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THINGS I’D TELL MY YOUNGER SELF

July 25th, 2017 by

It occurred to me this morning that it has now been about ten years since I graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication from UCA Farnham, and that got me thinking: what would I tell myself then that I know now?

So, I’ve come up with a short list of the things I wish someone had told me when I was a student.

This is your time to get really creative

University is the one time in your career where you are not restricted by other people’s tastes and opinions, so go for it. You can really push boundaries. If I could go back and do things again I would take the chance to take each brief and really have fun with it.

I felt quite restricted by what was supposedly “the best design process” when I was at university. I was in awe of my tutors, they’d been in the industry and as far as I was concerned they knew it all. I wish someone had said to me that design is a conversation, a sharing of ideas and finding your own way of doing things is almost as important as the final result.

Get off the computer

Some of my best work I’ve produced over the years have started life as a really dodgy sketch.

A key part of my process in every project is brain storming. At university I have a strong memory of being told that even a sketch should look good. Since university I found that particular piece of advice is completely false.

Simply getting the rough idea down on paper leads to refinement of that idea and eventually a concept that I can present to a client.

Stopping me from using that particular bit of instinct really did mean my design at university was not as good as it could have been. These days I have at least three or four sketch books on the go.

A tutors advice is not the be all and all

Tutors are great for support, however their advice doesn’t have to be absolute. Some of the advice my tutors gave me did not work for me. The sketching advice is just one example of where this happened.

University really is a place to find your own way. Learn the basics from your tutors and then take the opportunity to build on it and find your own way.

Work experience is invaluable

The best thing I did at university was to organise myself work experience.

At first glance it wasn’t the best work experience and it didn’t get me the best grade at university. However, it opened the door for me.

It was at work experience that I met someone who arranged for me to do further work experience one summer at the architecture practice that would offer me my first job as a graphic designer. In fact I was the first of my year to find their first job.

Don’t expect too much

In my experience there are a lot of graduates who expect to graduate and jump straight into a job where they have creative control of projects. Thankfully I was never one of these, I fully expected to start at the bottom of the pile.

University is a great place to experiment with your work, make the most of it, you will be far more restricted once you’re having to work within a company and with real clients.

This is just the beginning

When I was at university the world seemed to revolve around getting good grades and getting work done on time. If I were to remind myself of anything at that age it would be that this is just the beginning.

My career has taken me down a path there was no way I could foresee whilst a student. I had no idea that at the age of thirty-two I’d be working for myself directly with my clients and looking to build the foundations of a business.

From 2007 until now I’ve made many a big decision in my career and my personal life. I love where I am now. It gives me the best of both worlds. I get to keep on designing and be a wife and mother. I love all my roles in life and wouldn’t change a thing.

I grew in confidence at university and I learnt a lot about design. I would say that I learnt far more once I left and was doing the job I’d set out to do. I never expect to stop learning about design and discovering new skills, it’s another reason why I love what I do.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD LOGO

January 24th, 2017 by

The best logo designs in my opinion are those that consider how the logo will be used from the very beginning of the design process. A logo will be used across multiple platforms to engage an audience and convey a company’s core values. Therefor a good logo be the following:

  • Versatile
  • Appropriate
  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Longevity

Versatile

Versatility is so important today. The number of platforms even the smallest business has to communicate over means that a good logo needs display well on everything from mobile apps to large format print such as exhibition graphics or a shop front.

Scalability means that a vector graphic is a must and that bolder, simpler shapes make it easier to have a clear distinct logo on any platform.

Appropriate

Any good logo should consider who it is communicating to. Most businesses have a target audience even if it’s a very broad one, a good logo should appeal to as many of those people as possible without confusing people who might be less interested in the logo.

For example, when designing a logo for a bike shop I want to use a visual language that any bike enthusiast will instantly understand but I don’t want to use anything too technical that will completely fly under the radar of someone who has decided they want to try cycling for the first time.

Simple

These days I always start designing logos in black and white. The reason for this is that I always want to make the logo form clear and distinctive without the complication of adding colour.

Keeping a logo simple means it’s generally more easily remembered, stands out from all the fussy and unrefined logos and therefor is more effective at communicating the brand message.

Memorable

We all strive for logos that are remembered for the right reasons. A good logo will stick in it’s audiences mind and become synonymous with the product or service of that business. This is more likely to happen if the logo is kept simple, clear and distinct.

Longevity

A lot of people include timeless in the list above, but I believe that no logo can be completely timeless. Even long standing brands that are deep rooted in our everyday lives have evolved over time if only slightly.

I believe that longevity is a much better term to describe the final attribute that a good logo should have. Even the Apple logo that most people hold up as a beacon of good design has evolved and been refined over time but is still recognisable and memorable.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

January 17th, 2017 by

It’s 2017, we’re already half way through January and I’ve realised that alongside the usual resolutions of lose weight and get fit etc. I want to set myself some business resolutions or goals.

New Connections

I’ve been freelancing for about ten months now and I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had clients come back to me for extra work. This year I want to meet more people and make connections with business owners in the community around me.

Just before Christmas I approached two business in my local village, one of whom gave me a link to networkingmummies.com. They have coffee mornings and meetups across the country including in my local area. I intend on going to their next coffee morning on the 26th (I will let you know how it goes) and hopefully I will make some new connections.

Discover New Skills

I love learning new skills that might give my work an extra dimension. This year I’d like to discover some crafting methods that will be fun to do and could influence me work.

In February I will be going on a Modern Calligraphy workshop with Judy Broad. I’m very excited about this. Calligraphy is very in vogue at the moment and I’m looking forward to trying this very expressive and intricate craft.

Improve Skills I Have

Lastly I want to make sure I practice some of my less used skills through personal projects. I don’t always get a lot of time to work on personal projects. What with working on client’s projects and looking after my son time just seems to go by in a flash.

In 2017 I want to make time to dust off some of those ideas that have been sitting on my mental shelf and put them into action.

BABY SHOWER FOR FOUR

January 10th, 2017 by

Over Christmas I’ve been helping to put the finishing touches to a joint New Years Eve baby shower for four second time mums to be. I took the opportunity to put into practice some of my craft and illustrational skills.

The theme was ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ and the first thing I designed was an invite that would also be something that the mums to be could keep as a momento.

The design for the invite then informed the paper cutting I produced for the cake topper. It was quite a simple but time consuming process. I printed out the typography and used a spray mount to fix it to the gold card. Then using a scalpel I carefully cut out the letters and fixed everything to four cocktail sticks.

My personal gift to the mums and babies to be was some artwork. Artwork that the whole party – mums, dads and toddlers could take part in. I chose to illustrate an animal that was special to each of the mums to be. Each animal was holding a bunch of strings that would be the strings for the balloons that would be made by the fingerprints of all the party guests.

NICOLE PAGE STYLIST BRAND & SITE LAUNCH

December 13th, 2016 by

Last month we put live nicolepagestylist.com, a new brand and website for personal fashion stylist Nicole Page. The site is full of wonderful photography from Nicole’s friend and photographer which stands out against the elegant and classic blank and white branding that Nicole and I developed together.

From the beginning of the project Nicole was certain that she wanted a brand that would stand the test of time, stand shoulder to shoulder with other brands in with the fashion industry and that would appeal to men and women of all ages. Therefore we stuck to a monotone palette and a strong serif typeface which stands out on social media platforms and in print alike.

FREELANCE DESIGN AND MOTHERHOOD

October 17th, 2016 by

For this blog post I thought I’d discuss a bit about how it’s been to become a mum and full time freelance designer over the past year and a half. So here goes…

It was when my son Jacob was about six or seven month old that I decided I would not be going back to the job I was doing before he was born. I knew I didn’t want to miss out on all those milestones and spending time with Jacob in the first few years of his life. I didn’t want the first time he crawled to be in a nursery without me there. Add that motivation to the fact that I’d always wanted to strike out on my own at some point in my career and it just seemed to be the right decision.

I have to say I was very nervous at the point where I actually approached my old boss to discuss leaving the company and asking if he would still work with me on a freelance basis. Thankfully he was and has been very supportive. I would probably have found doing this much harder without the company putting some work my way.

So far I’ve found the work reasonably steady. A piece of advice that I received from a friend when I first started on this journey was that there would be times when work would be slow, but not to panic at that point as it will pick up again. Advice that I still find comforting.

I recently read an article on The Guardian’s website talking about how more and more parents are choosing the flexibility of working for themselves. The writer Katie Allen also says that the “findings should act as a wake-up call to big employers that parents will choose to work for themselves if they cannot secure a working pattern to suit their family lives”. I find it interesting that with modern technology making it easier and easier to work away from the office that a more flexible and balanced work life hasn’t been embraced by large employers.

Having worked in a number of different sectors for a number of years I believe that employers will have to embrace flexible working in the future. I hope that employers will start to notice self-employed skilled people like myself who have something to offer and have the drive and determination to work hard and work well on their own terms.

I have a passion for my work and I believe that shows in the end result. Self-employment in the last six months has allowed me to start stretching my wings creatively. I feel like I’ve made a big decision, it’s one that still seems scary but exciting too. I’ve said for a long time that I wanted to try and set up on my own and it’s now or never. I feel I have the skills I need to base my business on, experience and expertise to share and I feel I have my own strength and the support from my family with which to make it work.

Now six months in, it’s coming up to my 32nd birthday and next July I’ll have been working design for ten years. When I think back to the time when I was leaving university and starting my career in 2007, I don’t think any part of me would have been able to predict that I would be quite where I am today. I’ve always had been the sort of person who wants to get on with making things happen. I like a challenge and I guess what drives me is that I’m always looking forward to what’s next, how can I build on what I’ve done so far.

So what is next now? Well, I’d like my business to grow. I’d like to hear from more potential clients. I’d like to work with some interesting people on more interesting projects and I’d like to help others start and grow their own business with the services I can offer. Watch this space, there’s more to come.

THE WAY I WORK

September 15th, 2016 by

It’s always one of the first questions clients ask me: What’s the process? How do we work together?

Well, in truth, the specifics do vary from client to client but the rough outline is usually the same.

Step One: Meeting my client

If at all possible I always like to meet with my client in person at the beginning of a project, particularly those who are small business owners. It allows me to get to know the people behind the business, what they like and get some ideas flowing.

I like to work closely with my client to produce their website, brand or whatever they’re asking for. Particularly with branding, it’s important that the logo and final look of the brand conveys not only what the business does but also the culture and aspirations of the business in order to appeal to the correct audience.

Step Two: Establishing the brief

During our first meeting I will have noted lots of details down. I like to follow this up with an email confirming what we have discussed and a quote for the work with a rough idea of timescale. Once the client has confirmed they are happy to proceed I can get started.

Step Three: Moodboards

When working on larger projects I always start by producing two or three moodboards. They convey the different approaches we could take towards the final product using sample imagery, typography and colours etc.

Step Four: Initial Concepts

At this stage I will produce a number of rough concepts that further the the ideas discussed during the last stage.

Sometimes clients are happy to simply develop just one concept. Other clients like parts of several concepts and I will rework these elements to fit with each other.

Step Five: Finalising The Design

Often artwork will go back and forth several times to get to a point where the client is completely satisfied with the design. Once the artwork is approved it will depend on the type of project what happens next.

With web based projects where the client has their own developer or development team I will make sure that the artwork is cleaned up as much as possible and delivered as both a layered file and flat artwork. This allows the developer to cut up the artwork as required.

Alternatively, if I’m building the website we will select a platform such as WordPress, Squarespace or a hosting package with domain registration and I will adapt the build to suit the platform as much as possible.

With branding or other projects where the artwork is the final product I will provide the various elements in the required formats and sizes.

Step Six: Bug Fixes / Amendments

I always agree an amount of time to do any bug fixes or amendments. It allows for flexibility and correcting any unforeseen issues.

Step Seven: Maintenance

I’m always happy to quote for maintenance jobs on websites or updates to documents.

Overall I try to be reasonably flexible with my design process. It’s a process that has evolved over time and will probably continue to evolve as long as I am still working (which I hope will be for a long time to come). I like to make my clients happy but not at the expense of quality. I hope that the work I produce both meets and exceeds my clients expectations as does my service.

Thank you for reading! If you’re interested in what I do why not take a look here or email me at hello@designedbyelly.com

A NEW ADVENTURE

May 10th, 2016 by

Here I am at the beginning of a very big adventure. It feels strange not to be working for somebody else anymore. Strange but exciting. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try and now seems like the best time.

I’ve been working in graphic design since I graduated in 2007. I’ve worked in-house, agency-side and freelance, in print design, web design and marketing. However last year I became a mum for the first time and it’s turned my world upside down.

I came to the end of my maternity leave and had to make a decision that so many mum’s have to face: Whether to go back to work and give up precious time with my beautiful little boy, or to stay at home and potentially no longer do the job that I’ve loved doing and worked towards for most of my life.

In the end I came to the conclusion that what I really wanted to do was to try and work for myself. So, the plan is that two to three days a week my son goes to nursery (which he loves!) and I can start to grow my own business.

I’m not new to freelancing. I’ve freelanced on the side of my full time job for a number of years (even though the tax returns are a pain in the behind), so when I decided I wanted to do this I knew the kind of work that I wanted to do. Working with small business and startups to design branding and websites for people who really have a passion for what they do is fulfilling and exciting.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure.