David Freer (Visual Communications 1997)

Job Title:

Co-Founder of O Street Design Agency


Communication Design


O Street Design
Create Be Magnificent

O Street Design


David Freer

Interview originally produced for FLOW issue 23

Can you tell us a bit about your experience working in industry after graduating in 1997?
I did work in Glasgow for a while after graduation, but my first big break came soon after when I got a job at Saatchi & Saatchi in London. My tutor at the GSA had managed to arrange an internship for me the year before and they remembered me when I went in for an interview. I met some great people there, but to be honest the work itself wasn’t as creative or glamorous as you’d think. The real value for my career was having such a famous name on my CV. Also, moving to such a big city and meeting people from all over the world was a really steep learning curve for me: it gave me a confidence and perspective that has helped me ever since.

You founded O Street design studio in 2006 – could you tell us a bit about the journey?
I’d moved back to Glasgow after being away for about seven years, mainly for lifestyle reasons – being near family and being able to afford a flat! During this period, I was made redundant for the first time in my career, and I wanted to take control of my career and start my own studio. I started O Street with another GSA graduate, Neil Wallace, who had been on a similar journey, recently returning from work in London, LA and Tokyo. Having someone share the responsibility of such a big step really helped and I’m really lucky to have met him when I did.

O Street now has studios in London and Colorado. Was it important for you to keep a base in Glasgow?
One of the main reasons Glasgow is a very creative city is that creatives can afford to live and work here. It’s a disgrace, but no secret, that artists and creative people often don’t earn lots of money. I firmly believe however that the value they bring to a place is priceless. By keeping our main base in Glasgow we can provide salaries for our colleagues and each other that allow us to live fairly comfortable lives. Our move to Colorado, instead of NYC or LA, was for very similar reasons – Denver has that vibe of a city where creatives can live a more comfortable life.

What would you say are the key traits of a designer that can help individuals and society when faced with issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic?
Like many design studios we’ve been working remotely with clients and colleagues for years, so getting our heads around video conferencing etiquette or screen sharing is no biggie for most of us. Moreover, designers by our very nature are natural problem solvers and lateral thinkers. The post-crisis world needs those skills now more than ever. Even before Covid-19, I’d begun to recognise the importance of designers in emerging industries like tech. It’s no accident that there are more designers on the boards of Fortune 500 companies than ever before. It’s not just because we can make things look pretty, it’s because we can make organisations think differently too!

What are your aspirations for O Street in the future?
There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, so our immediate focus is keeping our colleagues employed and inspired, but with a bit more stability. When the dust has settled, we’d like our remote studios in Denver and Manchester to grow and become comparable to our offering in Glasgow. We’d also love to be able to work closer with cultural and creative brands and individuals.