hipster-barber-design-meme

Graphic design memes, a little bit of designer humour

As a designer I am often looking at stock photos for design jobs, and have a subscription to a large photo resource. So I like to mess around with them sometimes.

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barista meme

design toys

cookies-design-meme

talent-design-meme

less-is-more-design-memes

The design memes side project

I have started creating design memes as a creative side project. There is lots of material as a graphic designer to gently make fun of our sometimes shallow and overly serious industry. Doesn’t stop me being passionate about the industry and designing.

The Less is more design memes

‘Less is more’ has it’s own Wikipedia page. My congratulations to the phrase*. Although it re-directs to a specialised page on minimalism, which in turn leads to Mies van der Rohe, one of the pioneers of modernist architecture, being responsible for the phrase.

So within graphic design it would be ‘Less clutter is better’. A tendency to over complicate, add too much, over explain, doesn’t lend to good visual communication. The human eye likes simplicity. A perfect example being the ‘I love New York’ design by Milton Glaser.

Mies Van der Rohe was the last director of the seminal design school The Bauhaus. I studied at an art college that was based on the Bauhaus, Grays School of Art in Aberdeen. A beautiful modernist building in the Deeside countryside.

I went to visit the Bauhaus (now a museum) on a visit to Berlin a couple of years ago. I was surprised to not enjoy the experience, despite loving Berlin, design, museums and art galleries. The visit reminded me design doesn’t belong in a gallery. The functionality that is the basis of design, plus us having design objects around us all the time, renders it pointless in a museum environment, in my opinion.

Or it could be it brought back bad memories of my time as an art student. Of corduroy clad design tutors in Le Corbusier spectacles, singularly not fit for purpose in terms of actually teaching, or I suspect making it in the design world.

More design memes will follow in future blog posts.

*During David Letterman’s early career as a weatherman he congratulated a tropical storm for being upgraded to a hurricane.

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My art college experience

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Portfolio building as a designer – why my portfolio is everything

design-portfolio-cartoon

I have recently been updating my portfolio. A difficult task to get to when freelance. Thankful for being busy with client work, but the longer time passes without updating it, the bigger the task when getting to it, which makes avoiding starting it easier. Not unlike going to the gym.

Around Xmas and New Year I began the job. Bit by bit it came together, old pieces updated, new pieces created. Forgotten jobs found that I both hadn’t appreciated properly at the time and had completely slipped my mind. I reached the tipping point between the daunting scale of the task to the the sheer joy of putting it together becoming a labour of love. It also brought me back to putting together my first portfolio as a young art college applicant.

Portfolio cases and trains

I am old enough to remember pre-digital art. Where a giant A1 folder was requisite. A giant black Winsor and Newton folder of art that was an extension of myself, my personality (to cover for my lack thereof), my baby. Lugged around from place to place, banging into people on trains and buses, getting odd looks as I carted round ‘my art’. No other possession was as important. It dominated every room with a sulky teenage attitude of ‘no I don’t want to be opened, but please ask to see my work, well okay if you insist’.

It went to a couple of job interviews and wasn’t even opened. How could they! Memorably at an art college interview, someone nonchalantly, dismissively flicked through it while eating an apple.

“Is my portfolio getting in the way of your lunch?” I wanted to say, but just thought it, loudly.

He made an enemy for life there, as if the leather trousers he had on weren’t bad enough.

portfolio-designing

The portfolio rules

The rules for a portfolio. Do you put in everything to show the full range of your skills and your work ethic or do you only put in the very best for the shock and awe effect. Might that minimalism backfire if it’s not what the viewer is looking for… “Is that it?”

I remember between 12 and 15 pieces were optimal. Ultimately people can’t be bothered with more. The very first piece  should be you very best. Your second best piece should go at the back. This is for people who flicked through the portfolio back to front. Smart huh.

I would add now from experience, that the end viewer is so variable it’s impossible to have the perfect portfolio. Anything you aren’t entirely happy with, remove it. And just like going to the gym, much better to work at it regularly, than to need to start all over again as you’ve left it so long.

Well if you insist, you can have a look at my portfolio here.

*nonchalantly looks away like it’s no biggie*

 

 

2020-design-trends

Graphic Design trends for 2020 and why you should ignore them

2020-design-trends

A new year just started, and a time for bored hacks to predict/blind guess the graphic design trends for 2020. After a quick Google it appears random adjectives and talking bollocks will be big in 2020.

Much like graphic design trends for 2019 then.

So why in the graphic design world do we have articles on design trends for a coming year? The concept is lifted from the fashion industry, who have clearly defined seasons, and for whom short-termism is a big part of their industry model. If clothes are very quickly out of fashion, then the need for new purchases is ensured. As long as you’ve a timeless Chanel number for funerals and stuff. I know my fashion.*gently closes drawer containing 28 identical black t-shirts*

As graphic designers we of course need to know what is going on around us, and always be aware of style developments. But as designers we should also be creating unique solutions for our clients that have longevity and won’t go out of fashion inside six months. Or else we end up with stupid fads and designs that can be time dated to the month.

Generation Lucky

Designers in 2020 are the luckiest generation of designers there has ever been. Thanks to software advancement we have the creative tools to create anything. We can self publish getting our designs out to the world in seconds. We don’t lose our original artwork in the post, like previous generations did. The internet grants us access to inspiration from all over the world. We are so privileged as designers to have these resources. If anything we have too many resources/distractions at our disposal.

Why on earth would creative people be restricting creative possibilities by acting like sheep and working ‘on trend’. Does your client want to stand out from the crowd, or look like a bland cliched copy cat company?

My predictions for 2020

Hard work, research, and originality are on trend for 2020. And if we can just jam Baby Yoda somewhere in there…

Design-students-and-graduates-finding-a-job

Design students and graduates – finding a job

Design-students-and-graduates-finding-a-job

It is particularly tough for those finishing their design education coming out into the workforce to find the first step on the career ladder. So here is my advice.

Ignore the negativity and rejection

There is a lot of negativity and bad experiences when starting out. Whether it be tutors saying how tough the ‘real world’ is, or hearing of the unemployment situation in the branch, or being unable to get even a reply to a job application. This bad experience can lead to you losing your motivation and belief in yourself. It’s very important to not allow this to happen.

Job searching basics

There is lots of advice on the internet for job searching for designers, use it. Don’t send anyone an email that is not personal. Do everything to find a contact name, compliment them on something in their portfolio website, something that shows you haven’t just copy pasted this email, along with hundreds of others.  A very busy person is far more likely to send you a personal message rather than a ‘thanks but no thanks’ copy paste reply, or just not reply.

If you get a reply, you can delicately ask for advice. Very apologetically ask if there was anything in your CV, application email or portfolio that could be improved. You won’t always get an answer, but good people hate turning applicants away. If they can give a bit of advice that may help someone, they often will.

Remember you just need one job. It is like finding a needle in a haystack, but if you don’t look for the needle, you definitely won’t find it. As a positive thought, if you haven’t been turned down by 200 applications, then you haven’t begun looking. Use that number as a positive target. Something to aim for. Five a day, every day, it will soon mount, and you will become better at it.

Worst case scenario

So what do you do if you still can’t get in. There comes a point where you have to work. Perhaps it is in a coffee shop, perhaps as an entry level trainee in a different area completely. You may well have the best time of your life and make friends for life. An odd thing is, you will be surprised how random opportunities can come your way in life. You may find there is a creative position within this company you never knew existed. There are creative jobs you would never have heard of until you are working for that chain of convenience stores, or bars. You are networking by accident.

I worked as a barman in London. I went on to start my own business as a blackboard artist, as a full time job. Something I would never have seen as a possibility. But I had the contacts and knowledge just from working in the branch to know how to do it. And what I didn’t know I learned on the hoof.

Be prepared

Another issue regarding the random nature of things, is after sending hundreds of CVs out, and working yourself into the ground trying to find a job in the design industry with no success, you could find yourself sitting at a dinner or in some other social situation, when during small talk someone says ‘oh we are looking for a designer, can you Photoshop?’. And before you know it, you have a job, without applying or being interviewed.

Now here is the important aspect of that scenario. Make sure the last design work you did, wasn’t what you did in college. Make sure you are still active. Have a website portfolio, or a blog that is active. Make sure you can show your enthusiasm for your area of expertise. Because you will be kicking yourself if an opportunity like that comes up unexpectedly and you blow it because you were not prepared.

Working for free

It’s a tough one. You need experience to get a job, how do you get experience. How do you build a portfolio that shows what you can do, without working for free? From my experience, the sort of people who would accept free work, are the worst people to work for. They are like sharks. They will never pay you at a later date when you are experienced. Their shark brain will go, ‘find another idiot to work for free’. They will not respect you, will not respect your work, and will almost certainly insist on doing something to the design which is so bad it means you can’t use it in your portfolio. There is also the argument that working for free for people demeans the industry you wish to work in.

Stay positive and keep learning

If you still can’t get a job in the design industry there are further options. Start up freelance is one of them. Another is to look at the different aspects of your work and work at it in your free time. Illustration or animation for example, or typography design, or motion graphics. Something that would have been hard to get to, and possibly too exhausting to work on in your free time as a designer as it is too similar to the day job. Working in a different field you are completely fresh to work on this in your free time. This can be incredibly rewarding and go on to you being able to work in your niche area later. Helps if you think of yourself as being like an out of work actor. Ignore anyone who uses the word ‘hobby’ to describe what you do.

Keep taking online courses to extend your skills. If you work in the web, get javascript, get php skills. In design, add typography design or motion graphics, take figure drawing classes, there’s always more to learn. Keep adding to your portfolio and good luck!

 

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

 

 

is-graphic-design-worth-studying

Is graphic design worth studying?

is-graphic-design-worth-studying

A question and answer guide to deciding on whether to study graphic design, or are interested in teaching yourself graphic design.

Is graphic design worth studying? Here are the pros and cons of a graphic designer of some decades. In the interests of letting you judge my opinions I studied graphic design but was kicked off my course before I finished it. Many years later, I taught myself via working alone and the internet. We are all different, I try and give as balanced an answer as possible. But it’s just my opinion, make sure you seek others’ opinions too.

Is graphic design worth studying? Yes, education can only be good. You will always learn, meet good people, and see and experience things that you wouldn’t alone.

Is studying graphic design at college essential? Absolutely not. Unlike a lot of jobs, graphic design (and all the surrounding disciplines – illustration, web design, motion graphics) are measurable by your portfolio or showreel. It is easy to see what you can or can’t do.

Is the financial outlay as a graphic design student worth it? This question is related to whichever country you live in. If you are coming out with 40000 pounds/dollars plus worth of debt at the end of a graphic design course and your parents aren’t rich, my opinion is, no that’s not worth it. (Just my opinion, again seek other opinions)

graphic-design-education

But every job advert I see requires a degree from a top design college? Yes that’s a slightly strange one. My guess is HR (Human Resources) departments write the job adverts. They don’t know anything about design, but they’ve got a degree, so degrees must be special.

I am in my fifties now. Probably over 35 no one is asked for their qualifications (?). It is all about your portfolio in my experience. We are lucky as designers, we can show people what we can do. So work at that portfolio!

graphic-designer-job-advert

The ideal graphic designer job advert

Can graphic design be learned? Absolutely. There are clear rules, and best practices with typography, colours, imagery, creativity, problem solving and the use of the industry standard software (Adobe for short). There are vastly differing elements to being a graphic designer or graphic artist. From an all rounder who can fit into any discipline between logo design, illustration, web design and motion graphics, to an absolute specialists in their niche, a font designer, packaging specialist, character designer. At least one part of it, you need to get a buzz off of the creative process that drives you forward to want to learn more, and make the mundane tasks worth it.

What skills are essential to know if graphic design is for you? You are visually oriented. Like aesthetically pleasing things. Like typography, the shape, and feel of the letters, a colour combination interests you, you like and admire nice design, are excited by being creative. You are maybe not happy with what you create, you are always striving to get better.  You don’t need to be the finished article to start learning. (This is a particular bugbear of mine regarding art school applications. They will accept the people with the best work in their portfolio, who typically have the most experience. These same people have often reached full potential, so are at art school for a qualification. Whereby more talented people who have less experience are turned down, despite the potential they have to get much better. Art tutors are often very bad at every aspect of their jobs – yes I have some issues with art schools, but it doesn’t mean I am wrong). Somewhere in you there is a spark of passion for creativity. That spark of passion is your calling. It’s all about the creative process, and the desire to get better. Other aspects that would be good, but not essential, a sense of, or an interest in business/commerce, an enjoyment of problem solving. An interest in people from a behavioural science viewpoint. Also graphic design is a service industry, you need to be, or learn to be service minded. The client IS always right, if you want to pay your rent.

Is graphic design boring? Absolutely. And it’s the most exciting job in the world. No job is exciting and brilliant all day every day. There are lots of mundane tasks, there can be problems with clients, problems with bosses thinking they are designers and design by committee to deal with. You’ll learn to deal with it. Learn to love the clients you get along with, the bosses who respect your knowledge. You’ll love the buzz when it all comes together. When a client sends you a gift, for no reason other than gratitude. When you can see you have made an improvement. When there are sometimes enormous measurable improvements, that you are responsible for. There are a lot of great highs to go with the lows. And you’ll learn to set aside time for your own projects, where you are in charge… My not entirely serious article on graphic design being a boring subject for non designers.

How do I learn graphic design without going to college or university? I did it with a computer, the internet, Adobe software, mainly learning Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and to a lesser extent InDesign, and Lynda.com the education website. Also Google is your friend, and Youtube has an enormous amount of videos explaining design, software, and business practices. Spooner graphics has some great videos on his Youtube channel. I also learned web design at the same time. A bit of basic HTML, and CSS, and now I would recommend learning WordPress through using it. The web design aspect gives you the power of self publishing, and publishing others, which in turn builds a portfolio, which leads to employment. In addition to this I was also studying design around me, looking and learning to see what works and doesn’t and what are the latest design trends and developments. That part took me fully two years to get to grips with, and is a permanent ongoing process. The learning never stops for a good designer.

How long does it take to learn to become a graphic designer? In my opinion it takes a minimum of two years of study (whether in college or working alone) to train your eye to design to a professional level. I had an odd journey to becoming a graphic designer. Studied for two years, kicked out of art college and began learning again almost twenty years later. When I began learning again, one of the odd sensations I had was realising I had been better at it when I was a design student previously. I couldn’t explain how I knew this, ‘what had I known I now didn’t know’, was a very strange experience. Eventually I became aware I was as good as I had been, and better. The exact point of that was at the two year mark. I had presumed I still had some design training. Without practice it was all gone. A designer must keep working at their skills to maintain that ability.

I have a degree in marketing but wish I’d learned graphic design, have I messed up? An oddly precise question but one I have met a couple of times. You can learn graphic design, see the question on learning without going to college, and not only will you succeed, you will be a brilliant graphic designer. Any sort of business qualification together with graphic design will make you superb in the profession. Graphic design ought to be taught in the same colleges that teach business and marketing.

Do I need to be a salesperson to work as a graphic designer? Yes and no. More for freelance designers, but still relevant. Depending on your personality type, this part may fill you with dread. What you don’t need to be is the stereotypical used-car salesperson. In a client meeting, you need to listen, ask a few questions which will be easy to you, as you’ll know design, and do what you say you’ll do in the meeting. Generally if you are invited to a client meeting you already have the job. You can only mess it up. They are looking for someone reliable they can trust. Turn up on time, be smartly dressed. Ridiculously obvious advice, but surprising how many don’t.

Does graphic design have a future? Yes. Business will always need branding.

What should graphic designers do for the future?  Keep learning. And love to learn (it keeps you young) There are other disciplines closely related to graphic design, that a graphic designer’s brain is best suited for. From user experience, to analytics, to social media marketing, to motion graphics, writing a narrative for a brand, the whole marketing shebang. Eventually the name graphic design will go (it’s an awful name anyway) we are marketing creatives, or commercial artists (the old name was far better).

Whatever you choose to do, the very best of luck. Life is short. Enjoy it, do what you want to do. Also, all going well, there is room for more than one career in a life. Two or three career changes are possible. You are not nailed down forever in any area.

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

Portfolio here.

 

worth-making-your-own-website

Is it worth making your own website?

Is it worth making your own website?

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The three variables are time, interest, and budget. Can you make a website, that is professional for your business needs? Perhaps. Do you have the time, and patience to learn through trial and error? What if that time turns out to be wasted. Can you afford to waste that time? Do you have the budget for a professional? It may be far cheaper in the long run, to bring in a professional, who will also come with advice for best practices, and you concentrate on your core skills for your business? Certainly something to consider.

Very much like plumbing, electrical work, car maintenance, and a fair few other skills, a professional is the correct and cheapest option for the reasons mentioned above.

There is another scenario. You might discover you love it. It maybe you want to throw away your business idea, and become a web designer. It is very rewarding, and if it suits you, fantastic. Welcome to the world of HTML, CSS, CMS, and FTP.

Here is an incredibly good link to get you started. www.w3schools.com/html/html_links.asp and here is how to get to the top of the stack www.w3schools.com/cssref/pr_pos_z-index.asp

_______________

Iain Cameron is a Copenhagen based web designer and graphic designer. My about page.

My web design page.

sign writing copenhagen

Events’ signs and blackboards

sign writing copenhagen

Should you or your company in Copenhagen require a specialised event sign, on blackboard or any colour of signage, then please get in touch. A hand written bespoke sign adds a personalised touch to any event or occasion. These can be drafted in advance in Photoshop, then the final artwork created when the final design is okayed.

So whether for a wedding, birthday, conference, product launch, bar, restaurant, hotel or shop, I can add that special hand written touch, that a printed product can never reach.

blackboard artist

artist blackboards copenhagen

manet blackboard art

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You can see more of my blackboard work here www.iaincameron.dk/design-portfolio/blackboard-and-mural-artist/
And see more of my graphic design work here. www.iaincameron.dk/design-portfolio-for-business/

 

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.

 

 

website cost

How much does a website cost?

website cost

How much does a website cost? A very important question for anyone starting a business, or looking to update a website. How much a website costs, is also subject to your requirements and needs. One website is not very much like another website. They can change very significantly, and going with the cheapest price available may well turn out to be the most expensive choice.

What do you need from a web designer?

Your needs are specific to you and your business. If you don’t know what you need, and many don’t (why would you, your field of expertise is somewhere else) you need someone who will explain the different options, and give their recommendations, and explain that in simple English after carefully listening to, and researching your needs.

Your website is your shop window to the world. That shop window needs to work for you.

A web design vocabulary guide

Some basic phrases to give you a better understanding of your own requirements.

Webhost. This is the name for where your website ‘lives’ on the internet. On a server, or big computer, at a large company. I use one.com (That is a referral link. I make a small amount of money if you use it)

Domain name or URL. The name, or address of your website. This needs to be purchased, and can typically be bought together with web hosting as a package from the aforementioned large company.

CMS. Content management system. There are many of these. This is the name for the ‘engine’ of your website. WordPress is a CMS. And the most used.

Themes and plugins. If WordPress is the engine, the theme is the body, and plugins are the extra features, in this car analogy. Subject to the scale of the web design job, these are tweaked and re-worked by web designers to create a unique solution.

SEO. Search engine optimisation. Being found on Google. Whereby your content is written and presented with a view to your website appearing as high as possible on Google for your preferred search terms.

Responsive. The word used to describe a modern website. In a world of smart phones and tablets, to make sure your website functions as well on a small screen as it does on a large one.

Wireframes. An early stage part of the web design process for testing out navigation and functionality. A prototype version of a site, pre branding.

Maintenance. The general care for a website. Maintain updates and ensure there are no conflicts. In my case this can also extend to all duties on the website. Adding and editing content, to allow my clients to get on with their areas of expertise.

So how much does a website cost?

If you want to know how much a website would cost from myself, without any obligation to use my services, get in touch. studio@iaincameron.dk. And here is my website 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.