My Name is Tim and I am a creative, currently living in Milton Keynes. Growing up in a small railway town in the '90s, my career choices were limited. The main choices were either work on the railway, or for the luxury car factory. My interests in school for art and design were mostly suppressed which lead me down the path of being a vehicle technician for 10 years. It wasn't until I was approaching 30 that I decided I would do what I wanted to do. With that, I left my job and enrolled in college. After completing my year there, I started my BA in product design at the University of Hertfordshire.
After a couple of weeks of adjusting to uni life and dealing with the fact that I was over 10 years older than the other students, I felt my choices were justified. I was the student representative for the first two years and SSRO (School Student Representative Organizer) in the third year, for which I won an award. Other achievements were 2 design competition placements, and winning a scholarship to Japan to exhibit work. I also organized a creative festival for students to take part in and finally took part in New Designers at the end of my BA.
Although I studied Product Design (not the UI/UX type) I had already started incorporating graphic design into my work. I was more concerned with providing the best design solutions than shoehorning a design that fitted with me and not the end-user. This is why I prefer just to refer to myself as a creative rather than a product/graphic/fashion designer or artist. I feel these terms just pigeon hole you in a singular place.
“ I was more concerned with providing the best design solutions than shoehorning a design that fitted with me and not the end-user.”
My professional field in the last 5 years has mostly been in sports licensing and bespoke gifts for zoos and theme parks. On top of this, I have worked on logo and branding projects and have been doing my own exploration into design with conceptual projects to challenge thinking.
My work takes influences from many places. In terms of designers, many have helped mold me into who I am. The three most important would be:
Phillipe Starck - who when asked why the lemon squeezer did not work, responded: "It's not meant to squeeze lemons, it is meant to start conversations." It is important when we create to think of why and how the user responds. Not everything is created for a primary function.
Paul Smith - I feel that his work showed how to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. For example, adding floral prints to the inside of suits, which had before been incredibly dull.
Aaron Draplin - who encourages you to be you and not just another generic designer. It inspires me to see somebody decide to help create someone's branding free, because I feel that you see something in the project that makes you really want to be the one who creates it.
Other mentions would go to Dieter Rams, Spencer Buck, Virgil Abloh and Kaws.
As well as people, fashion inspires me, especially streetwear and graphic tees. I have always felt more creative and wanted to be productive when I am able to express myself with a pair of cool sneakers on my feet and a dope print on a tee. I feel streetwear extends further into subcultures and opens me to discovering creative outlooks. Brands like Supreme work with artists, films, musicians and open you up to discover things that you may have never seen otherwise.
As I mentioned before I grew up in a small railway town in the north-west, Crewe. When I was 9 years old, my parents moved me and my brother there from Bournemouth. As an adult, I first moved to Hatfield, North London, and I’m currently living in Milton Keynes. Although London is not the only place to design, I do feel that living in a creative hub makes life a lot easier. Even with modern communication, you still find areas where people understand what you do. My mum analogized this as, "People think you do GCSE art for a living". I have also encountered people who use your location to gate-keep. In an interview, I was told I couldn't be serious about design because I did not live in East London. More recently, Adidas held a competition to design a poster for their Originals store, and you had to be from London or Greater London to apply. The videos from Intro Design & Sarah Boris both stated that most of their work was from London, where they are based. I believe that location can play a big part in your career, especially if you would like to work with multiple clients.
I do believe Milton Keynes does offer a lot for a creative. Firstly, you can get a direct train to London in around 35 minutes. It also does many trials of innovations to our lifestyles, such as driverless cars, electric scooters and delivery robots. The city has multiple parks to walk through which are a stone’s throw from the city centre. The centre itself holds a theatre and newly renovated art gallery with some concrete cows thrown in. The 51-year-old city does have a lot to offer in terms of inspiration for any creative, although I do not believe it has the reputation of London, Bristol or Leeds.
I design to communicate. I enjoy expressing myself and giving commentary from the medium of design. Last year I worked on a personal project, Blå Björn (blue bear) and it was how I communicated peoples’ experience of buying from Ikea. The illustrated instructions that tell you in basic images what you need and how to assemble a basic item.
Nearly every design I have done has had a reason behind it, and not because I thought it would be cool. I want users to feel something when they see my work.
I think ego plays a part in my reasoning to design. I think seeing someone buying a product or viewing a poster you did gives a real kick. I most definitely prefer recognition for my work to financial compensation. One of the drivers to the time and energy I put into my work is to have my work talked about. I would rather be remembered than rich.
Working as a designer poses many challenges, we are problem solvers that work to please the needs of others. This can be a difficult challenge and although sometimes you might find yourself working alone, other times they need for collaboration is almost essential to achieving what you and your clients had set out to achieve.
Design studios are where we, as creatives, can bounce around ideas and gain different perspectives of a problem. A studio is a combination of three things: A physical space, the people who occupy that space and the work that they produce (Brook et al.). These spaces, to thrive must have teams working in harmony. Although we may see on the outside an individual as the visionary or hero, they are often supported by a team that help turn the visions into reality. Although care must be taken when handling individuals, most designers are drawn to having a voice and as such if they allowed to flow unchecked and encouraged to develop a self-centred attitude to design (Brook et al. 18), the rest of the collective may suffer from a toxic environment. Studios are a communal space for collaboration and developing a singular hero will alter the perception of their peers and some may feel undervalued by this. The focus has to be on a group effort and that all the cogs in the machine function the best they can. Experimental Jetset, explain:
We function as best as a group. it's only when the three of us are together that we feel completely safe, that we can deal with with the stress, tension and daily deadlines."
They further by explaining that they, as a unit make decisions in an organic matter and that if two are drawn to go one direction, the other will follow, which works well as a team of three as they can never be a stalemate situation (Sinclair 88).
Paula Scher’s also shows how to see values her team who, in her words "inspire" her. As much as making sure to keep designers attitudes in check for the progression on the collective, Paulas attitude of having a team to provide the senior inspiration, due to their abilities and attitudes, we also need to understand that appreciating the designers back is also key to maintaining harmony. Designers make sacrifices when knowing their efforts are acknowledged and rewarded. This does not necessarily mean a financial reward as money is not the only driver as to why people design, creative fulfilment and a sense of being a valued member of a team also play a part, sometimes a simply telling them they have worked well or you appreciate the extra time and effort they put into a project is all that is required to maintain morale. Designers, like most people, want to feel valued and trusted and not taken for granted. They should feel free to experiment and know its ok when they make mistakes. From experience in one of the companies I worked for, the design team was micromanaged and generally branded as a disrupted element to the company. I had first-hand experience working in a design department that was expected to work over and in fact, had even received an email explaining they were expected to work at least 10 minutes after we had finished our working day. With that, bonuses and overtime were reserved for other departments and we were never thanked for the work. The company itself saw a regular turnover of designers as a result of most losing interest in even putting effort into their work. This was a clear illustration of mishandling staff which ultimately had a detrimental effect on the designs the company produced and overall lacked the structure of a well-established team. the easy solution was to claim that designers are disruptive and thus the culture could never change.
The example above could probably explain a lot of how design is perceived outside of creatives workers. The question of the value of design has to be raised. The Design Council claim that in the UK big design agencies are relatively rare, with 59% been classed as a small business with fewer than 5 people (Brook et al. 16), although this does not take into account businesses that decided to employ their in-house teams. With client budgets becoming smaller (Brook et al. 16) and an ever-increasing competitive market could work towards devaluing design, as could inhouse teams not been considered as a determining force in the companies income.
Even with smaller studios becoming the norm, there are advantages to this. Firstly, Erik Spiekermann points out how computers, replacing the cumbersome drawing boards, with would potentially contribute to an insular attitude of designers, the computer is a lot smaller, with laptops being portable, can even be moved from areas to aid collaboration with teams (Brook et al. 16). Otl Aicher further writes:
"My profession requires me to work with other people and so I want to be in the same room as them"
Working in a small team allows you to feel and understand every project you have and that can allocate your attention to problem areas in certain projects. Furthermore, with computers requiring less space, your practice does not require expensive studio space and with the internet can even allow you, in theory, to work from anywhere, even your living room, as Experimental Jetset did.
Businesses may start small but producing good work will acquire you a good reputation and more work as people desire your service. This might lead you to have to expand your practice. Having 5 people gives you the opportunity to keep an eye on everything that is happening in your business, however, when you reach 25 people plus, it would be almost impossible to keep up with the goings-on in that business. You will at this point need to employ trusted staff that can oversee and take the initiative of work your team are creating. The challenge at this point makes sure that your lieutenants keep the same level of passion and motivation you provided to get where you got to in the first place.
Studio culture is the great way to collaborate organically, it can pose challenges for you to keep your designers motivated as well as making sure they don't think they are the creative force of the company and bring a toxic atmosphere into your studio. both big and small studios can provide great work but its the perception of people outside of creative jobs who may try to devalue your efforts, the same as if you are part of an in house team. As creatives we are all in this to make the same results and thus should not allow outside forces to divide us.
After reflecting on the work people placed on the ideas wall, I firstly realised that my standard needs to improve. Going through some of the blogs I admitted to myself that I need to improve and document my processes. I think spending 5 years in a "fast-paced" environment, listening to what sales staff think, you start to lose the refinement of processes to the final outcome. So as much as I think my Quadriptych was good, looking at others it needs so much more and I need to be pushing myself harder to create the best design I can. I have for this set myself the challenge to improve my critical thinking and put a lot more effort into the process, its a bad habit I have learned and now is the time to unlearn it.
Brook, Tony, et al. Studio Culture. London, Eng., Unit Editions, 2010.
Sinclair, Mark. Studio Culture Now. London, Unit Editions, 2020, p. 87,88,163,164,.