“You can find inspiration in anything and everything,” said Brad Bishop, a local graphic designer who got his start at East Texas State University. After graduating in 1995, Bishop worked as a freelance designer and interned for a small marketing company. He then worked for a few small design companies until 2005, when he co-founded Torch Creative.
“My first design job was for a small design shop called T.L. Horton Design, and that is where I met my business partner, Michael Thurman,” said Bishop. “We both had specific clientele with whom we wanted to work, and the only way to work on those types of projects was to start our own business. At the time, there wasn’t anyone in the Dallas area doing that kind of work, so we put together portfolios geared towards those jobs.”
As the company enters its 10th year, Bishop says he feels that agency life is great when you’re in your 20s. There are opportunities to meet some really cool people and do some really fun work. But once you get married and start a family, your priorities change. For him, working 12-hour days just doesn’t work.
He had to eventually ask himself: Do you see yourself staying here? What do you want in your future?
From there, Bishop and Thurman decided they were ready to try starting their own company with a lot of encouragement from family and friends. After working for an agency, they knew how to handle certain situations when working with clients, dealing with changes, making recommendations and thinking on their feet. But they liked the creative side, and they wanted to do the work.
Bishop, who discovered his talent at an early age— in elementary school—said that being able to draw was really the only thing he had been skilled at doing. After graduating from Mesquite High School, he went to East Texas State University where he majored in design communications and studied with David Beck, Lee Whitmarsh and Rob Lawton.
“You’ve got to be thick-skinned,” said Bishop. “I may work on something all day, and my partner may tell me it’s not good enough. You have to be able to analyze your own work. Be critical of yourself. It helps to develop that ability early in your career, and the instructors at ETSU helped me to do that.”
Now, Bishop works from his home office, surrounded by remote-control cars, “Star Wars” posters, and Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story” inspired artwork. Working from home also allows him to spend more time with his wife, Lesa, and their 14-year-old daughter, Michaela.
Some of his company’s biggest clients are the NBA, the NHL and licensees for Disney, Pixar and Lucas Films merchandise. Disney World is having an event during March as a play on March Madness that will celebrate moms who regulate their social media, called March Magic. Torch Creative got to create logos for the event, including a team logo incorporating the Seven Dwarves.
Torch Creative focuses on timeless designs. Bishop says the ideas come from things he grew up with. For example, Mickey Mouse’s shape is a combination of circles. Its simplicity has allowed it to never go out of style, and while Mickey has grown, the changes have never been drastic. In the athletic world, people can get hung up on trends, but Bishop wants his designs to cover the spectrum of extended use. That’s what he tried to do for the new Texas A&M University-Commerce lion graphic. He said he was very excited when Ryan Ivey and Josh Jorgensen contacted Torch about redoing the A&M-Commerce athletics logo. The new graphic is the biggest one on a NCAA football field, and it serves as an example of clean design working in a large space.
Bishop truly believes in the power of hard work. When he first began, the Internet was nonexistent, and computers were not what they are now. He learned how to do everything by hand. During his first internship, he says he went to Half Price Books, and bought large books about Photoshop and Illustrator and read every page. Bishop says he gained valuable knowledge during his time at ETSU that he was able to expand on later. Despite the extreme technological advances, Bishop remains old school at heart—he still freehands every design first. In regards to current design students, he advises them to expand on their creativity and imagination.
“Spend as much time as you can working on your portfolio,” said Bishop. “Come up with your own style. We’ve had people send us their portfolios with original ideas that imitate someone else’s style. You have to figure out how to sell yourself. I spoke at a local high school and a very talented student told me that his friends and family always ask him about a back-up plan. I told him that if he worked hard, he wouldn’t need a back-up plan.”
For more information on Torch Creative, visit www.torchcreative.com or follow their work at www.dribble.com/Torch_Creative.