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FEbruary 2015

editor’s letter Being your own boss can be wonderfully liberating, but can also be stressful if you don’t play your cards right. Whether you’re taking your first tentative steps or developing your career to the next level, this advice-packed special issue will help you do exactly that. First up, we’ve tackled the 10 core topics that you should master to guarantee success as a freelance creative: from necessary evils like finances and time management right through to client relationships, wellbeing and much more. And for the more established self-employed designers amongst you, there’s also a guide to cashing in on the lucrative in-house opportunities at agencies desperate for particular skills or knowledge. If in-house stints aren’t an option, freelancing doesn’t always have to mean working from a back-bedroom. In an extended video special, we pay a visit to a particularly inspiring, talent-packed shared studio space in London’s trendy Dalston. There, we grill four established pros about their craft, freelance life and the secrets of their success. Next issue has a typographical spin, as we gather advice from some of the world’s top agencies about selecting the ideal typeface for any design project – an essential read for any designer who works with type. Don’t miss it!

keep in touch with… computerarts computerarts

Nick Carson Editor


toby triumph

This issue’s cover comes courtesy of London-based drawer of dancing dogs and celebrity trolls, Toby Triumph. Originally from the North of England, he counts the likes of Google and the Guardian among his clients – and also features in our video special on page 54.

Daljit singh

Daljit studied graphic design at university, and worked for IBM as an interaction designer before setting up Digit in 1996. He ran the design agency for 15 years before founding creative consultancy Happiness. He discusses the benefits of lone working on page 22.

Eve lloyd knight

Eve is a creative at awardwinning London-based agency Human After All, where her concepts help clients tell big stories with simplicity, style and impact. Turn to page 83 to see how HAA visualised data for the World Economic Forum’s Global Outlook Agenda.

Anita Fontaine

Anita is a self-employed creative director, working in the fields of advertising, technology, art and fashion – and she explains how that works in our Industry Issues piece on page 66. While currently based in London, she plans to return to her native USA in 2015.

computerarts.creativeb -4-

morihiro harano

Morihiro is a creative director across advertising, strategy and product design. He launched Drill, co-founded PARTY and founded his own studio, Mori Inc. in 2012. Discover how he created OK Go’s latest video on page 90.


february 2015

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Jo Gulliver Art editor

Printing: William Gibbons & Sons Ltd on behalf of Future Distribution: Seymour Distribution Ltd​, 2 East Poultry Avenue, London EC1A 9PT, Tel: 0207 429 4000 Overseas distribution: Seymour International

Nick Carson Editor


Rich Carter Designer




Zaneta Antosik, FranklinTill, Pete Gray, Morihiro Harano, Darren Hughes, Human After All, Gary Marshall, Luc Melanson, Ben Miners, Michael Molfetas, Daljit Singh, Laura Snoad, Ben Tallon, Typejockeys, Anne Richardson Taylor, Toby Triumph, Robert Urquhart, Tom Wooley, Martyna Wójcik-Smierska.

Advertising For all ad enquiries please contact: SUZANNE SMITH Account director

editor This month Nick sneaked a weekend away in beautiful Belgium before the mad Christmas rush began in earnest. Fearing mince pie burnout, he’s already pencilled in a short skiing trip in the New Year.

VivIENNE CALVERT Production controller Mark Constance Production manager

Tim Hardwick OPERATIONS editor


Nick Carson

jo gulliver

Art editor Jo fulfilled a childhood dream this month by going to see The Who in Cardiff. Not to be outdone by Nick’s holiday antics, CA’s very own grid wizard then announced she was also going skiing in Bulgaria.

JULIETTE WINYARD Trade marketing manager: 07551 150 984 charlotte lloyd-williams Direct marketing executive

Tim HarDwick

OPERATIONS editor After a month of poor luck involving a burglary at home and a bad back, Tim was back to winning ways on the badminton court and even received an unexpected bonus from the taxman. Happy days!

UK readers: 0844 848 2852 Overseas readers: +44 (0)1604 251045 Online enquiries:


Regina Erak International director

Rich Carter

Tel: +44 (0)1225 442244 Fax: +44 (0)1225 732275

Designer Rich had his birthday and was treated by his better half to a long weekend in Edinburgh. He also moved into his new home and solved a long-standing dilemma involving an Ikea couch that refused to be delivered.


Nial Ferguson Content & Marketing director MATT PIERCE Head of Content & Marketing, Photography, Creative & Design DAN OLIVER Group editor-in-chief, Creative & Design SIMON MIDDLEWEEK Acting group art director, Photography, Creative & Design TOM MAY Group content editor

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gary evans

beren neale


After two years creating sterling work for CA and its sister mags, Gary has had a calling. This issue we bid him a fond farewell as he sets off for a year of global travels, beginning in India. All the best, Gary!


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february 2015

ISSUE 236 F EBRUA R Y 20 15



Trends: Multimedia duo Pinar et Viola’s digitally manipulated surfaces combine real-world photography and internet imagery to create ecstatic aesthetics


P  eople: Illustrator Rob Flowers dons a ritual mask and shows us around his multi-coloured, hyper-nostalgic London studio – affectionately dubbed Flowers Towers


P  laces: Take a whistle-stop tour of the infinitely inspirational delights of New Delhi, courtesy of your guide, illustrator and visual artist Archan Nair


c  alendar: Your special extended guide to the biggest and most anticipated design events at home and abroad over the next 12 months



22  top talent has no fixed abode: Creative director Daljit Singh talks up the freedoms and collaborative opportunities that lone workers enjoy 26

Our selection of the world’s best new graphic design, illustration and motion graphics work 30

sell yourself with coffee: Illustrator Ben Tallon highlights the promotional benefits of face-toface contact over heavy-handed mass marketing

28  anyone can design a logo: Designer Darren Hughes argues the benefits of simplifying the branding process for businesses on a shoestring


83  create infographics: Discover how creative agency Human After All visualised tons of data in an annual publication for the World Economic Forum

need to know

Project diaries

94  MANAGE YOUR FREELANCE CASHFLOW Gary Marshall speaks to leading creatives to find out what admin tools keep their freelance lives organised

Typejockeys’ packaging for a range of luxury wines, Scott Martin’s Red Bull map of Canada and Morihiro Harano’s single-take OK GO music video 75

computerarts.creativeb -8-


february 2015

free ebook worth £5.99! The Freelance Handbook is the definitive guide to being your own boss. And you can download it for free here 53

S p eci a l R ep or t

10 steps to freelance success

The independent lifestyle of the freelancer carries a powerful lure. We spoke to designers for hire and identified 10 factors you need to consider before taking the plunge 44

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In dus tr y i ss ue s

freelance VIDEO TIPS be indispensable Four of the UK’s most exciting freelancers explain why they shunned home working for a community vibe at Arcola Studio 54

Robert Urquhart explores lucrative options for established freelancers, from in-house shift work to creative consultancy 66

com puterarts.creativeb -9-

T r e nds CULTURE

he way in which we consume culture, share information and disseminate visuals has changed exponentially over the last decade. From Instagram and Facebook to Google Images and YouTube, we have access to a neverending supply of visual stimuli. As a result, artists and designers are exploiting this ready-to-use information and cultural content to create a new visual language, boldly mashing and recontextulising the visual references found on the internet to create highly eclectic, digitally infused work. Cutting-edge multimedia art duo Pinar et Viola are making some of the most cutting edge contemporary imagery for the digital


W E L O VE ...

Mash-Up Aesthetics Eclectic French duo Pinar et Viola splices online imagery with complex pattern to create eclectic mash-ups

com put e ativ eb - 11 -

mash-up age. Pinar Demirdag and Viola Renate’s hyper-saturated surfaces combine real-world photography and internet imagery, overlaid with maximal pattern and colour to create ecstatic over-the-top aesthetics. Patterns by Pinar et Viola, models styled by Lisa Anne Stuyfzand, photography by Duy Vo. Each month, our Trends section is curated by experienced creative consultancy FranklinTill (

CULTUR E T rend s



Dazzling 3D LimeMakers’ Dazzle Lamp merges pretty product design with 3D printing ased in Berlin, LimeMakers is a small startup label that merges fashion and product design with 3D printing and generative design technologies. It collaborates with a bunch of internationally renowned designers and labels that are then 3D-printed and hand-finished. Its latest addition is the Dazzle Lamp, created in collaboration with designer Corneel Cannaerts and constructed using a colouring software algorithm developed by Cannaerts himself. Specialising in modelling complex geometry, parametric modelling, scripting and creative coding, he’s brought all his talents to the table for this latest venture. The Dazzle Lamp starts off looking like a simple, geometric design before internal colours are revealed as soon as it’s switched on. Using a Z-Corp colour printer and a nylon powder, the shades are printed in grey on the outside; the brighter colour patterns are applied to the internal polygon mesh. You can even personalise your lamp with your own pictures, so it’s a pretty special piece. “The Dazzle Lamp is a design experiment exploring the intersection of creative coding and digital fabrication,” explains Cannaerts.



The Dazzle Lamp is for anyone that has a thing for 3D printing, geometric patterns and generally nice-looking things.


Stay one step ahead with our barometer of visual cool

m ainstream The trend for two-tone colour blocks creates a particularly sleek, modern, clean aesthetic.


Marbled paint effects are being used to create a modern pattern when contrasted with bright tones.

comput erarts .creati veb - 12 -


Pantone 18-1438 is hailed as the colour of 2015, so expect to see it fast-track up the trend barometer.

Illustration: Michael Molfetas



f ebrUA R Y 2015

M y st yle IS ...

Simple, Clean, and Understated

Leta Sobierajski is a New York-based designer and artist who creates her own unique brand of visuals. Blunt Bangs I have had my bangs for the majority of my life. I tried growing them out a few years ago, but I cut them immediately. Now, the shorter, the better!

Illustration: Martyna Wójcik-Śmierska,

Sunglasses Though I don’t wear my eye glasses often, I am obsessed with sunglasses! I feel like a different person with each pair I wear. These ones make me feel like I’m Trinity from the Matrix. Acne Shoes I’m a rather conservative dresser, but when it comes to shoes I am all about getting weird and crazy! I have owned these brogues from Acne for a few years and they are definitely one of the weirder pairs in my closet.

Paul Gosling is exploring new digital avenues at agency The Neighbourhood


LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR Recently appointed as the head of digital at creative agency The Neighbourhood, Paul Gosling is embarking on a new adventure asing its strategy on smart thinking, creative vision and craftsmanship, Manchesterbased creative communications agency The Neighbourhood has just appointed Paul Gosling as its new head of digital. Creating campaigns for companies across the world, he has some big shoes to fill as well as some big ideas to brew.

What fresh opportunities does this new position offer you?

Tell us about your new position: what is it, who’s it for, and what are your main responsibilities?

What are the biggest challenges in your new position?


I’m now the head of digital for Manchesterbased creative agency The Neighbourhood. I’m not only responsible for growing and leading the team but also the direction of the digital business and its long-term strategies.

What kind of things might a typical day entail at The Neighbourhood?

It’s a typical ‘crack of dawn and midnight oil’ standard (only kidding). On the whole, a lot of planning, working and evaluating goes on as each milestone is completed. The objective is to make sure whatever it is, it’s done better next time. We are only as good as our last project and every day is focused on that as a key objective.

How does this new job differ from your previous role?

I owned a business in my last role which has a lot of similarities with what I’m doing now. The biggest difference is that the business I’m running at The Neighbourhood (digital) ​is linked to three other area​s o ​ f expertise within the agency (​design/brand, moving image and visualisation) and that is exciting and challenging in equal measure. computerarts.creativeb - 14 -

There is huge potential for me to contribute to putting The Neighbourhood on the level it deserves to be. I have access to an incredible amount of internal talent and the potential to really put my foot on the accelerator. We have very big aspirations as a creative agency and we see digital as a big part of that focus.

Without a doubt, striking an effective balance between focusing on the internal business and its external focus, and making sure we don’t tip too heavily one way or the other.

What one piece of advice would you give to any creatives looking to follow a similar career path to yours?

Always be open to possibilities, be 100 per cent focused on what you want and don’t be afraid to take on challenges that scare you. Remember that ‘innovation’ is something that creates better ways of doing and thinking. To be creative in a commercial market, you need to understand the end user and the value of what you’re presenting. If it isn’t original and breaking new territory, it’s not innovation. Don’t be a ‘Yes, but...’ person; instead, be a ‘Yes, and...’ person. If I hadn’t set out with that mentality at the start of my career I wouldn’t be where I am now.

If you didn’t work in design, what would you like to do?

I’ve always wanted to be on the radio since I was a kid, I will get there one day!





my d e si g n spa ce i s...

cabbage patched Take a load of acid, eat too much candy floss, then ride the waltzers at the fair and you’ll be halfway to the effect of stepping into illustrator Rob Flowers’ hyper-nostalgic studio

ob Flowers would ideally like to live in a land of hamburger patches, milkshake volcanoes and fillet-o-fish lakes. Looking through Flowers’ London studio space, where he spends his time illustrating his favourite things and “searching for junk” to add to his collection of favourite things, this makes total sense. Sharing with three other artists, Flowers has marked his studio territory with colourful 70s and 80s marketing posters, the work of 80s kids’ TV show producers Sid and Marty Krofft, and lots of 1980s gross-out toys. Flowers Towers “is best described as cluttered,” he admits. “Not so much designed as borne of the need for more shelf space.” Sat in this East London space, every time he glances away from his computer, it’s the McDonaldland poster (1) that his eyes naturally settle on. “It’s from 1976 and the early years of McDonald’s advertising,” he says. “I love the slightly odd tone of Maccy D’s advertising at the time.”


com puterarts.creativeb - 15 -

3 The fast food chain that gave the young Flowers a chance to eat happy meals is a perfect fit for the garish, throwaway memorabilia that lines his walls and piles high on his shelves. “Madballs (2) are one of my favourites. The designs are fantastic and I’m always referring to them when I’m working on something.” The Romanian masks (3) were picked up on a trip to Transylvania and Bucharest. “They’re used in ceremonies, from rain, hunting and fertility rituals to seasonal festivals,” he says. Of course the freakish 80s Garbage Pail Kids are represented. Their 3D Wall Plaks (4) add a structured enclave to the wall of weird. “Some fantastic artists worked on the original line,” he says, “including Art Spiegelman and John Pound.” Kaiju – ‘strange creature’ in Japanese – is used to refer to a genre of Tokusatsu TV entertainment. Flowers is a big fan. “These toys are of Semi Ningen and Zetton Seiji (5); the characters that appear in these shows are extraordinary,” he tells us. “I’m looking to collect some more on my next trip to the US.”


february 2015

C R E AT I V E quarters

new delhi, india Illustrator and visual artist Archan Nair hotfoots it around the Indian capital to introduce you to some of the best creative hotspots in his home city

Depot 29

Humayunpur, Safdarjung Enclave This space has a Mexican restaurant headed by one of the finest chefs in the country. It’s also host to three live performances a week. I did a live painting event there a while back.

India habitat Centre

Lodhi Road Possibly the oldest art and culture space in the heart of Delhi and home to beautiful art galleries and performance spaces. There are great events organised here regularly.

Hauz Khas Social

9A & 12 Hauz Khas Village, Eat at this interesting space and you’ll notice a lot of cool design elements and typography, not just in the decor but also in the way the food is presented.

W+K Exp

314 DLF South Court, Saket A wonderful gallery showcasing contemporary art and design. I love the curators’ taste and they showcase some wonderful talent from around the globe.

Downstairs at Zo

Illustration: Tom Woolley,

Hauz Khas Village An informal live performance space and bar curated by Stiff Kittens Inc. I really enjoy their alternative entertainment, which includes original live music, theatre, dance and design.

Vadehra Art Gallery

D-40, Defence Colony This gallery always has exhibits of interesting art and photography, and tries to generate a stimulating cultural hotspot for art enthusiasts.

Exhibit 320

Old Mehrauli Badarpur Road, Lado Sarai This space showcases contemporary art from India and the sub-continent, creating a platform for new thoughts and ideas, with an emphasis on new meda and visual dialogue.

A  rchan Nair is a self-developed visual artist, illustrator and art director inspired by organic forms to create highly intricate works. He specialises in mixed media illustration.

compu t era rts.cre at iveb - 16 -


february 2015

W h at ’s on

10 UNMISSABLE DESIGN EVENTS IN 2015 In a special extended calendar, we preview the best events over the coming year

practice. It does this through around 20 “action-oriented” talks by leading creatives from numerous disciplines, 75-minute masterclasses with speakers who are leaders in the fields, and by offering opportunities to visit the workspaces of some of New York City’s leading studios (past visits include Google and Spotify). There’s also plenty of time to network, with the whole thing bookended by a cocktail reception and a big afterparty. And since it’s organised by Bēhance, you know you’re in safe hands.

D&AD Professional Awards

Closing date: 18 February 2015 D&AD is now accepting entries for its Professional Awards, the undisputed Oscars of the global design world. You have until 18 February to submit work across a broad range of categories spanning graphic design, digital design, advertising and more – for the chance to scoop a prized Yellow, White or Black Pencil. 25 specialist juries assess work according to D&AD’s strict criteria, with results announced in April.

Design Indaba

25-27 February 2015 Cape Town, South Africa The Design Indaba conference is just one part of a larger creative festival. Each February, with sunny Cape Town (last year’s World Design Capital) as host, one of the world’s best-established design events attracts a diverse and lively line-up encompassing art, architecture, product design and many other disciplines. There are 3,500 people at the three-day conference alone, and the whole city positively buzzes with creatives, so it’s always a fantastic opportunity to put faces to email addresses and meet new people.


6-8 March 2015 Dublin, Ireland Since its first get-together in 2009, OFFSET has established itself as one the best design events in Europe. Its home is the imposing Bord Gáis energy theatre on the banks of Dublin’s River Liffey. The three-day creative conference welcomes speakers from the worlds of graphic design, animation, illustration, advertising, film, fashion and beyond for a weekend of presentations, lectures, interviews and discussions – and some lively, unofficial ‘networking’ sessions at night. You can see speakers not only on the main stage, but there are also smaller, more intimate rooms where it’s easier to ask questions. There are no VIP areas or green rooms at OFFSET, either, so you’re just as likely to bump into speakers in the foyer.

TYPO Berlin

21–23 May 2015 Berlin, Germany This summer one of Europe’s most established design events, Typo Berlin, explores character: “The muscular system of the psyche.” Organised by, among others, charismatic designer Erik Spiekermann, the gettogether hosts more than 50

99U Conference

30 April-May 1 2015 New York City, USA “The goal of the 99U Conference,” its organisers tell us, “is to shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution.” It’s getting stuff down, basically – taking a good concept and putting it into computerarts.creativeb - 18 -

experts from the fields of design, communications, typography and psychology. Guests present strategies against “a culture of superficiality.” Those guests include Jon Burgerman, Martin Tiefenthaler and Professor Manfred Hild. Almost 2,000 people attend Typo Berlin each year, and once talks are over there’s lots more to see and do.


28-30 May 2015 Barcelona, Spain OFFF is this year celebrating its 15th birthday. The theme: “let’s feed the future.” The venue: the Design Museum of Barcelona. Past events – conferences, workshops, activities, performances – have hosted some of the biggest names in the creative industries. Expect more of the same this year. The three-dayer is for anyone interested in everything from graphic design and web development, to motion and sound


february 2015

design – and almost everything in between. “OFFF,” its organisers say, “is made for the curious.”

BRAND Impact awards

16 september 2015 London, UK Following a highly successful inaugural year in 2014, we’re delighted to announce that Computer Arts’ very own Brand Impact Awards will be returning in 2015. Dedicated to the craft of branding in all its forms, the BIAs judge work according to its market sector, across both branding programmes and branded campaigns – with a discerning

judging panel of commissioners and creative directors from both client-side and agency-side. 2014’s big winners included johnson banks, R/GA, Hat-trick and Rose. The Awards will open for entries in spring 2015, with the ceremony taking place in September. Keep an eye on forthcoming issues of the mag for details.

Generate lONDON

17–18 SEPTEMBER 2015 London, UK Generate – the successful web design conference from our sister title, net – is growing for 2015. Experience the new two-day

format and more side-events than ever before, including the net Awards 2015. Based on community feedback gathered from previous events, the team have decided to give Generate London 2015 a make-over, transforming the conference from a one-day, two-track format to two days, one track. This means you won’t miss any speakers! But that’s not all. For the first time, Generate will be linked with the much-loved net Awards – which will take place straight after the conference, providing a unique opportunity to take part in two of the hottest events in the web design calendar, all under the same roof.

London Design Festival

19-27 September 2015 London, England Staged each year in September since 2003, London Design Festival “aims to celebrate and promote a broad spectrum of design disciplines across cultural and commercial platforms in London.” It does so at hundreds com puterarts.creativeb - 19 -

of events throughout London. Guests and attendees from all over the world are attracted to the city the New York Times recently called “the design capital of the world”. Once there, they enjoy more than 300 events and installations throughout the capital – museums, galleries, shops, studios, showrooms, museums, markets, warehouses and more.

Kyoorius Designyatra

TBC Goa, India At past events, India’s premier design conference explored expansive topics such as ‘create change’ and ‘what if.’ The gettogether attracts some of the biggest names in the creative and communications industry from not just from India and Asia, but around the world. Past speakers include such luminaries as Ivan Chermayeff, Michael Wolff, Pearlfisher’s Jonathan Ford and Pentagram partner Natasha Jen. And all with Goa’s glorious beaches within walking distance.


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february 2015

Strong opinion and analysis from across the global design industry THIS MONTH daljit singh creative director, happiness

ben tallon FREELANCE illustrator

darren hughes FOUNDER, WITHOOMPH


MARK BONNER president, d&ad

sabrina smelko illustrator and art director


craig ward designer and art director

louise sloper head of design, chi & partners

LONE WOLVES: THE FUTURE OF DESIGN Having founded and run one of the world’s top digital agencies, Daljit Singh believes the modern design scene is now better suited to dynamic individuals

dalj i t si ng h Insight

february 2015

about the writer Daljit is a creative director, business strategist and curator. He currently works around the globe helping businesses define and shape their digital perspective for their customers, to increase bottom line growth through innovation. Daljit is also jury foreman for digital design at the D&AD Awards 2015.

he way we work has changed. Organisations are adapting to the connected world’s ability to offer flexibility; they know that loss of talent can mean loss of competitive edge. Of course flexibility isn’t for everyone – perhaps not the endless procrastinator or demotivated worker. Some people need structure and others appreciate the camaraderie of a post-work drink. In 1996 I founded digital design agency Digit, which was encapsulated into the WPP stable in 2005. Digit grew to 50 people, often referenced as a benchmark for a new way of working. People were given 15% of their paid time to develop their own projects, and flexible working terms were available to all. We attracted the best talent, great clients and pitch opportunities. Being asked is flattering, winning is great, losing is soul destroying. This competitive way of working is normal and rather grudgingly accepted in the creative industries. It will always exist providing there are young, hungry agencies out there looking to secure the next account. Ultimately, pitching is doing work for free that often goes to waste. That’s the reason I shifted from the agency side to a different place. My new business is built on an honest, flexible, streamlined and effective network-based model that challenges the master-slave relationship in order to work with clients, not for them. Being free of the responsibilities that come with a body of staff, levels the conversational playing field. Trust replaces this baggage and the conversation is more direct. The future of work, and the relationships we seek to foster with our clients should be located in the ‘third space’ – somewhere between their work and our work. This is where the most important people are, the customers. Few businesses have a digital mindset or a natural empathy for tech and innovation. These skills should come from multiple experts not solely from inside. The structure of work for the best creative thinking and doing has completely evolved. The best talent I know is a lone worker. I’ve spent the last two years working nimbly on my own without an office or employees. I can do in a few hours what would’ve taken considerably longer in an office with the constant interruption of daily business. The best ideas never arise from behind a desk – they require movement. Collaboration happens through all the available tools of Dropbox, Skype and affordable air travel. London’s 18th century coffee houses were gathering points to trade, share enlightening thinking (and gossip). We have now come full circle. London and New York will always be centres for the best creative communications, but opportunities now also lie elsewhere. If you want to work with growing economies, chances are hard to come by if you’re at a


fixed location. Working as an individual permits great flexibility. But shouldn’t everyone seek to appropriate a degree of this flexibility within their business to truly understand and benefit from the thrust of new dynamic markets and thinking? Top talent has no fixed abode. The creative industries are reluctant to accept this because of the addiction to ‘ownership’. It shouldn’t be about having ever-present talent. If we want to surprise customers, ideas need to be better and these ideas don’t arise necessarily from one fixed location. And in the face of a more adaptable fluid workforce equipped with a digital mindset, the long-term job from one location has gone the way of the retirement gold watch. Clients should forget about traditional networks that are structured around a remit of delivering shareholder value. It’s time to use open networks of creative collaboration – it’s worked for the film industry since the beginning.


Draw from different stables. Networks of micro agencies from multiple backgrounds deliver a swifter and more economical solution. When you work in a collaborative way the ‘ambiance’ of the project is more dynamic and people are willing to give up far more than they would be in a fixed structure. Strategies can develop into rapid prototypes rather than gather dust in oft-forgotten PowerPoint presentations. Working fluidly and not being constrained by time or place creates much better work and if we want to innovate in the ever-present digital world, then the way we work must also keep evolving. What other ways can creatives maintain flexible working relationships in the digital design marketplace? Tweet your thoughts to @ComputerArts using #DesignMatters

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Insight D ESI G N M AT TER S

february 2015

“WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU give your younger self before going freelance?” Six creatives share their thoughts

Louise Fili art director

“No matter how much work you have in your pile, you must always be developing your own projects. It is the only way to find a unique design voice. Choose something that you are passionate about, and combine that with what you do. It makes for a much more interesting career.”

Bratislav Milenkovic illustrator

“Don’t be afraid to get lost from time to time. The reason is simple – walking on the same path over and over won’t bring any new experiences. Being on familiar territory often works against our creativity as we tend to reach out to already known solutions. There’s an entire world outside of your comfort zone waiting to be discovered.”

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Leandro Castelao graphic artist “I believe you learn from mistakes, so I’d keep things as they were, except for one thing. When I began as a freelance graphic artist I quit almost every sport activity and I missed that for a long time, especially football (soccer). I think it’s a must to have a counterbalance between professional and fun activities. Happily, a couple of years ago I started playing amateur football. Goal!”


february 2015

Jeffrey Bowman visual communicator “I would tell myself that it’s not going to be easy. When times are good they are great and I should make the most of them, but when they are quiet and looking a little bleak, I should remain calm and be resourceful with my time – panicking makes things worse.”

Jack Hughes illustrator

“I’m not entirely sure I’d give my younger self any advice! Or rather any real ‘solid’ advice... I’d be more inclined to just throw my arms around him and reassure him everything will work itself out. You learn from your own mistakes – life as a freelancer is a challenging and lonely path littered with opportunities for greatness and pitfalls for failure. Scars are a true testament to character and experience, so get in there and throw caution to the wind!”

Your views Comment on Facebook, or tweet @ComputerArts with your thoughts using #DesignMatters

Laura Laine illustrator

“My advice would be to trust your gut instinct because it helps you to navigate the right way. There have been moments when I have doubted this, but it’s the best guidance there has been for me.”

@ASYLUMseventy7 Stop being afraid of failure and rejection. By not trying 100 per cent, you’re already failing.

@matt0rtega Be extra selective about your projects. The projects you show are the projects you get.

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Kenneth Doory (via facebook) Know your worth, get 20 per cent deposit and establish contracts.

Darryl Donnelly (via facebook) Get an accountant. Never undersell yourself, try to design something that stands out from the norm. And always go that extra mile in client relations.

I n s i g h t b e n ta l l o n

february 2015

About the writer Ben Tallon is a Londonbased freelance illustrator and art director represented by Illustration Ltd. He works with Channel 4, Russell Brand, the Guardian, Arsenal FC and WWE.

Sell yourself with coffee Mass marketing is a useful means of self-promotion when canvassing prospective clients, but don’t overlook the benefits of taking the time to communicate face-to-face, urges Ben Tallon

nother embarrassing reply pops up in my inbox: ‘Ah, the impersonal personal email. You almost had me there until I saw the unsubscribe link at the bottom. How does this approach work for you, mate? Are you well?’ Oh, shit. Clearly there’s a tiny selection of recent additions to my contact database that I’ve forgotten to shift across to ‘personal_focus.csv’. Now, people I know well and work with are replying to my blatantly blanketed email, which has told them I’ve moved to London – except I’ve already seen them on two or three occasions since I arrived. I signed up for more than twice my Manchester living costs by moving down south and now I’ve uncharacteristically offered up my soul to the dark-lord of mass marketing. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. Work has quietened off and this friend’s reply gets me thinking about the two approaches to self-promotion. How has the mass mailer worked for me? Why didn’t I play to the strengths that come with being a sociable person and just go and see a handful of prospective clients? I preach this method during my lecturing days and to any creative who will listen. In my maiden freelance year, as part of a blanket email and in an effort to stand out, I sent a popular pregnancy magazine a Christmas card depicting two hooded blokes beating up an elf. Needless to say, it didn’t go down well. What you can’t gauge in cyberspace, a bit like online dating, is personality, individuality, passion


and humour. I’ve become good friends with the creative director of WWE. I met him by doggedly chasing the company, my dream client. His northern English accent was music to my ears. Immediately, we had a connection. Then there’s the football. Both our teams (Leeds United and Bolton Wanderers) are in a dark era. Inside three months, after texting about sporting woe, I met him for a pint and he’s gone on to commission me several times. I think it’s worth doing a little homework rather than a routine assault on 1,000 inboxes. Now more than ever, people are so deafened by the sheer noise of digital communications that many have stopped listening. I should have selected a handful of names from ‘general_database.csv’ and called them – even asked for an introductory meeting if they’re on this island – instead of running to Campaign Monitor and issuing a directionless cry for employment help. One or two polite American art directors shout back: ‘You’re on file!’ One guy asks if I’m proposing something, to which I’m not sure how to reply. But aside from that, nothing. So that’s it. No more getting angry when analytics tells me I have an unsubscriber on my hands. From now on, I’ve promised myself that I’m asking everyone out for coffee, the freelance prince of tall mocha, no cream. Consider this my classified. Got a weird and wonderful story that led to a new client? Tweet @ComputerArts using #DesignMatters

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I n s i g h t d a rr en h u ghes

february 2015

About the writer Darren is the founder of and has 18 years’ experience in creative agencies, specialising in design, advertising and digital. A letterpress enthusiast, he also worked at Wieden+Kennedy on projects for Coca-Cola global, Nike and EA Games.

Anyone can design a logo Money shouldn’t be a barrier to decent design. Withoomph founder Darren Hughes argues the benefits of simplifying the branding process for businesses on a shoestring

conomic recession always creates disruption and change, especially in the creative arena. Disney was founded in the heart of the Great Depression, as Mickey steamed into port to raise the spirits of a nation. The iPod was born out of the sour taste of a bursting dot-com bubble and went on to revolutionise the music industry worldwide. The recent global recession is no different. Allied to the speed and scale at which technology continues to evolve, there has been a huge shift towards a global resurgence in entrepreneurialism. In a reaction to recent hard times, more and more individuals are turning their hobbies into businesses and trading globally through the internet whilst also enjoying their working day. There are an estimated 22 million self-employed individuals in the US alone and this number is growing.  As with any new business, these individuals need beautiful and memorable design to set themselves apart from the crowd. Without the budget for a designer or design agency, these businesses rely on their designer friends (if they are lucky enough to have one) to knock them up a logo for free, which is usually the last thing on a designers to do list (I should know – I am one). Failing that, they try to design a logo themselves, usually in Microsoft Word! The result of this process is that plenty of new and promising businesses are being launched around the world sporting poor design that does nothing for their professional ambitions or reputation.


This insight fuelled my idea for It’s an online design toolkit aimed at startup clients with very little budget or design skills, and allows them to create a logo which can then be applied consistently to all brand touch points and channels. Our competitors either throw complex interfaces at their customers and hope for the best, or they crowdsource amateur designers from around the world, resulting in poor quality work. From a designer’s point of view, crowdsourcing is one hell of a crowded pitch, where you are sometimes competing against 300 other designers for a mere $200. That’s great for clients, but not so good for designers. Withoomph is different. We have built a system that uses algorithms to create great logo designs instantly, which are simply delivered at the push of a button. The logos are created by combining one or more icons together, as well as
colour palettes, typographic elements and shapes. aims to build a connected design community that employs a huge team of designers and developers who can build out the product and service these customers worldwide. We believe the industry is changing dramatically and the shift from traditionally designing through the process to designing the process itself is becoming more evident. Necessity is the mother of invention. Should enabling technology democratise design? Let us know with @ComputerArts using #DesignMatters

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the mos t i nspi r i ng il lu s t r at i ons fr om th e wor ld’ s le a di ng cr e ati v e s

on s ale n ow in wh s m i th

Architectural Graphics Transport Graphics Retail Graphics Promotional Display Outdoor Media 0118 922 1300

Computer Arts selects the hottest new design, illustration and motion work from the global design scene

hey good looking project charisma branding by Blow

After the success of its Astrobrights paper packaging project, Hong Kong-based creative agency Blow was again approached by Polytrade Paper to come up with a project related to the cosmetic industry. Project Charisma combines the elegance of paper with the beauty of female personalities. “We wanted to use the eight letters of ‘charisma’ to represent a woman’s name, expressing their own charisma in each type of paper,” says founder and design director of Blow, Ken Lo. “Camellia is known as the tea flower; with her conspicuous blossom, she symbolises the natural, feminine and stunning beauty of a woman. Hilary is cheerful and merry; a ray of sunshine because of her blissful, joyful personality.” While the Camellia and Hilary executions are very different in their approach, the project as a whole aims to promote the variety of paper on offer. “The most challenging part was brainstorming eight different names and personalities and then choosing a right tone for each one,” Lo continues. “Overall we wanted the design to be unique; when all eight sets of packaging come together, it’ll be very dynamic.”

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The aim of the project was to promote the varying types of paper that Polytrade Paper can offer Ken Lo’s favourite part of the project was the teaser aspect – he received plenty of positive feedback on it The timing was particularly challenging, as eight sets of packaging needed to be made within two months Blow wanted each set of packaging to be unique yet come together as one, larger project once all eight were completed The eight sets will be completed by April and will be distributed later on in 2015 The rest of the letters represent everything from wisdom, beauty, glamour, elegance and sophistication, to substance, intelligence, passion and courage

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Th e very b e s t ne w de si g n


the rest of the industry says… Sarah Cattle

Creative director, Pearlfisher

“Striking and exquisite design, production and finish for both products. This showcases the drive for increased personalisation in beauty, with one project perfectly encompassing and communicating two unique identities. Above all, the project roots its big idea in the packaging, celebrating the power of a strong and original design aesthetic.”


Co-founder, SomeOne

“The name of a flower as a brand name, with a flower on the packaging. It’s artfully done. Tastefully arranged. Elegantly considered. But rather lacking in an idea, don’t you think? Hilary on the other hand is a name of a person. Popped on a pack and flooded with good colour combinations. Again designed to within an inch of its life. What’s not to love? Well, from a design perspective it’s all terribly nice. But where’s the idea? What’s stopping anyone else doing either of these things? What differentiates them from the crowd? How does this design work pay for itself? What keeps the conversation going? Sorry to be a bit ranty, but these questions need answering before a project goes live and it appears very few have been answered here.”

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get trashy east of eden illustrations by Kjosk

“The concept was not to have a concept,” explains Florian Schommer, graphic designer and co-founder of Hamburg-based design studio Kjosk. “I get a lot of commercial work in my day-to-day business, so for this project I tried a completely different approach by just freeing my thoughts. I started to draw everything that came to my mind and then I combined all the different motifs in one project.”

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Using copic fine liners and colouring the illustrations in Photoshop, it’s a pretty simple approach to a very special project. Inspired by the colours of old skateboard graphics and piecing together each illustration like a puzzle, Schommer says it’s the ‘trashy’ aspect that he likes the most. “When I was a child, I collected trashy and colourful stickers; this whole project reminds me a bit of that collection.”

Th e very b e s t ne w de si g n


london calling book cover by Sawdust

Pretty much everyone has their own take on the big smoke, so coming up with a new and exciting way to portray London isn’t an easy task. “The brief was to create a modern typographic cover from the headline ‘London, but not as you know it’, based on the story inside, which is all about what London might look like in 2050,” explains Sawdust’s Jonathan Quainton. “Our idea was simply to develop a futuristic typeface that felt constructed and carefully built using different components, much like an architect might design a house or building.” Created in Illustrator and using bright and bold colours, the book cover is both eye-catching and inspiring. “The typeface was inspired by a combination of artistic movements that could be found throughout architectural history — constructivism, art deco and deconstructivism.”

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book worm tom reid bookstore branding by Sebastian Bednarek

Established in 1984, Tom Reid’s bookstore is a family-owned, independent shop that promotes the tradition of reading books, and strives to remind its customers about the true power of paper literature. The store’s new branding needed to speak volumes about its ethos, and designer Sebastian Bednarek was briefed accordingly. “The idea was to create a clean and modern image for the brand, but at the same time keep up the vintage connection due to the store’s long existence,” he says. With its simple approach, the identity can easily be reproduced for its many outputs. “The most challenging part was fusing together the feather and key symbol. My favourite part however, is the beautifully minimalist stationery design that’s presented in a vintage but contemporary way.”

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Th e very b e s t ne w de si g n


a cut above the rest sonos advertising campaign by Serial Cut

“Sonos is the brand for home speakers with great sound quality, so the main aim was to showcase how each speaker transforms your home music experience,” says Sergio del Puerto, creative director and founder of Serial Cut. Commissioned by 72andSunny, the campaign was shot by their studio photographer, Paloma Rincón. “The sketches were done in CGI after six rounds per visual. Once we had them approved, we started to think how we could bring them to life, with as little CGI as possible, and building real sets; ‘Gold’ and ‘Paint’ don’t have any CGI at all!” Taking just two weeks to work on the project, del Puerto says the stressful experience was worth it. “I always have fun in the shoot. Not being in front of the computer and getting to work with the team instead is great.”

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smog city Crowded by Andrew Khosravani and Cristina Florit Gomila

“We wanted to create something beautiful that, beneath the surface, had much more sinister undertones,” explains Andrew Khosravani, who along with Cristina Florit Gomila created ‘Crowded’ – a slightly unnerving look at the world we live in today. “At the time I was really interested in sci-fi,” continues Gomila. “I tend to like children’s books that have beautiful innocent illustrations but have odd endings, ones that aren’t quite what you were expecting.” Using cute plasticine models for almost every aspect, the pair thought the material would perfectly juxtapose the ugly and sinister subject matter. After some pen-to-paper storyboarding, the animation was then composed within After Effects using individual layers to replicate 3D depth.

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worth sharing bynd artisan branding by &Larry

“We were commissioned to create a unique brand experience across print, digital and space for Bynd Artisan – a new retail concept established by Singapore’s oldest bookbinder,” explains &Larry founder Larry Peh. The branding solution had to work across various touchpoints, including brochures, posters and postcards. “We based the project on the concept of ‘something worth sharing’,” he continues. “Marrying the ideas of ‘hardware’ (see Bynd Artisan’s expertise of paper, leather and bookbinding techniques) with the ‘heart’ of their story, it shares their heritage, which is built upon the qualities of honesty, authenticity and artisanship.” Using the entire range of materials and finishing processes from Bynd Artisan’s very own warehouse and atelier, this branding is truly an in-house affair.

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HAIR RAISING TALENT personal showreel by Fede Cook

Cutting your showreel down to just half a minute is no easy task, but Uruguayan artist and animator Fede Cook rose to the challenge. “The art of flat design is what I’m currently focused on, so I wanted to show the best moments of my work in that field in just 30 seconds,” he explains. Studying illustration, 2D and 3D animation, the 29-year-old now works as a freelance animator and post-producer, working across music videos, movies and various web projects. “The most challenging part was choosing which pieces of work would keep a nice flow throughout the reel,” he says. There’s plenty of characters to spot in 30 seconds, so does Cook have a favourite? “It’s hard to say, but I guess the little octopus playing the guitar,” he says. “He was designed by Richard Perez.”

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rt Special Repo

s p e t s 0 1 e c n a l e to fre s s e c c su

1 0 steps to f r e e la nc e suc c e ss

february 2015

Making the leap into freelance life can be daunting. Anna Richardson Taylor gathers the wisdom of experience from those who have been there and done that


hether fresh out of college or stuck in a dreary job, most creatives will sooner or later ponder the freelance life. The independent lifestyle of a freelancer provides a powerful lure, with its flexible working hours, varied work and the chance to be your own boss. But is the freelance grass as green as imagined, when you ditch your secure job and step over to the other side? As powerful as the pros of freelancing seem, there are also potential cons that are worth considering before setting out as self-employed. For example, cashflow is a permanent concern, and even seasoned freelancers can become nervous when work slows down or clients don’t pay on time. Budgeting, forecasting, payment-chasing, tax-returning, accounting, invoicing and networking are as much part of freelance life as creative and professional freedom, expanding horizons and offering the potential for a superior work-life balance. As illustrator Ben O’Brien puts it, you have to understand that you “can’t just focus on creative things, because your business will suffer. But you can’t be too business-y either, because then your artwork will suffer.” Also, ask yourself whether you will be suited to freelance life. Will you be happy eschewing the office banter and facing your computer screen on your own? Have you got the drive to seek out new opportunities, market yourself and deal with difficult clients, and will you be able to put the right value on your carefully honed skills to make freelance life viable? We have spoken to experienced freelancers to answer those burning questions. These individuals have been there, done that, faced the cash-drought, side-stepped the pitfalls and kept at bay the burnout. Therefore they are perfectly positioned to share their collective wisdom and top tips on making freelance life work. But most importantly, try not to worry too much either. “You realise very quickly that worry is completely futile,” says freelance designer Molly Cockcroft. “In the beginning there were times when I was staring at no work in the diary, and then on a Friday afternoon, I’d get a call asking to book me for three weeks. You just have to hold your nerve sometimes.” So read on, digest the advice, take or discard, and hold your nerve. A fruitful freelance existence might be just around the corner.

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Sp eci al R e p o r T

february 2015

ALW AY S research Your clients’ needs Not only do you need to know your prospective client’s business, you need to understand the company’s needs – it’s the hinge of your pitch

1 . CONT R OL y o u r F INANCE S

Do your homework You might already have a good working relationship with the client you’re going to pitch to. However, if you don’t know them you’ll need to put aside a good couple of hours to research who they are and what they do. why do they need you? Once you’ve done your research, turn your attention to how you can help them meet their goals. What skills, knowledge or experience can you provide that they don’t already have? What are they doing that they could be doing better – with your help? Work this out, and you’ve nailed the crux of your pitch.     be direct Put together your pitch in a short, punchy email – and make sure you send it to the right person. Remember that the recipient is probably busy: a long, sprawling monologue is unlikely to catch their attention. Keep it to the point: what do you propose? Why do they need it? And why are you the best person for the job? Include evidence Back up your claims with evidence of why you’re the perfect person. Have you successfully provided similar services before? Mention this, succinctly, and link to the project so that the client can follow it up if they’re interested. Don’t use a formula This is the quickest way for your email to be deleted. Each pitch should be tailored to the client: if you can’t be bothered to talk to them directly, why should they care? Dangle the carrot Your initial pitch isn’t the time to bring up fees and contract demands: it’s the first phase of a process in which your main job is to open a dialogue. Don’t dilute your message: there will be plenty of time to discuss all these details further down the line – for now you need to whet their appetite. Make a connection First impressions count, and clients are more likely to offer a job to someone they think they can work with – so take a moment to make sure you’ve pitched your personal skills, too. Does your tone communicate professionalism and energy? Link it up As with all self-promotional emails, if you haven’t already, make sure you include a link to your online portfolio (and your contact details). This will enable the potential client to browse through your work and client list if they choose, and get a feel, firsthand, for the kind of work you do. Let them digest your pitch Give it a few days before following up with another email or phone call – but bear in mind clients won’t always appreciate a direct call about a pitch. If you still don’t get a response, know when to walk away. Think about where you might have gone wrong. Did you pitch at the right time? send more than one Don’t just rely on one pitch being successful. If you have bills to pay, send out multiple pitches to prospective clients.

Ge t on t op o f in v oicing , cha s e up o v er due pa y men t s , and  k e ep   an e y e on t ha t all- impor t an t c a sh f lo w


reelance life, no matter how experienced you are, is one of famine and feast. Securing a steady stream of work and ensuring you get paid on time is notoriously difficult. Therefore, and unsurprisingly, one of the most repeated pieces of advice is, make sure you have adequate savings to fall back on in the event that your cashflow dries up. In addition, you will need to stay on top of the more tedious side of freelance life – the business staples of invoicing and chasing payments. Make sure you educate yourself about the business side of things, advises illustrator Rod Hunt. Understanding pricing, copyright, contracts and so on is just as important as the creative work if you want to be successful and sustain your career in the long term. Joining the Association of Illustrators is a great starting point for budding freelance illustrators, as it offers constant support and advice on contracts. But any freelancer can seek help from someone who has a business brain – an accountant, ideally – or they can scour resources provided online, to make sure terms and conditions on contracts are in order. Freelance designer Andrew Warwick further suggests charging new clients a deposit upfront. “I made loads of mistakes when starting out,” he explains. “Not taking deposits was one of them. If you make a new business connection, a deposit is a really good way of gauging how organised they are and how they are with money. If they faff about with a deposit, it’s a good indication of how they might be with the actual payment.” Keeping on top of credit control, and knowing when to remind accounts departments when payment is due, is also crucial, but Molly Cockcroft rings a note of caution: “Remember that we all forget to pay bills sometimes, so don’t go in all guns blazing when someone is a day or two overdue.”

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1 0 steps to f r e e la nc e suc c e ss

february 2015

s t c a t n o c e k a m 2. P u t y our s el f ou t  t her e , mak e indu s t r y c on t ac t s and f or ge me aning f ul  w or k ing   r ela t ion ship s


etting yourself noticed is one of the most important tasks for newly minted freelancers, but it can also seem the most daunting. The first step is simple, however: drawing on personal contacts is the most natural place to start, and often the most effective. “I spoke with almost everyone I had ever worked with,” says designer Molly Cockcroft, “And this existing network proved invaluable – I am forever grateful to the people who booked me at the beginning.” If your contacts book looks somewhat sparse, however, don’t despair. Make sure you sign up to all the usual social media suspects as they allow you to get your portfolio noticed, participate in the wider creative community and research the right people to link up with. Freelance designer Geoffrey Idun says approaches from new clients increased markedly when he signed up to various social platforms a few months ago. Having a social media feed on a website also boosts search engine optimisation, increasing your chances of getting noticed. Unfortunately the online world also means that potential clients are constantly bombarded with creative work. Well-researched speculative emails can still bear fruit, but gone are the days when you could research potential clients on Google, fire off a handful of emails and land a job. There are more structured online tools that can help. allows freelancers to send out work to targeted lists of potential clients, is an online platform for work opportunities, does a similar job and portfolio platforms such as Behance are also a no-brainer. However, there’s no substitute for getting out and about. Attend events as much as possible, from informal industry meet-ups such as, to private views or industry shows such as New Designers. “Some see networking as a dirty word,” says illustrator Rod Hunt. “But it’s just talking to folks.”


3 . m ANA G E Y O u R  TI m E Or gani s e y our f r e elanc e li f e t o f ind a   delic a t e balanc e be t w e en w or k and lei s ur e , w i t hou t mi s s ing a de adline

eing able to manage your time efficiently usually comes with experience – experience of knowing how many balls to have in the air, how many jobs to take on, and how long it will take to deliver them. “I manage my time very well but only because I’ve been doing it so long,” says illustrator Ben O’Brien. “But if you have a lot that needs to be done today, just get on with it.” All freelancers approach time-management differently. Andrew Warwick swears by time-tracking software FreeAgent, which helps with invoicing and project management. On the other end of the spectrum are those who stick to a notepad, pen, sticky notes and a diary, or just draw up a list every evening with tasks for the next day. Whatever your approach, set a clear list of achievable tasks every day and try to stick to it as much as possible within the standard working hours. You also need to be flexible and prioritise on a daily basis, as requirements and deadlines can move. Others suggest you also make time for activities not directly projectrelated. Put days in the diary to allow yourself to catch up on your books, make new contacts, explore your own creative projects, do your emails and so on. You need time to do the things that keep your business moving. But whichever way you manage your time, do not miss your deadlines. “When you do your work is obviously entirely up to you,” says Dale Edwin Murray. “But one thing you cannot avoid or miss is a client’s deadline. However and whenever you do the work, you must make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete and deliver a job on time.”  

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4. de a l w i t h cl ie n t s

5. manage your mone y

P a t ienc e , t enaci t y and hone s t y ar e k e y t o mak ing clien t r ela t ion ship s w or k f or y ou


s daunting as securing a commission might seem to freelancers starting out, it is the relationship that follows that can test your mettle most. It might seem obvious, but try and get on with a client, says illustrator Serge Seidlitz. “They are paying you to do a job for them, you want them to come back for more. Don’t burn bridges. You want to establish a long-term relationship. Be nice to people – a general good philosophy in life anyway.” Every client is different, however, and you will need to show respect, but also manage expectations, do a certain amount of hand-holding and know when to push back against unreasonable or creatively unsound demands. Outlining what a client gets for the fee you quote can be helpful, says designer Molly Cockcroft. “For example, how many concepts you will provide and how many amends they can make. Sometimes things need to be more fluid than this, but if you can start this conversation at the beginning, it saves all sorts of hassle.” Generally, if you are efficient, honest and fairly easy-going to work with, clients will come back to you, reckons illustrator Ben O’Brien. Many illustrators make the mistake of worrying too much and emailing the client again and again, he adds. “Have faith in what you’re going to do. And hit your deadlines. If you’re three days late and it’s already going to print then they won’t come back to you.” If a relationship with a client nonetheless gets a little tense, try to keep a positive attitude, recommends designer David Bonas. “Don’t let the situation get the better of you, and seek advice from someone with more experience before making rushed decisions.” After all, the client is king, and even difficult clients may merely be suffering pressure from their bosses. If you remember to treat clients like people and not merely clients, says illustrator Lizzie Mary Cullen, you will begin to understand where they are coming from.

L ook a f t er y our mone y c or r e c t l y and k e ep y our s el f in t he t a x man ’s good book s


ealing with the legal and financial requirements is one of the more overwhelming facets of self-employment. There are a lot of practicalities to take in, so learning the basics and finding a good accountant with experience in the freelance market is key. “I have always had an accountant to do my years’ taxes so that I know everything is above board, even when I started out,” says illustrator Ben O’Brien. “I was pretty sure that the fee I was paying was less than what he was saving me in taxes.” There are also online services that can help with your accounts, such as or Ship Shape Pay. Putting aside the relevant percentage of takings for tax every time you get paid is also a no-brainer, but all too often neglected. “You have to quickly get your head around tax and make sure you set enough aside to pay your tax bill when it comes,” says illustrator Dale Edwin Murray. “Paying it all at once rather than having it taken out of your monthly wage slip feels a little like being robbed at gun point, but you get used to it.”  In fact, a certain sense of satisfaction can be derived from keeping on top of your finances. “I’ve got used to this over the years,” says illustrator Serge Seidlitz. “I actually enjoy the sticking down of receipts and treat my ring binders with the same kind of respect that I used to have for the handmade scrapbooks and sticker books I kept when I was a kid. It also feels quite satisfying for me to make them. I don’t wait until the very end of the year and panic about it, it’s much easier and less stressful to just do as you go, and then you don’t have the last minute rush.” The advice is simple, according to David Bonas: “Keep things organised and you’ll notice that it’s not as hard as it seems.”

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P 6. se t your r ates Ho w much should y ou char ge ? A nd under w ha t cir cum s t anc e s should y ou w or k f or f r e e - i f a t all?

ricing is one of the most tricky aspects of freelancing, and even experienced freelancers don’t always get it right. “At the beginning you will probably get it wrong and either charge too much or, more likely, too little,” says freelance illustrator Dale Edwin Murray. “A lot of times clients come with a set budget for a project, so barring negotiation, the question of fees is taken out of your hands. As you work on more and more of these jobs you begin to get a sense of what the going rate is and can set your own fees accordingly.” Asking friends in similar fields what they charge is another option, and for illustrators, the AOI provides on-tap advice on license agreement, license fees and standard fees. If you’re considering whether you should work for free to bolster your portfolio, you find yourself in contentious waters. Many don’t see any harm in doing a freebie when you’re starting out. However, others are adamant it is never a good idea. “One of the rules of thumb I use is, if the person commissioning you is being paid, then so should you,” says Rod Hunt. “I have done a few projects pro bono, for instance an advertising campaign for AIDES, the French not-for-profit HIV/AIDS awareness organisation, but everyone involved was working for free including the advertising agency.” Illustrator Lizzie Mary Cullen also stresses how important it is to protect the licence fees first and foremost. “It’s not even about the money,” she says. “It’s about the idea. They are renting your copyright, so they can’t have it for free – that’s crazy. I know how long a job takes me; but I also know how long I spent honing my craft and how much I spent on tuition fees, how much I spent on my pens, and all these things come together. I charge higher than most people, but I think that I do a better job when I know I am being valued, and people appreciate it as well when they’re paying for better quality.”

AN ILL u S T R ATO R ’ S V IE W A veteran of self-employment, illustrator and former AOI president Rod Hunt reflects on his first steps into freelance life and shares the wisdom of experience What was the first thing you did when you went freelance? I joined the Association of Illustrators for specific illustration industry advice and support. I feel being a member of the AOI is a vital part of a professional illustration career. Being freelance can be a bit isolating and being part of the AOI can give you a sense that you’re not alone in this, you’re part of a community and you know where to get professional advice. With pricing, contracts, copyright and business development, it pays to get advice, and that’s just one phone call or email away by being part of the AOI. What’s the best way to deal with delayed payments? Not being paid on time can be a big problem if you haven’t built up a cash reserve, especially if you’ve been working on a big job for a quite a while. If the job is over several months you could invoice the client in stages so part of the fee is paid sooner. It’s standard to give 30 days credit but you need to keep on top of credit control, so when 30 days are up contact the client’s accounts department to remind them the invoice is now due. In the event of nonpayment the last resort is to take them to the Small Claims Court. Write to the accounts department giving them 5–7 days to pay or you’ll start proceedings. Usually just the threat of the Small Claims Court will make them pay up.    

How did you initially deal with keeping your own accounts? When I started I did a short bookkeeping course, so I knew how to do my business records. You’ll need to keep all your receipts for business expenses like travel, phone, internet, materials, postage, studio rent, and so on. For the first few years I did my own tax returns but now I have an accountant. Using an accountant’s expertise is very useful as they will know how to limit your tax liability, what you can claim for and check that you’ve got your figures correct. If you’re busy, the last thing you want is to stress out about your tax return more than necessary. How much of a business brain do you need as a freelancer? I think it definitely helps to have a business brain. I always ‘put the business first’ when negotiating a new job. I would suggest that you get the money and rights agreed before you start, then always send them your contract so you’ve got it all down in black and white. That way, there’s no room for dispute down the line. I use the AOI’s standard contract and license agreement, which is available for members to use. It has got me out of trouble numerous times before, when a client has tried to change the goalposts or use the work beyond the agreed usage and what they have paid for.

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work faster and clients will love you It isn’t the sexiest side of design, but solid project management facilitates creativity. Here are some key ways to make your workflow more efficient A TIDY DESK Whether or not the old adage is true, a bit of organisation – both physically and digitally – certainly goes a long way. Set up email folders, filing systems and job numbers, and keep on top of them. Add dates to the start of file names in year/month/day format so that different versions are listed in order, and always name and manage your layers. Trying to decipher what’s going on retrospectively is just a waste of time, and having to go back to the client to ask for files again because a download’s expired can be embarrassing. MAKE MILESTONES Mark out some clearly defined milestones for different stages of a project, such as first sketches, presentations, approvals and final layouts, and get them signed off. Map these onto your schedule to make sure they’re achievable: this is particularly useful for more complex projects.     CUSTOMISE YOUR WORKSPACE Organise your workspace to suit you. It should be second nature: if you’re constantly looking for a particular function, it’ll chip away at your working time. When you’re used to the location of everything it’ll free up more of your energy to focus on the project at hand. If you have a laptop, set up a separate monitor and use the laptop for all your panels, leaving your monitor completely free for the design work. Of course, when you use the laptop on its own the screen will be covered in panels. To work around this, set up two custom workspaces in your design software. LEARN SHORTCUTS One of the quickest ways to speed up your workflow is to set up shortcuts – and learn them. Also, if you repeatedly do certain procedures in Photoshop, why not record them as an action? PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS Staying on top of your workload, tracking time and invoices, tending to your to-do lists and updating your clients are all daily activities that need to be fit in. Luckily there are a number of affordable, easy-to-use project management tools out there to help you juggle multiple projects and workflows. Solo (, Action Method ( and Basecamp ( are just three available options, all of which are set up to help you make your workflow as efficient and painless as possible. Give them a go. LEARN THE BRIEF Always get the brief nailed down at the start, and make sure that you’re on the same page as the client. Agreeing deadlines for different stages helps everyone be clear about how long everything will take, and pinning down a beginning, middle and end will stop things rambling out of control. Stay realistic when you’re under tight time constraints. BACK IT UP It sounds obvious, but hit Save as often as possible: the last thing you want is for your computer to crash and you to lose all your work, hours before a crucial deadline. As your project progresses, create a new folder for each key phase and go to File>Save As, using numbers as your filenames. That way, you aren’t just overwriting the file and can shuffle back through versions if you need to double back on yourself later. Invest in a decent hard drive, too. Your sanity will thank you.

7. k n o w w h e n t o  s a y  n o T her e ar e par t icular t ime s w hen i t ac t uall y pa y s mor e t o t ur n do w n w or k – be c ome f amiliar w i t h t hem and y ou ’ ll pr o s per


elieve it or not, sometimes it might be right to turn down work. Perhaps it’s a simple case of time-management – if you feel you might have to compromise on quality by taking on too much work, it’s time to turn down a job. In addition, it’s important to have an idea of the type of work that you want to do, and try to stick to it when possible, freelance designer David Bonas points out. This might mean turning down certain projects in favour of building the right portfolio in the long run. Many freelancers also mention ethical considerations. Ben O’Brien, for example, wouldn’t work for a gun company, and Rod Hunt warns of clients that might ask you to do something unethical such as copying another person’s work or style. “I would also turn down a job if the client is demanding assignment of copyright or the fee is unrealistically low and does not reflect the actual worth of the job,” he adds. “It seems to follow that the clients who want to pay the least are often the most demanding. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, a bad deal is a bad deal and will do you no favours in the long run.” Beware, too, of the committee, says designer Andrew Warwick. “Any brief where they mention they have an experienced committee to review the work, is a total ‘avoid’ at all costs,” he says. “You’re going to have to deal with a load of nonsense. Also, any kind of client who says ‘I know what I like when I see it’ – that usually means they’re unwilling to write a proper brief, and expect you to have daily ideas to throw at them. Unless they have an incredibly huge budget, avoid.” So, be prepared to say “no” occasionally – as unimaginable as it might seem in those first months.

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mong all the pitfalls you need to dodge when embarking on a freelance career, the biggest danger, according to many freelance veterans, is selling yourself too cheaply. It’s important to understand early on that the fee you receive also needs to cover your business expenses and tax, and you need to price your services accordingly. What is the use of slaving away for weeks, if the fee barely covers your rent – let alone your pens, notebooks and printer ink? Also, don’t mistake a large paycheck for a lottery win. Fees need to go a long way. Just because you receive a five-figure sum, doesn’t mean you’re “some sort of premiership footballer,” says designer Andrew Warwick, who remembers that feeling well. “At first it’s quite weird if you’ve been on a salary to get a big amount. You realise after a while it might be a couple of months before you get another one.” Being complacent about self-promotion can also ground your career before it’s gained any height. Freelancers have to expect to work hard to be seen by as many people as possible – and invest the time and resources in promoting their work and explore all possible markets. “You may be the best designer/illustrator in the world, but if no one sees your work, you won’t get commissioned,” says illustrator Rod Hunt. “I invest around 10 per cent of my turnover a year in marketing.” However, the most fatal pitfall is not realising you might not be suited to freelance life in the first place. “The most important piece of advice would be to do some serious soul-searching as to whether it’s a career route that suits your personality,” says Dale Edwin Murray. “You have to ask yourself whether you are cut out for working without support, prepared to chase invoices, happy to promote yourself relentlessly, able to structure your own time effectively, comfortable dealing directly with clients and disciplined enough to knuckle down to work when the pub is calling your name and you’ve got no boss to stop you going.”

8. si de s t e p t he p i t f a l l s Av oid de s t r o y ing y our f le dgling c ar e er be f or e i t e v en s t ar t s


9. av oid bur nou t F ac t or in t ime f or y our s el f and y ou ’ ll be f ar mor e lik el y t o s t a y mo t i v a t e d

aking a break seems to be one of the hardest things to do when you’re a freelancer. As soon as holiday is unpaid, notions of work-life balance go out of the window. Not being able to say “no” means work can encroach on evenings and weekends, and before you know it you have been working five years straight without a break. But beware – as experienced freelancers can attest, such an aversion to making time for yourself will catch up with you eventually. In fact, freelancers who get worn out can lose months through illness. One recipe for staving off such burnout comes from illustrator Rod Hunt: “Take at least one day off at the weekend, and never work seven days a week unless absolutely necessary and then only for short periods. It’s a law of diminishing returns, you become less and less productive. Make sure to have a holiday or proper break at least once a year when you totally switch off from work. It’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing this and enjoy the rewards of your hard work.” Other advice includes marking time in the diary to pursue activities aside from work – a walk in the park, a visit to a gallery or even around the shops can help you see a problem in a new light – and if you find yourself with a random weekday free, says Molly Cockcroft, “don’t panic, treat it like a day off, because I bet you will be working all of the following weekend.” It can also help to make time for personal projects. They allow you the space to explore different areas which will help you keep fresh and avoid feeling burnt out, according to illustrator Dale Edwin Murray. “Something from these experiments always seems to seep its way into client work, so they are mutually beneficial.” Whichever tip you use to avoid burn-out, make sure to make time for it, and stick to it, or the freelance existence may quickly descend into the unpleasant rat-race you have been looking to escape in the first place.

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10. find your ce ide al workspa

It’s no good dazzling clients with design skills if you can’t meet a deadline. Manage your time more efficiently with these top tips HAVE A SYSTEM Being able to prioritise is key to staying sane as a freelancer. Assign certain periods to tasks in a calendar and have a daily to-do list that you can tick off. Websites like Lifehacker ( and 43folders ( are full of great tips. EXPLAIN YOUR SCHEDULE One of the best ways to manage your time (and keep clients happy) is to be up-front about what you’re working on, when you’ll have time to begin working on a brief, and how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to the project. Be clear, realistic and honest with your clients right from the beginning of a project. STICK TO YOUR STRENGTHS When it comes to tight budgets and timescales, call on the skills and solutions that you know you can do well. Keep it simple and avoid laborious processes. One of the most time-consuming things you can do is try to find pioneering new styles and solutions – save that for the well-paid projects. STOP CLIENTS SUCKING UP YOUR TIME Clients can be demanding. But if you find yourself spending more time responding to a constant barrage of requests than you are working on the project, then you need to let the client know – politely – that their emails or phone calls are becoming unproductive. Consider implementing a schedule for responding to clients and make this clear from the outset. MAKE A PLAN Everyone works differently, but if you want to maximise your efficiency try drawing up both short-term (day) and longer-term (week and month) plans. Setting yourself goals and deadlines will help you stay focused – but don’t be too rigid: things will invariably pan out differently, so you’ll need to adopt a flexible attitude. MIX IT UP Vary the work you do so you’re able to jump between projects when you’re fed up. If you work on the same thing all day, every day, it gets tiresome and productivity can drop. The more styles and techniques you have under your belt, the better. It keeps you excited about what you’re doing. WEAR YOUR OTHER HATS Set aside a dedicated chunk of time each month to keeping on top of the other sides of freelance life: business, finance, networking and self-promo. These don’t bring in money directly, but they are all essential aspects of being a successful freelancer and must be factored in. AUTOMATE YOUR ACCOUNTS As a freelancer, it’s fairly likely that you’ll spend a lot of time chasing clients for payment. It might help to set up an automated invoicing and payment system – such as that offered by Zoho Online Invoicing ( – that will email regular reminders to clients and include automated payment links. DON’T LIVE IN A BUBBLE Separating work life from home life can be challenging as a freelancer. Always schedule in time for a social life – even when your workload is heavy. Factor in regular breaks, know when you’re going to start and stop for the day, and stick to your schedule.

W ha t k ind o f w or k s pac e i s r igh t f or y ou depends on a r ange o f f ac t or s – no t ju s t on  ho w y ou w or k


hether it’s the kitchen table, the back bedroom, a shared studio space or a rented office, a workspace preference usually depends on the individual and their disposition. Those starting out should ask themselves: is a day without human interaction anathema, can you effectively separate home from work, do you enjoy quiet, or require the buzz of regular conversation? The decision can also depend on the type of freelancer you want to be. Those looking to freelance within agencies, for example, can probably do with minimal space at home. Many of the experienced freelancers interviewed, however, feel that it’s important to have a separate space for work. Sharing a space in a creative work environment is a popular option. “It’s a great way to expand your network of contacts and have easy access to advice and feedback from people in the same line of work,” says David Bonas. “Working away from home helps me manage my time better. I would definitely recommend it to start off. Later on, if the business grows you can always consider moving to your own studio space.” Having that studio space allows you to shut the door on your work and go home at night. You are also likely to be more productive, according to some of the seasoned freelancers, and it can provide a great way to meet people, especially if the studio forms part of a complex aimed at creatives, such as the Second Floor Studios & Arts in South East London. “I love being in my studio and this is important,” says illustrator Serge Seidlitz. “Because you should want to be in the studio more than anywhere else. I don’t think a studio is like a normal workplace where you’re looking at your watch to get out of there. You should feel comfortable and like hanging out.” However, remember that your workspace is very personal, and for many, the kitchen table will always suffice. As freelance illustrator Lizzie Mary Cullen says: “If you want to draw, you just draw – worrying about tables and chairs doesn’t matter.”

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Video insight


FREELANCER SPECIAL Four of the UK’s most exciting freelancers explain why they shunned home working for a community vibe at Arcola Northside


ake a side street off Dalston’s bustling Stoke Newington Road and you’ll find Arcola Northside, a former Victorian factory that’s home to some of London’s most prolific freelance designers and illustrators. Inside the exposed brick walls, identical doors down whitewashed corridors open to reveal hives of creative activity: choose one and you might find Mr Bingo, Nous Vous, Craig and Karl’s Karl Maier or any number of talented freelancers and studios sharing the self-contained artist spaces. We caught up with some Arcola Northside residents, four of the UK’s brightest illustrative forces – Owen Gildersleeve, Toby Triumph, Ciara Phelan and James Dawe – to talk freedom, friendship and the politics of loud sighing in shared spaces... At what stage did you decide to go freelance? Owen Gildersleeve: I graduated in 2008 and spent three months in New York assisting the illustrator Mario Hugo, who was setting up an advertising agency. Before that I’d always had work experience at big design agencies, so it was really great to see how freelancers work. It was very exciting and inspiring to see someone who’s so passionate about their work getting to do it for their living and having full control over it. It made me realise I wanted to work freelance myself. After that I moved to London and thought I’d give it a go.


Toby Triumph: I’ve been freelancing for five-and-a-half years. I graduated six years ago, went back up north to where my parents live and redid my portfolio to get the things in there that I felt I’d missed at university. A lot of the work stayed in, but I didn’t want to be commissioned solely on the stuff from university, so I spent six months doing that, moved to London with my fresh portfolio and took it round numerous magazines and agencies. Did it pay off? Would you advise others to do the same? TT: It definitely paid off, because I did a series of about six characters and they were the key, first piece in the portfolio that I showed. Work came in off the back of that project – they wanted that style, that wit and that humour; whereas if it hadn’t been in my portfolio, [my career] would have started off in a really different way. Ciara Phelan: I worked as a junior designer for a year after studying graphic design at Brighton University.

Video Insight

february 2015

video case study one:

It got to the point where I was getting too many freelance commissions on the side and I was finding it hard to juggle the two, so I had to sit down and make the decision [about] whether I wanted to try and build up my own portfolio. At the time I was living with Owen [Gildersleeve] and he went freelance as well, so we decided it would be nice to support each other and see how it went. So I left and the rest is history! Do you think it’s helpful to gain experience within a structured studio environment before going freelance? CP: Yes, for me it was really valuable. With projects at uni you’ve got quite a lot of time, even though it does seem like you’re inundated. Being in a company showed me how to manage my time better and focus my ideas.


James Dawe: I really enjoyed it – feeding off experienced designers and art directors raises your game. When I left uni I got in contact with a couple of design agencies that did a lot of visual-based design work and managed to help them out with a couple of record sleeves. That led to other things, they then expanded and I started working on some bigger projects for Sky and Nike. It turned from an internship into more of a freelance role, which was great for developing and getting to know how a business works in the creative industries. What brought you all to Arcola Northside? OG: Before this studio I was in a studio space in Stoke Newington. It was kind of like a squat – it had no

“Everyone’s quite focused and it makes you take your craft more seriously because you look around and see other people working on exciting projects” heating or hot water. I don’t think the landlord paid any of his bills. We were constantly getting letters from the council and worried that the bailiffs were going to take all our stuff. It’s nice now being in a space that does have heating and not having to wear gloves to work. Before then I was working from a desk in my bedroom. When you’re working on your own there are days where you don’t talk to anyone, and then suddenly you’re thrown into the real work again and you’ve forgotten how to communicate with people. That’s the joy of being in a place like this now – it’s more professional. You get to treat it as a job rather than something you’re doing in your spare time or a hobby. Toby, James and Ciara – you shared another space, Open Studios, before Arcola. What was that like? TT: Yeah, Open Studios in De Beauvoir was a big old photography studio where they used to shoot ‘page three’ models in the 70s and 80s. It was all wooden floors, a big beautiful building and it was so sociable – you met new people every day. But there were 26 people in there, and when you’re someone who likes to have a good chat and can while away the hours it becomes a bit dangerous to your productivity. CP: Open was great for me initially because I’d just started freelancing. I went into an environment where there were 12 other established illustrators and that was great because I got to see how they worked and how they were with clients; I could ask them for advice. But the size of the space meant it was a bit hard to concentrate.


When Hoxton Hotel asked Toby Triumph to design the wallpaper for 90 rooms in a new hotel in central London, he had no idea that the project would lead to another commission – this time to design the packaging for the hotel’s soaps, shampoos and conditioners. “I loved it,” he says. “It felt like I was moving into a different area: it wasn’t just print or online, it had a different function – not to tell too much of a story, but give an idea of the hotel.” Triumph’s work for Hoxton Hotel attracted work from the Observer and led to him working on a huge launch for American beauty brand Nexus, at Robert de Niro’s hotel in New York. “I really believe in trusting the flow of work, and seeing where it will all go,” he says. Find out more of Triumph’s tips for freelance life at

to by tri u m ph w w w.toby Yorkshire-born Toby studied in Bath and is represented by YCN Talent Agency. Since going freelance almost six years ago he’s built an impressive client list including Google, Skype, Ernst & Young and more.

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Video insight

february 2015

Watch all the videos now on our YouTube channel: computerarts.creativeb lo m - 57 -

Video Insight

february 2015

TT: We downsized to a studio with nine people in it. It was an old fashioned designer’s room, and it was brilliant until the roof started leaking and it got freezing cold and the band below us became increasingly noisy. CP: It felt a bit too claustrophobic, so that’s why we moved here. It’s a nice balance because we’ve got a communal area, but it’s not too big that it’s distracting. How helpful is it to be in a shared studio environment? JD: I’ve tried working at home on and off – I find there’s a lot of distractions and you forget where you were with certain things. In the studio, you know that’s why you’re there: you’ve got that list of things to get through. Even the process of getting here helps.

video case study TWO:

owen gildersleeve’s Istanbul Palaces

TT: [Arcola] works really well for how I work: it’s not completely silent and it’s not completely chatty all the time. Everyone is really busy but really sociable so there’s a nice atmosphere. You’ve got the best of both worlds. CP: In this group especially, everyone’s quite focused and it makes you take your craft more seriously because you look around and see other people working on really exciting projects. It motivates you to make sure you push yourself and you don’t stagnate. Also you share ideas and encourage each other as well. When you’re stuck you can ask opinions. And when it gets to half six, seven at night, I think: ‘Actually, I want to go home.’ If I was working at home I’d find it harder to break away and detach myself. Are there any drawbacks to sharing a studio space? TT: I think for me, the downside is having to temper yourself a little bit and be careful – I sigh quite loudly and I’ll be quite vocal if I’m having a fussy client or a bad day. It’s about not pushing that onto other people. I work from home every now and again... OG: If things aren’t going so well you can’t be spreading it onto everyone else. And some people may want a certain way of using the space, how they play music or whatever. But we’ve got a really nice harmony. Everyone gets on well. It has taken quite a while though to find a good mixture of people where it really works well. How closely do you vet new people to check that their compatibility is right? OG: We vet people fairly closely. It’s really important to get a good mixture of people in because you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. You want people who are hardworking – but also that you get on with and you’d be happy to hang out with, go for lunch with and so on. I think it’s a 50-50 split between a hard-working creative space and a group of friends and people you trust, who you’re happy to bounce ideas off and whose opinions you respect. So we put quite a bit of time into trying to find new people for our space. Is there anything that you need to be careful about, say, if you’re working for rival brands or if there’s something under NDA? TT: I think potentially there is. It hasn’t happened in this studio, but you sometimes find that someone else is pitching on the same job as you. You’ve just got to keep it under wraps slightly. It’s all healthy competition – it’s not like you’re trying to steal someone else’s ideas. But in this space, everyone’s work is so different that it’s usually a case of asking other people their opinions on your own work and really opening up with it, and trying to get feedback and constructive criticism. Which is good – it’s a better way for it to be.


One of Owen Gildersleeve’s standout projects of 2014 is a cover design for Shop magazine’s Istanbul issue. Having visited Turkey the year before, he gave a nod to the stunning title designs he’d seen – and bought – during the trip. “I chose a colour palette that was based on Turkish tiles, and the waveforms are from a tile that we had in our bathroom.” Unusually, he focused on building the different layers in a manner that enabled him to keep them: “Often after a piece is photographed I put them in bags and throw them in the corner,” he admits. “It’s nice having some framed pieces. I showed them in an exhibition!” Gildersleeve shares pro advice for working with paper, dealing with clients and getting the most from freelance life at:

ow engildersleeve w w Since graduating from the University of Brighton in 2008, the ADC Young Gun has worked with a global array of clients and picked up a plethora of awards. His first book, Paper Cut, came out in June 2014.

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Video insight

february 2015

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Video Insight

february 2015

CP: It’s actually been okay. Ryan [Todd] and I are in the same agency and a couple of times this year we’ve had the same job come through – but because our work’s so different we’re not really in competition with each other. Same with me and James: we both do collage, but our style is different enough that you don’t feel like you’re competing. I’ve never had a situation where I’ve been working on a project and I couldn’t tell anyone. What’s the biggest daily hurdle you face as a freelancer? JD: Not being able to choose when you’re busy and when you’re not, or knowing when to plan a holiday – that’s maybe the hardest thing. Usually, whenever I book a holiday a job comes in.

video case study three:

CIARA PHELAN’s Kith & Kin brand

TT: As I’ve got busier and busier, my big hurdle has been project managing and working out what I’ve actually got time for. I’ve crammed far too much in at times and the quality of your work and life go down. It’s knowing when to turn things down, when to take a break and how to avoid burnout. OG: It’s very easy as a freelancer to fully immerse yourself in that world and never stop. It happens to me quite a lot: you have a big job on and then after that you don’t want to do anything for a couple of weeks. Things are quite busy now – there aren’t many downtimes – so it’s just making sure that I approach it in a way that I can be constantly working and I don’t have to take a week off after a job just to have a break.

“It’s easy as a freelancer to fully immerse yourself and never stop. You have a big job on and then after that you don’t want to do anything for a couple of weeks” CP: Being your own boss is a positive and a negative. I can decide what I want to do, what projects I want to work on, how late I work, when I take holiday and stuff like that, but the other side of it is that you can never really take a break. You go on holiday and still get emails coming through and you’ve got to answer them. But as you develop, you learn to juggle that pressure a bit more. OG: There are times when not having any holiday pay or sick cover are a downside. But being able to take time off when you want counters it nicely. For example, if something comes up you can go away and don’t have to hand in notice. That’s a really nice side of it.


What’s your favourite aspect of being freelance? TT: I like that you’re self-directed. You choose your path and create your own brand. I never liked the idea of having to work solely for someone else’s brand. I obviously work for brands now, but they come to you to inject something of your own personality into it. Your career feels quite biographical – you can trace your path through everything that you do. I find that fascinating. Do you see yourselves staying at Arcola Studios for the foreseeable future? OG: We’ve just had a big change around here and it feels really good. The energy’s really high. I intend to be here for a while because it’s in a really good location, right in the centre of Dalston and we’re surrounded by a lot of creative companies. We’ve got framers across the road, Facility, who I use a lot if I’m doing exhibitions; we’ve got

Alongside her freelance practice, Ciara Phelan runs ethical lifestyle company Kith & Kin. Launched in July 2014, the first range was called Birds of Paradise and adorns cushions, bags, wrapping paper and more. Her favourite pattern, Grand Morpho, features giant butterflies flying through a jungle: “It’s everything I want Kith & Kin to be – really bright and bold, but at the same time, timeless and contemporary,” she explains. Currently, Ciara spends one day a week on Kith and Kin and four on commissioned work – but the ultimate plan is to dedicate more days to the company. “I’ve learnt to trust my own judgement and I don’t always want someone to tell me to change this to that colour. With Kith & Kin, I can do whatever I want.” Find out more at:

c iara phel an w w Illustrator and textile designer Ciara has a passion for vintage ephemera and textile patterns, and launched lifestyle company Kith & Kin ( in April 2014.

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Video insight

february 2015

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Video Insight

february 2015

Print Club just around the corner; and in the building there are people working in all different parts of the industry. So I don’t see myself moving for a while, not until I need even more space, and then I’ll probably have to go somewhere I can afford to have the whole room to myself. But I’d be sad to move away from here. CP: Leaving everyone behind would be sad. But already I’m getting into this space issue thing where I have cushions and fabric everywhere. I’m always apologising because my crap’s everywhere. No-one’s said anything to me yet! But I always feel envious of Karl [Meier] in the studio – he just rocks up with his laptop and is like: bam! Ready to go. Even if I’m just working digitally, I still need my scanner, Wacom and so on.

video case study four:

JAMES DAWE’s mural for the Metro

What are you most excited about for 2015? JD: I’ve got some self-initiated ideas that I want to try and put in place, and I want to collaborate towards an exhibition on the more art side of things. OG: I’m excited about trying out some new ways of working. I’ve been experimenting with some non-paperbased materials, which is actually going back to some of my earlier work where I was a bit more experimental in the materials and the mediums that I used. Since doing my book Paper Cut, I felt that I reached a peak in my paper way of working. Next year it would be nice to go back into experimenting again, and having a bit of fun with it and collaborating with a few photographer friends. I’ve got a few projects on the horizon with them. CP: My agency, B&A, has just taken on another staff member in the UK and he’s in charge of editorial and design. We’ve been talking about putting together a client list of who I’d want to work with, and he’s going to try and set up some meetings. It’s very exciting to be able to really target who I want to work with and develop my portfolio in this way. TT: I’ve got a job – that I’m 99 per cent sure is going through – to do the interior of a new restaurant in London and to do a lot of typography-based work on a large scale, which is something I’ve not really done before. Alongside that, I’m going to start doing a lot more print. I spent the last few years focusing on getting my professional work up to scratch, but I think I’m going to do that, see what I can learn and bring it back into my commissioned work. What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to go freelance? CP: My advice would be to do it: give it a go. If you’re passionate about illustration or being creative, if you put the time and effort into it, then you can make a success of it. That first leap is always the hardest, but I don’t regret doing it at all. JD: You’ve got to be persistent and have a hard shell. You’ve got to learn to take criticism. But also selfpromote as much as you can; have no shame in doing that. Staying in touch with people is a huge way of them remembering you. TT: The one piece of advice I’d give is to be open to new opportunities and don’t wait for people to come to you. Go out with your portfolio and meet as many people as you can, be bold and be willing to learn and try new things. Don’t ever feel like you’re set – like you’ve got your style and that’s it. Trust the progression and the journey of it.


Distorted portraiture is a recurrent theme in James Dawe’s portfolio. However, when Dawe’s agent Jelly asked whether he’d be interested in creating two faces, one of them live, for Metro newspapers, the illustrator found himself firmly outside of his comfort zone. “They needed two faces – happy and sad, or angry and elated – that symbolised the ups and downs of city life using just torn-up, cut-out bits of Metro newspapers,” he recalls. “I hadn’t really done anything like that before... There were people milling around and asking stuff. I was quite loose and worked tonally through the face, and it came together quite nicely. It was good because it was ambitious and different.” Dawe reveals more about life as a freelancer at:

j ames dawe w w London-based artist and commercial illustrator James creates dramatic, experimental imagery for clients including the Guardian, Bloomberg Businessweek, Nike, Sky Sports and more. computerarts.creativeb lo m - 62 -

Video insight

february 2015

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february 2015

carve your niche AS A LANCE FOR HIRE

In-house shift work at design agencies can be a lucrative source of work for senior freelancers, and opportunities abound Words: Robert Urquhart Illustration: Luc Melanson


enior freelancers are increasingly gravitating towards opposite ends of a spectrum in the modern design marketplace. They’re either in demand as in-house ‘unicorns’ and ‘miracle workers’, or outsourced as advisors and consultants. Agencies and agents are allied in the belief that veteran self-employed creatives can and are thriving in such flexible circumstances. So what makes a great senior freelancer, and what does their current and future landscape look like? Speaking to a number of senior freelancers, production heads and agency reps brings a mutually upbeat response. As a byproduct of the mighty digital revolution – the deconstruction of the workplace, the rise of the bedsitstudio and the company of one – freelancers are able to deliver clout in all aspects of the design process. But what of the wider implications of a creative industry that relies increasingly on senior freelancers instead of permanent staff to carry the weight of major projects and campaigns? Outsourcing and temporary contracts can lead to insecurity and transience on both sides of the freelance fence: for the freelancer, the usual agility needed for success can be sidelined by the need to

moving brands creative a g enc y Operations director Paul Martin and executive creative director Darren Bowles give the view from Moving Brands – based in London, San Francisco, NYC and Zurich.

An ita Fontai n e C reative D irector Anita Fontaine works between advertising, technology art and fashion. Currently a Londonbased freelancer, she plans to return to her native USA in 2015.

give far more to the job than the job wants to give back. On the agency side, working on a plurality of projects means it’s hard to retain a team that can focus, get on as a unit and understand the complexities involved – things that may feel like piecework to the freelancer. Therefore we’re presented with what appears to be a trend in two distinct directions: senior freelancers are either moving ‘in-house’ with longer-term contracts or, alternatively, exchanging the loose ‘freelance’ term for advisor or consultant, often with overtones of ‘art director’ thrown in to focus on the directorial status of the position.

work stream Senior freelancers of all skill sets now find themselves with experience beyond a straight discipline – perfect in many instances for the burgeoning startup scene. But what works for more agile startups may be difficult for embedded and more traditionally structured companies that have a steady stream of similar work. Mike Pearson, head of production at Poke London, stresses the balancing act of market influence, HR needs and cashflow: “Overheads are going up and staff are a

Daniel Howells W E B de s i g ner & DEVELOPER Daniel is a London-based web designer and developer for clients large and small, and is founder and editor of, showcasing the world’s finest web design.

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Mike Pearson HEAD OF PRODUCTION, POKE LOND ON Currently heading up the production department at Poke London, Mike has worked at various integrated, direct, and digital agencies, as well as software development firms.

industry issues

fe b ru a r y 2015

Earning extra stripes as a senior freelancer What are the key pointers to finding great freelance work? Here are five tips to set you further down the path... SPREAD THE LOVE Whether it’s self-initiated work that solves a particular client problem or a tool for your peers to use, being able to demonstrate skills by means of a gesture of good will is a solid route to attracting clients who share your values. share THE Facts Include details of factual achievements in your portfolio, and relay the brief back to clients as you progress through it. Educating clients along the way and ridding the creative process of smoke and mirrors is now seen as a huge plus by agencies. BECOME A DIRECTOR Understanding the creative value imported into the startup mentality and the increasingly utilitarian approach to job titles brings opportunities for senior creatives to step out of the traditional hierarchy and take on more creative directorial roles. The once muddy area of creative strategy is becoming clearer, largely due to emerging technology frameworks across disciplines, including user experience. LEARN TO SPECIALISE Designing for very specific media – Android and iOS devices, for example – or at least positioning yourself as someone who is a mode-specific designer will bring you to the attention of agencies that are looking for task/job-specific freelancers. All of the agencies featured in this article stated that specific media-focused portfolios (e.g. purely mobile-based) were likely to go to the top of the pile. UNDERSTAND THE FINANCES Having an understanding of the way agencies think and their external demands can help manage expectations when dealing with finances. Demand across several industry sectors (specialist coding languages, for example) might translate into friction when it comes to negotiating with creative agencies.

really big consideration, so we do feel pressure in certain skill areas,” admits Pearson. “Python [the programming language] has been causing us problems recently because in the corporate ‘City of London’ world it’s a popular request. There is obviously more money in commercial areas and we can’t compete, we simply can’t afford to pay those rates.” Is there an upward spiral in rates for specific skills at the moment? “Yes,” agrees Pearson, “there’s an upward trend in rates, and believe it or not we genuinely want to pay more. There is danger money in freelance, but at the same time we are under constraints – we can only charge so much to the end client.” But what of freelancers who don’t fit into the narrow window of specific technical expertise? Sam Summerskill, former agent at Debut Art, now of Bernstein & Andriulli, works with a wide variety of photographers, illustrators, CGI and motion graphics animators. Summerskill is the first of many interviewees who reference the blurring of job descriptions for senior freelancers. “Illustration for instance now encompasses typography, design and animation” says Summerskill. “We do a lot of animation with illustrators at the moment, particularly GIFs.”

freelance futures What’s the future for freelance illustrators? “Art direction for illustrators,” Summerskill states emphatically. “Take somebody that can draw and give them the tools through collaboration. Illustration is all about making a point, and art direction is not a million miles from there; we need to be able to talk around the subject.” Rik Lomas, a tech educator, coder and startup advisor based in London, agrees: “We need to open up and talk about what we are doing and why we’re doing it: how it works and why we made good decisions on a project,” he says. “Break down technology in a way that

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clients can understand. The same goes for the creative – interestingly, that the startup route is re-invigorating clients want to know about this sort of stuff.” the freelance scene. Lomas works for a number of clients as a senior “There’s a lot of money floating around the startup freelancer and has become an expert on freelance life space,” says Howells. “The likes of Google and Facebook and how to run a startup company, to the point where are pushing up day rates for designers and there’s a tricklehe’s invited to TED Talks and various masterclasses on the down effect. Pay is going up from there and a lot of people subject. Does Lomas find the term ‘freelancer’ is evolving? are moving from agency-based work to startups.” “Some of the bigger companies now tend to be unsuitable for ‘in between’ skills,” Lomas explains. “I think that the Money: it’s a thorny subject. Back to feeling of ownership over a project Mike Pearson at Poke London to talk is important. When I worked for about freelancing from the other side larger companies I found myself of the line. The agency hires across all wanting to be more a part of areas of freelance, although creative projects; agencies are often more tends to be done in-house. The fully formed and unable, or unwilling, majority of freelancers that spend to respond to that feeling.” time at Poke London tend to work in Lomas now calls himself an user experience, visual design and ‘advisor’, citing that most startups client management. Mike pearson, poke london have no strategy at the start and that “People like working with us, the definition of where the company freelancers always return, but let’s is heading is often fluid. “I’ve worked talk about pay,” says Pearson with a in startups where I’ve almost been there on a part-time twinkle in his eye. “It depends on skill set but for a graphic basis but still been called ‘freelance’,” says Lomas. designer we’d pay £350 a day. It depends on the client, “I’m now moving towards the term ‘advisor’. I don’t but we try to cap it at £400 a day for everyone,” says just come in and do one thing and leave.” Pearson firmly, before adding: “Some say they earn £800 How does Lomas find work? Noting that he is a day elsewhere but the places that pay those rates must extremely active on the speaking circuit and social media be going out of business.” brings this response: “There are a few different ways to get What does Poke London look for in its freelance work; of course recommendations from old to new clients staff? “Experience beyond a discipline is always good,” is a main one, but I still try to do promotion, writing articles says Pearson. Echoing Sam Summerskill’s thoughts on and Twitter. It’s not a social networking ‘thing’. I like putting portfolios, he adds: “Producers walking through the door information out there – it’s all about giving people a feel with a physical portfolio gives you something to engage for why you do what you do.” with – it helps guide the conversation.” Daniel Howells, web designer and developer for a Does a strong previous client list full of household host of creative showcase sites including YCN, APA and names matter to an agency like Poke London? “We look Site Inspire, agrees that self-promotion works, but more for tech and cultural skills,” says Pearson, adding “does it

let’s talk money

“people like working with us, freelancers always return, but let’s talk about pay...”

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industry issues

fe b ru a r y 2015

life of a veteran freelancer Senior freelancer Anita Fontaine reveals the secrets to maintaining a circle of working relationships How do you find freelance work? I’ve freelanced on quite a variety of things, from editorial for Dazed & Confused and Vice to brands like Louis Vuitton. At the moment I’m with an agent in London, working on a job for Mac Cosmetics. I tend to work with a lot of friends, sometimes it’s people who already work in a place that get you in through the door. You’ve got a number of different working relationships going at any one time then? It’s a difficult thing to figure out, but I prefer it. I’m freelancing for ad agency Fallon at the moment as well; they are really great because I know the head creative there. It’s like working with a friend, plus the pay is really good! But I also spent all of 2013 working in San Francisco on a full-time contract... How does having worked full-time and in partnership inform your freelance career? It was interesting in that the studio (West Studio) were helping a lot of startups – I’d spend time embedded in these brands that were taking off. There was a lot more strategy and marketing. It can be fun straddling both sides, but you need balance. Why do you think people hire you? I think people that hire me like the artistic edge that I give to things. I think people tend to hire you on skills and ways of looking at things that they can’t get in house. It’s good to remember that fact. What’s the toughest thing about freelancing? I’m always tempted by going back full time, there may be an incredible company out there that may exist and may offer something really great, so the doors are never completely closed. I’d love to run my own place again, you’ve got to have a lot of patience and perseverance to do it and knowing how long it takes to build something it can be a bit daunting. What is the secret to good working relationships? Intuition. Do people understand you and what you want to be? You have to be able to work towards something together. It is challenging at times, but put effort in and make it work!

matter where they’ve been before? A little: if we have two candidates and someone says they’ve worked somewhere like IDEO or with key brand names, then it’s a benefit, but it’s not a be all and end all – it’s more about what you’ve actually done on any given project.” Mike Radcliffe, managing director of design recruitment agency Represent, agrees with Pearson that being able to explain personal involvement in projects is crucial to a developed portfolio. “When you get to a certain level you need to be about the business,” explains Radcliffe. “Detail those sales from the first quarter that you helped push, give some evidence of why your design work is so effective.” Represent often offers portfolio reviews to graduates, but most of their income comes from seniors. “We’re known for our critical analysis,” says Radcliffe, adding “it’s important to be analytical in a senior portfolio – to delve deeper once the experience is there.”

in-house represents Represent helps freelance designers get in-house work. One such person is Johanna Lundberg, who’s well-versed in the multi-faceted life of a freelancer and particularly in the in-house world. Starting out, like Daniel Howells, at YCN in 2008 as a production manager responsible for new talent, Lundberg has gone on to work in-house. “I’m quite happy mixing things up, I don’t like being on my own,” she says. “I do a lot of in-house work, it’s a steady income.” Are there downsides to working in-house? “Sometimes you can be over-qualified,” explains Lundberg. “Some of the tasks can be mundane.” Mixing things up is Lundberg’s answer to the banality of some work that we all have to face at times, so how does she retain clients and find new ones? “97 per cent of my work is word of mouth. It’s a natural way of working – having steady in-house contacts helps balance the books and focus the mind. It also means that when I’m not working in-house I can focus on my own self-initiated projects.”

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Howells concurs: “All my leads have come from projects that are self-initiated. If you don’t have a strict creative brief, you can show off.” Pertinent to this theme, Howells is currently working on one such project, entitled Wove: an internal filing system to help creative companies discover and manage their agency, consultant and freelance contacts. Wove will no doubt put Howells directly in the spotlight for every company and creative HR department in the country – a useful calling card. Does this sort of endeavour impress a potential client? Speaking to global design firm Moving Brands and asking what impresses them in a senior freelancer brings this answer from Darren Bowles, executive creative director: “I’d like to say it doesn’t affect me but it does. We like a way of looking at creativity that is similar to our own, this needs to shine through. I like freelancers that are open, comfortable in themselves and inquisitive.”

Both Bowles and Moving Brands’ operations director Paul Martin refer to their freelancers as ‘miracle people’ and ‘unicorns’. They envision a two-tier approach to freelancers: those that have specialist tools and provide a service the agency isn’t equipped for in-house, and those rare creatives that have a number of interests beyond their job title – the unicorns. Many of the freelancers that start out at Moving Brands move on to contracts, with some biting the bullet and becoming permanent. “We’re open to people no matter what they prefer in the long run,” says Martin. “We treat everyone as part of the Moving Brands team no matter how long they’re here for.” Dan Moore, group creative director of Studio Output, shares a similar stance on hiring freelancers. Although the studio has only recently started hiring freelancers, Moore is keen to express the benefits attached to these hires. “Generally speaking, the benefit

Freelance Sources The main sources for freelance work and their pros and cons Startups We’re in the age of the startup – the US import of quickfire investments in new technology-driven companies. Opportunities abound for user experience, technology design-led freelancers who can hook onto projects, often in a strategic position. These are often fast-paced. Design is held in high regard in the startup world, to the point of entire company strategies being shunted onto the creative brief. Startups can be risky, payment can sometimes be offered (gambled) in equity, but the pay is often more than in the traditional market. Recruitment agency (in-house) Finding an agency that requires your services on a fairly

regular basis, that’s willing to treat you with the respect of a full-time employee but understands the nuances of freelance life, is a golden ticket for many. This kind of freelance work can relax the worry of a roller-coaster financial lifestyle whilst providing some often much-needed camaraderie in teamwork. Short of setting up your own agency, this seems to be a healthy compromise, although many who take this route end up going full-time, thereby destroying the ‘lone-ranger’ freelance life they dreamed of. The institution of ‘you’ Self-promotion is a hoary old subject. Offering up lectures or workshops can be a great way of meeting like-minded people or potential employers. Many studios (such as Moving Brands) have lunch meetings or extramural networking activities scheduled, but of course they’ll only invite you if they’ve seen you somewhere else. Putting yourself in the picture through self-promotion or self-initiated work seems to be the most trodden route for peer-to-peer hires, with marketing teams often behind many of the creative hires.

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Industry issues

february 2015

has been multi-layered. From a fresh pair of eyes on creative, to a different approach or way of thinking, to a whole new skill set which has opened our eyes to something else altogether.” What has Moore observed whilst dipping his toe in the world of freelance hires? “More and more senior people seem to be going the freelance route, which makes it harder for agencies like us to find permanent staff. Recruiter fees can make hiring expensive, and it makes us much more wary about hires when going down this route.” One senior freelancer that has run the gamut of all aspects of creative life is Anita Fontaine, a creative director currently based in London. Asked about the link between in-house and retaining status as an independent, Fontaine muses: “I’ve had some interesting turns in my career, I’m very independent so I’m drawn to freelance but at times it can be hard. I’ve got an agent now and that helps. Ideally, client work would be split for me between meaningful personal interest and work that hits on a more narcissistic angle; brands and agencies that have a bubble going. All freelancers want to be given stability yet have free creative reign on a larger scale. We’ve all got that creative fantasy to flex our muscles, I guess that’s what being a senior freelancer is all about.” Stability and independence do not have to be mutually exclusive. Forward-thinking agencies and freelancers are heading that way, either through market forces or the gravitational pull of an industry that continues to refine its presence.

THE Studio PERSPECTIVE Moving Brands’ executive creative director Darren Bowles and operations director Paul Martin share the agency’s view on freelancers We plan way ahead when we recruit. The planning is critical, it’s all about the talent. We are very active in forging relationships, we do a lot of ‘lunch and learns’ where we invite people in whom we consider to have a crossover of interests. We use freelancers a lot. In fact we both started out as freelancers. Things have changed a lot since the rise of LinkedIn. A lot of people have contacted us through the service. Sometimes we then invite them in for coffee, but we’re not fans of cold calls. The greatest frustration we have is with freelancers who have left full-time work with a chip on their shoulders and have an attitude, saying ‘I’m only doing 9am–5pm and that’s it’. This doesn’t happen often. Our regular freelancers are very professional; those who are quite binary don’t last long. When freelancers show us their portfolio, we like them to get underneath the project – what was their role within it? What would they have challenged? With main big projects there have been several parties involved. It might be a killer portfolio, but remember that we may have seen it before from somebody else because so many people worked on it. We look for two types of freelancers: those who are unique and those who fill a specific skill. We are looking for left-field, unusual people with an interest beyond their job title. We encourage people to be inquisitive at Moving Brands no matter if they are here for a day or longer. Be open, have some curiosity – don’t sit there with headphones on!

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February 2015

Computer Arts goes behind the scenes with world-leading designers as they reveal their working processes…

INCLUDES PRO WORKFLOW ADVICE Plus: the latest tools and tech for designers

Trapl Wines: Thinking Inside the Box

Learn how Typejockeys developed packaging for a new range of luxury wines using a modular system that framed type and illustration 76

Red Bull’s Wings for Every Taste: Hidden Gem

OK Go Music Video: No Room For Error

Illustrator Scott Martin explains the process of creating a digital Where’s Wally landscape 87

Behind the scenes: Morihiro Harano on directing the largest single-take shot ever 90


turn data into design

best tools for freelancers

How Human After All condensed a swathe of data into an infographic for the World Economic Forum 83

Self-employed creatives reveal the tools you absolutely need to run your freelance business smoothly 94

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february 2015

Trapl Wines: Thinking Inside the Box Developing packaging for a new range of luxury wines led Typejockeys to create a modular system that framed hand-drawn type, etched illustrations and plenty of visual puns

PROJECT FACTFILE Brief Austrian studio Typejockeys was asked by Trapl wines to develop an identity for its new range of seven luxury wines. It opted for a frame system with hand-drawn type and historic-style illustrations that reference the vineyard’s history. CLIENT Trapl Wines Studio Typejockeys Project Duration Two months LIVE DATE Summer 2014

Each of the seven labels uses a different complex typographic layout, while hand-drawn letters and frames suggest the wines’ unique flavours

The Design Brief

Michael Hochleitner

Michael Hochleitner Co-founder Before establishing Typejockeys, Michael studied media science in Vienna (while also working as a cab driver) before taking on freelance design projects. He left Austria to study typeface design in the UK, and received a MA from the University of Reading in 2008.

Johannes Trapl is a young wine-maker in a region quite close to Vienna where our office is based. He is very successful and his wines have been sold all over the world. He decided that he wanted to produce a premium, limited-edition wine series that focused on quality. It’s made using only the best grapes and they’re crushed by foot – a lot of detail goes into the production so the packaging needed to reflect that. Trapl wanted a new design that was not at all similar to the visual style of the standard wines. His name has become quite famous in Austria but this time he didn’t want it displayed too prominently. Instead he wanted a completely different design approach. That meant the brief was really quite open. Trapl knew of our work and he wanted to be surprised to a certain extent, so we had a lot of freedom in that regard. compu t era rts .creati veb - 76 -

It’s not our first wine project and we had a bit of experience in the winemaking process, nevertheless we started the project with research. We went to his vineyard and got to grips with his process and the company, and took lots of photos. We wanted to find out about the things that were special about him and his wines. I remember standing with him at the vineyard between the grapes and he was telling me about the earthworms that were in the soil. They are really important for the grapes so he uses special tools that don’t harm them. It was one of the many stories he told us that found their way onto the finished labels. We had 18 initial concepts and narrowed those down to six. We weren’t designing one label but seven, so we knew the idea had to work as part of a series. We then honed those six down to three to show to the client. The first was a modular system of illustrations that we later developed, the next was far more geometric. The final one was more artistic, using overprinted colours.

Dia r Y˚ 1 : t y p e j oc k e ys

february 2015

Project at a glance Co-founder Michael Hochleitner walks through the Trapl project, from start to finish

1 Meeting the client

2 First sketches

3 Initial layouts

4 Refining the idea

5 Lettering and type

6 Towing the line

7 Final adjustments

8 Choosing capsules

9 Additional applications

The first step of our process is always to get an insight into the product we are supposed to help sell. We learnt about Johannes Trapl’s principles and he showed us how and why he makes wine of this quality. We were inspired by the things we saw and the stories we heard.

We brainstormed with Johannes Trapl and his wife about what little details could end up in the final labels. At the end we had a list of some obvious but also some rather unusual ideas, including abstracted images of the vineyard, pictures of earthworms and his machinery.

The layout was very detailed with thin lines that we had to perfect. Separations had to be made for two offset printing plates, foil embossing, blind embossing, and flexo printing. It was of course a delicate job for the printer to adjust the different techniques to align everything perfectly.

Our initial sketches involved looking at embroidery and other crafts. The idea was connected to the hand-made nature of the wines so we thought about adding a handmade look to the whole label. It didn’t really work in test prints but it sowed the seed for the next steps.

Type design gets a lot of attention in all our work. Most of the lettering we used for the bottle was inspired or adapted from historic typefaces, with a few modern touches. All the letters were drawn to fit the size of the frames, as we knew composition was going to be a challenge.

The copper colour of the capsules (the foil at the top of the bottle) was chosen very carefully to match the foil printing on the labels. We opted for a simple capsule layout in the end, to balance with the busyness of the label design. They were printed in black with a flexo technique.

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Taking the structure of picture walls as a starting point, we developed a label that told stories about the wine and the winemaker. We created a number of different illustrations and roughly put them in a grid. The client liked the personal touch and we started to work on refining this idea.

In Austria, the government has very strict laws about how big the obligatory information must be printed. The alcohol level must have a cap height of at least 5mm for example. This stage was a case of meticulously going through the designs and making sure everything was legal.

We designed a matching wine box, using some illustrations from the labels but also developing new elements with bigger proportions. The wine box was printed with a metallic offset colour as we wanted the box to fit in with the bottles, but also look visually compelling from a distance.


february 2015

Thomas Gabriel Co-founder After specialising in type design while studying at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Thomas co-founded Typejockeys in 2008 with Anna Fahrmaier and Michael Hochleitner. The studio now works across a variety of print and web projects, for clients such as McDonald’s and Swarovski.


Thomas Gabriel

We were happy Trapl chose the modular idea, it was definitely the most personal and narrative-driven. We brainstormed with him for other stories so we could develop the illustrations. Some were quite absurd: there’s one wine called Kirchberg, which translates as something like ‘church hill’, so we put a picture of Winston Churchill on it. The illustrations were formed from pictures we bought or found in old books; sometimes we illustrated them ourselves. In the case of Churchill, the image is from a photograph that we’ve transformed into an etching. The frame idea came from those huge walls of family portraits where all the borders are mis-matched. None of the patterns are used twice: we played around with forms and circles to develop new ways of making them. Some were quite heavy so you needed something lighter alongside – it was a case of slotting things in. We’ve used pretty classic lettering, or adaptions of classic typefaces, but also some modern funny things crept in like the ‘P’ with the underscore. At Typejockeys we also make fonts, so it’s kind of natural for us to go into detail on that part of the project. When we first started working on the labels, the letters spelling ‘Trapl’ weren’t legible enough. We didn’t want the composition the same each time, so we worked out seven different ways to arrange the letters so it was still readable. It’s an exclusive line of wine, so the label had to look high-end – foil is good for communicating that. But we thought that with Trapl’s organic spec, his love for worms and his handmade approach to wine, gold was too flashy. Copper was ideal: it’s exclusive but it has an earthy warmth. Using foil meant there was a limit to the line thickness. The name Trapl always had to be in black because if the light shines on the foil it’s hard to read. Trapl produced thousands of labels so he could use them year on year. Everything that didn’t need to change was printed in foil or offset black, but things that had to be altered (like the barcode) were flexo-printed later on.

Initial CONCEPTS Three ideas that didn’t make it through

Typejockeys sifted through books on traditional craft and etching to find images and inspiration for the label’s illustrations

The shape of the Trapl vineyard was simplified into an etch-like drawing, first for the bottle and then for the box

Choosing the right typeface was a complex process but essential to making lettering look right when it was stretched to fit the frames

Some of the illustrations were created from the team’s own drawings

In the brief, the client mentioned that he didn’t want us to show the Trapl logo too prominently on the label. One of our first ideas was to use just the letter ‘T’ on top of a striking background pattern. We didn’t feel that this idea looked high-end enough.

We also experimented with a design that was inspired by classic premium French wines. We opted for entirely hand-drawn lettering in order to make it very contemporary. The concept was good but we didn’t like the aesthetic to continue with the idea.

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This idea used geometric shapes to build the letters of the brand name. It was very modern. We actually developed this idea quite far and ended up presenting this layout to the client. It was a matter of taste, and Trapl eventually opted for a more personal concept.

Dia r Y˚ 1 : t y p e j oc k e ys

february 2015

In the Frame Co-founder Thomas Gabriel explains how Typejockeys developed a balanced composition STEP 1 The client was keen on a personal approach so we sketched out some ideas inspired by the pictures – like the walls people create in their houses with family photographs and a variety of frames. STEP 2 The starting point for the composition was the most important design element – the letter that spelt the brand name Trapl. To add interest to each label we decided to order these letters differently on all seven versions, but always tried to keep the word legible. All of the other elements, like the year of vintage, the illustrations and the name of the individual wine had to work around those five letters. Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

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STEP 3 The next phase was to introduce hand-drawn type and lettering for the brand name. Each letter needed to lead onto the next letter in an interesting way – a very black sans face should not be positioned next to another one, for example. The styles of the different fonts were based on historic typefaces with a few contemporary twists, so that the labels wouldn’t date. STEP 4 At the same time, we drew a huge variety of frames – only the ones that worked best next to each other were chosen. Nothing was used twice so this involved a lot of playing around with geometric forms to achieve a variety of lines and patterns.


februar y 2015

Wine boxes were also designed to round off the product experience


Michael Hochleitner

One of the project’s biggest challenges was making sure we kept on top of all the rules and regulations. There’s a lot of information required on a wine label, like the alcohol percentage and the bottler. We tried to design these sections of information in the same way as the rest of the bottle, so they were incorporated into the structure of the frames. It was tough because there’s even a size requirement on certain elements (the alcohol level has to be 5mm high for example and the bottler has to be at least 2mm.) All the designs had to be approved before it was allowed to go on sale. Another challenge we faced was adapting the concept for use on the wine boxes. Although it would have been possible to use foil printing, it wouldn’t have been that practical if it came into contact with moisture or dirt. Because we opted for metallic ink in the same copper colour it meant we didn’t have to use black, as it wasn’t so reflective and that meant it was really legible. We had to redraw a few of the illustrations to work at a bigger size and add a few things, like a ‘Caution: Glass’ label. Trapl has been showing the new bottles at wine fairs and at resellers, and he’s been getting a lot of positive feedback on the designs. Of course there are always the naysayers – some of the traditionalists aren’t sure whether they like it. As a studio, we really like this kind of packaging project, especially when the client is as trusting as Trapl. We also work on really big jobs too – environmental projects that take years and are an insane amount of work. Although this identity project spread out over a year in all, it’s a more compact project. That limitation is within reach. There have been some design changes since we completed the main section – we’ve helped adapt the labels as Trapl builds his business in China.

PROJECT SOUNDTRACK The tunes that filled the Typejockeys studio throughout the project

Austrian law dictates its own minimum dimensions for obligatory label information such as alcohol content – the design followed suit

Mount Kimbie feat. King Krule: You Took Your Time One of the best tracks on the Mount Kimbie comeback LP featuring the talented 19-yearold King Krule. This song provided the perfect calming sounds for developing the project’s detailed frameworks.

Bonobo: Sapphire This track exhibits Bonobo’s fondness for new sounds really well, which means it’s really inspiring when you’re working on something visual. The entire album is particularly good for triggering off parts of your brain and pretty much sets the mood for new ideas.

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The copper capsules took a simple layout to contrast with the busyness of the label

Sampha: Without The artist Sampha, widely known for his collaboration with fellow Young Turks signee SBTRKT, went solo on this EP. He’s still one of the most passionate male voices out there. The layering of this track went nicely with the drawing of some complicated letterforms.

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VIDEO WAL KTH ROUGH : hu m a n a f ter al l

february 2015



convert complex data into clear infographics In the second walkthrough in partnership with agencies in our 2014 UK Studio Rankings, Eve Lloyd Knight at Human After All visualises dense stats for a major global report

Brief The agency was tasked with creating a compelling report for the World Economic Forum, ‘The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014’. Infographics had to decode the dense data collected from around the world into instantly engaging visual stories, making it easily relatable and shareable. STUDIO Human After All DESIGNER Eve Lloyd Knight STUDIO SKILLS • Work with graphs in Illustrator • Simplify data into visual form • Develop consistent iconography

video content TAP TO WATCH THE VIDEO

Human After All A London-based agency that makes “work with heart”, Human After All crafts iconic communications that help brands such as Facebook, YouTube and BAFTA better connect with people.

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february 2015

eve lloyd knight graphic designer Eve is a graphic designer, illustrator and art director who’s passionate about solving problems with simplicity, style and impact using whichever medium works best.

Design Task The World Economic Forum needed a report that could capture the complex challenges facing our planet and inspire the world’s biggest brains to solve them. My role was to work with the art director, Victoria Talbot, on the tip-in data visualisations. We discovered visual solutions to represent the data produced by survey questions such as: ‘How great a problem does water pollution pose around the world?’ and: ‘Which region will be most affected by deepening income inequality in the next 12–18 months?’ In this video walkthrough I will be recreating a data visualisation, using statistics from a survey entitled ‘How will urban air pollution change over time around the world?’ I will illustrate how the raw stats go from a Google Document through to Illustrator, and are then finished in InDesign.

Infographics decoded the dense data into engaging visual stories

The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 was a major report published by The World Economic Forum

The publication was distributed to 1,600 leading experts at the Summit on the Global Agenda in Abu Dhabi

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VIDEO WAL KTH ROUGH : hu m a n a f ter al l

february 2015

1 Gathering data

2 The first data graph

3 Colouring countries

4 Sky pollution

5 Quality guidelines

6 Big city reveal

First, I gathered the raw data provided by the client in a Google Document. I copied the relevant raw data from the table containing ‘Projected PM10 (particles in air) concentration in major cities’. I extracted the results for each country in 2010 and then extracted the 2050 results in a separate action.

To extract the columns I ungrouped the graph, making sure to duplicate it first. I coloured the 2010 data a light grey and the 2050 a dark grey. I placed the columns next to labels indicating country. I arranged them in alphabetical order – this is how we planned to display the visualisations in the tip-in layouts.

Using the column height I drew circles to represent the ‘Projected PM10 (particles in air)’ data. I drew a red dotted circle to indicate a quality guideline for maximum amount of acceptable pollution. I copied the column height and pasted it into the dialog box when drawing the circles to aid with sizing them.

In Illustrator I used the column graph tool to create a graph which opens a dialog box. I pasted the 2010 data into the first column and the 2050 data in the second. Clicking the tick icon on the top right of the dialog box reveals the column graph. A right-click on the graph lets me add or edit data at any time.

I pasted the columns into the InDesign spread and flipped them using the ‘flip vertical’ button on the top tool bar so the graphs read from the sky down, indicating how the pollution encroached on the cities. I then illustrated a small cityscape to indicate each ‘urban area’ and labelled them 2010 and 2050.

I changed the circles to the multiply mode so that they would reveal the cities beneath. I then added all of the labels and the key. By grouping the sets of data, I spaced everything accurately on the document grid, and lastly added the sources and small details.

Watch the video now on our YouTube channel: com puterart s.creat iveb - 85 -

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Diar Y˚ 2 : sc ot t m a r t i n

february 2015

Red Bull’s Wings for Every Taste: Hidden Gem Illustrator Scott Martin squeezed famous Canadian landmarks and high-octane activities into a jam-packed illustration to create on online ‘Where’s Wally?’ for Red Bull Canada

PROJECT FACTFILE Brief To promote three new flavours of Red Bull launching in the Canadian market, Scott Martin created a map of Canada filled with Red Bullsponsored events. This would form an online game where players had to find cans hidden among the scene. Client Red Bull Canada Trevor/Peter Studio Scott Martin (Burnt Toast Creative) Project Duration One week

Scott Martin Illustrator Despite failing art class at high school, Torontobased Scott graduated with a diploma and a postgraduate in illustration in 2008. After working for a few local agencies, he went freelance and now specialises in commercial illustration projects for clients such as Dropbox and Fast Company.

lIVE DATE October 2014

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february 2015

The Design Brief

Scott Martin

Toronto-based agency Trevor/ Peter contacted me after finding my portfolio on Behance. They were interested in the fun, colourful flavour that my work has. They commissioned me on behalf of Red Bull Canada to create a drawing loosely based on a map of Canada. It needed to have a happy-go-lucky character and feature Canadian landmarks and also some of the Red Bull activities that take place here. The agency did a lot of the research in terms of the icons and events that Red Bull wanted included. Some of them are pretty underground: there’s a travelling bus in the Quebec region that has a fold-out DJ booth where they hold mixing contests. Red Bull also runs yacht competitions on the West Coast and they have Flugtag too – a sort of boxcar derby where the cars all have wings and participants launch themselves off a huge ramp to see whose homemade car can fly the furthest. The drive behind the project was the launch of three new Red Bull flavours in Canada. They wanted to use the drawing for an online version of ‘Where’s Wally?’, where if users found three cans hidden in the busy scene, they’d win a voucher for a free Red Bull.

STAGE ONE My first task was to draw the characters, landmarks and Red Bull activities by hand in rough pencil sketches.

STAGE TWO I then repeated the process but with the background, sketching out the Canada provinces and the geographical features

STAGE Four Methodically I transformed all the drawings into vectors, starting with the background and then moving to the icons


PROJECT evolution scott martin reveals how he tackled such a crowded brief

Character Design

I sketched out the characters, landmarks and Red Bull activities first, then used a light table to do a few passes and imported them into Photoshop. I drew each icon separately from an angle looking down. Scale wasn’t important at this stage, so I ignored it. I then sent the designs to Red Bull for approval.

Sketching the Landscape

The illustration was based on Canadian geography except it had to fit within a rectangular aspect ratio. I had to give each province the right amount of space and make sure each city was in the right location. I drew the aspect ratio on paper and found rough positions, then used tracing paper to develop the environment.

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Fine-tuning Composition

I then scanned both of these elements into Photoshop and, using the environment as the background layer, I roughly placed and scaled the icons. I felt out which parts of the image looked too bare or too dense and decided what to add. It still had to be relatively geographically accurate though.

Diar Y˚ 2 : sc ot t m a r t i n

february 2015

STAGE three Importing both the characters and the background into Photoshop, I then placed and scaled all the icons

How I work Scott Martin reveals how his approach was challenged here

STAGE five Next I added the three brand colours and created a light source and shading in Photoshop. Hiding the cans was one of the fun parts - I went for spots near to Red Bull events to highlight those too

Creating Vectors

I took this rough mash-up of pencil drawings and made sense of it in vector form using Illustrator. Organising such a mass of drawings was a challenge. Some had lost image quality when scaled up. I started with the background and drew the icons onto two separate layers, useful for repositioning later on.

Adding Colour

I coloured everything with flat tones first then added a light source and shading in Photoshop. The palette was quite restrictive, as I could only use the three brand colours and I’m used to working with the whole spectrum of colours. Red Bull wanted an even spread of all three brand colours so it had to be just right.

Hide and Seek

I went back and added more objects as Red Bull kept stressing that the busier the illustration, the more fun it would be to play. I hid the cans, creating three versions with different hiding places. I prioritised spots near Red Bull activities as that was another side to their promotional activity. I also really wanted it to be a challenge.

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I usually start a project by developing rough drawings, taken straight from the front of my skull – I don’t use photos. I feel like you can have a much more honest and consistent style if you just draw from your head. After I’ve completed these initial sketches, I use a lightbox and tracing paper to make multiple passes at each piece, then use Photoshop and Illustrator to clean them up. Creating vectors is the next step, then I colour and add a light source and shadows. This project was quite different for me because usually I’m very focused on the foreground. I don’t tend to have backgrounds in my work: figures live in negative space. It was also a challenge to develop such a full environment; the Red Bull project was way more complicated than my usual work as there was an abundance of things to draw and I usually stick to the one thing. Adhering to a strict colour palette also brought some new challenges, as my work tends to be pretty colourful.


february 2015

OK Go Music Video: No Room For Error Morihiro Harano created a video for OK Go single I Won’t Let You Down using drones, Honda UNI-CUB vehicles and meticulous choreography to achieve the largest single-take shot ever

PROJECT FACTFILE Brief Tasked with creating a music video for OK Go, creative director Morihiro Harano worked with a huge team of collaborators to develop choreography inspired by Asian Mass Games. Funded by Honda, the project involved using its prototype UNI-CUB vehicle as well as a specially adapted drone camera. STUDIO Morihiro Harano Client OK Go Project Duration Two months lIve date October 2014

The Design Brief

Morihiro Harano

The lead singer of OK Go, Damian Kulash, had been a fan of my work since seeing the ‘Xylophone’ TV commercial I made for NTT Docomo to promote the Touch Wood SH-08C phone in 2011. We became friends after sitting next to each other at a party during Cannes Lions in 2012 and had tried ever since to find a chance to collaborate on a project. com p ut era rts.creati ve - 90 -

In spring 2014, Damian contacted me and asked me to work on a video for their new track ‘I Won’t Let You Down’. Their idea was to create a single-take video featuring Honda’s UNI-CUB Beta, a prototype vehicle that the company was developing. The UNI-CUB has a special wheel structure that allows for omnidirectional movement, which users can control by shifting their weight. OK Go’s previous videos are all very impressive so to be on a par with them, we needed to up the scale and decided to create the largest single-take film ever.

DiarY˚3: M or i h i r o Ha r a no

february 2015

Morihiro Harano Creative Director and Founder Mori Inc. Morihiro is a multi-talented creative director working in advertising, strategy and product design. He launched Drill, a non-traditional creative agency, co-founded PARTY (and led it to win the Independent Agency of the Year at Spikes Asia) and then founded his own studio Mori Inc. in 2012.

Work In Progress

Harano and choregrapher Air:Man used a specially built pre-visualation programme to plan the dancer’s routine

The creative team later translated the pre-vis concept into an online game where fans can have a go at their one choreography

Dealing with Drones Creative director Morihiro Harano on shooting from the sky

Controlling the drone was the most challenging part of the project. Its movement was pre-programmed and controlled by GPS, but there was a margin of error – about 1m – a critical amount when it came to shooting. To overcome this, the drone’s pilot and the camera engineers needed to collaborate really closely to capture the exact location, taking part in rehearsal after rehearsal and multiple test shootings to nail their technique.

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For inspiration we started looking at Mass Games – huge synchronised dances or gymnastic performances practiced in Korea and Japan. The band also liked Busby Berkeley, a Hollywood musical choreographer from the 1930s and 1940s who used large numbers of dancers to create geometric patterns. During research we noticed that there were less frames in his older films, creating a sped-up feel. It had the effect of making the movement a lot sharper, so when we planned the choreography we decided to slow down the music to half-speed and bring it back in the edit to get a similar effect. We worked with renowned choreographer Air:Man to develop a routine. In order to plan the overall movement, we created a custom-built pre-visualisation program where each dance move could be meticulously controlled to create a visual score. After planning the basic idea, the next challenge was to decide on the method of shooting. It took a while to come up with the idea of using a drone, specially modified with an enhanced stabiliser and combined with a Canon 1-DC. The aerial views were then taken by manoeuvring this drone upwards 700m in the air. Finding a location was tricky; we needed a vast space close enough to Tokyo to host large numbers of staff and cast. Eventually we found the perfect place: an abandoned shopping mall. Incidentally the buildings were also painted with OK Go’s main colours (blue, red, green and yellow) and this sealed our decision. We rehearsed the whole thing for a month, first in gymnasiums and then on location. This was vital because in order to realise a single-take, we had to minimise any mistakes and master the complicated movements. We had to be flexible too: while shooting we realised that the music was a little short for some of the choreographed sections – for example when the band move from a lawn area to the parking lot – so I asked Damian if he could add four bars to overcome this problem. He instantly took out his Mac and wrote a bit more. Damian also recorded the dancer’s counting and put that into this section of the track.


february 2015

The video was sped up in the edit to create sharper movements

Nailing the single take meant a month of rehearsals, for the band, dancers and camera crew

At the end of the music video, we shot just the scenery for one minute without any sound. I remember listening to a record by The Beatles and at the end of the album there is a moment of silence – this is where I got my inspiration from. I believe this ending makes the entire music video feel more artistic. The editing process was quite involved, but we had roughly worked out which angles we wanted during the planning stage. After the film was completed we decided to create an interactive music video on the website so that visitors can design their own mass-games. Once we had the lighting and rendering down, most of what we played with was the animation gags, introducing ideas like the frozen segment and the sneeze. It was rendered using Arnold and composited using Nuke by Jesse Spielman, who added a lot of snow, rain and little dust particles, and worked on the glass and screen reflections.

“After the film was completed we decided to create an interactive music video on the website” Rain might have delayed the shoot but it did not stop rehearsals

Conclusion This was the first time I’d created a music video, as most of my projects are advertisements. Ads tend to be developed separately from the client and presented at the end. With this project however, we worked closely with the band and all exchanged ideas. I really enjoyed the process! OK Go were really pleased with the result and on the day of the launch, they kept watching the YouTube counter and the buzz on the internet. It has now been viewed more than 16 million times.

Lessons learned Morihiro Harano shares the vital things he learnt on the ambitious project

The epic dances were inspired by Busby Berkeley

Question your ideas Shooting a single-take is a very complex and expensive exercise; don’t attempt it unless it’s completely necessary to your project! Always question your concepts. Are they integral, or are they gimmicks? Sometimes a simple process is just as mind-blowing.

A micro-site was built for the single to host the video

always Have a Plan B We were hit by bad weather during the three-day shoot and as the UNI-CUB could not be used on wet ground we had to just wait for the sun. It taught us the importance of a back-up if you’re shooting outside, where the weather is unpredictable.

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Work with technology Using developing technology like drones is a real challenge. If you’re using unconventional kit, it’s important to know how it works and its limitations, and then base your ideas around them rather than force it to attempt the impossible.

N e ed t o k n ow

february 2015

You can send invoices, account for taxes, and track expenses and project time using FreeAgent online

need to know

MANAGE YOUR FREELANCE CASHFLOW Taking care of business means taking time away from your creative work, but it’s a necessary evil. Gary Marshall asks established freelancers how they do it he relationship between art and commerce is a rocky one, and it’s particularly rocky when you’re a freelancer: for all its many joys, being your own boss also means being your own accounting department and occasional bailiff. Freelancers face three key issues: staying on top of the paperwork, getting paid, and ensuring the taxman doesn’t chuck you in prison. Taking care of all that can eat into the time you’d rather spend on designing. So how do others do it? Elly Walton has been a freelance illustrator for 10 years, and her client list reads like a who’s who of the advertising, design and publishing fields. Despite her success, she’s been using “pretty much the same old Excel spreadsheet with my incomings, outgoings and tax payable on it” all that time. Walton also records


“the jobs as they come in, how I got them and whether it was a result of promotion or word of mouth,” she explains. “It makes a nice, pretty graph that I look at occasionally to review my marketing.” Walton uses a Photoshop template for invoices, prints hard copies – “I like to have a stack of physical paper to check through and stamp a little ‘PAID’ on it when it’s paid” – and invoices jobs on completion. Procrastination, she says, is the enemy: “[Tax] isn’t really that painful, but it’s a hell of a lot more painful if you leave it until the deadline.” If you’re a sole trader you’ll pay Income Tax on your profits (sales less expenses) as well as National Insurance contributions; limited companies pay Corporation Tax on business profits; and if you’re turning over more than £81,000 per year (it happens!) there’s quarterly

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VAT too. It may be worth registering even if your turnover is less: under the Flat Rate Scheme someone in advertising can charge 20% but only pays 11%. Doing your own tax return isn’t difficult, but if you’re VAT registered or running a company you might want to consider hiring an accountant. It isn’t too expensive and there’s something enormously satisfying about handing over a shoebox full of receipts and never having to worry about it ever again. Like Elly Walton, beauty, fashion and portrait illustrator Willa Gebbie used a system based around a spreadsheet, in this case Google Docs, but in 2013 she decided to switch to FreeAgent. “That’s when I finally got around to having a proper business account as well,” she says. Until then she hadn’t felt it was necessary, not least because business


february 2015

Wave offers users free, unlimited online invoicing no matter how many clients you have

accounts come with a plethora of charges after the first year. “A normal account will do, as long as you keep your work money and personal money clearly separate,” Gebbie says. “As a sole trader, it’s unlikely that you’ll need the benefits (or costs) of a business account, so it’s better saving those few pounds.” Gebbie is a big fan of FreeAgent. “I love how it completes my tax return for me, it’s truly a godsend,” she says, adding that “it’s really good at assigning bank payments to invoices automatically, so I can tell really quickly who has or hasn’t paid.” While FreeAgent can automatically notify clients of overdue invoices, Gebbie fears that it could look “spammy”, so she prefers to do the chasing herself. “I write invoices as soon as I’ve finished the job,” she says. “Once a week I check payments and chase outstanding invoices. If they’re

“tempting as it might be, wave and free agent don’t currently offer the ability to send drone strikes after late payers” really late then I’ll start to chase every couple of days.” Award-winning hand-lettering artist and illustrator Linzie Hunter is another convert to online systems, in her case Wave. As a former “shoebox and Excel spreadsheet” user, Wave “has freed up a lot of my time. Having a cloud-based system means that I can keep track of payments and invoices easily wherever I am. My favourite feature is the ability to link it to your bank and PayPal accounts, so I no longer need to enter everything

manually. It’s also good at showing you exactly where you are financially.” Tempting as it might be, one feature Wave and FreeAgent don’t currently offer is the ability to send drone strikes after late payers. Elly Walton is unusual – “I’ve been lucky not to have had a non-payer” – but stresses the value of clear payment terms. “30 days is reasonable,” she says. “As soon as that date arrives, start chasing – as politely as possible, of course.” Willa Gebbie agrees. “Sometimes clients don’t pay on time, but often

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N e ed t o k n ow

february 2015

Sage’s One Accounts option offers the best balance between pricing and features

Four essential tools TO TRY

Some of the services that your fellow freelancers swear by Wave

Wave offers free, unlimited online invoicing irrespective of how many clients you have, and there’s a free iOS app that enables you to invoice from your iPhone. You can customise the templates, invoice in multiple currencies and track overdue invoices, and it’s definitely worth checking out before considering any of the paid-for services available. FreeAgent FreeAgent starts at £19 per month for sole traders and covers invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking, self assessment, VAT and corporation tax (if you have a Limited Company account, which is £29 per month), and its cashflow view enables you to see if you’re making money or burning through it. It’s probably overkill for simple business tracking, but it’s a great alternative to hiring an accountant. The Kashflow service can be used on your desktop computer and mobile device, and its Starter account allows you to make 25 transactions and send 10 invoices per month for just £5 per month

that’s because of the finance department rather than the art director… it’s probably quite embarrassing for them.” Going in all guns blazing is never a good idea, but if you’re suffering from acute late payment or non-payment, then the Late Payment of Commercial Debts legislation ( enables you to charge interest and penalties for non-payment. That can be the nuclear option, however, and it’s always best to try and settle late payment nicely first. Our illustrators have all experienced the ups and downs of freelancing. What hard-won advice would they pass on? “If you’re only just going freelance, make sure you read up about how selfassessment works and make sure you understand about paying tax on account,” Linzie Hunter advises. “Otherwise it can be a bit of a shock to find that you have to

pay an extra chunk in the first year. And get used to saving every receipt in your wallet automatically from the start.” Willa Gebbie agrees. “Even if it’ll be some time before you start paying tax, you can offset the set-up cost of your business against future tax. That’s a really useful opportunity to take.” Keep your work money and play money separate, Elly Walton counsels, recommending that you put a percentage of each payment into a separate account. “I think if all payments went straight into one account, hoping that by the time the tax bill comes around I’ll still have the money to pay it is a risky strategy.” We can say from painful experience that Walton isn’t wrong. Next month: Your essential guide to typeface licensing and management. computerarts.creativeb - 96 -

Sage One Online Accounts Sage offers a number of accounting packages, but at £10 per month we think that the Sage One Accounts option has the best balance between price and features. It offers bank reconciliation, invoicing, VAT tracking and free support, but if you need to work in multiple currencies you’ll need the £20 per month Extra service. Kashflow Kashflow starts at £5 per month for sole traders and small businesses, works on desktop and mobile devices and can be used for quotes, credit control, bank reconciliation and reporting. The cheapest version has some limits – 25 transactions a month and 10 invoices per month – but having to pay an extra £5 per month to remove those limits is hardly horrendous.



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Get more from your agent: make sure your representation is right for you Plus: inspiring work, current issues and expert analysis from the global design scene

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snask presents...

f you don’t like your work, quit. It’s fucking January. The holidays are over. The tan is flaking and parachuting from your face, landing like dandruff on your shoulders, making you look miserable. You’re back at work. The heating that was promised would work when you got back hasn’t been fixed. Your boss is still in the Bahamas. Your creative director still has zero self-distance and 100 per cent self-confidence. What do you do?


Well, there’s really only one step for analysis and then a choice of two options (unless you already love your work). 1. Analyse your situation. What bores you? Why do you feel stressed, like an attentionseeking Justin Bieber fan waiting outside a hotel? Wasn’t this year supposed to be yours, like you said at 00:01am on New Year’s Eve? 2(a). Deal with your problems and make your current workplace and situation better. Smile to annoying people instead of secretly fantasy-

Enemy of t he m o n th Designers who for some reason think they’re architects These are the serious designers who wear black polos and have sticks up their bums; who can’t speak at a normal language level and in official statements are always super-serious, as if their kerned Helvetica is comparable to Mozart’s symphonies, Ray Eames’ architecture or Van Gogh’s paintings.

axing them. Tell your boss that things will change drastically with you from now on. Basically try one last time and do it as good as you can. 2(b). Quit your job. Simple as that! Just to be clear, life is not about work, it’s about living. You sleep 36 per cent of your life, so get a great bed. You work 16 per cent of your life, so make sure you enjoy it. Today there are a lot of opportunities for creatives. You’re ‘allowed’ to jump around between employers to make a career. There’s multiple forums where you can get discovered as a freelancer. There are thousands of people from our industry that set up their own businesses, stores and apps. And guess what? Most of them succeed because they are creative people with drive – just like you. So make sure you start this year the way you should – the way you want to!

Jack Albert Trew made a manual blood centrifuge using wheels on a bike, no electricity needed. It’s not 110 per cent perfect but it’s nonetheless innovative and admirable. SNASK O F F ! Snaskified is a recurring column by Snask, the internationally renowned creative agency that strives to challenge the industry by doing things differently. They worship unconventional ideas, charming smiles and real emotions, and see the old conservative world as extremely tedious and the world’s biggest enemy.

Fredrik Öst

LEGO is rebuilding its headquarters in – guess what? – giant LEGO bricks. That’s fantastic. And soon you can build your own home using the bricks as well. We can’t wait.

G ossip

Ca ndy


T h u mb s u p !

Q: I’ve heard that Snask has delusions of grandeur. Is it true and if so, how does it affect you professionally? A: Haha! Well, yes that’s probably true. We want to take over the world and paint the globe pink. It makes us more professional, I would say. Is Usain Bolt less good at what he does because of his megalomania or does it actually make him better?

Last month, a creative director from a major agency told us that successful politically rightwing artists/creatives don’t exist. We couldn’t agree more.

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F i lt h

T h u mb s d ow n!

Here’s a business idea. Create good-looking conference phones. They all look like props from a 90s sci-fi film – big and made of plastic. Colour? Ash-grey or sperm-white. Jesus. Really? In 2015?

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