So tell me about your journey into the web development and graphic design career?
I suppose, to go back to the beginning would be school. I studied GCSE Fine Art, Graphic Design and Business among others and I sort of had this idea that all three would somehow go hand in hand eventually. I enjoyed my art but it somehow felt aimless, I had no direction and no real immediate desire to tackle that avenue. I knew that my passion was within design as it combined the artistic side of me with meeting the needs of people, culture and the environment. I played a lot of video games as a child (I try to nowadays but it’s become a bit more difficult to find the time) and I think this fulfilled a problem-solving void which is ultimately why I like design, it solves problems. Not to say that art doesn’t solve problems, it 100% does, but design has a more immediate effect on things we all interact with.
I opted to carry on through to my A-Levels at the same college. I chose Fine Art, Business and Photography as my areas of study. I then went on to receive a Gold Award from the Royal Academy of Arts for a photograph of mine. Despite this, I still knew that neither art or photography were exactly what I wanted to do.
After studying a Bauhaus style foundation year at Exeter College, Graphic Design was now my clear path and where I wanted to go with things. I then studied a BA in Graphic Communication with Typography at University of Plymouth and pushed my specialism into Branding and Identity. Meanwhile I had done a work placement at Atwork Studio in Totnes and was offered a job straight out of university at Slim Design and Print. Since leaving university I have taught myself code, with a particular specialism in WordPress websites of all kinds.
Two and a half years on, I am now a digital designer and I am starting a Master’s Degree, MA Entrepreneurship for Creative Practice at Plymouth College of Art. I will study this part time so I can continue to work and also be available for my amazing clients! I am exploring themes to do with social and cultural problems, and how I can use design and technology to solve those problems. Hopefully I can begin to make a widespread, positive impact for people, but even if it makes one person’s life a bit easier that would be great.
What’s your daily routine?
I’ve never been an early riser, but recent times have required me to be. I quite enjoy the quiet when I first start work and then slowly seeing the world spring into life. I normally have a little read of itsnicethat.com to get my creative brain into gear and then begin working straight away. I then feed my Siamese fighter fish who provides me with a bit of company while I work, he’s called Michael Bubble. Around 11am I need a bit of a boost so I make a coffee using my Bialetti moka pot and a lavazza milk frother to make a nice strong cappuccino. On a day when I fancy more of an espresso I head down to Boston Tea Party in Plymouth which is always great. Work days often span into the night so I go for a walk at 5pm up to Plymouth Hoe and around and down to the Barbican, it always looks beautiful whatever the weather.
For those individuals who want to juggle career and education, how are you going to manage your part-time and your career?
I would think carefully about how you want to study, part-time made sense for me because I have committed myself across my clients work and wellbeing, not just my own. I am happy with where my career is going but I am always pushing myself for more challenges, more progression, so it made sense for me to put aside some time for my own reflection and refining my skills. Flexibility in work while studying is going to be key with any part-time course. If I have to make up hours through the evenings that’s what I’ll do.
Do you think work experience at other companies is essential or should you just start your own business?
I would definitely get some experience before you think about freelancing. It’s essential to learn about the trade and how different that is to a university project. Standard projects during my BA would be 4 weeks long. Now sometimes I need to finish a project in half a work day.
How do you find clients?
The easiest method of finding clients is word of mouth. Often happy existing clients will do the hard work for you! Even though times are-a-changin I still prefer to talk to potential clients in person, find out a bit about their business and see if I can make any of their processes quicker, easier or more attractive.
How do you deal with clients that might be difficult? (in this case I really hope I wasn’t one of those clients LOL)
Hahaha, you’ll be pleased to know that you were not a difficult client of mine. I think empathy is the best tool for understanding what makes a client tick and what potentially they may be nervous about before you start a project. Over time you start to almost predict what clients might be more picky about and how you can provide reassurance throughout the entire creative process.
In say 3 years time where do you see yourself?
I’d like to be moving into projects which have a lot of social and cultural value so hopefully by then I can be tackling those projects and making a big difference locally or even nationally. Fingers crossed I have my Master’s degree by then, and could potentially think about a PHD, depending on how I am feeling!
On a technical note, what apps are you currently using that us lot can use on social media or other small projects?
Adobe Spark is quite good for social media posts, you can even involve animations to catch people’s eye. The best part is it’s free, but the paid version is even better. You get that free with an Adobe subscription if you have one. Canva can be good but it’s still not really industry level, it’s okay for quick pieces.
Are there any graphic design accounts that you wanna give a shout out to?
@alanqualtrough is doing some cool things with letterpress, he has a studio in Plymouth and his political angle makes his work relevant and interesting. @illeso_ is a daily source of black and white inspiration for me. Luke Dixon of @thebearhugco always has strong compositions and more recently some very nice use of typography.