As often as I can, I’m going to be writing about people who’ve inspired, taught, or influenced me in one way or another. Some of these people I know personally, others I’ve just read about or admired over the years.

Richard Bird runs R.BIRD, a brand and package design firm in New York. He’s been in the industry for over 35 years and his design business has been around for nearly 30 years.

I met Richard because he was a customer of mine. Back in mid 90s I wrote some FileMaker Pro-based organizing products. One was called Audiofile. It let you organize your music collection. Richard was an avid music collector so Audiofile was perfect for him. I think he found it in the file sections on AOL.

I don’t remember how we struck up a friendship, but we’ve kept in touch for years. For the last few years we’ve talked by IM nearly every weekday. As business owners we shoot the shit about business, talk about the industry, share interesting links related to design, ideas, writing, advertising, and politics. We often start our days with a quick “morning” IM to one another.

I admire Richard for many reasons. For one, he’s a survivor. It’s not easy running a design firm for 30 years. Things in that business change fast, and he’s managed to thrive and survive through it all. He’s seen a lot and been through a lot. There have been many times when they were on the brink of closing shop, but he always found a way to keep it together. I have deep respect for that.

Another thing I admire about Richard is that he’s one of those guys who just knows what’s right in a situation. If I’m struggling with a tough decision, I’ll often run it by him first. Inevitably he gives me sage advice. Never sensational, always respectful and thoughtful and objective. I always know that when I ask him a question I’ll get his honest opinion back. That’s rare – many people sugarcoat their thoughts. We don’t always agree, but I always consider his perspective.

I’ve learned a lot from Richard and I look forward to learning a lot more.

Check out R.BIRD to find out more about his business. One of my favorite things they do is their Patterns series where they visit retail stores to photograph and observe product packaging on shelf in search of common design threads and competitive opportunities. If you’re interested in brand packaging, retailing, and trends, Patterns is a fascinating read.