Afterlife: Gareth Dunt

This Afterlife session was lead by Gareth Dunt, our final Afterlife presenter! He graduated from CSAD Graphic Design in 2010. Gareth is from Rhyl, North Wales, he was initially interested in architecture as a career path, but completing some work experience in the industry, he found that it wasn’t what he wanted. His brother worked in an interior design studio, which inspired Gareth to research a career in graphic design. He then went to college, and spent a lot of time experimenting with typography and photograms, which elad him to apply for and gain a place on the graphics course at CSAD. He went to the 4 Designers talk in London in his 2nd year of university, and was massively inspired by Michael Wolf. A phrase that Gareth memorised as a quote from Michael was “it’s better to be interested, than interesting” which really summed up his philosophy for graphic design (and everyday life).

After graduating from CSAD, Gareth worked for 3 months in Elmwood, London. Shortly after, he carried out a short internship at Kin, London, where he worked mainly on on exhibition design and interactive projects. He then completed a two-week internship that was unsuccessful. I felt really sorry for Gareth when he was describing this time of his life, it must have been extremely disappointing to be unsuccessful after graduating and moving to London, especially because of the price of living. He then worked 24/7 with little to no rest, social life or food because of the expense of living in London, and realised that he couldn’t go on like this forever, because he kept having creative, physical and emotional “burnouts”. His brother helped him obtain an interview for retail design agency Dalziel & Pow, London. He was successful and worked there for a short period of time before they offered him a place as a junior designer. He worked on a huge range of projects and gained lots of valuable experience, working with big brands like Timberland and Primark. However, he mentioned that he never really felt 100% on board with the work he was creating – graphic design for fast fashion brands like Primark wasn’t the industry he wanted to progress in, and he said that he felt really guilty about it. He didn’t agree with the idea of “BUY BUY BUY” and “SELL SELL SELL” and he was producing work that he didn’t even like, which lead him to burnt out after burnout. He then spent a short period of time in Thailand, where he felt that he could escape from London and recharge himself emotionally and physically until he could work out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. After 3 months in Thailand, he moved back to London and freelanced to build upon his real passion – installation. Next, he moved to Brighton, where he worked for Filthy Media carrying out branding projects for Box Park in London and type projects for Reebok.

Box Park Branding Project

From Gareth’s talk, the main points that I have taken and will apply in the future, especially his portfolio tips and tricks.

  • Collaboration is essential: widens your connections and networks with others
  • Just do it. Don’t wait for a client to ask you first
  • You don’t HAVE to go to London. 
  • You don’t NEED to work until 2am. It’s unhealthy and you will eventually reach a burnt out.
  • You don’t HAVE to work for FREE. Because it’s good for your portfolio and good exposure, don’t feel like you have to work for free.
  • You don’t NEED to be winning all the time. You don’t have to be working 24/7, there is more to life and designing. Have a balanced life!

PORTFOLIO TIPS AND TRICKS:

  • Good ideas with good execution
  • Start with your CV
  • Practice what you preach – design your portfolio so that it successfully reflects your work and skills
  • Less (really is) more – it’s better to show really good projects rather than a huge quantity of mediocre ones
  • Build a narrative to allow for a natural flow during the interview process, for example for the order of projects
  • Be honest
  • Include self-initiated work in my portfolio – it shows my true passions outside of an education environment
  • Show my working, such as sketches and initial ideas as it gives the interviewer and studios how I work
  • Proofread everything – at least 3 times for everything
  • Get
  • Get feedback – portfolios are hard to do and definitely take some time
  • Keep on top of it – look at it every couple of months to maintain your level of design and so it doesn’t become a mountain of work

References

Afterlife: Common Curiosity

This weeks Afterlife session lead by multi-disciplinary company Common Curiosity with owners Paul Felton and Alex Woolley. They’re a two person studio based in both the Birmingham Custard Factory and the London De Beauvoir Block. Although they only formed their company in 2017, they’ve already worked with some massive brands such as Royal Mail, Google, Sculpt and The Crowd. Having a minimal team of two people helps them keep in touch with the clients regularly, and helps to build really strong relationships as nothing is lost in translation. They showed their six tips which they applied to their own case studies for the brands they’ve worked with, which was super insightful:

Tip 1 – Give it meaning.

Paul said that it’s essential to stand out from the crowd “the pretty things just because they’re pretty”. Adding meaning to work makes it stand out more, and also makes it more memorable. Substance over style every day. It tells a story rather than just a photo. The case study Paul chose to show for this tip was their work for Kilder Craft Beer. They branded a new bar in Digbeth, Birmingham with a completely one-off name and location – when working with new brands it’s so important to find their unique selling point, something that makes them different than their competitors. For Kilder Craft Beet it was definitely the name and location. The visual language was created with the location, environment and product in mind and has been stretched across all means of communication such as typefaces and stationery products.

Kilder Craft Beer Bar

Tip 2 – Be curious.

Paul highlighted that it’s sometimes really hard to find inspiration, especially when we’re working from home and not in our usual habitat of a design studio. The best way to find inspiration, is to work to find it – do the necessary research and work hard, and the inspiration will find its way to you. Paul highlighted the quote “inspiration will find you hard at work” which I think is such a lovely quote! I can definitely relate to this. The case study they related to this tip was for Royal Mail where they created a stamp book to celebrate 100 years of the RAF. They started their research by visiting RAF Costford and absorbed everything they could about the knowledge and history of the location, and noticed how the rivets of the planes visually linked with the edges of a stamp. By applying this knowledge through in depth research they came up with a beautiful visual identity system which backs up just how beneficial extensive research like this can be.

RAF Costford

Tip 3 – The brain is mightier than the Apple.

The importance and benefits of starting to come up with initial ideas on paper – this helps to visualise and get out ideas in the purest form rather than worrying about whether it works from a software point of view. The case study they showed for this tip was for Sculpt, an interior design and architecture workshop based in Birmingham. The business said that they design “the space within” the four walls which Paul thought was a lovely touch and a great starting point. The S shape they created for this was adaptable for every context – it was constantly evolving to whatever orientation it needed.

Sculpt

Tip 4 – Question everything.

When getting a new brief, in uni or in freelance or industry, you should completely dissect the brief as ask yourself “is what I’m being asked to do the correct thing, is this what I should do?” multiple times throughout the project! Learn to challenge the conventions of what’s expected. They linked this tip to a case study of their work for D&B books, a small independent publisher who’s brief stated they wanted to showcase the book cover design that didn’t make the cut – displaying 25 designer book covers and for each, 4 rejected designs. Paul said that at the early stages of this project they had to churn out all the ‘bad’ ideas to get to where they are now, and although it felt like they were failing at the time, they were actually making massive progress, via the process of elimination. From this experimentation they created the visual system of the x’s which helped to form the navigational system, one that didn’t take away from the work itself.

D&B Books

Tip 5 – Work with words.

Paul then went on to talk about when working on a new branding project they try to articulate the idea in 3-4 words or one short sentence to explain the reasoning for why things are why they are. They linked this to their work for Ravensden who are an animal themed toy brand. When working with this client, they specified how they wanted to keep the Raven in there existing logo as it had been in their family and represented their farm for over 100 years and had great sentimental value to them. They also needed to move away from their competitors and the cliche of the tropical safari products and create a succinct and well-designed catalogue for their customers. When speaking with the client, they spoke about their business in a very mechanical way which focussed primarily on numbers, but toys for children are so much more than that, they’re companions for them. This idea of companionship was built within the new logo which showed the curve of the R as an arm hugging the raven.

Ravensden

Tip 6 – Graft and graft.

Common Curiosity said that designing is tough. There is no set process or right or wrong method that works for everyone, and there definitely aren’t any magic, quick, or easy solutions. The key is to experiment with everything whilst conducting in-depth research. They linked this to another case study for Royal Mail where they worked on a set of six stamps to reflect 50 years on the subject of British engineering.

Royal Mail

References:

Afterlife: Friendly Giants

Today’s Afterlife session was run by Gavin from Friendly Giants (formally known as Little Hawk). Former BAGCW210 students Maria & Kieran now work for Friendly Giants, so that was really inspiring and relatable for me. Gavin gave a really open and raw insight into the journey of Friendly Giants as a business, working with famous brands like ITV, Netflix, BBC, and many more. The main message that I got from today’s session was that Friendly Giants want to help people and do good within the industry.

It was really great to get some insight from Maria and Kieran who haven’t been working with Gavin for that long, and also to get their opinions on remote working and ‘WFH’ life in the real world of work. It was comforting to know that everyone was struggling slightly with working from home now, and that not being in a creative space can really take its toll. However, they also gave some great tips on how to maintain creativity while stuck inside which was really helpful for me.

Gavin went into great detail in one of their most recent rebrand projects for Go Ape. Gavin showed us the process of the brief from the start finish, which was super insightful and helpful for me especially. It was really useful to see and apply similar methods to my freelance working methods. Friendly Giants’ mission was to create a brand-new brand identity for Go Ape, that would appeal to younger adults and to new customers without completely ignoring its original and primary target audience – families. The problem was that Go Ape had started to lose some young-adult visitors on the basis of that it was seen as a family brand ONLY. They particularly needed to focus on updating their tone of voice and brand values to enable a new area of customers. They wanted to change the whole mindset of their customers to a more motivated and positive one. Carrying out a large volume of primary research was an essential stage of the brief as they needed to research the reasons that people wanted to visit Go Ape in the first place, what made it fun, exciting, adventurous and overall what motivated them to think this.

The branding for Go Ape is absolutely beautiful graphic design, and seeing the whole process from the ideation stage, development stage that went into creating the brand was so insightful. This really helped me with applying the design process methods to my freelance work. It gave me a clear insight to how to run a business and also how to guide clients to the right ideas even when they originally have different visions.

From today’s talk from Gavin, Maria and Kieran, the key points that I’ve taken away are as follows:

  • MOODBOARDS & MOCKUPS ARE EVERYTHING” – they allow clients to visualise the designs in context which helps to apply their brand vision to real life scenarios.
  • PRIMARY RESEARCH IS ESSENTIAL” – Research is the most important stage of any branding project. Understanding the brand and its values is vital for a successful rebrand.
  • “TALK ABOUT YOUR IDEAS WITH OTHERS” Teamwork is vital, especially when you’re stuck on an idea that you can get out of your own head from.
  • “LOOK AT THE VALUES OF THE BRAND” This will help you to navigate your research and best create a brand suitable for your client and for their audiences.

References

Friendly Giants. (2021). Homepage [online] Available at <https://friendlygiants.com/our-work&gt;

Afterlife: Cowshed

Today, previous BAGCW210 student Maris Latham gave the Afterlife talk. Maris is now working in industry at Cowshed. I loved how honest and raw Maris was about her journey after graduating. I also loved the way she structured the presentation through her seven top tips for us. I’m a big fan of Maris’ work since David introduced us to her work in the first year. Her passion for typography is really inspirational, particularly her recent typeface design which I have been following via her Instagram page. Maris was very open about how she felt overwhelmed and a “failure” after she graduated. She felt a huge pressure which she had put on herself to be “a successful designer”, but she explained that she had a very different view on what a “successful designer” was when she graduated, to 2 years on. She reassured us to not compare ourselves to anybody else, and to not try too hard to please anyone, but to focus on designing things that really interest you and that you genuinely love. She also noted that social media is a powerful tool but should not be dwelled upon in terms of followers/likes etc. It is not a measure of success!

Maris talked about the importance of work placements and how she did as many as she possibly could while studying. I agree completely with her here, even though I have only done 2 work placements (she did around 7!), I feel that they taught me so much about working in the industry (“the real world”), and this shows in your work ethic when applying for other jobs. However, she did note that you shouldn’t just do work placements for the sake of it – YES, they are good for your CV, but that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to learn from them, and to make connections within the industry.

I found it really relatable when Maris talked about how she felt the need to have a fully functioning plan that she stuck to constantly, and when it wasn’t going to plan, it would majorly stress her out. I feel her pain!!! That is literally my life! 😂 I found it really comforting to know that she felt similarly to me when she was in my position. It gave me hope that one day I will sort myself out, and have everything in order – but for now, I’m juggling everything and getting the most experience I can get before I graduate!

Maris is all for passion projects that help her to find her loves in Graphic Design, that refine her interests to develop new techniques with no limitations like deadlines or clients. However, she feels as though we live in a culture that expects us to be constantly productive and busy – 24/7. This is definitely something I can relate to. If I have a slightly less productive day I see it as a failure and instead I should see it as time to rest to avoid burnout.

The main points I took from Maris’ talk were:

  • DO PASSION PROJECTS TO FIND WHAT YOU LOVE
  • DON’T DESIGN TO PLEASE OTHERS/FOR LIKES
  • TAKE BREAKS OR YOU WILL BURNOUT
  • TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WORK PLACEMENTS
  • DON’T BE LAST MINUTE!

Afterlife: Studio Koto

Today, James from Studio Koto gave a really inspirational talk. I was really looking forward to this Afterlife session as I was familiar with Studio Koto’s work as they are a really well known brand within the Graphic Design industry – recently working with Air BnB, Joe Wickes, Fiverr and Venmo.

James talked in detail about the name of his studio (Studio Koto) and the meaning behind it. A japanese man called Kenya Hara believes that experience and the journey is more important than the beauty of what it looks like, e.g. “koto” over “mono”. A “mono” is usually a physical item, whereas “koto” is an emotional/intangible thing (e.g. a win, a habit, a problem). I loved how much meaning was behind the name of the studio, and that it was quite a hidden, concealed meaning.

I really love the simplicity and soft feel of Studio Koto’s outcomes – the resemblance between their projects is really recognisable and their style is so distinctive. The use of soft but still bold colours are also really apparent across their recent projects.

James showed the below chart which really stuck in my head after glancing at it during the presentation. It sums up Studio Koto’s idea of a brand vision (both internal and external), and captures every aspect of just how massive and complicated a brand vision should be – it’s not simply “just a logo”.

The main points I took from James’ talk were:

  • PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION
  • PUSH THROUGH CREATIVES BLOCKS
  • AESTHETIC ISN’T EVERYTHING
  • COMMUNICATION *IS* EVERYTHING
  • CHALLENGE YOURSELF (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)

These points were really helpful and made me think much more positively about my life after finishing uni. I will definitely be applying these useful pointers during my final university projects, but also in my freelance work after graduating. The importance of communication is key and must not be overlooked.

References:

Studio KOTO. (2021). Home page. [online] Available at: https://koto.studio/ [Accessed 9 February 2021].

Afterlife: Studio.Build

Today Michael C Place (founder of Studio.Build) gave a talk about his career in Graphic Design. Studio Build is a creative agency which creates really strong visual narratives. Michael started the presentation by discussing how he got into being interested in graphic design in the first place. As a teenages, he loved heavy metal rock bands such as ACDC, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead (which really resonated with me!), and quickly realised that he was obsessed with the illustrations and typography on these bands’ record covers. He even used to paint heavy, gothic typefaces onto his friends’ jackets in school. This was his first ever experience with typography and graphic design. Another thing he mentioned was that he used to copy out the typeface “Calypso” repetitively when he was younger. This reminded me of myself where I’d copy out my mum’s handwriting and found it really enjoyable and satisfying.

One of the things that Michael highlighted strongly throughout the presentation was that he didn’t enjoy living/working in London. He reminded everyone that London isn’t the be-all and end-all. When I first started this course I found myself thinking that the only way to become a successful designer was to move to London and get a job in an amazing studio there, but this always terrified me, so Michael’s reassurance that London isn’t actually that amazing was really comforting. He also talked about the freedom of starting his own business/studio and how he felt so much more at ease and at home with working for a more close and friendly team. This reassured me SO much and I will definitely apply this method of thinking in my future of freelancing. His talk really helped me to think positively about the world of freelance after university, and the potential of building my business to one day employ a team, rather than simply trying to get a graduate job and work my way up.

The main points I took from Michael’s talk were:

  • DO GOOD WORK FOR GOOD PEOPLE.
  • LONDON ISN’T THE BE ALL AND END ALL.
  • WORKING FOR YOURSELF IS GREAT.
  • DON’T LIVE AND BREATHE DESIGN – GET INSPIRATION FROM OTHER PLACES, TOO.

References:

  • Studio.Build. (2021). Home Page. [online] Available at: https://studio.build/ [Accessed 2 February 2021]

Afterlife: Golley Slater

The first Afterlife session of the year started with guest speaker Martin Grugel, the Liverpool based designer for Golley Slater. He started the talk by saying that from a young age, his dad really supported him with his drawing. He started in a realism style in 1996 and he knew from then that he wanted to go down the route of an art-based career. He then went to college and absolutely loved the freedom he had in terms of experimentation od media, such as spray paint, illustration, nd grey pencil sketches. He was then introduced to typography by a peer who used to cut up pieces of text to use within his work. As a college project, he was asked to produce an exhibition on the title ‘Lost and Found’. For this he produced sketches of household objects such as radios and pencils, experimenting with traditional illustration but in a sketched style. After this, he was offered a place at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

He said that he had always had the technical skill of drawing and illustration, but the university course gave him the confidence and freedom of concept and context which allowed him to think differently about his outcomes. This is something that really relatable for me, because I feel that university has also helped me make more informed decisions within my work to work towards a more thought out and meaningful outcome.

Martin’s work is inspired by clean, minimal and elegant design features, that may seem so insignificant, but actually have so much input. For example, for his first graduate job, he worked in a studio called Visions Creative in Swansea. He was tasked with a brief to create a logo for a clothing brand based in Swansea. Trying to think of a new and different approach for the city that captured the heart and soul, he came across a story about a dog in Swansea that saved a group of people from drowning in the 1930s. This dog – Jack – was used as the title in the logo Martin created. The swan symbol as the ‘a’ connotes a very simplistic elegance that is reiterated throughout Martin’s later work. And 14 years later, he said that it’s his most favourite logo that he’s ever created. This then led to his work for the Military Museum of Medicine – he was really attentive to the brief and was even asked to revisit previous designs, after trying to perfect two others.

Screenshot 2020-02-08 at 14.39.52

The main points that I took from this Afterlife presentation was the level of detail and research that is needed to develop and grow as a designer. Experimentation is key and will help make informed decisions in the future.

References:

Afterlife: Jack Renwick & Susie McGowan

I attended a talk by Jack Renwick in 2018 at the 4 designers conference in London so this Afterlife talk was familiar to me. Jack is a from Glasgow, and is a fellow of ISTD, a board member of ISTD and a board member of D&AD which means that she among others are responsible for the future of graphic design.

Jack went through her story of becoming a Graphic Designer and this was really inspirational. She was so determined and persistent because of how much she wanted to work within the graphic design industry after spending countless hours working in a shoe shop, and spending many hours

Susie (who works for Jack) mentioned the importance of working in a team (they usually work by sticking their ideas all over walls in studio). She also noted that spending time together as a team (studio culture) was essential to their creativity. Work hard / play hard.

I particularly liked the Metro competition project which Jack showed. The aim of the project was “to make people smile on a Monday morning”. She really put herself into the Metro readers’ and buyers’ shoes and how they would feel in this environment.She though that the tube, the trains and their interiors were boring, dull and sad. She decided that flowers would brighten these areas up and so decided to print flowers onto the front of the cover of the newspaper to be able to roll up (and look like an actual bunch of flowers) to form a sort of “small act of kindness”.

I’ve learnt so much from Jack and Susie’s presentation, which I will apply in my upcoming freelance work and potentially in a graduate job. I have listed the main points I’ve taken from the talk below:

  • “GET UNDER THE SKIN” Learn everything there is to know about a project before tackling it, as this gives you a massively more in depth understanding of the brief itself. You just cannot approach a problem properly if you don’t understand the problem, or the target audience that it’s trying to communicate towards.
  • DON’T BE OVER PRECIOUS WITH WORK” – This is definitely something that I have struggled with since starting freelancer work last Summer. I have learnt that sometimes your first ideas aren’t your best and not everyone feels the same way as me about it. Jack and Susie reinforced this and this made me feel more confident about this going forward with both my uni projects and my freelance work. Getting a balance is key.
  • “IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET” –  From this, I have decided that I will really take advantage of applying for everything available to me. For example, workshops, meetings, and tutorials in university. Along with the online Creative Mornings presentations, professional practice seminars and even general networking events.
  • “PERSONAL PROJECTS SHOW YOUR PASSION” – I LOVE passion projects and have done a lot of them over the last year. I find that they really help me to find which areas of graphic design that I’m really passionate about and can then apply these to my future projects in uni and therefore achieve the best result possible.

References: