boring graphic design

The terrible truth about graphic design – it’s boring

boring graphic design

Having written principly on the subject of graphic design on this blog, a slow realisation struck me. Actually a comment in a graphic design Facebook group brought it home to me.

To the question someone had posted, ‘What blogs do you read on graphic design?’.  Someone answered ‘None. As it’s a boring subject’.

Absolutely horrified that someone, a graphic designer, could say something so bad about a subject I passionately love, it slowly dawned on me, she was absolutely right.

munch the scream

Design for life, quietly

I don’t read other graphic designers blogs anymore, I don’t have graphic designer conversations with other designers. Stuff will come up now and again, but largely it would be a work conversation. Talking with a colleague on a shared project or with a client.

Clients are not interested in graphic design outside of their own job needs, for quite understandable reasons. A quick look at my Google Analytics on this website, articles on non graphic design subjects are read by far more readers than the graphic design or web design ones.

The unspeakable truth about graphic design. It’s a boring subject to read about, or talk about. But wonderful to create and work in and solve problems.

being boring pet shop boys

Being boring

I have been writing this blog for a few years now. It has been a very enjoyable process, and I have learned a great deal from it. In particular I am considerably better at writing than when I began. It is always good to improve at something and this also is very good in my line of business. Whether it be for writing emails, or proposals or contracts, and on occasion writing content for clients’ websites.

But in future I need to write about other subjects than graphic design or being freelance, or work. Because no-one cares, and nor should they. Maybe also this is why the design world has so many ridiculous job titles. Art Director, Creative Director, Branding Strategist, even Graphic Designer is a bullshit term that replaced the far more descriptive ‘Commercial Artist’ name that preceded it. A name that the outside world would understand instantly. In a service industry. All built on insecurity. Because our subject interests no-one.

creative list

Getting things done and the creative process

creative list

Whether it a website, logo design, book, painting or whatever creative project, the creative process is generally the same. Dealing with, and understanding some of the potential issues can help to get a creative project finished successfully.

We are all different. Everyone’s brain unique. So I will look at my issues, and hope it can help others.

Getting started

Not being able to get started. This can happen for reasons other than laziness, or bad time management. I read a great phrase that resonated with me, ‘perfectionism paralyses’. Whereby the desire to create something that must be perfect, can lead to an inability to start the project, an inability to work. It’s a very destructive train of thought. A swift Google linking it to anxiety disorders and various other psychological issues.

There is a more positive lesser version that drives most creatives. To never be entirely satisfied with what you create, therefor the current project is the most important (or the next one) which keeps the creative brain striving forward, always trying to improve. It’s when it becomes a negative energy it becomes a problem.

The wheels on the bus go…

I came up with a way to deal with this when I was younger. If my art stopped, and I couldn’t work. Through too much anxiety or my brain overloaded with pressure, I imagined my art, or creativity, as a bus. It didn’t matter how slow the bus moved, as long as the wheels were moving even very slowly. Then everything would be okay. And whenever the wheels of the bus started moving, it always sped up again, picking up momentum, and all was good with my world.

Nothing new under the sun

I have since realised there are many inspirational quotes that relate to this. Far more concise and to the point. More perfect than my bus metaphor.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu (601 BC)

“Big things have small beginnings” – T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together” – Vincent Van Gogh

” The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one”. – Mark Twain

So it’s nothing new, and it’s very common in all aspects of life. So sit down and write a list of what needs to be done. Then work out what needs to be done first, and do it.

Happy New Year for 2019.

 

santa feat

Get ready for Xmas design

The nights are turning darker, the shops are selling Xmas stuff, is your business ready for Xmas? A Xmas illustration, a little snow on your logo, a little bit of the magic of Xmas… In the words of Slade’s Noddy Holder, “It’s Christmas!” (in a few weeks).

I draw a mean Santa, and a mean Rudolph.

santa pub xmas blackboards

This scene really reflects the spirit of Xmas for me. I was working all day in this pub in Harringay in North London. It was a Wetherspoons (a quick search online says it is now shut). Unusual for a Wetherspoons in that it was a nice pub, not the Airport hanger factory feel of their modern outlets. Hyggelig they aint!

These two fellas were characters. During the full day I was in the pub painting the blackboards these two were commenting on everything and everyone. Very likeable guys, I don’t think a positive word was said about anyone or anything at any point. The contrast between Santa and Rudolph’s happy faces, I thought was just lovely.

This was one of my favourite aspects of working in pubs and restaurants, merging into the background and hearing all sorts of conversations and dramas unfolding throughout the day. It was like an episode of Eastenders, but with good acting and writing. In one pub I was working near Oxford Street, the actress Wendy Richard (Pauline in Eastenders) was drinking… doof, doof, doof (Eastenders theme). I wrote a lot more on my celebrity experiences in this article.

afc santa super cup

This is a developed illustration for my then client Aberdeen Football Club. The Aberdeen FC mascot Angus the Bull is in the centre. Aberdeen play in red, but when they won the European Super Cup, beating European Cup holders SV Hamburg in December 1983 they wore their away strip which was white.

 

 

 

summer designer

A freelance designer in Copenhagen

summer designer

As a freelance designer in Copenhagen I love the cyclical nature of the seasons with regard to clients. I have two busy periods as regards new clients and new inquiries.

The first is obvious, January. Middle to late January, the emails and phone calls come in. Companies have a new budget to spend, new ideas to implement. Not everyone is a fit, either me for them, or them for me, but I always try and direct clients to where may be a better fit.

The other time, and the most busy, is late August and September. A Danish friend of mine who’s freelance told me years ago, after a long restful summer, people in business have ideas, are energised, therefor new projects are begun. This period always brings me enough work, to get me to Xmas, and the January period. And off we go again. An opportunity to meet new people, learn about businesses, and work together to solve creative problems.

Book-keeping for freelancers

Book keeping for freelancers – the agony and the ecstasy

Book-keeping for freelancers

Book keeping for freelancers is the necessary pain that goes with the freedom and creativity of the freelance world. It’s the part of the job I consider ‘work’. The bit I really don’t like.

That’s not strictly true. Not the book keeping itself, it’s the last minute getting it all to my accountant. The oh my god, where is that receipt, have I remembered everything, the impending deadline that has exactly the same feeling of dread, as approaching exam dates when I was a kid at school.

When it’s over, when it’s delivered, when I’ve got over the guilt of delivering my messy pile of invoices, receipts and accountancy guesses, to my accountant, when he is at his busiest, and really it should have been in months ago, the release, the sense of freedom, the joy is just sensational. Almost like all the pain is worthwhile for that joyful feeling.

But not next year. Oh no. Next year, it’ll be done much earlier, in fact I will begin now. Well that would be silly. Tomorrow though. I’ll get organised tomorrow. Yeah, I’ll do it tomorrow.

I’m a much better designer and illustrator than would be accountant. Fortunately.

 

ian-cargill-grays

Art college – the best time of your life, or a complete nightmare

Art college is for many a great experience, however it doesn’t always go to plan. So I’m going to look at the less positive aspects of art college, including my own time at Robert Gordon University’s Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.

The great portfolio swindle

No disrespect to art colleges but they are almost all thieves. At portfolio submission time to cover the cost of handling your portfolio, plus for sending to your second and third choice art institution, they require a fee of, what is it now, 50, 60, 100 quid? They receive how many applicants? 2000 x £50 = £100 000.

Art college portfolio

In return for a cursory glance at your work, you will be accepted or turned down. No feedback or advice. Any passing to second or third choice institutions does not happen. The vast majority of colleges are not interested in second or third choice students. They can argue they are underfunded, but it is immoral to take money from the pockets of the people you are rejecting to pay for the tiny minority you are accepting.

Those who can’t do… often teach art very badly

Art teachers. They know their stuff. Well maybe some of them do. Communication skills? Empathy? An ability to spot different students are at different places on their artistic journey? An understanding of which students need a kick up the backside, and which need some kind words of encouragement? An interest in teaching the whole class, not just their favourites – the ones that remind them of their younger, beautiful selves. An ability to hit on 19 year old students, despite being well into their forties, fifties, sixties, hello Operation Yewtree, how can I help you… Let’s put it this way, it’s not that hard to become an art tutor at an art college, but I suspect it is very, very hard to get kicked out.

Gray's School of Art cartoon

Bitter moi?

So you may have picked up a little bitterness in this article. I was ‘asked to leave’ Gray’s School of Art in 1988. The head of graphic design Ian Cargill (the only graphic design tutor) had taken an instant dislike to me, and seemed determined to remind me whenever he got the opportunity that he hadn’t changed his opinion throughout my short time in his class. I was far from perfect, but I was then, as I am now, a graphic designer.

I received a letter at my home informing me to meet at the Head of School’s office at an allotted time. On arriving for the meeting I was immediately informed by Head of School, Professor Eric Spiller ‘we have no option but to ask you to leave’. That was my first communication on the subject. In the corner looking at the floor was Ian Cargill. Next to me was Malcolm Brown, head of Textile Design at Gray’s School of Art.

Ian Cargill Gray's School of Art

Malcolm Brown leaned into me, face to face, about 15 centimetres nose to nose and growled/sneered, ‘So are there any mitigating circumstances to take into account, Iain?!’. Safe to say Malcolm Brown was enjoying the ending of a twenty year old’s education. Despite the fact he had never taught me, didn’t know me at all, had never previously been in the same room as me.

I just looked at him, speechless. Looked over at Ian Cargill, still looking at the floor, looked up at Professor Eric Spiller, stood up and left. I didn’t utter a single word the entire meeting. And that was me done with Gray’s School of Art, and full time education. My self confidence shot to pieces.

Not all bad…

But it would be wrong to end it there. George Craigie had taught for a few months in Graphic Design and was a great teacher. The artist Joyce Cairns taught me during a brief spell in the Fine Art department. She was excellent at her job, is a great artist and a kind and decent human being. Gordon Hamilton’s art history lectures engrained in me a love of the history of art I will never lose. And the library, oh the library, like a sweet shop for the creative brain. The lovely helpful librarian. The shiny new Creative Review magazine that arrived every third Thursday in the month, about 10.30am. The collection of back issues of assorted design magazines, which had it’s own cupboard, with a desk and chair. And the fabulous book collection…

The best of times, the worst of times.

Iain Cameron is a graphic designer, web designer and illustrator based in Copenhagen.

emilia clarke stock photos

Emilia Clarke destroying stock photos forever

I have written previously as to why companies should not use stock photos to promote their business. In this very amusing video from the actress Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones, Solo, Terminator etc.) she brilliantly destroys stock photos.

While her video is for comic effect, she is inadvertently pointing out why serious businesses should never use them. They are cliched, the are easy to spot. The people are too beautiful, too gender/race diversity centric, too sharp (studio lighting), too perfect, and I’ll add, too cheesy.

My article on why you shouldn’t use stock photos, and some suggestions.

malcolm-mclaren

Blackboards, The Sex Pistols, Britpop, Diana, Sgt. Pepper and me

Back in the Nineties I worked as a freelance blackboard artist in London. I came into contact with all sorts of people, and the occasional celeb. As no one cares about blackboards, I’ll write about my celeb spotting.

spot stock photo

Who can spot a stock photo a mile off?

Content on a website is an integrated, and incredibly important element of a brand. The website is the shop window, it is here where first impressions are made. As we all know, we make our evaluation on a person or business very quickly. Messing up that initial impression, is really not worth it.

steve-jobs

Apple loving, and the problem with Steve Jobs

I like Apple, I like their products, I own quite a few. I would consider my relationship to Apple to be a healthy, rational, grown up one. This is, as opposed to my relationship with say, the football team I support, or Star Wars, The Sopranos, ex girlfriends, ex girlfriends’ sisters… I could go on.