and Illustrator, running a Toronto-based design partnership called Core.
YOUR CURRENT JOB:
For the last seven years I have been working with my business partner and fellow designer Tim Reid to build our own business, but in that time I have also worked in various studios and freelanced for local agencies. Today I am very proud to say I work full time on my own business, which has really grown in the last few years.
We create brand identities and graphics for a variety of clients. Working on brand identities means that we inevitably work with a lot of start-ups, but we also have a list of established clients. Most recently we have worked on an infographic for the Economist Group, rebranded a Canadian petroleum retailer and helped produce a campaign for Scotiabank’s celebration of Pride Toronto. So really, the work we do is as varied as our client list, but brand identity is at the heart of it all. We have a nice balance of creating new brands, and strengthening pre-existing ones.
IN WHICH CITY ARE YOU LOCATED?
Toronto, Canada! I am originally from London, England but I moved to Toronto five years ago with my Canadian girlfriend and love it here. We live in Little Italy, which is a great neighbourhood, and I am happy to call Toronto home. It’s a terrific city, and has treated me well over the years.
A WORD TO DEFINE WHAT KIND OF WORKER YOU ARE:
If I am really immersed in a project, hours can go by without my realising it. Its a wonderful sensation to get lost in an illustration or the exploration of an idea. With that being said, it is important to taking breaks and step away from the work. So much so, that I deliberately incorporate it as a phase in my process. It’s important to stop and gain perspective on the work and make sure that it’s still on the right track, and that I’m not getting lost in the minutia.
WHAT TOOLS ARE ESSENTIAL TO YOUR LIFE (APP, SOFTWARE, ETC..)
The tools that enable me to get work done are my trusty sketchbook (whether for meeting notes, lists or sketches), my Macbook Pro, Thunderbolt display and Wacom tablet. In regards to software, I use Adobe Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop primarily. We also use dropbox and the Creative Cloud for file sharing, Gmail for emails and I use Behance http://www.behance.net/tomralston and Dribbble https://dribbble.com/tomralston to share my work online. I am currently learning some 3D and animation software which is equal parts rewarding and frustrating!
WHAT DOES YOUR OFFICE SPACE LOOK LIKE?
I currently work from my home office, which is a constant work in progress. I try and keep a clean and tidy setup on my desk and shelves, but I cover the walls with art, posters, toys and anything that inspires me. My guilty pleasure is collecting designer / collectible toys and posters / prints.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN WHEN YOU ARE WORKING ?
One of the perks of my job is that I can I listen to music while I work. Sometimes I even find it helps to get in the zone and drive my mood and rhythm. Of course, at other times it can be a distraction, but what I listen to largely depends upon my mood. I am often inspired by music and I love branding and designing albums for musicians. Most recently I designed the logo and album cover for ColdMoth’s debut album ‘Chrysalis’ https://coldmoth.bandcamp.com/album/chrysalis.
The music that’s usually on heavy rotation in the studio: Aphex Twin, Why?, Boards of Canada, Future Islands, At the Drive-In, Radiohead, Julianna Barwick, Explosions in the Sky, Stars of the lid. Recently I have been getting really into Rival Consoles. I saw him last year and he was absolutely outstanding.
DO YOU HAVE A WAY TO ORGANIZE YOUR DAY TO MAXIMIZE YOUR WORK?
I find I am most organised when I am working within a tried and tested process, and I have refined many systems over the last 8 years; from putting together a client brief, proposal, to general operations such as invoicing and maintaining a database. All these things make the day run smoother and more organised. However, on a more specific day to day basis, making notes (visual or written) in my sketchbook is the way I tend to keep on top of things, and more specifically making a to-do list. Who doesn’t love the simple pleasure of ticking off a completed task?
WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY?
My best tip for efficiency is sitting down before bed and making a checklist of everything you want to accomplish the next day, just before I fall asleep. This is particularly effective for me if I have a lot on my plate, as it puts things in perspective and makes things feel more manageable.
YOU'RE BETTER THAN YOUR COLLEAGUES TO:
Working in a two-man partnership is all about balancing strengths and wearing different hats. My obsessive streak comes in handy when it comes to toiling over ideas and searching for the right design solution, but we work best when we’re operating as a team and having fun bouncing ideas around.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE ANYONE HAS GIVEN YOU?
One piece of advice that I think is essential for young creatives who might be starting out, is Ira Glass’ musings on creative growth and the gap between having the desire to create something and having the skills to match that ambition.
Nobody starts out their career (or anything for that matter) with boundless confidence or the ability to craft things to a professional level. In today’s culture of immediate gratification this breeds frustration and leads people to quit the things they pursue. Dedication, practice and hard work will close the gap between your talent and your ambitions. There really is no such thing as an ‘overnight success’, and in my estimation people with ‘extraordinary talent’ have usually put in more time maximising their strengths and training their weaknesses.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST TIP FOR SAVING TIME?
One of the many pieces of advice that my Dad gave me, which has really stuck with me in particular over the years, is the importance of being decisive. It’s amazing the time we can waste over the deliberation of a decision. Uncertainty leaves us at a standstill, and it’s much better to commit to something with decisiveness than being paralysed by uncertainty. The answers usually don’t miraculously appear to us, so you might as well just go for it.
WHAT IS YOUR ROUTINE START AND END OF THE DAY?
I am a real creature of habit, so I like to keep things simple. However, I have a 3 month old daughter, so all of my routines were thrown out the window entirely! As a result I now wake earlier and go to sleep earlier too.
ASIDE FROM YOUR COMPUTER AND YOUR PHONE, WHAT GADGET CAN YOU NOT YOU GO WITHOUT?
My Wacom tablet. It’s an old ‘bamboo’ model, that I bought many many years ago, but it’s my trusty sidekick when i’m working digitally.