Meet Amber Ford Founder & Creative Director at HUSQ Designs SEZC
HUSQ Designs is a boutique branding agency specialising in developing market-leading brands that are not only thoughtful and emotive but beautiful. As Founder and Creative Director of HUSQ Designs, Amber Ford develops unique visual identities based on strategy and research mixed with passion, ambition and refinement.
Amber has over 10 years’ experience in design ranging from humble beginnings as a designer in a print factory, to an in-house designer for a big corporation before landing herself a lead senior role at an agency.
We met up virtually with Amber to discuss the world of graphic design, the advancement of digital in design and what life is like here in Cayman.
CEC: Tell us a bit about yourself and what led to the founding of HUSQ Designs.
Amber: I feel like I was born with a pencil in my hand because I’ve been drawing ever since I could remember. I was always doing art at school and home. I had top grades in primary and high school for art. Before graduating, I completed an online course to help guide my career choice. The first thing that came up was graphic designer. At that time, graphic design was still something where people had to draw layouts and write out all the content. It was a lot of print material, whereas now you can jump on your computer and create and make changes relatively quickly.
I went to two universities. I completed a Bachelors' in Computer-based Arts and Design and went on to Design College Australia to study Visual Communications. They both were extremely helpful. The first was learning the design programmes and the second was on how to brief clients, understanding project outcomes, how to present and communicate concepts.
My first job was at a professional printing factory as a graphic designer. Then I went in-house for one of Australia’s largest veterinary businesses called Greencross Vets. Transitioning to an in-house role for a large corporate business was a big step - all of a sudden, you’re responsible for the print and online material for over 120 businesses across Australia but it becomes quite restrictive long term for my career as a designer. After 4 years there I went to a design agency and I ended up being the lead designer there quite quickly.
From there I was able to learn the structure of an agency and how everything operated, I figured, I could do this myself. I’ve always wanted to have my own business, run my own agency and be the art director that’s also hands-on. So, I started HUSQ Designs as a side hustle while I was working full time. Then, when I felt I had enough clients to get me going, I took it full on. Which was terrifying but I’m glad I did it.
CEC: What’s the story and meaning behind the name “HUSQ”?
Amber: There’s a couple of meanings there. The first one comes from the movie ‘Tolkien’ about the writer of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’. After watching his journey of how he analysed the sounds of words and related them to different things, every time I would try to come up with a name, HUSQ for me sounded like it was a rarity. It had particular standards; it just exuded this aura of quality and style. Then there’s the literal term of the husk of a fruit. You make a decision weather it’s good or bad based on its exterior. So, I instantly went, “well that’s what you do with businesses, products and anything to do with design really.” As much as people say you don’t judge a book by its cover, you do.
CEC: You’ve worked in the industry for 10 years, what’s been the biggest change you’ve witnessed to branding and design concepts?
Amber: A lot of businesses are going for less noise. So, there’s less overlapping of information, things aren’t as cluttered. I actually think that is heavily influenced by how successful Apple has been and how their advertising and marketing comes across. A lot of businesses are saying ‘we don’t want to be in the clutter, we want to stand out by just being us.’ That is heavily reliant on typography, your colours, the wording, placement of images and so on. I think because my taste is definitely a minimalist style, watching that transition has been good.
CEC: What industry trends are you following or predicting we’ll see this year?
Amber: One of the girls I work with is in New Zealand - her company, Paperballoon Co, created a QR code when you scan it, a picture will come up, and it doesn’t matter which way you angle your phone. The picture follows the angle of the camera. It’s a little bit like virtual reality. I’ve noticed a lot of that is happening.
When I was in Australia, there was a hotel being renovated and when you put your phone up, you could see all of the renderings and interiors, it’s very clever. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of 3D, animation, illustration, video and animated typography playing a massive role. People are condensing down the information and just getting to the point.
It’s only just starting to appear now, but the retro colours are coming back, brands are using very 70s colour styles. Graphic design – like fashion, ends up bringing back styles from the past mixed with what new technologies have been able to bring to the table.
Husq Designs gallery of work
CEC: What have you been working on?
Amber: I’ve hired a designer in South Africa who is very talented in the layout and packaging sector. This has led us to do some projects for Kleenex, various property developments, and a project with Squat Wolf which is a large sportswear brand in Dubai. As a company, HUSQ Designs is also expanding our services to include animation and more social media marketing.
CEC: What brought you to Cayman? Was there something that initially appealed to you most here?
Amber: The simple answer to that is my partner got a great job offer here at a law firm and it actually came at a perfect time. I had just started HUSQ full time and we were both wanting to be closer to the beach. So, as soon as the opportunity to come to Cayman came up, he found CEC and that was my opportunity to keep HUSQ alive. It just fell perfectly into the lifestyle we wanted and how I wanted my career to go.
CEC: You’re originally from Australia, do you consider yourself a “digital nomad”? What role has CEC played in helping to grow your business?
Amber: I don’t think I’ve ever called myself a ‘digital nomad’. I just sort of mention to clients that I’m a new agency and I work remotely so it’s a lot of fun. The best thing I think with CEC is that there are many other people like me working in that building. The location of the building is perfect, everyone is incredibly friendly. I think it is also because we’re all networking and want to get to know people. CEC was the best opportunity for myself to come across to Cayman with my partner and still work.
CEC: You’ve touched on this slightly, but how do you feel CEC facilitates networking?
Amber: I would definitely say just providing introductions directly to businesses. I don't think there's anything on the island similar to this where you get to know the people around you. It’s not forced, it’s just a natural progression. If I was working from home or in an isolated building, this wouldn’t happen. I’ve just finished the branding for 10 years of business for CRO:NYX Digital (Tanya Wigmore) as well. I just finished her rebrand and that was purely after her and I had chatted several times after a few networking events. Tanya mentioned she wanted a redesign of her business identity and she wanted to see previous work I created, so we organised a coffee catch up in the lounge area just for CEC and we went through what she wanted.
I loved working with her, it was just easy and she’s funny as hell. It was a complete flip of her previous brand and logo which looked quite fragile and wasn’t communicating her personality and the capabilities of her business. So instead, we made it bold, bright and colourful, and she comes across more credible. But this project came about in the same sort of process of explaining what each other does and it naturally develops. Now I know that when I have a client that I know Tanya can help with I just send them her way because I know this is something she can do, and there’s that trust there. She’s done the same, she’s referred me to her clients, some in Canada; in fact I’ve just finished branding for a law firm there thanks to her. Everyone at CEC has been phenomenal.
CEC: What’s your favourite part about life in Cayman? Favourite activities, restaurants, etc.
Amber: I grew up on a beach in Australia. Here, I can go snorkeling on my lunch break. It’s awesome, the water’s right here. My partner and I absolutely love Casa 43. For something more chilled out, we go to Sunset House and Vivo. Before the lockdown, I was learning kite-boarding at Barkers. Once the beach opened up again, I’ve just been snorkeling and I’m trying to get my scuba license once that’s allowed. It's everything that we want to do. Water sports and drinking by the beach.
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