Derek Friday, an Environmental Graphic & Integrated Branding Designer | Interview

Derek speaks to GraphicArt-News about himself, his passions and the Environmental Graphic Design (EGD).
1. Hello Derek. Welcome to our “home” of creativity. Please, tell us about yourself. When did you first start as a designer?Hi. I’m Derek Friday and I live in Boulder, Colorado.
Like many designers, I grew up an artistic kid in an encouraging, creative environment. My uncle was an architect working in Chicago, and I was exposed to his creative disciplines at an early age and was greatly influenced by him. So I supposed at a very young age, I started my “journey” of becoming a designer.Boulder2 "The view I love so well: The Flatirons from the Chautauqua Meadow, June 25, 2013. Hubley Archives."
The view I love so well: The Flatirons from the Chautauqua Meadow, June 25, 2013. Hubley Archives.”"Finndustry" is Derek's Friday studio. Logo designed by himself.

2. You are a “Environmental Graphic & Integrated Branding Designer”. Would you like to expand more?

Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) and Integrated Branding is creating experiences within a “built environment” that connect the people to place. EGD embraces a variety of disciplines including graphic design, interior design and industrial design to help more immersively communicate the branded identity of the place. Color palettes, patterning, super graphics, material compositions, wayfinding and specialty features are all good examples of how EGD can influence a space and render it memorable.

This is a part of a slide presentation made for a talk Derek did which represented his interest in architecture and learning how to create a 2 point perspective.


3. Do you believe art can change an environment, a city or even a country? And in what ways?

Wow, I really hope so or I’ve been wasting a lot of time. While I’ve never really thought of myself as an artist (maybe someday), I’m hopeful that the projects I’m influencing and collaborating on are pleasant to experience. In the case of retail shopping projects, the hope is that my work enhances the quality of the spaces, putting visitors at ease and provides a visually pleasant backdrop to the shops and offerings of the environment.

Urban Art initiatives are often so magical and influential. I recently became familiar with the Baltimore “LOVE” project. Street artists used painted hand silhouettes to spell out the word “LOVE,” on various buildings throughout the city, reminding passerby of one of our most important human connections. It’s powerful in its simplicity and unexpectedness. Living so close to Denver, I’m always visiting the up an coming neighborhood of LOHI where nearly every building on Larimer Street includes a mural, graffiti or a piece of public art integrated into the façade. It’s a wonderful, transformative and inspiring.



4. If you could change an entire city, which one this would be and why?

A lot of people talk about Detroit, New Orleans or another large city that has suffered or experienced devastating events. But my own back yard of Boulder, Colorado is where I feel I could actually make a difference. Exactly what I would do to change the place is another question altogether. The backdrop to this magical city is the Flatirons and Front Range Mountains, but most of Boulder’s built environment is really unappealing. In an effort to help transform Boulder’s architecture I’d like to collaborate with the creative community on developing educational initiatives for good design. Maybe this would help.

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5. What’s some interesting feedback you’ve received? Did it make you see your own work from another angle?

Hmm.. that’s a tough one. I think the most interesting feedback I’ve ever received was from a good friend and client who was the Design Director of a large company. When he noticed I was having a particularly tough time sorting out solutions on an important project, he calmed me down by telling me that from his perspective, what we were doing was never easy and that my thoughts and efforts were appreciated always, even if I didn’t always succeed. With this, when I am in a similar stressful situations, I reflect upon his comments and relax a bit, knowing I’ll eventually be drawn to a good approach and be happy with my work. It almost always ends up this way. Oftentimes I think I’m the only designer who stresses, freaks out or lacks confidence, but I’ve been involved in this profession long enough to realize that for better or worse, our tasks somehow always manage to be completed for a client.

Another great piece of feedback I’m often reminded of is to actively “put yourself in the shoes of the client or end user” when solving design problems. More often than not, we as designers can forget this simple, but critical piece of advice, blindly going about an exercise with a myopic, or perhaps ego driven agenda. ­

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6. Where would you like your work to lead you? Do you have any aspirations or plans for the future?

Thinking about this question in terms of where I am professionally, I feel like I’ve learned so much and have a great deal to share. Last fall, I did my first major speaking engagement at the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts ( that I would like to speak more regularly and engage in more experiences like this one for GraphicArt News. Sharing my stories and insights with other professionals and young people and perhaps even teach feels like the right thing to do.

In the future I would also like to define new niches by translating my work and experience into new types of design problems. Collaborating on packaging design and new graphic solutions for the skate, ski and surf industries would be a dream come true. I’ve always felt these types of clients have been a bit out of reach. I’ve been enormously fortunate to have traveled many places around the world, gaining insights and inspiration from other cultures. I’d like to continue to explore Northern parts of Scandinavia, Japan and South America among many.

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7. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?

Always…..everyday and more often than not. It’s a curse.

Because I am an avid trail runner, I get into the mountains and sort things out in my head. I like to say when running and what I accomplish while running is my Church—it’s where I get things done. When I’m not on the trails, slumps are sometimes relieved by working on a passion project or two, listening to design talks or presentation, watching a Skillshare video, or doing anything other than what I am supposed to do at the moment.

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8. If you were to design an artist’s outspace, whose would you like this to be and why?

Wow that’s a cool question. And I’ve been thinking about this ever since I received your note.

Artist: Sheppard Fairey
Why: SO that I could learn as much as possible about his process, techniques, etc.

Sheppard’s work and variety of illustration styles and compositions have always inspired me. From large format super graphics to limited edition prints, he uses a variety of materials, techniques, and processes. Being the minimalist, I’d enjoy designing an organized studio to allow for all this creative endeavors. OF course this may change the way he works which wouldn’t be the desired result.

9. Which is the process of your work and how much do your client influence your decisions and concepts?

When considering the primary sector of work I practice, Environmental Graphic Design and Integrated Branding for retail projects, more often than not, the process goes something like this:

1. Naming (researching and composing ideas and names of the project)
2. “Story” development (This is used to communicate the idea or emotional attributes of the project to the client)
3. Brand or Identity development (actual logo mark)
4. Color, Pattern and Material Palette (development of the “kit of parts” based upon the branded story. These tools are then used to create the 2d and 3d branded enhancements to the physical environment)
5. Define how the brand will be “deployed” (surface graphics, material compositions, architectural or interior enhancements to the structure, based on the branded story)
6. Wayfinding development (determine where signage needs to be incorporated and how the signage design is influenced by the branded story)
7. Presentation composition (development of the physical package of information)
Client collaboration is essential so I try to engage the client as much as possible, providing interim “check-sets” in order to receive comments and feedback. While some clients completely trust my (our) professional choices, many of them are heavily involved in the design process and provide great feedback—especially the European based projects where I clearly don’t have as much inherent knowledge of the place or culture as an American.

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10. What is the toughest thing you have encountered in your career?

The toughest, but also the most influential experience I have encountered during my career as a designer is failing, over and over again. We are all human and aren’t perfect, but to fail and then pick up the pieces and solve problems by learning from my mistakes has been the toughest, yet greatest reward. And I will continue to do this for certain.

11. Tell us your top 10 lessons that a new artist should learn and follow to become a successful designer.

1. Nurture Relationship, they are the lifelines of your career.
2. Communicate your brand cleanly, honestly, efficiently interestingly,
3. No matter what the project is or how much or little you are being compensated, treat the exercise with complete professionalism
4. Take on a new work and challenges when given the opportunity…you never know what can happen approach
5. Never stop learning—take advantage of all the options: Skillshare, lectures, events, speakers, podcasts, etc.
6. Have a passion project…or two…. or three
7. Sketch first, then digital. Even it’s just to plan your approach.
8. While it’s difficult, practice staying confident…
9. Get outside everyday…
10. Get your name out there anyway you can


12. Are there any forms of art that you would like to experiment with?

I’ve been working on a variety of simple editing techniques, blending graphics and oftentimes found imagery to create compositions. Some are part of a series, some one-offs. I’m not really sure why I’m doing them, but I do like the results at times. Maybe others will feel the same way. You can see them on my instagram feed:


Derek’s Friday Link

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CrowEdit EgyptEdit HdMEdit ModernBoulderEdit SpringNYCEditThis article originally appeared in Graphic Art News.