Changes to my Blog

Every now and then, we have those moments where we look at what we’re doing, and think “it’s time for a change”. For the past month, I’ve been thinking that way.

The Early Days of my Blog

I started this blog as a way of increasing my presence in the design community, as well as educating both designers and non-designers about the creative industry. It originally began as a LinkedIn blog, before I switched to using WordPress as my blogging-platform. And, I’ve enjoyed writing every post I’ve written, from those about general topics, to those more out of the norm.

However, I’ve come to realise that as I’ve done more writing, I’ve done far less designing; the very career I’ve been pursuing!

Why It’s Come to a Stand-Still

Just about any author will tell you that they come up with ideas for stories all the time, yet simply don’t have the time to write them all down. I’ve somewhat been going through the same feelings, where I’ve had ideas for what I can design, but haven’t found the time to design anything. Not only has work really stepped up a gear recently, with our garden becoming a priority this summer, as well as family matters to deal with, there just hasn’t been any time for design work. That’s essentially the reason why it’s been a good month since I’ve written a blog post.

And, as tragic as the event was (and frightening, given one of my clients is an Orlando resident, who is thankfully safe and well), creating the ‘Let the Love Win’ graphic in light of the Orlando Shooting reminded me of just how much designing I’ve missed. When I design, especially if it’s a personal project as opposed to a commission, it’s a means for me to express my feelings; a way of using one picture to say 1,000 words.

Time for a Change

Therefore, I have now come to a decision to spend less of my spare time writing blog posts, and more time on personal design projects. I’ll definitely be writing posts in regards to current topics, especially if they’re in the news, but no longer will it be scheduled. I’ll attempt to write about at least one thing each month, but I won’t kick myself if I don’t achieve that either.

But, that’s not all, as I’ll also be writing blog posts about the projects I’ll be spending more time on, offering more information as to why I’ll be working on them, details of my experiences creating them, etc.. I like to be secretive about what I create until the project is completed, so keep an eye out for what I have planned. I’m pretty sure you’re going to enjoy what I make!

Essentially, I’m going to be much more casual about my blog. Commission will be my main priority, then personal projects, then blog posts. I think this is the right direction to take, and hey, as someone who’s only been blogging for one year, I don’t think I’ve done a half-bad job!

Thank you to everyone who’s been keeping track of my blog so far; I’ll be sure to make the next post a good one. Keep your eyes peeled!

Creative People with Creative Ways to Sell Themselves

Sometimes, it isn’t just the art someone produces which makes them famous, but the way the artist sells themself which makes us look at them. That’s why I’m taking a look at some people who work in the creative industry that have managed to make a name for themselves by means which are out-of-the-box.

Just to be clear, I’m focusing on individuals and small groups, as opposed to big companies which used clever marketing tactics to make us buy their goods.

Also, I’m only looking at people with creative professions, so I’m excluding cases like Alfred Ajani holding up a sign in Waterloo Station. It’s a story worth reading, but not quite right for this list.

James Addison – ‘Puzzles for Postmen’

A talented graphic designer who graduated from Bournmouth in 2011, James Addison hasn’t just put his name on the map because of the big companies he’s designed for, but also for the ingenious ways in which he teases our Royal Mail.

Rather than use the standard address format, what James likes to do is send letters to various secret addresses in a variety of cryptic ways. From drawing the location on the envelope, to writing the address in morse code, James (to the annoyance of the Royal Mail) has inspired other creative souls to find equally challenging ways of getting their letters sent.

LESSON TO LEARN: Doing something unconventional will most-likely grab peoples attention.

My Dog Sighs – ‘Free Art Friday’

Artists are often incredibly reluctant to give some of their work away for free, but My Dog Sighs is an accepttion. The difference with him is that he only gave his art away on Fridays, and would give clues for people to find where the art was. Then, it was up to his followers to take part in a scavenger-hunt for that secret place and get a free piece of his art.

Now only was this trend popular with his followers, but it was so popular, that it spread to other artists from all around the world, and My Dog Sighs was the man who started it all.

LESSON TO LEARN: Encourage brand-loyalty by giving your customers a reason to keep track of the work you’re producing.

Maria Malone-Guerbaa – ‘Famous Face-Paints’

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A mother of two from London, Maria Malone-Guerbaa, despite working for various TV shows as a make-up artist, never found a way to make a name for herself. That was until one day when she decided to combine her make-up skills with those she has an an artist, and see if she can transform herself into different celebrities with nothing – yes, nothing – but face-paint.

With each painting taking approximately 4 hours to complete, she’s gained an immense following on Instagram, she has recently expanded her skills into transforming herself into animals. She has also had multiple media-appearances, and become involved in a variety of make-up based competitions.

LESSON TO LEARN: Sometimes, finding a niche where you can use your talents is enough to make someone want to follow you.

The Clarion Quartet – ‘Having a Jam in the Traffic Jam’

Between junctions 26 and 27 in the M5, a massive traffic-jam was caused when a horse escaped it’s horse box and ran rampant in the road. The quartet in question, on their way home from performing at a wedding ceremony, were also caught in the jam. So, as bored as everyone else was, they decided to step out of their vehicle, and play Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’ live on the motorway.

It wasn’t long before an audience crowded around them, video-phones at the ready, and were given a round of applause once they finished their piece. And, as you can guess, it was media-appearances all the way from there-on.

LESSON TO LEARN: If you see an opportunity to make your voice heard, you might-as-well take it.

Ben Wilson – ‘The Spitting Image’

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Don’t you just hate it when you see a pavement that’s littered with chewing gum? Well, so did painter and sculptor, Ben Wilson. So, being the son of an artist, and a graduate from art-school, he decided to brighten both people’s spirits and streets by getting on his hands and knees, and painting tiny paintings into the individual pieces of spat-out gum

He was once arrested by police for allegedly vandalising property, yet was released without charge after a wave of supporters wrote letters demanding to set him free. He went full-time doing his chewing gum paintings in 2004, and still gets media-appearances for it to this day.

LESSON TO LEARN: Producing work that can turn a negative into a positive can make you popular.

Doug Walker – ‘Calling it Quits’

Whilst working as an illustrator, Doug used his spare time to make comedic videos of film-reviews. After discovering he was making enough money from the reviews alone, he decided to quit his job in the most OTT way possible, by parading around his workplace to ‘Bohomian Rhapsody’ and putting the clip on the web.

It’s an extremely risky move to make (and one I’d never try in a-million years), but seeing as his reviews have remained successful, even labelling him as one of the Top 10 YouTube Movie Critics according to WatchMojo.com, I’d say it was a successful move.

LESSON TO LEARN: Not everyone will like what you do, but if your target market is going to enjoy something you want to do, it’s a chance worth taking.

Why I Love ‘Design Swansea’ Meet-Ups

I was absolutely gutted last week when I missed a‘Design Swansea’ meet-up for the first time. Ever since I first learnt about them, I’ve attended every single month. It’s just a shame that the date of this months clashed with pre-booked events.

So, to make up for it, I thought this’d be a good time to explain why I love going to these meet-ups. Furthermore, it might be nice to give you, my readers, an insight into why going to any sort of meet-up is worth the journey.

I Always Learn Something New.

Every time I attend, I always make sure to bring something I can write on. There are so many new things I can learn, and perhaps even research into further, I just need something to get it all down on. I find it hard to think of a presentation I’ve seen which I didn’t find to be worth listening to in one way or another, which shows you just how intriguing they are.

After all, my blog post before this one was actually inspired by a statistic that was mentioned in one the talks I listened to. He might have talked at the speed of lightning, but, hey, he’s a highly enjoyable character, and it allows me to practice my short-hand!

I Can Get Some Free Advice.

Nobody is perfect at their profession. Even those who are most dedicated to their work can either make a mistake or just not know where to go. So, it only makes sense, for when someeone in a profession like mine gets stuck, to turn to someone I can trust for advice.

These meet-ups are fantastic places for that. I was struggling one time to get a piece of HTML right, and after a short conversation with Gareth Evans (who I believe also designed the meet-up logo), I asked him if he could think of where the problem was from the screenshot I showed him. Kindly, he offered me some advice as to what the correct code to enter was. If I didn’t meet him at this meet up, I’d still be struggling right now.

I Can Get Away from the Computer.

This isn’t just a concern for graphic designers, as at least half of all jobs now requite some sort of computer work. And even if you’re on that computer doing a job you enjoy, it’s hardly ideal to be stuck in front of a screen, day in and day out, for the rest of your life.

That’s why it’s nice to have an event for us designers to go to where we can break the deadly cycle and actually interact with others. We can talk about how we’re doing in life, and as mentioned earlier, we can bounce both advice, and opinions, off one another.

It Allows for a Friendly Rivalry.

Seeing as the majority of us are either freelancers or working for rival companies, it can be easy for us to start bearing grudges against one another. After all, business is based on competition. With that said, it’s always wise to avoid making enemies as much as possible, since the majority of job opportunities come from those we know.

That’s why it’s good to have an environment were we can interact like this, because it shows that we’re comfortable with being where we are and not fussed as to whether we’re better or worse than any of our competitors. Nobody goes to these meet-ups just to wine and moan, we all go to to just relax and talk about the jobs we love doing.

I Can Be Myself.

I know it’s a cliched thing to say, but I can really be myself. These meet-ups are far less restrained than an office would be, not requiring me to conform to a dress code or work to a deadline. Plus, I don’t just have to talk about graphic things. The first day I ever went there, I spent a whole hour just talking to Gemma Williams about what kind of films we enjoyed.

And why is it good to be myself at a place like this? Because by showing the kind of person I am, it helps me to befriend those who share the same love for the design industry that I have.

And A Bonus… Free Pizza!

Hey, you can’t really go wrong with that!

Why Do We Lose Our Creativity As We Grow Up (And How We Can Prevent It)?

During a presentation held by a highly enthusiastic Dan Spain at my nearest meet-up, he talked about a 2006 survey held by Sir Ken Robinson. In the survey, 1,600 children were tested to see how many of them were ‘highly creative’ (or more specifically, how many could think in “divergent or non-linear ways”) at various stages of their life.

Frighteningly, he discovered that despite 98% of them being highly creative aged 5, that dropped to just 2% by the time those same children were 25.

(AUTHORS NOTE: I’ve since been corrected that it was in fact George land who did the survey, not Ken Robinson. Thanks a lot, Google!)

As I left that night, I asked myself why we drastically lose our creativity as we get older. What I came up with were a variety of factors and a variety of ways we, as grown ups, can get around it.

We’re Not Looking After Our Bodies As Well As We Should.

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We privileged westerners often end up living unhealthy lifestyles, which can include too few vegetables in our stomachs, and too many un-earnt pints at the local pub. And, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that having an unhealthy body can lead to having an unhealthy mind.

Furthermore, graphic designers can spend long, long hours sat in front of the computer, staring at bright screens with square eyes, and eating way more carbohydrates than one can burn.

This is why looking after your body is important. You don’t have to be a health-fanatic by any means, but little things like keeping an eye on what you eat, exercising, quitting bad habits, and only treating oneself in moderation, can make a big difference. Keeping your body and mind healthy will allow you to hold onto its creative juices the longer you live.

We Have a Dumb Idea of What Makes Someone ‘Smart’.

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Whilst I’m probably more respectful for our education system than most of my friends are, mainly because I’m just glad it’s compulsory, I do think it can do with some patching up.

Partially to blame on society, it tends to be overly dependant on revision and memory, when rationality and innovation are greatly underrated aspects to ones intelligence. One of my ongoing clients explains this astonishingly in one of his articles (and if having a grizzly-bear alter-ego isn’t a creative outlet, I don’t know what is).

Slowly but surely, our society needs to change the way we classify ‘intelligence’, and see that there’s more than one way someone can be smart. It’s not all about remembering the facts, it’s also about experimentation, discovery, defensive skills, and determination.

Computers Have Made It Too Easy to Find Answers.

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One of the biggest faults of the Digital Age is that, quite literally, we can Google any question for almost any answer. Problem-solving is a vital part of divergent thinking, so the fact that we live in an a time where programs solve the problems for us means we’re not exercising our brains for finding the answers ourselves. Some professions require problem-solving skills as standard, but that’s a rarity.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but if your job doesn’t require those skills as much as others do, brain-teasers and puzzles are a good way of entertainingly training your head (Sudoku is a favourite of mine). Or, rock-climbing and orienteering can challenge your brain whilst giving you a breath of fresh air.

Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure you exercise your mind to avoid taking everything at point blanc.

We’ve Put Our Lust for Money Before Our True Passions.

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If you ask me, society has wildly over-glamorised money. From what I see, most high-paying jobs are extraordinarily stressful, and people in these positions barely have the time or energy to enjoy the things they buy. Furthermore, it’s not helped when those in higher positions disregard creative roles as ‘proper careers’.

So for one thing, let’s realise that the creative industry is perhaps more valuable than one may have first thought. To put it bluntly, it’s worth £71billion in the U.K., and $698billion (approx. £453billion) in the U.S.A.

Secondly, perhaps we should start measuring wealth by how much life one has lived. You really don’t need to buy 1,000 things you’ll never use! If you have a creative job you genuinely enjoy, so long as you can earn enough to survive, you’re better off using the rest of your energy living the short life you have with your friends and family.

After all, if I can survive with just Nokia 130 and without the latest iPhone, I think you can too.

We’re Scared of Trying (and Understanding) Anything New.

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I have come to discover that even the most open-minded people, despite good intentions, can struggle to look at creations which aren’t ‘standard’, and realise that it might have been beneficial to break an unwritten rule to two.

A fantastic example of this is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Extraordinary and unconventional, it originally received mixed reviews, and a comment from Elton John saying “you’ll never get that on the radio”. 40 years on, it’s one of the greatest pop-songs of all time, as well as one of the most played ones on British radio.

This might be challenging, but if you see/hear a piece you don’t like, don’t just give it a thumbs down. Take a moment to question why other people enjoy things you don’t like, and not only will it allow you to see understand from a different point of view, but it might even turn that thumbs down upside-down.