freelance graphic designer

Freelance graphic designer – what I have learned

freelance graphic designer

Approaching eight years as a freelance graphic designer, what have I learned?

Love the business

Freelance graphic designer is a wonderful job where you get to meet fascinating people, with diverse businesses, all with their own unique business needs. Embrace it, love it.

Get an accountant

Taxes and bookwork never get easier, I have an accountant. I still hate the bit getting it ready for him. The rest of the freedom and peace of mind is worth it.

Imposter syndrome

Tell your imposter syndrome to get out. He, or she, is an imposter!

Never write an angry email

Just don’t. Calm down, pick up the phone, but never ever write an angry email.

Over dress

Don’t be the scruffiest person in the room at a meeting. Because ‘you are a creative’. You are a professional in business looking for other business people to trust you. Show respect for your potential client, and the industry you represent.

How to behave in a meeting

If in doubt as to how to behave in a business meeting. Very simple. Shut up, and listen. If you are concerned at having to become a smooth talking, salesperson with charm dripping off your tongue, and that isn’t who you are, relax, selling isn’t so one dimensional. If you are introverted or awkward socially, but are clearly passionate about design, you’ll be fine. Your portfolio must be in great shape and you must be and act reliable. Turn up on time for meetings, always do what you say you’ll do in a meeting. People like and trust honesty, passion and skill.

Dealing with clients

Clients are fantastic. Every one of them different from each other. Every client’s needs are different. Every client’s way of working is unique to them. Incredibly important to remember design is a service industry. We exist to serve others. To advise, come with ideas, direct, and by far the most important, to listen. If the client isn’t sure what they want, we need to ask the right questions. And react to what the client has said. Explaining clearly every step of the way, our thinking behind each decision, without falling into marketing jargon.

Creative side projects

It is important for your creative wellbeing to have some creative outlets just for yourself. These let you learn and be in charge of your creativity, and in turn, make you a better designer for your clients.

Making the jump into the freelance world

If you are considering making the jump into freelance design it may seem scary. There is a mental switch when you become freelance.  Becoming your own boss, and responsible for your own marketing. I recommend having some savings behind you. Too much savings though, and you might find yourself fiddling with that portfolio instead of getting out there and hustling for work. Nothing concentrates the mind like a bill that needs paying.

Good luck if you are starting out, high five for all fellow freelancers. And no that’s not me in the picture. This is me. And this is my portfolio.

 

 

web design superhero

All the power of WordPress in the best creative hands

web design superhero

‘All the power of WordPress in the best creative hands’ is my tag line. What it means is, WordPress has come so far in the last decade, it now does the heavy lifting of the web design process. Between themes, plugins, my skills in CSS, HTML and javascript, and on occasion using outside developers help, I can create a website using my other skills as a designer.

Combining these skills is what makes me a successful web designer. Having a love for the web, having a holistic understanding of all the areas of expertise needed in successful web design. From SEO to user experience, to understanding branding, and communication, to having a highly trained eye for quality design.

One of the key aspects of my web design process is the importance of the interactive element of the experience. This is why I don’t design in Photoshop for websites. Photoshop is flat, and motionless. I design my websites straight onto WordPress. WordPress for wireframes, for testing content to see how it works together. Building around my client’s content. Adding, removing, re-working, but always on a website, not in a fake web environment.

As a web design consultant, or WordPress consultant, I know what is at the cutting edge of web design technology, together with I can use my marketing and design skills to create a professional, successful web presence. There’s a fine line between arrogance, and confidence. ‘All the power of WordPress in the best creative hands’, is the confidence of fifteen years work in web design. Twenty in graphic design. And still as enthused and motivated as the first time I connected via ftp all those years ago.

A selection from my web design portfolio.

 

shark apple jumping

Has Apple jumped the shark?

shark apple jumping

Has Apple jumped the shark? The phrase jumping the shark comes from an episode of the sitcom Happy Days, in which the Fonz, jumps a shark. The phrase means when you’ve run out of ideas.

There’s a new Apple computer out, just like there’s another one always around the corner. Apple are an exceptionally successful billion dollar company, for whom my opinion will be less than worthless. This new computer is getting some criticism as it is very expensive, is not aesthetically pleasing (the cheese grater), and comes with a (not included in the price) $1000 stand for the monitor.

I’m a graphic designer, one of our ‘traits’ is the love of all, or most things, Apple. Not all graphic designers, but a lot of us. Historically in the earlier, less successful Apple years, it was graphic designers that kept the computer selling part going.

Graphic designers are in the most part aesthetics driven, so it’s natural our tribe was drawn to the aesthetically pleasing and user friendly Mac.

I’m just me, just one graphic designer, I am writing this on my fourth Mac in over twenty years. Number three is still in use, and is sitting next to me, as is a very expensive Apple iPhone. But it will be my last iPhone. Possibly my last Apple product.

It struck me I’d paid a ridiculous amount of money for a telephone with a nice, but not professional camera on it. It didn’t sit well with me. Despite not being my first iPhone. I’m a grown up, I made the choice to purchase it, but after the event, I’ve regretted the purchase.

In a world facing a climate catastrophe, where bankers are pretty much universally loathed, hearing that Apple were introducing banking was also an eye opener.

In this world of finite resources, I can’t really justify any of this anymore. I’m not stamping my foot, I don’t for a second think Apple would care. But sometimes what we as individuals feel, is in fact something quite a lot of others feel.

If you lose the designers Apple, I’d say you are in serious trouble. And releasing a big screen TV monitor with a $1000 stand, is so not what the world, or just graphic designers need.

Everything has it’s time.

the art of logo design

The art of logo design

Generally speaking a successful company has a quality logo.

What are the components of a quality logo? What makes a logo work or not work? Why is it important?

A logo is often the first impression the world sees of a company. As with people, first impressions count. A logo is a communication tool.  It needs to be unique, it needs to stand out from the crowd, conversely it may need to fit in with perceived standards. It needs to be instantly recognisable. This is so once you’ve seen that logo somewhere, or have an interaction with the company, the next time you see it, you recognize the company’s ‘signature’, and are therefor aware you are with the same company or people. Brand recognition.

It needs to give trust, reassurance, make potential customers want to be part of it, or intrigued to find out more of the company.

It needs to be simple, clean and professional. It needs to work at a small size, or very large size. Ought to work in black and white or colour.

What it doesn’t need to do is describe what the company does. In fact with regard to the actual work of the company it is more likely to aspire to the values the company wishes to stand for, rather than a descriptive image of what the company does.

That’s quite a lot a logo needs to do.

Ultimately like almost all creative endeavors, a logo works or it doesn’t. You can have the best idea in the world, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you come up with something else. It takes hard work, creative thinking, research, intuition, reworking and reworking of ideas. Returning to earlier designs, and also a little bit of time needs to be spent with a finished design, to live with a design, to test it’s potential longevity.

Iain Cameron logo design

What’s my logo about? (top left) Just a font. No colour. But a memorable word shape always set on white. Minimal, discreet. I’m not selling me, it’s not about me, it’s my work for other clients that is important, that leads to others wishing to use my services. My designs are not about me, I am a facilitator of design for companies.

While a hand written signature was considered, my first name is an issue outside of Scotland. Iain. That first letter is an ‘i’ for ice cream, not an ‘l’ for lettuce, as it may appear. Clarity was important. Hand written would have added to the confusion.

Colour would distract from my portfolio. So in some ways a logo is a system of elimination. There is always a great one there for every company. Unless like me discretion is a deliberate choice. It’s a process of peeling back the layers until you find it.

A picture paints a thousand words.

A detailed case study of one of my logo designs.

My graphic design page which has many logo designs.

web design 2019

A web designer’s digital guide for 2019 and beyond

web design 2019

Web design in 2019

WordPress is still king of the CMS. Web design has stabilised. We know what works. In the beginning with the first websites there were technical reasons websites looked the way they did. Also a considerable amount of the first websites were designed by very technically minded people. Not so visually orientated. Bit by bit visually orientated designers got to take charge and UX standards were developed, websites have a common look now. Being responsive is a given. And while there will always be developments in web design, there will be no dramatic changes as there have been in the past.

This means brands need to do something to stand out. And if it’s not the website design, it needs to be the story telling.

SEO in 2019

SEO has developed in the last few years. There is a simple rule now for search engine optimisation, quality content over quantity or attempts at gaming SEO.

More and more of my websites have a few articles that are read many thousands of times per week, and eighty percent of the other blog content is virtually ignored.

So go back, and update the heavily read content from time to time. Re-post. Have a look at the older content that is not being read. Could it be improved, re-written, could a number of ‘failed’ posts be combined to create one successful, entertaining or enlightening post? If not, bin the dead wood, and concentrate on creating quality content in your niche.

One of the ways Google measure the quality is from, amongst other things, how long any visitors spend on the page. If people read it, Google will show it to more people.

Social media in 2019

Facebook is the tough one. The giddy highs of organic reach are a thing of the distant past. It’s a struggle to reach your own audience irrespective of the quality of your content. Facebook wants your money on sponsored posts.

Instagram still offers better value for money (for now), depending on your market. Linkedin is very niche. Twitter is very much hit or miss. I’ve noticed clients and companies I admire closing Facebook pages. I’m not sure it is so much Facebook that’s the problem, as being too thinly spread. It may be best to just concentrate on one social media you are comfortable in.

My advice, be ready for new social media companies appearing. There is so much more to develop in the social media world, it’s only a decade old. When new platforms appear, jump on them. The early period is where there will be the greatest results.

Iain Cameron is a web designer, graphic designer and illustrator. Here’s my portfolio.

rolling stones warhol

Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, the greatest commissioning letter ever

rolling stones warhol

The ultimate commissioning letter. Two successful, wealthy, talented artists, at the height of their powers. Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol.

The advice from Jagger. Offered, with self depreciation.

“In my short sweet experience, the more complicated the format of the album, e.g. more complex than pages or fold-out, the more fucked up the reproduction and agonising the delays.”

For a short letter, he goes into real detail to explain what he doesn’t want, and why there are issues with complicated designs.

Then he jumps back, a creative person aware of a creative brain’s response to demands, ‘But having said that, I leave it to your capable hands…’

‘And please write back saying how much you would like’. Not ‘paid’. How much would you like. Not negotiating, not trying to claim ‘we haven’t much budget’. ‘How much would you like’. You decide your worth.

‘Here are two boxes of material you can use’, presumably photos, and negatives. Oh ‘and the record’. Almost a throwaway. Not listen to our brilliance, and be inspired by our magic. Just ‘…and the record’.

There are lots of creative people in the world. Not so many who can weaponise it for enormous success and financial reward, without compromising their art. Amongst all the  myths and debauchery of both artists, the sex, the drugs, the rock n roll. Two very intelligent, disciplined, very smart business brains. Skilled in social communication, and respectful of others’ talent. As well as creative geniuses.

 

 

logo design web design

SCOOP case study: Logo development and process

fyre festival marketing

Fyre Festival – the lesson of great marketing

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a fantastic Netflix documentary on the Fyre Festival. The documentary tells the story of the festival, which was marketed as the ultimate luxury festival on an island in the Bahamas, and was a complete disaster due to chronically poor planning and financial impropriety. The main organiser is currently in prison for fraud.

The documentary is a fascinating watch, for many bad reasons. And sympathies to everyone affected by the event. But in amongst the sheer awfulness of the organisers behaviour is what I felt a very important lesson in marketing. The power of high quality marketing. The power of high quality design. The power of doing things right when selling your product or business.

Watching the video again, even knowing it was a disaster, there’s a bit of me, that would still like to go.

Investing in design

I often meet clients and potential clients who have a business or service that is a great concept. However they don’t have, or won’t allocate the funds to market this concept properly. The complete opposite of Fyre Festival. It’s sad that the power of marketing isn’t trusted given it’s importance in business.

In an extreme example recently, I was approached by a potential client regarding a logo design. She’d liked my portfolio, we discussed my work process. I then told my price. The client got back to me later the same day, to tell me she had just bought a logo ‘on the internet’ for ten dollars. She was proud of this, and wanted me to know it. The fiverr mentality.

Firstly I wish that woman the very best and her business every success.  But skimping on, or not investing properly in the logo, the design, the marketing is such a short sighted way of opening or running a business.

A life lesson

So what did the Fyre Festival design people do? Look at the video above. The models are the A listers, the very best. I’d say the camera people are also the very best, they knew they’d need a helicopter, despite the cost, they knew the weather had to be just right. The editors, the design company behind the logo, the brand, the music. Everything is the very best. That’s why it reached so many people, was massively over subscribed. Was a huge *marketing* success.

In life we should learn from the best. On occasion we can all learn from the very worst.

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is on Netflix.

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

 

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.

boring graphic design

Graphic design is boring

A look at why graphic design is boring, and why it’s okay to admit it.