It’s your birthday and I haven’t given myself enough time to make you a meaningful card with newspaper scraps and colourful tissue paper, my head’s been elsewhere and the present I got you, you bought cheaper for yourself last week. You’re 33 today and you’re 3,743 miles away and I’m 6 hours further into your birthday already and I miss you. I wish you could be here so I could make a better go at this; I’d have made you banana pancakes for breakfast, the American way. I’d take the day or the week off work and spend it dragging you around all my favourite places, and you’d drive up to the north of Scotland and you’d meet my Nan and we’d stop off at all the whiskey distilleries we could find along the way. Or we’d be at your place and me and your friends would take you out to all the best bars Madison has to offer, or we’d go kayaking or I’d help you build your rocket in your Mum’s living room and play board games with your nieces. The gap would close between us and all the chaos would quieten for just a little while and we’d remember how happy we have been, how happy we could be. But instead I just have the internet and this space and not enough minutes in my morning to think up some inspired poem or story about how amazing you are and how much I wish this could be easier. I’ve spent the evening reading journal entries from our road trips and poems written badly but authentically and it would be so easy to judge our relationship by our separation instead of remembering how great we were while we were driving around Tasmania or ice skating in Chicago. So here I am, hoping you know, despite all the imperfections and distractions, that you mean the world to me, and I can’t wait to see you soon.
Happy Birthday Todd.
Today I have been thinking about my target audience and the kind of visual and haptic environment they would be interested in using. To visualise my ideas and the concepts of the project I have put together a mood board:
After a really useful tutorial with Matt, I have decided on the next stage of the project. This will include:
- Speaking to Es George, the head careers adviser in uni
- Go to the job centre. Find out what is going wrong at the moment, and work out how to improve it
- Send out the survey and collect/analyse the results
This is a little like naming a baby. Like a really annoying, complicated baby.
My plan for the next step is to write up a survey and send it out via social media, and through word-of-mouth. My brother is slap-bang in the middle of my target audience and he has offered to get his friends to fill it out for me too. My project aims to follow in the footsteps of organisations such as Heads Above the Waves and Rabble, and hopefully support them rather than becoming ruthless competition. So as part of my survey I am going to offer a piece of merchandise from HAtW to a randomly chosen winner from a list of people who filled out all the questions. This will hopefully give the audience motivation to fill out the questions and also support the charity and raise awareness of their cause, just a small step in the overall intended direction.
In preparation for writing my survey I have been considering a name for the project. To do this I had to think about the main aim of the establishment and who it is aimed at. Two of the major aspects of my chosen demographic are those in need of support or who are interested in mental well-being and skate culture. Mental health is a common theme of conversation and contemplation in the target demographic, and skate culture acts as an effective way of communicating to them. So with these ideas in mind, and after an extensive conversation with my brother (who is much more into the skate scene than me) I have come up with a selection of words to inspire the final name:
- Mongo (frowned upon)
- Melon Grab
When deciding on a name I will need to keep in mind that it needs to communicate a positive message and be suitable for people who aren’t aware of or interested in skate terms.
One of the most prominent aspects of Beijing, and I imagine the rest of China, is that it holds a great conflict, a tension between old and new, tradition and modern advancement. One way this conflict is made visible is through the use of type and design decorating the city, old painted lettering on sandbags in dusty hallways and hand drawn calligraphy in ancient temples, standing out against the pristine sharply printed lettering of popular American chain stores and coffee shops, and clean black and white English words on the backs of hoodies. Even in the traditional, historical parks and religious buildings there are electric billboards advertising the latest drink or phone brand.
The typography is one of the things that amazed me most about Beijing, and something which inspired my application to InternChina to do a design internship in Chengdu in the Autumn. The characters and calligraphy are just beautiful, and makes even the worst design look interesting. Here are some photos I took along the way:
There is a whole post on my creative blog about my (probably very limited and uninformed) opinion on the city if you’re interested in reading more.
For my final major project I have decided to create a supportive space for young people coming out of school looking for work. The first step of this project is to do as much research as I can, so that I can become aware of what already exists and how I can add to this to provide something that doesn’t currently exist or isn’t aimed at my chosen audience.
I have spent today researching what creative co-working spaces already exist in Cardiff and what they provide. These include:
- Tech marina
- Rabble Studio
- Tramshed Tech
- xibo hub
- Cardiff Hackspace
- The Sustainable Studio
I did the majority of my research on Tech Marina and Indycube before moving on to see what schools in the area offer. These are some of the resources and support that they collectively provide:
(I was going to list them according to each establishment but I don’t want to end up accidentally doing free advertisement for them)
- A “5 star” gym
- 24 hour access
- Break/games rooms
- On-site security
- Unlimited hot drinks
- Desk hire
- Fast internet
- Atrium/Meeting rooms
- Photography studio for hire
- Welsh and English speakers
- Business support/financial investment
- Woodwork and engineering workshops
- Help with registering a business address
- Touchscreen brainstorming software
Prices at these spaces range from £12 a day/£60 a month for limited access to small businesses, freelancers and start-ups to £195 a month for full access and £250 for a business address deal aimed more towards thriving businesses. Neither sound suitable for young people coming out of school.
I then went on to look into school policies, viewing every comprehensive school website in the area. I decided against contacting all the careers advisers/head teachers for primary research as I am sure they have better things to be doing with their time, and decided instead to scavenge for whatever information I could find online. Firstly can I just point out that school websites are absolutely awful. There were only a couple out of the fifteen websites I looked at which were easily legible and that I could somewhat easily navigate. It is beyond me why anyone would give the rest the go-ahead. I assume parents do extensive research when looking for a school for their children (at least I hope they do). Surely the website, often their first point of contact, should be considered a little more than “yeah it looks great, through some WordArt in there and we’re done!” – Apologies for the informality, but it genuinely irritates me how these extremely important establishments display such terrible consideration for web design.
Moving on… Here is what I found out about the careers processes and the services schools in the area provide to their students:
- Web links to useful sites such as UCAS, CareersWales and Gov.uk
- WRE (Work Related Study) is a statutory requirement on the curriculum
- Industry days
- Oxbridge applicant support
- Fortnightly pastoral sessions (?)
- College and university brochures in the library
- Group talks with careers officers
- Parents evenings
- Booklets, DVDs and role play with staff
The most impressive school by far is The Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School, which provides most of the above with the addition of:
- Mock interview evenings with local businesses
- Videos and case studies
- Gap year and university advice
- One-to-one appointments
- University visits and ‘Aim Higher’ events
As well as schools, colleges and co-working spaces, which are all very reliant on self-motivation, there is also the job centre; Arguably the place people fall back on when the above seem too inaccessible or have failed in providing any successful work opportunities. The main services of the job centre include:
- Financial support
- Work coaches
- Online job search
- School visits
- Connexions – Careers advice for young people
- Youth Tube
- Advice online
- Online links to useful articles
My next step is to use this information to guide my project towards an outcome which will provide something new to Cardiff, or that could work alongside these other options to improve the services already in place. For now I think it’s time to go home and catch up on some bad American TV.
I’m going to write this now because I was asked to finish my full cup of coffee before entering a library room where I had a fairly important lecture on artist books, layout and format, and now I’m on a worryingly strong caffeine high, and feeling motivated to get everything done, and a little bit shaky.
Firstly, I don’t know if it’s the caffeine buzz or the general positivity I am feeling this week, but just being in uni is working out really well for me. It’s really easy to just stay at home and watch the hours roll by, watching TV and eating too much out of boredom. So being here, using the studio space, going to all these lectures and workshops, is really useful. There are so many hours in the day when you are using them well.
My last hour was spent in the artist book/journal archive room in the library flicking through books in all shapes and forms, and after leaving and reading a couple of books on book-binding as well, I’ve remembered all the work I put into my book for the exhibition in first year and my interest in this subject has been reignited.
It’s not that I want to be a book maker, I’d just like to learn more about the skill. I think it’s really easy to get limited to one skill in graphic design (as well as other professions I’m sure), by yourself or your peers and employees. While I think it is important to specialise in one area of the subject and refine that skill, I do not want to be held back from projects or jobs because it looks like I am only capable of one single thing.
In conclusion, as a result of this workshop, I think I am going to look more into the skill of book-binding and potentially adopt the process for my portfolio, as a way of communicating the extent of my skills to potential employers without directly stating that it was part of a project. I think this would be a much more appropriate/relevant way of expressing myself and my work than my initial idea of a children’s book format.
Today I was accepted onto an 8 week internship scheme with InternChina! I’m hoping to work as a photographer in Chengdu, “the city where the pandas are”, just need to apply for the specific position, book flights and insurance and get my visa sorted now. Here we go again!
I also applied for Schwarzfopf Stiftung to do a month trip around Europe interviewing people, taking photos and keeping a blog about my experiences and the ‘European Identity’, I’ve just applied for a cruise ship photography job and I have an assessment day in March for the ICS volunteer trip to Africa. Things are looking up.
I’m also going to apply for a photography job on a cruise ship for when I get back from China, which has required me to go back and update my CV. Last year we had a whole term dedicated to creating a portfolio and CV and as usual I finished the project and then right afterwards, realised I wanted to change it for the better. I spent last week updating the structure of my portfolio, and a bit of the content, and this week I’m aiming to start applying for work experience and photography and design jobs. So here we are.
I have also spent a few days updating my portfolio so that I can start applying for work experience and jobs in Cardiff and Bristol:
Last we had a lecture on pricing given by Dewi Grey. I found this lecture incredibly useful; it is lectures like this that I think the course should provide a lot more, and that are being slowly introduced by David, just in time for my year to leave.
Dewi is from the Centre of Entrepreneurship so was really good at explaining the basics of how to run your own business and freelance work, but also gave lots of advice that applies to designers working within an agency; how to address clients, what kind of things to cover in a brief and the importance of establishing a process and making the essentials of that process clear to the client from the start (clients don’t care about the specifics of how creative people work, but it is important to outline the boundaries of the brief and the outcomes expected of the designer).
Some more useful advice I took from this talk:
- Keep records of expenses. Everything from bus fares and coffee at client meetings to costly printing, it is possible to claim these costs back (something to do with tax?). I’ll need to look into this further
- All printers give graphic designers 20% discount off printing costs. If they don’t offer it openly, mention that you’re running your own business or are a designer
- It is reasonable to charge between about £15 and £25 an hour
- Ask the client for examples of some things they like during the research and development stage of a project (including existing design), to give you a better idea of what they think they want
- Have a process, that you can change depending on the client’s budget (A ‘one size fits all’ template will cost a lot less than an entirely ‘custom fit’ design). Charge for extra reworking or changes to the process
- Never under-charge for a project, you’ll end up resenting the client for not paying enough for the work you’re doing for them
- Find out what your competitors are providing and how much they are charging for it, and why
- Get a contract written up. Especially in freelance work you need to know the terms are clear and that you are covered if something goes wrong
- Share your story. Keep a blog, keep a collection of things that inspire you and share it with other creative people and designers
- Keep a strong, expanding network of people. Make friends, get involved with the community
- Stay involved after a project is done. There might be other work opportunities off the back of a project that a client had not initially thought of. Offer bundles of outcomes on top of what is asked of you.
After two and a half years of jarring interest in university work and lulls of skimming through projects (maybe I’m a bit hard on myself) and well intended but mediocre attempts at design solutions, I finally feel like I can settle into the work and get everything in order and to a standard I can be proud of, and which will hopefully land me a job doing design and/or photography work… With only 4 months to go. The last six months have been punctuated with mini-meltdowns, adopted anxiety and missed deadlines and trips and presentations, but I have spent the whole week waking up early, getting into the studio for as close to 8:30am as I can and refusing to let myself leave until at least mid-afternoon after I have done a sufficient amount of work and it feels good. It turns out just being in the university building puts you right in the centre of everything: all the people, conversations and opportunities you could want. Today has not been an exception.
It is time to focus on the final major project, which will hopefully be presented in the degree show (either this or my Big Idea piece). But first I have a few loose ends to tie up; mainly commission work, social obligations and competition submissions; something that after the pricing lecture on Wednesday and some light intervention from well meaning friends I feel I am entirely capable of finishing. I still have to rework my outcome for the D&AD competition for the 22nd March and I have to do the photo-shoot for the Big Idea brief from last term before I can fully throw myself into this brief. Yesterday I entered my book cover design to the Penguin Random House Competition, which I will post as soon as the deadline rolls past and there is no chance of my amazing ideas being stolen *cough*. I still need to do a final design for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, which I’m aiming to submit that too before next week.
Earlier today, I went to Creative Mornings talk by Suzanne Carpenter, an illustrator and pattern maker from Paternistas, who also worked for Stills, and had a lot of inspirational things to say and stories to tell. It surprised me how few people even know about these events never mind have the motivation to turn up. I would strongly recommend that all creative people in Cardiff go at least once to see what it’s like. Meeting people is so important in this industry and the talks provide a welcome nudge in the right direction every month when the momentum might have slowed down for a project or even just to get you out of the house, to have a refreshing couple of hours to reset before getting back to work.
While I was there I also spoke to Olwen, the Dean of the school and the one member of university staff who never fails to motivate me to move forward and stay positive. She gave me some direction in terms of who to contact and where to research for my project idea. This was then followed by a tutorial with Ian, which was really helpful in following Olwen’s advice and giving an alternative, objective approach to my initial idea. During this tutorial I also got to hear other people’s ideas and plans and share my ideas and advice with them. I think it’s really important to give and receive feedback as often as possible, especially when working on student-led projects and so this morning, for me at least, was really useful.
After the tutorial I headed down to one of the lecture rooms for a talk from Neil Hubbard from Heatherwick Studio. He started with “I specialise in vagueness” which had me hooked from the beginning. One thing that was said was “Design for the moment rather than something that lasts forever” This particular quote resonated with me mainly because of my interest in temporary things having as much worth as permanence, and design for a small amount of time can be just as astonishing and grand as those made to last, possibly more so.
Another thing that was said is that designers should take their inspiration straight from the brief before heading off in different directions to find the solution. Sometimes the answer is in the question or the problem. Neil also said that it is important to think about the pace of a project, to create a focus point to work on, not all of the outcome has to be grand.
He spoke about the moon bridges of China and described some of his work in on re-designing a modern functioning version of these in response to a request for Heatherwick’s famous rolling bridge (seriously, check out their projects, they’re incredible), among other design projects in China; a couple of projects in Shanghai and then how he worked in Hong Kong for six months on the Pacific Place. Neil spoke about working on the smallest of details on such a large scale piece of architecture, and was so passionate about what work they do, he’s given me a new wave of energy and motivation to be this successful.
Firstly, the scale of work that is available to designers is much bigger than I have been imagining; poster campaigns and A5 publications seem so small compared to English Heritage building complexes and Indian architecture designs built into massive steel structures. I could, one day, be working on projects like these and that blows my mind a bit. Secondly, each of his comments on Shanghai and moon bridges, alongside photos and animations, poked at how increasingly determined I am to go back to China. I know I probably talk about it too much and my current plans are very uncertain and reliant on outside forces, but hear me out.
Before this year I had absolutely no interest in Asia, no inclination of the opportunities I could be a part of or motivation to look for myself, but after visiting and hearing about just a fraction of the things that are happening there, after every talk, every article and offhand comment on social media, every friend or friend of a friend who makes their way over to the East, every step closer I get to the internship in Chengdu, the more I feel I just have to be there. If I don’t get this internship (I have to prepare for that outcome) I will put all other trips abroad on hold and enrol myself onto a Mandarin course and one day soon, find myself back somewhere in China. I am too invested now to let this idea go.