Friday, 11 January 2013

Join the Mailing List!

The new studio is on its way and it has a name now! Light Bolt media for those of you who wanted to know. If you want to stay in the loop and find out about the services deals collaborations and events that are going to happen very soon then please add you email address to the mailing list.

We wont spam you I promise only good and relevant information is on the way.

Also we would like you to help us figure out your needs as best as we can before we officially launch so you would be doing us a great service if you could fill in this survey

Thank you for stopping by!

Monday, 7 January 2013

The benefit of disagreements in creative ventures.

People get addicted to anger and people get addicted to violence. My Aunt for one is one of the angriest people I know, she just loves a good shout and a rant. She is to any outsider, quite a scary individual to be around, but I have become accustomed to her growls and snarls and am only too aware that there is not likely to be a bite following after it any time soon. Is it a personality trait maybe. Why might she be this way considering generally it creates more negative reactions than it does anything else? I have a theory! (I know I always do). My theory is that it generates something in people, not during the act of anger because that has been scientifically proven to absolutely ruin any clarity of thought, but after it. It's like the calm before the storm, only with anger it comes after the event. There is this overwhelming feeling of stillness that makes you question how or why you got so angry in the first place, but you were sure of it at the time. From every which angle that you looked at it you were perfectly within your rights to be so angry and you were damned well going to express that. Then comes the stillness.

My theory is based in the fact that you spend the majority of your time in life, trying to appease situations and get the best possible set up for the largest number of people. As a result of this, you very rarely react angrily or negatively toward other people, and always look for a way to be nice or at least civil. So now you have gained an extra viewpoint. This allows you to re-frame what you were previously thinking in a way that isn't quite so upsetting for you. You are no longer angry (or at least as angry) and whoever was going to be at the receiving end of your anger has gotten away unscathed. There are always repeat offenders though aren't there. They just love to piss you off no matter how hard you try to get to an easy solution with them, they will find another way to be annoying. So for these people you end up turning the other cheek so many times that you run out of ways to look. You are officially backed into a corner and now that your in the corner the only way to get out of it is to attack! Not ideal really is it? We tend to explode all in one big volcanous eruption in these situation and over react but fear not. There is a light at the end of every tunnel (unless its dark outside).

In this scenario you have been given the gift of multiple perspectives. You are privileged with a kind of a 360 view of whatever it was that made you angry in the first place. You experienced every feeling and thought that you had been side stepping before, all in one hit, and now you see it for what it is clearly. What you are left with is absolutely clarity in where you stand. How many times can you say that in your day to day life you are sure about anything? Most of the time the decisions we make are so intertwined with everyone else's wants and needs that it was out of our hands to begin with. Amongst trying to please everyone, and keep the peace, and keep your job and get things done etc you are usually put in a position where your viewpoint is moveable, malleable even. Your thoughts are organized around a system that is not your own so you say things to yourself like "I would feel like this about it, if it weren't for so and so, and if so and so changes there mind then I guess I should too" etc. It is a perpetual state of being sat on a fence. Not with anger though. Now you have clarity, and you are no longer sitting on the fence! Maybe my Aunt has just figured this out and goes straight in for the fight on this basis, (then again maybe not) but lets just move on with the point.

In the creative industries, designers, advertisers, consumers, and clients, have completely different interests and end goals in mind. So naturally you tend to end up with quite a few conflicting viewpoints. What would happen if we all just said what we thought straight away? Well I had a run in with this very thing the other day. And I will tell you exactly what came of it.

I am primarily a freelance graphic designer and I work on design projects, but aside from that I am a blogger and and a bit of an entrepreneur. I am for all intent and purposes at the very beginning of my entrepreneurial career and therefore am still working out various business relationships as they come to me. The one that I am going to be referencing here is my studio venture. Those of you who have read my news page will know that I am in the middle of setting up a small creative studio based out of London from which to run my freelance projects and other group projects as well. Now this has been in the running for quite a while and there are three people who must be consulted with every decision. Without going into too much detail about what exactly happened (I still have respect for my colleagues despite the disagreement) we have ended up in a position whereby all of our conflicting views about the business have reached boiling point. This has ended in a rather heated exchange over the phone and some harsh words exchanged. I have ranted and raged about it to the people involved, as well as to others who are completely disconnected from the incident and I too have reached the point of the calm. Now that my initial anger has dissipated I am left with only the facts, and I have realized a few things that I have been ignoring, or otherwise side stepping for a very long time. I am now far better informed for it. What I have is an understanding of exactly what it is I want from the whole process, how that is being met, or in this case not met, and what my options are for the future moving forwards. Of course it is not all about me and my needs but the needs of the group and if all three of us are not getting what it is that we need from the process then an alternative conclusion needs to be drawn. Now how is that for clarity! A milestone has been established and a plan must be implemented immediately. I am in a position to negotiate, and one that is not peppered by etiquette and politeness. It is one that is coming from pure honesty and the best interests of all parties involved. Had this argument not have surfaced in the first place, I can only imagine that another six months of tiptoeing around each others sensibilities would have ensued and no further work would have materialized. Or if it did it would not have been to the satisfaction of all parties involved and therefore ultimately a waste of time. So this for me is a prime example of how getting angry about things can actually work in your favor.

I read an article not too long ago (I apologize for not referencing it but it was a long time ago and I cant remember where I found it!) that was suggesting that social media like Twitter, and Facebook make people too agreeable and that people just band together with other folk who will never argue with them ever. For the most part I would say that I have witnessed this to be true from my own observations, not only on Facebook but in life but it is only now that I see in what way this is damaging. At University I was constantly being critiqued and it was a painful process to say the least. To have your backside handed back to you on a plate every time you think you have done good work or something worthy of praise is hard to deal with at first but you get used to it. Something that these lecturers know and understand about the creative industries is that it is full of rejection and you only get new and exciting ideas out of a fight. Being safe gets you nowhere. So my parting advice to you is this! Don't be afraid to disagree with someone if they have something to say that you don't like, and don't by any means be afraid to get angry about it either because your anger is going to help you see the picture for what it is in the long run.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Are you a mega multi tasker extraordinare?

Does this look familiar to you at all?

Duties for the Creative Designer / Developer include:
  • Creative concepts and brand design  to secure new business
  • Routine maintenance and development of the client websites many of which are developed in .net and aspx with full CMS functionality
  • Introduce and update new web content, including generation of new graphics/images
  • Design and development of striking HTML e-newsletters for direct marketing activities
  • Manage complete website lifecycle from initial idea to launch
  • Supervise website traffic levels, search engine rankings and other performance indicators and adjust content accordingly
  • Keep up to date with keyword and competitor online activities
  • Keep up to date with modern web trends and make suggestions for improvement of the Company’s online activities
Ideal Creative Designer / Developer Candidates:
  • Good academic achievements to degree level or equivalent in web design, multimedia or similar digital field or suitable level of experience in lieu of qualifications
Essential Skills Required
  • Good eye for aesthetics, and creative design, with thorough working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite products including Photoshop
  • Some hand coding skills with HTML and CSS
  • Familiar with coding to XHTML standards in compliance with W3C
  • Excellent cross-browser compatibility awareness
  • Working knowledge of aspx or .net
  • Demonstrable web design/implementation experience with a strong portfolio
Advantageous Experience
  • Understanding of responsive web development with mobiles and tablets in mind
  • Design of email newsletters and direct mail
  • Understanding of SEO principles
  • Working knowledge of WordPress, php, jquery and JavaScript and XHTML.
  • Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
  • Presentation skills
Now I apologize to the company who sent out this advertisement if you do in fact recognize it as your own but I haven't named you don't worry. This was one of the first jobs that I plucked up off of the creative pool website and I just want to go through some of the requirements for this role to make a bit of a point here.

Firstly there is the conflation of the ambiguous creative designer role with that of a web developer. For anyone out there who is in either field, or has tried to do both, they will know that they are basically two completely separate, and fairly extensive skillets to learn individually. To have both to a good standard is certainly an impressive feat. That's not to say that it doesn't happen because it does, and congrats to those of you out there who are web design, UI design, and development specialists all at the same time, you truly are in my eyes a genius, and a champion of the design field. Most of us can't do that though and I think it is fairly reasonable to assume that is because we have lives outside of our jobs! No I'm just kidding with you I'm sure even the design/ developer genius's have lives too. It's more of a time investment than it is anything else, and usually the deciding factor of someone who has all the time in the world to skill up and someone who has very little, is resources. We all have to eat. So I guess what I am really getting at is how did you get to a point where you could do all of this stuff if you weren't otherwise connected, mentored, and fully funded from he outset?

So lets assume that you did an Art & Design related A-level or two, or maybe you went down the route of going to college and getting to grips with a more vocational style NVQ or Diploma of some sort, and that gave you a practical grounding in color theory and different mediums etc. What you got there was probably your training wheels and a sense of play. Great so now you are intrigued by the wider world of design and off the back of your starter courses in Photoshop you've decided to go and get a degree in graphic design. That is the way it happens for most people so lets stay with this example. University is in most cases (but not all) going to be trying to teach you how to properly research and develop a concept and come up with something really creative. Excellent way to learn how to brand a company and help draw people in just using your noggin and a bit of thinking outside the box, so I guess you've got point number one of the Job ad covered with that. Creative concepts and brand design to secure new business.

Now then if you are one of the more savvy Design students then you may have secured an internship or two whilst still at University, and a lot of the design related ones do tend to involve updating and maintaining the company website, as it is something they don't often have time to do. If your lucky you will learn either before or during that process about a couple of Content management systems Like Drupal, or Wordpress which will mean that you at least know what .NET and ASPX actually mean. For those of you who don't, check out these links on the W3C and they will clear up all your questions (unfortunately I don't have time on this post) So there you have it you now have an entire coding language to learn along side your degree and most probably your part-time job and your internship as well. If by some miracle you have managed to achieve this then you are well and truly on the way to having achieved the specification on this job.
Routine maintenance and development of the client websites many of which are developed in .net and aspx with full CMS functionality.

The next duty on the list is quite a simple one and it is to generate and update new web content which is by and large one of the simpler tasks on this list. If you have gained any kind of mastery of the software involved over the time on your course then you will be able to do this with ease. So that's number three down. Introduce and update new web content, including generation of new graphics/images. 

So the job ad moving down then jumps into another one of those tasks that could be a field in its own right, email design and coding. Due to the lack of standards compliance and compatibility across email clients most good coders will tell you that you have to code like its 1999 and jump back into tabular based emails and do all kinds of CSS hacks that you just wouldn't dream of in a web design or application. If you have of course been learning your coding languages amongst everything else and have a good grasp of something like CSS3 and HTML5 which are fast becoming the norm then you are going to have pretty much drop it and go back to the old ways on emails. So you are now looking at knowing 3 or 4 different coding languages and there extensions. Now if this wasn't a skillset to be contended with already then have a look back at the rest of the list;
  • Supervise website traffic levels, search engine rankings and other performance indicators and adjust content accordingly
  • Keep up to date with keyword and competitor online activities
  • Keep up to date with modern web trends and make suggestions for improvement of the Company’s online activities.
On top of everything else you now need to be an SEO expert as well. This is probably not that difficult to learn but it is most certainly a time consuming set of tasks to complete and I should imagine that along side designing organizing, coding, updating and implementing all the other sites and emails you have to deal with that you are swiftly running out of brain-space for more at this stage. Now I think that you get the picture and there is no need for me to go into the chances of you having there extra "advantageous experience" such as responsive design, Jquery, JavaScript, PHP, and Google analytics.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that this is what your average design job spec looks like these days, and that is including the Junior positions. So even if you have worked your arse off during and around your studies you are likely to still not be on top of every latest trends in design, or experienced enough to take on the job and hit the ground running. You will nearly always get beaten to the punch by someone who has the years of experience because they got there foot in the door when it was much easier to do so. The internet is awash with industry professionals complaining that graduates do not have the skills for the roles. Which is a lovely privileged position to be speaking from if you started your career 12 years ago when there was only one or two web languages and one platform to design for. It was only yesterday that I ended up in a discussion through Linked groups, where somebody posted a conversation that said what happened to all the true designers and how come all the new graduates are just software junkies? This question is a fairly loaded one in itself and as you would imagine sparked a fairly heated debate among graduates and veterans alike.

My opinion on it all comes from a place that embraces the feelings of both parties (because I'm nice like that). Everybody seems to be drowning in technology. It all boils down to this one uniting factor, "the speed of production". If you now have tablets, phones, laptops, TV's, interactive billboards etc. and they are all considered to be primary channels of communication. Then the obvious consequence is that you now have a harder job as a company to market yourself and get yourself in front of as many relevant consumers as possible. It's expensive I am sure! Perhaps it would be better, instead of heaping the responsibility of working these channels onto the only existing job role that fits "the graphic designer", and to create a few more better fitting and specific job roles that can handle each part to a good standard. It is of course happening slowly but surely because there is a great deal of difference between a motion graphic designer and an animator, as well as between a digital designer and a print designer. Its the greedy folks at the top who are the problem. Trying to make there staff all singing and dancing. All it does is upset people at every level. Those whos primary job and skill was to conceptualize and build a brand and personality, feel that they are being squeezed out in favor of button monkeys. Those who feel that they excellent software skills and abilities to make beautiful visual presentations feel that they are being left out due to a lack theoretical and conceptual based skills. Obviously it would be better for all if you had two separate people doing there jobs to the best of there abilities even if they are the polar opposites of each other. I am aware of course that this is a fairly utopian idea of how things should work, but somebody somewhere must make the demands for a better set up for even a chance of it happening. Today that is me!

So here's what I'm gonna do. If you decide to follow in my footsteps then that's up to you. As of today I am going to work hard, not at trying to fulfill every given job specification that is ever thrown at me and keep skilling up. I am instead going to skill back. I am going to streamline my efforts to what is necessary to my business. Let me explain that a little better. For example I am pretty competent at Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Fireworks. However I mostly don't code in Dreamweaver, I use TextMate so that program is pretty much redundant to me (it merely serves the purpose of letting employers know that I understand WYSIWYG editors). Also I generally only use Fireworks to make quick changes to PNG files whilst building websites. Again though it is a rare usage so not in the top of my priority list of program's to go to. What I spend the majority of my time in is Photoshop designing interfaces and digital artwork. I can safely say I am pretty good with it and super comfortable using it. I don't think by any means it has hurt me to know about these other software, but I will be focusing my efforts on remaining expert level with my favorites rather than a blanket approach to whole suite. The same goes for coding languages. What I feel I will gain from this is a more niche market and a happier set of clients. Plus the chances are I will be able to stay much truer to what my price bracket is, and wont have to sell myself short in order to gain clients and there trust.

I will of course, as I do with all of my endevours, come back to this at a later point and let you know exactly how that goes. You never know it may go swimmingly well and it might also chuck up some other interesting factors to talk about. For now though this is all I have to say on the matter. So I hope I have offered you something interesting to think about. Until next time goodbye and thanks for reading.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Dont make it hard for yourself

You know what I find hilarious? It's the amount of people with outdated methods that are vehemently defending them to the detrement of anyone who might have found an easier way to do whatever it is that they do. Like for example all the coding purists of the Web development community who are so absolutely against anyone getting creative with code and stepping outside the web standards to make things work. Seems a bit silly to me as people's experimentation is what drives creativity and innovation forward. There are always going to be places in which standards and best practices are kept to, but come on now lets be honest we need those folks who don't want to follow the rules because it is those guys that will be opening doors. This seems to happen all over the place in every profession. You need to prove that you are a hard worker. If your not a hard worker then you cant possibly be a team player, and if your not a team player then you must be a selfish person, and if your a selfish person then you don't deserve the benefits that the hard working folk of the world generated in the first place, and so the spurious claims continue. The thing about any kind of traditionalism though, is that whether it be in work, study, or culture, is that it doesn't allow for much deviation from the plan. It doesn't actually allow anyone who may have found a better, more efficient, or just easier way to do something to adapt the tradition. This is why it is a problem. It's another one of those things that just slows the process of change down. But that is not really the point here, its is more about people actively road blocking the change makers and then bundling it up in a negative, like saying "you are lazy and this is the way it has to stay because its the right way".

I get it really I do, why would anyone work so hard to have some undeserving person jump on the bandwagon at the last minute and reap the benefits of all your work. It's infuriating to say the least, so obviously this kind of emotive response is going to lead to certain conclusions on the part of the hard working individual. So what does one do about such a thing? Do we stamp out all lazy and worthless individuals until there is nothing left but an army of obedient and productive people left to take on the worlds work and toil. The answer to that should be pretty obvious and it is most definitely a no. We are not machines and nor should we try and emulate them in any way shape or form. If anything we should take a lesson or two from the "lazy" people of the world. People seem to forget that this set up of if you work hard you will be rewarded was invented in the best interests of industry, which in turn was invented in the best interests of capitalism. Capitalism is just one giant self serving set of equations that aid monetary growth. It's not for your benefit and it never has been. It is for its own benefit and it has gotten out of hand. Your endlessly working hard does not actually help you at all. I mean it helps you to generate money for yourself and the company for which you work obviously but it also takes so much more from you then you realize at first glance. It takes away from you things like liberty autonomy and choice, and as we all know in most professions you are not even allowed your own genuine reaction to people or scenarios you must act as a "professional" at all times which in my mind is just a zombie. (Yes I am being pessimistic about this). Did you know that the amount of people taking time off work due to stress and anxiety related issues has risen to 58%. That is basically the majority, and it says a lot of the rising expectations of the employer. What it also says is that it isn't healthy, and continuing to try and meet impossible standards is the very thing pushing the bar up endlessly in the first place. You are indirectly, by trying to work as hard as you are asked just making your life more difficult.

Bill Gates our favorite innovator once said. "I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because they will find an easy way to do it". He wasn't the only to have cottoned onto this notion as some of the biggest and most successful tech and design companies of the age have raised the productivity rates of their staff considerably, by actually lowering the expectation on the employee. For example Steven Sagmeister who runs an award winning design studio in New York, (check that out here ) closes it completely every seven years and gives all his staff a whole year off fully paid and free to do what they want in their lives. He goes into great detail about the benefits of time away from work and how interesting and engaged people actually become, and how produce better work,  (you can check that out here Another company to utilize this flexible working pattern is Google, who have a kind of get it done when your ready approach. There are many more like them too that make fun office spaces and day trips etc to try and get the best out of their people. Facebook, Apple, Sony, to name a few. So as you can see giving people freedom is paramount to their productivity.

The thing to remember is that most of the innovations that have come to pass since the industrial revolution have been in order to make things easier for us in our everyday lives. That was always the point, so why do we continue to punish people for their doing things the easy way. We are all being sold a bit of a lie here and probably should get a little bit angrier about seems to work for the Buddhist's, they never get angry. There's probably an answer in their somewhere maybe we shouldn't be getting angry about it all and just try to take the path of least resistance. All I am really suggesting here is that you change your perspective a little and point that blame finger in another direction. Your feeling bad about someone doing less work than you only really stems from your feeling cheated because you just realized you didn't have to work so hard in the first place. It sucks I know, but once you have to come to this realization then you are well and truly on the way to enlightenment. I remember this feeling very well in relation to my university coursework. For those of you out there who have done or are doing an arts related course then you will know that you are marked not really on the final outcome per se but the process in which you got there. Usually in the form of a sketchbook. I know I am not the only one out there who finds this to be a ridiculous concept. The build up to the final piece of work is what you are being judged on and I understand that there needs to be some point of reference but if you are trying to hone your skills as a painter what you want to do is paint not research other peoples paintings. The learning as often is with most things is in the doing, and the back up just feels like extra work for nothing. It is no coincidence that most students will tell you that they found it easier to work backwards from the final product in there sketchbooks and that is because they all know that they are only doing the sketchbook thing because they have to. Nobody wants to do work that they don't need to it just isn't natural. So the long and the short of it really is you should'nt stress yourself out by working your self to the bone, and you should'nt srtess other people out who choose not to. You should just learn how to be relaxed and soon enough and you will naturally become happier more productive and more innovative as a result. Which was actually the original aim of all the hard work. How ironic.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

50 non Design skills and competencies for the Designer.

1. Being able to type quickly and correctly.

2. Being able to spell.

3. Having at least a basic understanding of copy-writing.

4. Knowing how to speak clearly, objectively, and calmly when under direct criticism.

5. Being able to work a DSLR and understanding what the functions actually do.

6. Knowing when to quit.

7. Knowing how to work Microsoft office (yes that includes excel).

8. Knowing how to write a contract.

9. Knowing how to write an invoice.

10. Knowing how to pay your taxes.

11. Knowing how to write a thank you card.

12. Knowing your legal rights and where to get help if somebody tries to rip you off.

13. Understanding the ins and outs of a good savings account.

14. Getting to grips with a financial plan.

15. Time management.

16. Organizational skills.

17. Networking.

18. Sales.

19. Basic computer maintenance and repairs (both PC and Mac)

20. Decent drawing/ sketching/ wire-framing ability.

21. Have a basic understanding of hosting/ domains/ and SEO.

22. Know what social media tools are available to you and which are relevant to your needs.

23. Listening skills.

24. Problem solving ability.

25. Basic math.

26. Research and analysis of information.

27. Being in control of your emotions (things can get pretty stressful).

28. People management skills.

29. Self awareness (as in what level of ability you really do have and not what you try to tell people you have).

30. Cultural awareness.

31. Global awareness.

32. Contextualization skills (this is probably the most important and the most difficult one).

33. Marketing awareness.

34. Punctuality.

35. Likeability (you will be surprised how much of a difference this makes). 

36. Flexibilty.

37. Patience.

38. Perseverance.

39. Tact.

40. Ingenuity.

41. Understanding how and when to outsource.

42. Open mindedness.

43. Goal setting.

45. Understanding Copyright Law.

46. Staying up to date with new technology and software.

47. Being aware of local and regional trade fairs that are relevant to you.

48. Trend awareness.

49. Market knowledge.

50. Pitching ability.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Your social life is overrated

This planet is full of beauty and intelligence and exquisite differences wherever you look. You can find inspiration and new ideas in the most obscure places. Think back to a time when you were forced to take that 40 minute walk in the rain instead of the bus because you lost your purse and I will bet all the change in my pocket (this statement is just for effect I don't actually carry change in my pocket I have a purse so that would be silly!) that you had something awoken in you. A reminder of times when you go out in the rain on purpose because you wanted to feel the water on your face, and how it made you want to splash in the puddles and run around like you did when you were six. I'll bet you actually enjoyed it. There is after all only so wet you can get! It is always an enlightening experience when you are forced to do something seemingly with no reason and end up getting lost in the moment. Think about it, in your childhood why did you ever do anything? It was never for a reason and you never ever asked why. I mean you might have asked why is the sky blue or why is the grass green but I'll bet you never asked your friend why do you want to play on the slide. It was obvious because it was an experience. If you never had the experience before then that was all the more reason to do it. Unfortunately though in your adult life you get trained into being afraid of new experiences. Fear of course has its purposes and should not be ignored but considering how safe our world actually is now in comparison even to fifty years ago it seems strange that the level of fear in people has actually risen. We have great medicine now, and we have stringent health and safety checks for buildings, vehicles and public spaces. Everything that is likely to have a lot of people involved in or using it, is likely to have been checked so thoroughly for possible dangers that you would have to get really creative in order to harm yourself in anyway. And yet even in light of all this modern technology and insight we are afraid to let our children play in the street or to climb up onto a fence in case they slip and break an arm etc. We have actually just become hyper vigilant instead and handed over responsibility from the discretion of the individual, to a risk assessment test. The result is constant fear of the unknown and the unchecked. This is of course not entirely our own fault because have you ever tried ignoring the warnings and going ahead and doing the dangerous thing anyway? What happens is somebody immediately saves you from yourself. They scream out stop you cant go in there it's dangerous you'll hurt yourself, and come running to your aid and to drag you from harms way. Its quite distracting actually and the sudden intervention might be the very thing that causes you to harm yourself ironically enough. But I digress. The point is that the world itself is nothing to be afraid of it is more likely other people that you should be afraid of.

Now getting to the point of a social life and what purpose that serves for us. In your childhood it's to have a partner in crime, and to have people with which to share you experience with. This is important to my point so remember that sentence. The people that you choose as friends as children, are often measured by there fear (or lack of) for new experiences. What I mean by that is you subconsciously go towards people who want to try the same things as you do and who have similar levels of tolerance for them. There are nuances of course between physical, social, and intellectual experience but you get the picture. So you are not going to hang out with people who constantly do things that scare you senseless. You are going to hang back and find other people who are fearful like you and don't force you to do big scary things all the time. The same of course though works vice-versa. You are equally not going to want to hang out with people who are afraid to try new things if you are the brave one because eventually you will become resentful and feel that they are holding you back. It is this fundamental underlying motive that drives all social interaction. The sharing of experience. So of course this only becomes a problem when people are mismatched in life. Its the tyranny of the majority. By the time you get to secondary school for example you are pretty much expected to like and want to like the same the things as the majority of people do and if you are anywhere above or below this line of accepted behavior then you will be outcast and left to enjoy your experience on your own. Sometimes that is a good thing because it allows you to experience life on your terms but I will get to that point later.

We all start to learn as teenagers and probably younger than that even, that there is an accepted level of fear. Girls should be afraid of spiders, dirt, and excessive physical exertion, and boys should be afraid of crying in front of people and the wider range of emotions in general. (I obviously didn't get that memo). This is all rather general and outdated I know but the point is there is a kind of benchmark that we are being measured against all the time. I am female and to be honest am afraid of very little, I am not afraid of heights, heavy machinery, fighting, wild animals, or dirt. Unfortunately I am pretty weird about the spiders thing but then again so are my brothers! Regardless of the social cultural shift that has happened post feminism, a lot of the old stereotypes remain and people are still surprised of my fearlessness in general when they get to know me, and often put it down to some sort of unnatural disposition that I must have and be unaware of. This is fine now because I have come to terms with the fact that is the way that the world works, but it is actually very restricting because it leaves me feeling as though I have to pass for normal with regards to my hopes and fears. And there are so many people that I speak to that feel the need to pass for normal when it comes to fear or lack of for any given experience. It is a real shame because other peoples reactions are what we fear more than the actual event and how they will treat us if we reveal our true identities (Batman couldn't exist without the mask).

This is why I think that your social life is overrated. Having to check back with your peer group or in fact any near by human being that what you are doing is acceptable to the wider majority can be an almost cripplingly slow process. How is any one supposed to learn about the world or there own level of comfort within it if they have to go through this rigmarole day in day out. It is frankly ridiculous. To the loners out there this is a lesson that they learned long ago. They have already given up on the checks and balances and enjoy a whole world free from the judging eyes of the masses. It seems to me no coincidence that great genius and leaps of consciousness in the world have more often than not been born of solitude. So perhaps the key to true creativity is to be found on ones own after all.  And Now for my final trick! of tying this all in to Design.

Everything that you design is for someone other than yourself to look at and interact with. You have to do a lot of guess work in trying to get to a place where you understand the mind of the viewer. That however is just yet another layer of the people pleasing machine and another step away from experience for experiences sake. Did I mention that your happiness depends on your ability to experience things in the moment? watch this link you'll see what I mean. but again I digress. After too long spent figuring out what it is that people like and don't like we sort of stagnate. And that is because we forget one key thing. People change there minds, and they change there minds so frequently that trying to keep up with what people do and do not like is pretty much futile. This is a battle that you will never win. Isn't it funny how the cool kids are usually the ones who don't give a crap whether or not people think what they are doing is cool or not? Not really, it is because they go with the moment and indulge in it regardless of the social consequences. It can be hard as a designer to just go with your gut and tell other people what they should and shouldn't like but all you can do is try. If you don't then you will be yesterdays news faster than you can say wait for me. You did after all get into this business most likely because somebody did something so out there and off the wall that it inspired you right? Well now it is your turn. don't bother asking your friends if what you are doing is right or not just feel it out. If it feels right to you right now then it is!

Oh and now for an apology for what has actually been an epic rant. I just had one of those days today where all of the above was running around my brain at a hundred miles and hour and I thought it best to share the juicy bits with you good people of the internet. Thanks for listening!

Friday, 2 November 2012

When all your friends are designers too.

The unavoidable part of becoming a designer or a politician or bricklayer even, is that your peer group will eventually be made up mostly of other designers, bricklayers, or politicians. Why am I insinuating that's a bad thing you might ask? Well I would have thought the answer obvious, but that doesn't make for a very good read!

Politicians are probably the best example of this line of argument because this is something that the majority of people have witnessed with their own eyes. Politicians on the whole, get accused of the same thing over and over again, and it is that of being self interested and out of touch with the people that they actually govern. They are purely in the business of making the country a better place for themselves and others like them. That is of course the generalized public opinion and not everybody shares this view but maybe there is some truth in it. Maybe the politicians have become so accustomed to the interests of their party and the company of other politicians that they have no idea what the people are really like. This happens in a number of instances when you think about it.  It has done throughout history. for instance in revolutions and civil wars across the globe. Stereotyping after all is not entirely fictional, or indeed fixed. The generalization must to true to an extent of most people within the named group, that's how it works. The problem is that the job is so all consuming. It is more than just a job that you do for money, it is a role within society that affects people and there livelihoods and it carries with it responsibility, and expected behavior, and so forth, it just so happens that it carries a pay check. What most people fail to notice is that all jobs are like this. Your Job isn't just a job, it is far more than that.

I think a great interlude to this line of thought would be for you to check out this site which elaborates on my point in a wonderful way.

Now coming back to what you do, it is going to affect affect quite a few things in your life and not only that but it is going to affect things for your close and even quite distantly connected peer group. You might be thinking don't be silly, I can see how a politicians decisions are affecting the wider population, but how is me designing holiday cards for "Clinton Cards" going to make a difference to anything. I feel this one is best illustrated with a little story.

Lets say for example you are in fact a freelance graphic designer. This allows you to work from home or from your clients office and at your own pace within reason. It also allows you to charge whatever rates you feel are appropriate, and generally avoid the day in day out monotony of the nine to five. Overall you are happy with your choice to do this but it does have its down sides. Some of your clients are not very nice people and they don't understand or respect what it is that you do. They call you up at all hours of the day expecting you to be fine with this because you are a freelancer, and they try to get away with not paying you wherever possible. Not only this but you often have periods without any work and you are in charge of supplying, maintaining, and updating, the very expensive equipment and software that is required to be a graphic designer. These are all things that affect you personally.

Now of course these things do have a bit of a knock on effect and bleed into your personal life. For example, your boyfriend/ girlfriend often complains that you don't spend the weekend with them as often as they would like because your projects sometimes run over and the deadline is the most important to you than quality time with your partner. You know all about computers and a little bit about programming and markup languages because its part of your job so naturally sometimes you just cant switch off and end up talking about these subjects to your friends. They know nothing about what you are talking about and have no interest in listening to it either, as it has no effect on there situation and subsequently avoid you when that's what you are talking about. In there eyes you are becoming more and more boring and they would like there less geeky friend back. On a more positive front though it also means that you can help with otherwise technical and daunting tasks that your friends may not be able to handle on there own so most people, (your mum especially) now assume that you are there own personal technician and treat you accordingly. Great news for a number of people in your immediate circle and perhaps a few friends of theirs that could sling you some work.

Now you can see where I am going with this but the last one is the more important aspect, and it is how you have affected the company, the employees, and the consumers, of the products via your actual work. Now lets not forget what you do as a graphic designer. You are a conveyor of visual information and a maker a visual reality that may or may not exist for someone other than yourself. In essence, you sell things to people using pictures and words. So where does all this affectation come in? I'm glad you asked! Lets say the Job you just did was a set of labels for a new cosmetic range that wanted to draw in a new younger audience as the company weren't meeting there profit target by only appealing to the over 25's. So you made some funky fresh design touting young faces Photoshopped to look as though they were wearing the cosmetics themselves and beaming with confidence about it. You have just given the company a much need facelift and they have therefore made a huge 23% increase in sales as a result of the new packaging, allowing them to take on more staff and produce more products. This has indirectly created jobs for some lucky people who were looking for work but it has also increased the workload of the lab staff who were already overworked. Because its such a specialist role the company could not afford to hire more lab technicians and just decided that the current staff members could handle it. A young girl who normally doesn't wear makeup passes this new product in the shops and has heard that its all the rage and growing in popularity among her friends so she asks her mother to buy it for her. Her mother who is against makeup refuses and this indirectly contributes to mean comments from those who do wear the product. I could go on but I feel that I may have got my point across with this one.

This story is of course all fictional and purely fabricated to make a point but the point is in how this chain forms from what you do. Your work has a myriad of unexpected chain reactions regardless of what it is you actually think you do, so it is important to remain rounded and aware of the wider audience and affectee's. This is why I think that it is bad to have only friends who are graphic designers. It blinkers your thinking into a mold of the political, ideological, and social, conscious of the design world. It just so happens that graphic designers and other creators can be quite progressive, but even though this is true it becomes easy to forget that there is a whole world out there who know nothing of what you do or why you do it. These people are still very much a part of your world. And there voice and point of view is still just as valid as anyone else's. The minute you stop listening to those voices you become the out of touch politician, and honestly nobody likes that person. So by all means have friends who are designers and do cool designery type stuff with them. We all need people with whom we share a passion because it gives us someone to bounce off of and spark creativity. Just try and make sure that you have a life outside of the design world with people that have nothing to do with it. You know what they say after all, "Variety is the spice of life".