Interview with Up-and-coming Graphic Designer Dan Freebairn!

Today we continue with our series showcases of top creative talent in the North West and beyond with Dan Freebairn. Dan was kind enough to work with us and share his inspirations, his experiences in design, life at UCLAN and more!

Hi Dan, we’re delighted to continue our interview series with you. Could you firstly introduce yourself to our readers and how you fit into the world of design?

Of course, I’m Dan Freebairn, a student Graphic Designer at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. I’ve lived in a town called Altrincham in Cheshire for most of my life, and I’ve grown up and went to school in the area. I’ve been designing for about 5 years now although, initially, my work was obviously nowhere near the standard it is now.

When did you first discover a flare for design and who or what inspires your work today?

Back when I was at high school, I took Fine Art for GCSE and received an A, so I’ve always had a creative side. When I was shown the programme Corel Draw when I was about 15, I saw this as creating art on the computer and was instantly hooked. Following that, I began to learn roughly what graphic design was and came across better programmes such as Photoshop and Illustrator, and then it was just a case of teaching myself how to use them and then finding myself a Graphics course at A level.

What inspires me? I’m inspired by a lot; I’m very much into my street art! People like Ben Eine and Roa inspire me to keep drawing, but my Graphic Design Inspiration comes mainly from blogs and books. I’m forever going through my LosLogos Books or and I find sites like these really handy because they’re always being updated with new work which is always of a high standard. I tend to take ideas from things I see, but when I see something I like, it makes me think “I wish I could do that!” so then I go and attempt to work out how to do it, often adding the styles and techniques that I’ve seen to my own projects.

You have worked on a few projects in and out of University, could you take us through a couple of them?

I’ve always tried to do work for people in my own time. Back when I first got Photoshop, I was creating album artwork and flyers for local musicians in Manchester. However, since I’ve got much better at what I do and also since meeting new people, more opportunities for better projects have opened up. One of my most popular pieces of work outside university was my Jim Morrison illustration. It was used for an event called Reunion which I used to help organise at a bar I worked, and still work at, called Heart&Soul. The image took me about 3 and a half hours to draw and it was put on flyers and posters for the numerous events, which led to it becoming the face of the Reunion nights. Even now, it’s the one piece of work I’m frequently asked about. Originally, I didn’t intend on it becoming a part of the Reunion ‘brand’; I drew it one day when I was experimenting in my free time and there was tonnes of positive feedback from my peers after posting it on Facebook, which meant that I ended up using it for the majority of Reunion’s branding. I’m very proud of it and will always keep the original drawing.

At the moment I’m working with two friends on a brand called And What or ‘&?’ as we like to put it. The idea is based on the colloquial term “And what?” used as a comeback, from which we have developed the idea to use it as if it’s a mentality/mind set. At the moment we’re still experimenting with ideas, and are constantly trying to get the name ‘out there’ and getting people interested. We are taking things slowly at the moment, so I can manage time between this and my university projects, but when I have more free time, hopefully we will begin to grow a lot faster. Our long term goal is to become a clothing brand but I don’t want to give too much away at the moment, so if you’re interested in finding out more, you can follow us on twitter @AndWhatOfficial and check out our website

How would you describe your course and lifestyle at the University of Central Lancashire?

My course has helped me an awful lot! Bringing ideas into your design and not just making things look good is the biggest thing I have learnt. Before I started at Preston, I probably didn’t fully understand what graphic design was but now I feel that I do. UCLAN as a whole is great; I’m in my third year now and although I can’t wait to leave and get into a full time design job, I think I will miss it a little – it has been well worth it! I have a few friends who say that university isn’t for them, but I think that as long as you’re doing a course you want to develop into a career then uni is for everyone. Plus, you have to enjoy having a few too many drinks every now and again 😉

We see that you have a passion for music as well as graphic design, how are you involved in the North West scene?

As I mentioned earlier, I used to design for local artists in Manchester but I haven’t worked with them recently. Since then, I have designed a few logos for some DJs from Leeds and Manchester and I would say my biggest involvement would be from night clubs. I’ve designed so many event posters I’ve lost count, and I still get asked to do them on a regular basis, which I still enjoy. I feel that it’s a really good area of design to get into early in your career, because it’s a good way to get your design skills out there: practice, play with styles and experiment with typography. It also helps you to work towards deadlines. I would recommend to any young graphic designers to try and find work like this at first, because it will undoubtedly benefit you. Plus, if you charge a small rate, you can earn a bit of extra cash from it!

What aspirations and plans have you set yourself for the future?

Right now I want to finish university and put on a great degree show; that’s at the top of my list! But long term, to find a job in a top agency would be a dream come true! I’ve always said I want to start my own design agency in the future, so who knows – I might end up with my own company if all goes well!

Which social networks do you use the most and where can our readers find you online?

I was always a big user of Facebook but now I tend to use that for promoting events as I have more local friends on there. Now, Twitter is the number one for me as I like to post images of what I’m working on and I also try my hand at a bit of photography now that the iPhone camera is so good! I can be found on Twitter and Instagram under the username @danfreebairn

Finally, a light question to finish! Which 5 objects could you not bare to live without and why?

Very tough question! First of all I would have to say my Macbook Pro, because I have everything on there from my music collection to all my design work – past and present – as well as  Illustrator which is constantly running. Secondly, would have to be a tracing pad. I use these as sketch books so I can quickly draw something and if I need to make an alternative it’s faster and easier to do with tracing paper than with a normal sketch book. To go with that would have to be a few pencils and fine liners for obvious reasons. Then it would be my iPhone which sounds sad, but in this day and age, who from my generation would be able to live without their phone? With the iPhone being able to do everything it can, smartphones have already become an essential these days. Finally it would have to be my car. It might only be an old Ford Focus but it gives me the freedom to come and go as I please!

Thanks Dan, all the best for the future! Keep tabs with Dan on his website at and @danfreebairn on Twitter. 

Don’t miss other interviews featuring; Rebecca Palmer, Rachel Tonner, Rebecca Ebbit & Cormac McGloin.

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