Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespear’s Globe Theatre were once again very kind to hire myself and Greig Johnson, this time to design and produce a trailer for their alternate rendition of Much Ado About Nothing.

This version is set at the time of Mexican Revolution around 1910, and is a celebration of all things Mexico – bright colours, banditas, and sun-drenched plains.

The collage and printerly looking art style is a nod to one of the in-house promotional graphics they created, which we all loved and so we set about creating something with a similar feel to tie the marketing visuals nicely together.

British Phonographic Industry Award

A strange text popped up on my phone today, informing me I’d be getting a delivery from ‘Award Framers’. I had no clue what this was about but as predicted, the package arrived and I opened it to find…

psb_award1 psb_award2

Wow! I was genuinely shocked!  A British Phonographic Industry Silver Record Award.  I don’t tend to put too much stock in awards but I just held it up, staring at it, smiling but completely baffled!

I don’t know how these things work, whether the BPI always sends these out to whoever is credited with the artwork for the record, or whether the band or management create a list of people they felt contributed to the record’s sales, or whether I’ve just been presented with this by mistake…?

All I can say is I’m sincerely flattered to receive such a thing and very pleased that the artwork is considered to have contributed in however small a way to the success of the record.

As I have said before, I’m proud of the work I put into this, especially since it’s an independent release. The Public Service Broadcasting guys are decent, thoughtful people and deserve every success.

The best design work, especially with regards to logo design, is the stuff that is simple.

It communicates what it needs to without clutter; it’s memorable; it shrinks down/blows up well. A simple logo is basically vital for today’s cross-platform and cross-social media environment.

That said, creating simple work can be deceptively tricky when fighting the urge to ‘add more’, and it also sometimes requires a degree of experience and confidence to get your client onboard in understanding the value of keeping things simple.

Anyway, I came across a video by designer Aaron Draplin who is not only great at talking about why simplicity is key but also takes you through some of his iterative process of trying out lots of different ideas along the same theme. It’s a great example of how trying out one thing will suddenly lead onto another version, and another version, and another… and before you know it, it’s like you’ve sculpted your final logo out of lots of other abandoned ideas. He’s really enthusiastic about design and I think this sells the process to clients as well as designers.

This iterative process, right down from the crappy initial paper-and-pencil sketches is almost exactly how I approach logo design myself, so it was honestly a joy to watch someone working the same way.

Whether you’re a client or a designer, I hope you enjoy it.

New ETSY Shop

Slightly delayed announcement as it’s been up there a couple of weeks now, but I made the switch from a Big Cartel store to an Etsy Shop.

To celebrate the opening I added some rare and out of print stuff – some of which has gone already!

Swing by and have a look: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArmyOfCatsPrints

 

 

Copyright Article

I’m currently working on a piece of research & writing to address a growing trend in the design and illustration industry – unofficially created posters, prints and apparel based on existing popular intellectual property.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

One of the things that has come out of my research so far is that some people aren’t fully aware of this issue, or are assuming it refers to artists copying the work of other artists. So in an attempt to make it a little clearer, I’ll give an example:

David Pencils just graduated design college and is thrust into the world of freelancing. His favourite design blogs often showcase cool looking movie and gig posters which seem to be popular, so he decides to create similar work for his blog and puts together a series of posters based on his favourite films. These generate a lot of interest so he gets a short run of prints made and sells them online. Since he is creating the work himself and in his own style, he assumes this is absolutely fine.”

Now this kind of scenario seems to be happening more and more, and is something that many designers and illustrators can get more than a little angry about. The issue in the above example is that Dave does not have the rights to create derivative works based on someone else’s property. He is infringing copyright and is most certainly open to being legally challenged by the rights owners.

This is frustrating for some designers who go out of their way to ensure they have permission to create licensed work, and feel that those who do not are acting unprofessionally and often getting away with it. On the other side of the coin, some designers believe this is fine.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

So, the purposes of my research and article are as follows:

  • Canvass opinions of people involved in the industry (consumers as well as creators) to get a feel for how much is currently understood about copyright issues. Just what are the grey areas? What is the current consensus?
  • Examine the actual laws around copyright and provide an easier to understand breakdown of how they apply.
  • Provide some quotes from well known artists, designers, and industry types giving their take on how to tread professionally or an insight into their own experiences with licensing and copyright.

I plan to create a free resource which will be held on the UK POSTER ASSOCIATION website, as well as do a more in-depth write-up (along with the results of the survey) on this blog.

HOW CAN I HELP?

You can complete the short survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BCRLLFY and if you would like to contribute a specific quote or experience then please drop me an email to gdpilling AT gmail DOT com.

This is an ongoing project which is fairly time consuming, so I am fitting it in around other work, but I hope to complete it this month.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to complete the survey or contribute to the project so far, as well as all the kind words of encouragement I’ve received; it is all very much appreciated!

Royal Television Society Yorkshire Award

The animation I worked on along with Ashley Dean (www.brokenpixel.co.uk) won the Royal Television Society, Yorkshire Centre Award for Animation. This was a huge surprise, as I had actually forgotten Ash telling me he had entered the piece for consideration!

Thanks so much to everyone involved with RTS as well as the event for treating us so well, it’s a pleasure to win something so unexpected. Here is Ash and I with the award, adopting our ‘cop roles’ of Detectives Smug & Crackers. You can also view the animation below.

 

For some images showing how some of the assets were designed, head on over to the set on my Flickr page.

Shop offline…

Hello internets!  Just to let you know the AoC Shop will be in ‘Maintenance Mode’ for the next few weeks, as I will be at various exhibitions and other events and unable to post out orders.

Thanks for your patience and support and I’ll update again when the shop is back online.

13 Pieces of Advice for Freelance Designers & Illustrators

 

I recently tutored a small group of students about professional practice and kept a mental note of some of the questions I was asked and some of the subjects we covered. I decided to briefly write down my thoughts on each of these as a resource which I can refer students to and hopefully this will also serve as useful advice for anyone else, whether they are freelancing, looking for a work experience placement, or hoping to land a full time agency job.

I have covered each of the topics very, very briefly and as such there is plenty of advice and info missing from my ramblings. I do not advocate to be the font of all knowledge and  I am not best placed to do your thinking for you! Please feel free to read, research, and develop your own understanding of the various things below, and I’d be delighted to hear readers’ thoughts via the comments.

If you find this useful, please let me know!

1. HOW TO GET THE BALL ROLLING

Know the direction you want the ball to go, and start pushing. The key is not to wait around for someone to get the ball rolling for you.

I come across many students who seemingly get so into the routine of being assigned work by a tutor, handing it in to receive comments and criticism, and then dutifully receiving the next brief, that when they leave education they innocently wonder where the next task will come from. It’s a competitive industry; it’s unrealistic to assume someone is going to come along  and give you a ‘leg up’

Start thinking about the direction you need to go in before you leave education and start working towards that now.

2. BUSINESS SKILLS & UNDERSTANDING VALUE

Know your market. Devote some of your time towards researching about how the industry works. There are lots of blogs and books available about the business skills needed to be a successful designer, illustrator, animator, etc. Don’t be one of those students who I get emails from asking the most short-sighted and banal questions which they could easily answer for themselves. Be proactive! Read up on this stuff! If you plan to freelance and don’t understand tax basics or how to keep accounts, then you are lacking much needed skills.

3. WHAT IS IT FOR?

This is a great question to ask of pieces of work that you see in order to start understanding the commercial application of illustration and design. What is the purpose of the work? Who is the target audience? How will it make money or create value for the client/artist? What does it set out to achieve, and is it successful?

Read blogs and look at the work of established creatives – often they will point out the objective of the work they have produced. Getting your head round the commercial application of design/illustration can give you a huge early advantage in your career. Which leads us nicely on to…

4. IF YOU CAN’T GET CLIENTS, MAKE THEM UP!

I have no formal qualifications in art or design. When I got my first design job, all the other applicants had design degrees, yet I was successful at getting the job. Why? Because I had a portfolio of client work, and they had portfolios of school work.

Once you are able to better understand the commercial applications of the work you want to do, start working on examples for your portfolio. Make up the client briefs if you have to, just make them realistic with the purpose of being a case study to show you understand the application of the work.

I highly recommend the book “Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills” by David Sherwin for generating ideas and improving your skills.

5. DESIGN COMPETITIONS / SPEC WORK / WORKING FOR FREE

I, like many professional designers, wholeheartedly discourage involvement in design competitions, crowd sourcing, or spec (speculative work) where the final design is to be used for any sort of commercial purposes.

This basically means any endeavour where you are being asked to submit your creative work, time, and experience for free, but with the promise that you may get some sort of reward if your design is ‘picked’, or that you will gain exposure, or a great piece for your portfolio. Sometimes you are even expected to PAY to submit work.

Fundamentally, what it boils down to is this: if a business is asking you to do free work, how much do they actually value your work? Do you really want to spend time working for someone who considers your work and time to be worth absolutely nothing?

You wouldn’t go into a restaurant and ask 10 chefs to each prepare 10 separate meals with the intention of only paying for the meal you enjoyed the most. Likewise it is just as unreasonable and unethical for clients to employ this method of soliciting work.

This process often results in a poor end result for the client, and also it damages and devalues the work of the industry as a whole. Spec work is a widely debated topic and one which creatives and clients alike sometimes struggle to understand fully, so if you’re still not sure what it is, then read up about it. http://www.no-spec.com is a good place to start.

I have seen blogs and other online articles advising young designers/illustrators to initially do work for free in order to get a portfolio together. Don’t do this. It is absolutely terrible advice. Value your work and the time you put into it. If you don’t value your work, you may find yourself stuck with an endless stream of ‘clients’ who don’t value your work either.

Heed the advice of Jessica Hische, author of the wonderful http://shouldiworkforfree.com. Being asked to give your work away in return for ‘exposure’ or ‘a good portfolio piece’ is “the most toxic line of bullshit anyone will ever feed you.”

6. GET THE BASICS RIGHT

Put together an online portfolio where people can see your work. Make it easy for people to contact you. Put your contact details in an email signature as well as on your site. If you decide to work under a ‘studio name’ that isn’t your actual name, avoid unprofessional or offensive names. These are all very simple points but I frequently come across designers/illustrators who can’t even get the basics right.

7. DEVELOP A PROCESS/WORKFLOW

Learn some basic planning and Project Management skills to enable you to plan out any given project you might be approached with. Not only will this help you organise the work, but it will be vital in providing accurate quotes to your client. Use a Work Breakdown Structure to work out what tasks need to be completed in a given project. If you are working to a deadline, then divide up the time and make sure you have enough time for each task in order to deliver the final work on time. Where appropriate, explain your process to your client and give them an indication of when they can expect certain deliverables.

When you complete a project, take a little time to self-review and look at what worked and what didn’t What can you streamline and improve so you can be more efficient next time?

8. TIME SAVING TOOLS

If you find yourself doing repetitive tasks then explore better/faster ways of doing them. A simple Google search might save you hours of work in the long run! Use methods like Time Boxing to control and focus how you spend your time.

9. CONTRACT / WORK AGREEMENT

Don’t undertake work without a contract – especially with new clients. I cannot stress this enough.

Your contract, or Work Agreement, doesn’t have to be overly complicated, it just has to be a way to formally acknowledge the project description, the agreed payment terms, time-scales, as well as the appropriate Usage Rights for the client (i.e. if you’re being paid to do a t-shirt design, the client should not get usage rights to create prints or stickers of the artwork).

There are lots of resources online and in books to help you put a contract together. Put a bit of time and effort into researching and writing one. Don’t worry that the contract will scare off clients – the only ones it will scare off were the ones who were planning to shaft you! Professionals use contracts; make it your standard practice.

10. DEVELOPING A STYLE

When you’re still early in your career, don’t worry about trying to develop a style. That will come with time and experience. Experiment and try out different mediums. Broaden out. This may be hard to hear but your early work will suck in ways you may not see until you develop an eye and understanding that comes with experience. Just keep working and improving.

11. REFINE YOUR IDEAS

Learn how to REFINE your work and ideas. In many situations a simpler idea or concept will be far more successful than a complicated one. Imagine a gold prospector from the Old West – when he is panning for gold, he is sifting out the crap and looking to leave only the gold behind. Imagine a jeweller polishing a valuable trinket or jewel – he is removing that outer layer of dirt and dust to let the good stuff shine through.

It’s far too easy to ‘overdo’ good design/illustration work by adding too much to it. When it comes to refining and polishing, instead ask yourself what can you remove? Look for ways to discard the superfluous and leave behind the core design, message or concept.

12. DON’T BE PUT OFF BY TALENT OUT THERE / DON’T WORRY ABOUT FEELING LIKE A FAKE!

This can be a tough one. It is easy to be discouraged when focusing on the successes of others or the mind-blowing quantity and quality of work out there in Internet Land. Do not give in to doubt and distress! There are lots of opportunities out there so keep working and it will pay off. Focus on improving the delivery and quality of service for your clients – you might not be able to be the greatest in your field, but you can still be the greatest to your clients.

When starting out, everyone has to deal with self-doubt and the sneaky feeling that you are ‘faking it’. This is a natural part of being inexperienced so don’t let it get to you. It means you are learning something new, challenging yourself and making the transition from shaky newbie to stalwart professional!

13. BE HONEST, BE POSITIVE, HAVE INTEGRITY, CELEBRATE QUALITY

I firmly believe that your attitude to your work, your clients, and your peers can have a huge impact on your success in all aspects of work and life. While being positive doesn’t guarantee you clients, being negative is certainly a good way to make them avoid you. Strong ethics and professional integrity might not seem like they add obvious value to the service you provide. These aspects are in fact priceless and will strengthen your reputation and gain you word of mouth referral work.

Strive to be honest, reliable and professional and be proud of the quality of service you can provide.

 

 

 

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