The style of Tom Muho might be best described as clean. Crisp, minimal, memorable. The London-based graphic designer and brand artist has an impressive portfolio that includes work alongside software development companies, food products, consultation offices, backpack manufacturers, and even Indeed, the world’s #1 job site. Recently, Muho collaborated with Chillhop to form the new logo, font, and raccoon, all of which launched back in November. Following the launch, I spoke with the visual artist about his creative process, his branding style, and his views on persistence. He was even able to craft an exclusive graphic of his workspace.
With the new Chillhop logo being revealed at the end of 2018, how did last year treat you?
Overall, my year was good and I learned a lot, as you do. It was also filled with many interesting design projects. One of the highlights was me and my girlfriend adopting her parents’ cats which lived in Slovenia for 2 years – some adventurous cats.
What was the process like designing the logo for Chillhop?
The first steps towards the new Chillhop branding were taken around two years ago when me and Bas from Chillhop began talking about updates on their brand and creating a mascot that could be used alongside their logo. The guys at Chillhop had a vision of a raccoon and that’s what we ended up going with, since they believed a raccoon relates to the urban aspect of the business and can easily be applied to different surroundings and adapted to various situations. That’s when I designed the first concepts of the raccoon and kept working on it until we found the right characteristics and the right amount of “chill” to suit their brand. By going back and forth with feedback and ideas, the raccoon evolved to the final version it is today.
The second part of creating the new branding was to design a wordmark that is more modern, unique and easily recognizable. At first we needed to find the right direction regarding the font, style, and feel, and Chillhop guys already had some very good ideas which helped a lot to get the ball rolling in this aspect. I came up with some different styles based on their thoughts and we agreed on going with more simple and strong style for the wordmark. I designed a font that represents the new bold vision and has unique details to make the letters flow well together. There was also a need to incorporate the raccoon aspect into the wordmark and that needed quite a few different concepts to figure out. But when I finally had the idea of using the raccoon shape in the negative space of the letter “C” it just felt right straight away. This also helped solved the problem of how we could get a good compact version of the wordmark, since the new “Ch” letters with the raccoon shape incorporated in them is made to stand on its own as well as part of the wordmark. Overall, the process was very rewarding in terms of designing cool branding for a very cool business. It was definitely a team effort that wouldn’t have been the same without the vision and passion that the team at Chillhop has for their brand.
How many ideas were tossed around until a final decision was reached?
I wish I could give a specific number, but all I can say is that there were quite a few different ideas tossed around before reaching the final decision. We worked with various ideas and ended up with plenty of concepts to compare and choose from. Some changes are very small details, which is part of the process, and you’ll never know for sure what actually works best before you try it out. Luckily, the Chillhop team was full of ideas that we could try and keep the project moving forward.
Your branding and design work is minimal but really packs a punch. How did you discover your style? Have you always been minimalistic?
To be honest, I’m not really trying to be minimalistic or consider it as my personal style but it is something that comes naturally because, especially in branding, simple and minimalistic is usually better than overly complicated designs. I do think that “less is more” and I’m trying to follow that in my work as much as possible. I have always been interested in telling a story or conveying a certain feeling with just one simple picture or graphic. Also, minimalism is probably a common theme in my work because that’s the style many of my clients are looking for and it’s a popular theme in design nowadays.
Prior to designing the logo for Chillhop, were you already familiar with the music label?
When I first got in contact with Chillhop I thought I wasn’t familiar with them, but I soon realised that I had been listening to their “Lofi hip hop study beats” stream a lot, I had a déjà vu when I went through their Youtube channel again. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was very familiar with them and is a big fan of the label.
If you can, please provide a photo of your workspace. If not, please describe it for us. What are some essentials?
I have an office at my home where I can lose myself in my work, which includes a simple table for drawing and a bed for power naps (or reading a book in some cases). Being a graphic designer, I think it makes sense to create an infographic explaining what the essentials of my workspace are.
What’s the rest of the year looking like for you?
2019 is looking like a busy year with interesting design projects but I’m also looking forward to taking some time to travel and discover new places. Traveling always brings me inspiration, and even after a short weekend trip to the seaside I feel energized and full of new ideas when coming back to my projects.
Is it difficult to split time between freelance work and personal projects?
Sure, it can be difficult sometimes to manage the time between everything because there’s no separation between my work and my personal life. As a freelancer I’m always at work and even if I would try to do my professional projects only between 9 to 5 every day, I end up designing stuff in the evenings just because I love it. Some evenings might go amongst my professional projects and after that I stay up late working on my personal projects. I think it takes a certain type of person to be a full-time freelancer because it can be hectic and stressful since you’re mostly by yourself with everything. Along the years I’ve found a bit of balance so things stay enjoyable and I like the freedom being a freelancer gives me.
Being as this is a music label, what have you been listening to recently?
Recently I’ve been blasting Finnish hip-hop because a known producer Rekami aka LX-Beats from my hometown put out a new “Pihlderberg” album before Christmas and I’m always up for supporting good music from Jyväskylä, Finland. When I’m working I usually prefer just silence because I feel music can be distracting but that album has been on quite a lot lately.
Outside of visual art, branding, and design, do you have any other hobbies or interests?
My hobbies and interests do revolve a lot around design because my hobby is my job, but besides that I am a bit of a movie buff and spend a lot of time going to the cinema or watching movies at home. Whenever possible I also like going to live gigs to check out different artists. London has a lot to offer in live music so there’s always something going on, like a live music night at my local jazz bar or some famous artist having a concert somewhere. Going to different museums and shows is also one of my favourite pastimes.
In closing, do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?
The best advice I can give is not to give up on your art and to believe in your own style, because there’s always an audience for everyone, you just need to find them. Be prepared to spend a lot of time, like A LOT of time, improving your skills. But if art/design is really what you love to do, then spending that time learning and getting better shouldn’t be a problem because you enjoy it. There’s always a time in every artist’s life when they feel like something is stopping them from getting to the next level in their work, but can’t figure out what it is. That’s the point when many might just quit because they’ve hit a wall and feel like there’s no improvement. But if you just keep at it, you’ll get over it eventually and realise how much you’ve actually improved. So I think the most important thing is to keep doing different projects and learning as much as possible along the way.
For more by Tom Muho, visit his website: https://tuhomuho.com/