By Pat Shaver
CEDAR RAPIDS–Dan Schuster’s company is one of the lesser-known businesses that has benefited from growth in Cedar Rapids’ historic New Bo and Czech Village neighborhoods.
Design Trust is a Cedar Rapids design company specializing in logo and brochure design, branding, restaurant and retail identity, apparel graphics and posters, among other services.
Mr. Schuster started Design Trust five years ago, after working as a graphic designer for Starter and Galt Sand in Cedar Rapids, designing apparel graphics and logos.
“All along I knew there wasn’t much of a design presence outside of ad agencies,” he said. “Going off on your own is always taking a risk. Some ad agencies are less concerned on good branding and more concerned about getting (projects) out the door. I wanted it to be the other way around.”
Mr. Schuster designed the logo and branding for the NewBo City Market, and branding and logos for several businesses inside the market (Morgan Creek Fresh Produce, the CR Popcorn Shop and The Chill). He’s completed work for Brucemore, NewBo Books, the New Bohemia/ Czech Village main street district, and the Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids.
“My work was instrumental with the NewBo City Market; developing a logo that would get noticed,” he said, adding he wanted to design a logo that wasn’t the typical fruits and vegetables. “They’ve kept me very busy.”
His projects for the next month include branding and logo design for a new downtown Cedar Rapids restaurant, design work for a business coaching company and artwork for Theatre Cedar Rapids’ next season.
“I haven’t done a whole lot of advertising. I haven’t needed to,” he said. Most of his jobs come from word of mouth. “The board of another business or venture knows somebody else that needs a logo. If you do really good work, your name gets out there.”
“I like all things vintage. There is a vintage vibe in my work,
a borrow-from-the-past feel.”
Outside of graphic design Mr. Schuster develops sculptures from reclaimed wood and other materials for his other company Reclamation. His work is displayed at local galleries and he sells at art festivals.
“I like all things vintage. There is a vintage vibe in my work, a borrow-from-the-past feel,” he said.
Although he’s done work for big companies, Mr. Schuster supports startup companies and nonprofit agencies.
“If it’s a startup, or larger company, church or nonprofit, I’m always there to help them out,” he said. “I look at it as a way to get my name out there.”
He’s able to stay competitive by offering lower prices because his overhead is low from working out of his home.
“I bill myself as more than a freelancer but a little bit less than an ad agency,” he said. “It’s not all about price; it’s about getting time to understand completely what the client is looking for. I’m more of a boutique shop. I can offer a company more personal service than an ad agency.”
He has also been able to land projects across the U.S. by having a presence on LinkedIn and freelancers.com.
“Right now, I’m at the point where I do have enough work where I’m constantly busy,” he said.
He’s seen about two to three times more work this year than last year. He is the Design Trust’s only employee and likes the flexibility of working independently; he doesn’t aspire to grow with employees.
“They say the economy is tough out there, but I haven’t noticed that,” he said.
Before he completes a design he sits down with clients and learns the details of the business. He enjoys the collaboration process with clients; when working with clients, sometimes they have a long list of requirements and other times, Mr. Schuster has complete freedom.