For this assignment I was asked to look into the design industry in the UK to discover what was going on out there and what aspects of that i was interested in to then hopefully gain portfolio visits as well as contacts by opening up a dialogue. Over the weeks this assignment ran we also had the opportunity to listen to some guest speakers currently working within the design industry.
One of these design agencies were "Thoughtful". They are an ideas design company. This really is made clear through Thoughtful' blog and all the nice concepts both little and large they produce just for fun and to use their imagination. Despite the company being fairly young the three that make up Thoughtful have over 25 years experience between them working for some of the best advertising agencies in the country and can boast their skills with collections of creative awards.
This aside the aspects I really liked about Thoughtful were work ethic and and openness to draw inspiration from some of the most random objects/situations we can find. One concept produced by Thoughtful that I really loved was an idea on low impact advertising aimed for"howies" an ethical extreme sports clothing line. The idea behind this piece is that it would be clearly visible to anyone walking on the beach, and relevant to most that would cross its path. But it is only temporary and as the tide comes in the message wipes out ready for tomorrows fresh piece of news.
I found an example of how this idea was being applied within the city center as power hose stencils are used to create "think safe drink safe" messages onto the dirty path stones at bus stops and student areas of Manchester.
Another guest speak we had come to visit is is Alun Cox from the design agency "dust". They are a multimedia design agency established since 2000 and based in Sheffield, UK. Their work spans out covering everything from publishing and exhibitions to typography and photography. Despite having fingers in so many types of pies dust are far from what you would call a jack of all trades; they are examples of colaborators pulling together many different mind stes and skills to produce some of the best work in the field.
One product that stood as an example of commitment and to me as a forgotten level of care and attention to ones work was the photgraphic book produced with photographer Clive Egginton. These professionaly styled books were silk screen printed and hand stitched individualy! It is a monument to old school professional techiques and attention to ones work
Another book Alun talked about producing was "The Water Gareden City" this was one of those epic stories of intense design and production that in this instance seemed plucked out of a fairy tale. It was a one edition produced for the King of Bahrain: graphically illustrated the book held information on certain local developments.
A branding example i really like of dust's is the DS:93 identity, purely for it's easthetics if i'm honest. DS:93 sell high quality top end records, boasting that they don't touch repressed records, cd's or downloads.
dust are also pioneers amungst illustrtors world wide. Besides skillfuly producing their own illustrtions form their own designers they also along with Mike Marston bring together some of the best minds in the illustration feild under "Fine and Dandy" and represented by the"Central Iluustration Agency"
Over the pst few weeks i've contacted many design agencies only to be met by many brick walls unfortunately. Some conversations have been positive so I'm optimistic about future visits but will keep in contact over summer at least.
One of the he first agencies i contacted were "Drum Beat". They are a Manchester design agency working in print, campaigning and branding. Looking at their approach to work it sounds like they understand the importance of a professional but relaxed working environment and that they are decent collaborators preferring to work together in a studio over solitude at home. As many design agencies have now days they also have their own "Recycle, Reuse and Renew" ethos which i appreciate.
I think one of the aspects of "Drum Beat" that drew me to them the most was their work with "Re:act" magazine and "Re:action" newsletter. This is social and political biannual publication designed to provoke debate about ethical, environmental and other global issues. I would love for the opportunity to work on this magazine and with some of the people that have the information to produce it. Drum Beat are defiantly a pestering point of the summer.
Another of the first agencies I contacted were "Glorious" also based in Manchester. They are a professional company with many awards and achievements under their belts from D&DA, Design Week, through New York Festivals and National Graphics to Euorpean Advertising and Design. They are very successful and fully dedicated studio of designers that take their work seriously, to quote "graphics are the reason we get up in the morning", which is exactly what you would want and expect from any professional agency.
Rummaging through their digital archives I came across work produced for many institutions that i've either visited or been involved with some way. Living and studying in Manchester for so long ad the familiarity of some of these designs and clients such as the Contact TheatreandCornerhouse makes me feel comfortable with the section of the industry i could be involved with. Alas this will be on return of contact but still a definite pestering point of the summer!
Thoughtful are another design agency that I'm in contact with at the moment. Their work ethos and approach to all of it is what impresses me the most i think, bleeding out to be reflected in a lot of the pieces they produce. Some of my favorite of these are the aforementioned low impact howies advertising,
and also the sarcastic typography piece (which if you read the inspiration is an aspect of communication we can all relate to but as a dyslexic i found it particularly amusing and an issue i deal with on a day to day basis)
Another pice i really like is the "Pantone Chips" concept. Although there is no explanation to it's origin i find it interesting to realise that you really don't need text on a bag of "crisps" to know what it is and was reminded of the initial flavor confusion when Walkers swapped their salt&vinegar and cheese&onion packet colours. :]
I went to visit the Thoughtful studio and met with Stuart and James to show them my portfolio. They liked the presentation of my work and were especially impressed with the animation end stings I produced for MoMA's logo. I think the flicker books really help to bring alive the concept much more than just being able to view a story board. The only tips they had in regards to my portfolio was to keep on adding to it and to build on my body of work away from my degree as much as possible.
Stuart and James were really welcoming and down to earth. While reviewing some of my work we also chatted about general studio practice and more to the point attitudes. Thoughtful are an award winning conscientious design agency inspirational to young designers and to any budding entrepreneurs wishing to set up business for themselves. They, as a self established agency set out to give students within in design pathways opportunities and experiences that many past students including themselves wish they'd had. They're situated conveniently above Stockport College enabling first hand contact with not only industry experience for students but also a first glimpse for Thoughtful at what up and coming talent and trends might be. The studio also holds an open door policy, anyone willing to help is welcome. So I look forward to seeing what Thoughtful are up to over the summer.
Along my search for portfolio visits i have come across a few smaller but interesting design companies. The first being a design agency called "Lake". They are based in Hale and besides branding and identity for conventional day to day businesses they also have some "hidden depth" (section on Lake's homepage) to their portfolio including publications and advertising for adult themed projects.
I like their professional approach to certain subject matters adding real elements of fun and something a little different; Their comment on approach to design work stood out as an element of any graphic designers manifesto.
I've been in contact with Kerrie from Lake. I understand i will probably have to drop w few reminders but she has said as soon as they have the time they will contact me to bring my portfolio to the studio.
Another agency i've come across is "Jammy", They're a Sheffield based design agency working in publications, promotions and package design. They appealed to me with their simple but quirky website that reminded me of elements of my own blog although just based around jam. One favorite aspsect of their design i lake is the graphical illustrations and layouts to the Arts/Theatre publications they've produced.
Unfortunately Jammy are in the process of relocating and have asked if i could contact them in a couple of months.
"Monkey Feet Design" are an agency based in Cheadle Hulm, Manchester. They work across many fields and i really like the campaign they worked on promoting information of BT and how much they were scamming their customers, this was in the form of a direct mailing piece. Monkey Feet also have a specialised section in illustration. This is a collection of professional and established illustrators working for/with Monkey Feet Design. I'm yet to hear back from this studio.
One of the agencies i've discovered in "Val ltd" They are a professional printing company wo do have their own in house designers for elements of their productions but most of all hold many high end clients as posted on their site.
I went to visit Val and met with the owner Vernon Bradshawe, a friendly welcoming business man in the industry for over fifty years. The building itself was tucked away in the back roads of stockport making it a bit of an adventure to find. When i arrived i was ushered through some of the studio and production spaces immediately helping me feel at home with familiar smells of workshop equipment and activities. I also discovered that Val had actually been producing and even designing a couple of the T-shirts for a Manchester alternative cloths shop I had been buying from for over ten years. It was nice to be able to put a face to the product.
Looking through my portfolio Vernon was impressed and thought it held a good use of space and after an hour long discussion offered me the opportunity to test prink any designs i'd like to apply to T-shirts in the future.
The advise Vernon offered me is poignant to any budding designer I should think, that was to keep on top of the latest software and anything that is designed to make our jobs/life easier. And the other was to start gaining an idea of the cost of production and the products them selves, with trends these elements are always changing.
With an outside project I have been working on the opportunity to test some of my prints is fantastic and something i'll be utilising over the summer.
Overall although i have found this assignment difficult at times in respect to contacting and hearing back form agencies and feel as though it has really been good experience in the form of a wake up call. Networking and building on my portfolio can be very time consuming and are defiantly focal points for myself. I think i'll be promoting myself as a "professional brew producer" to any agency that will take me over summer.