Tuesday, 21 November 2017

8 Things I Would Tell Myself If I Was Starting Out As A Designer Today

I’ve been working in the creative industry for sometime now and when I look back I realise I’ve had some incredibly many opportunities to learn new things and really grow as a person. I love my job, I love what I do and love the people I do it with. It brings me a huge sense of happiness to be creative everyday and I have to try very hard to not be such smug prick about it.

But it hasn’t always been an easy, happy happy, fun time. Along with the high highs I’ve had, I’ve gone through some darker patches wrought with anxiety, heartache and depression. My choice for a creative career has cost me in some ways and before I set out, if I’d had known some of the things I know now, a few of those blows that hit me might have been softened a little (or not affected me nearly as much as they did).

This is why I wrote this post. In a way it’s to myself, to take stock of the journey I’ve traveled so far and relearn what I’ve already learnt. Hopefully others can learn from my fumbles and mistakes too.

1) Take Advice Given Online With A Pinch Of Salt

Some advice will be helpful, some will be inspiring but some, without the author realising (trying to excuse myself here), will be harmful. Never take any and all advice at its word and always remember that everyone has had different experiences of the industry which will colour their perception of what new designers should be doing. Sometimes you have to try something to know whether it has any validity.

2) Keep Learning, And Learn To Step Away Sometimes

Never stop learning in your career and life. Learn at work, take the time to practice and try new things at home, hone your craft, but it's also just as important to know when to rest and take some time pursuing other interests. Don’t sacrifice sleep or throw out maintaining a healthy social life in order to stay up late every night doing another tutorial. There is a world out there and getting out and seeing it will make your work better as apposed to crunching eighteen hours a day in a vacuum.

3) When You Do Get Your Shot, You Won’t Realise It’s A Shot

Some projects will lead to nowhere, some will be lucrative for a little while, but it takes just one project to send you on your way in the right direction. You won’t know which one it’ll be so treat every opportunity with openness, professionalism and always try to do your best. You also never know, but a project you do now may serve you five years down the line in ways you didn’t expect. Be very, very wary of clients not willing to sign contracts and the ones not willing to discuss budgets with you, and work for free only at your own risk. You can't pay your bills with 'exposure.'

4) Protect Your Own IPs

Some of your own personal projects might become viable products one day which is why it is a good idea to take steps in protecting them. There are people who will want what you have created and use it for their own gain so knowing about intellectual copyright is a good thing. If your potential product needs another person to help get it up and running, you have to be careful with whom you choose to collaborate and share it with. Don’t be sold on a potential collaborator’s enthusiasm alone and only sign away what you’re willing to lose.

If you work for a big company already, check in your contract where their reach of ownership for Intellectual Property begins and ends. It is a matter of legal integrity, respect and professionalism to do this with your employer before undergoing a venture outside of hours. In my experience though, big companies generally aren't interested in stealing your ideas, they have their own products and IPs they make money from, but what is legally theirs is theirs.

5) Save Money

There will be times where work will be slow, or clients will be slow paying or, worse case, you get made redundant or fired. To prevent these times becoming more stressful than they already are, make sure to have a buffer in your bank account. General rule of thumb is to have six month’s worth of bills, rent and living expenses to hand but, if you can stock pile more, all the better. If you have to dip into it, replenish it the moment you can and use this stash only for this purpose.

6) Getting Fired Fucking Sucks And Will Really Hurt… But It’s Not The End

Assuming that you haven’t been let go for misconduct, these things can happen and can seemingly come from nowhere. When and if they do, it can really hurt and if this is the case, after you have left the company, take some time to heal and process what has happened. Learn what you can from it and move on. Find a company who will appreciate you for what you’re good at and one that will treat you with respect. It will take some time to feel that getting fired is a good thing for your career, but when you come to that realisation, the sense of relief it will bring you is immense.

7) Always Own Your Mistakes

Face up to your blunders if they are brought to light, and then apologise if they inconvenience your colleagues or others. If you know that you have made a mistake somewhere, and can fix it before it moves to the next person in the production pipeline, fix it. People respect you more if you are honest and do this. People don’t respect excuses or people trying to pass blame onto others. If you own up to an error, generally it can be sorted and corrected very quickly anyway and things can keep moving forward. Hidden errors have a way of surfacing on their own anyway so it's best to just face them and learn from them.

8) Never Be Too Proud To Ask For Help

What stops you from asking for help when you’re stuck? Ego. There is no shame in saying “hey, I’m stuck, please help me.” The times I have stopped and asked for help have always seen my work take a massive leap forward after a little bit of insight from a fresh pair of eyes. Even if you’re years into your career there will still come a time where you need a helping hand. There is an old Chinese proverb that goes: He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. Ask for help. Learn from others. Always be open to suggestion but also, learn to not take on too many suggestions at once. Find some people you trust and ask them instead of trying to look to a crowd for wisdom.

Thanks for reading. If you have any career lessons you'd like to share, please do so in the comments below.

Lloyd Harvey

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Feature - The Art of Syd Mead

When you hear or read the name Syd Mead, you should become instantly familiar with the man who changed the look of modern Science Fiction cinema. With a distinctive style, a super human set of technical design skills and a client list that spans decades, Syd Mead is possibly one of the most influential designers alive (and still working) today.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Book Review: The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures

What immediately struck me with this book was how stunning the art work was inside and the pages throughout, have been designed and ordered in a very clear and easy to follow way. Its something that is just a joy to sit and look through and, at the same time, is instructional and full of great advice that includes an all important designer methodology and approach.

Like many of the 'Art Technique' books on the market, it does go into a little detail about how to use colour, perspective and what workspace and tools you could use an think about but, doesn't devote many pages to doing so. That being said, in this book, there's more technical advice and tips dotted throughout than some of the other technique books I have read.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Book Review: Dragonart by J. Peffer

With the title of the book being called "Dragonart," it initially made me think its focus would be on Dragons but, in actuality, the book is more broadly aimed at the fantasy genre as a whole, taking on subject matter such as fairies, goblins, dwarves and some other mythical creatures. While it does focus on dragons for quite a few pages nearer the middle end of the book, and some of the tutorials there are alright, I will say there are better books out there that deal with just Dragons in a much more comprehensive way.

After a couple of pages in, I begun to realise who this book was mainly aimed at. If you're someone who is working as a professional artist in one capacity or another, or even if you're looking to start to get really serious about drawing, then I wouldn't recommend this book to you because it oversimplifies the key fundamentals of drawing (like colour, perspective, light and shadow, practicing simple shapes and understanding them as three dimensional objects).


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