Whilst in London we attended was the 4 Designers conference held in Conway Hall. The conference was hosted by Patrick Baglee, who founded 4 Designers in 1999, his writing on design has appeared in Eye magazine, Creative Review, Blueprint and Design Week. The four designers that spoke included; Matthew Shannon, Joanna Davies, Matthew Baxter and Brian and James Webb.
Matthew Shannon currently works at Brash Brands as a Group Executive Creative Director and Group Content Director. His role allows him to travel across the globe working internationally. He has worked for some of the most respected design studios in the UK including the likes of SAS first, MetaDesign and Williams and Phoa to name a few. His talk was, like all the others inspiring to say the least. He gave good advice, one being to keep your eyes open to opportunity and know what’s going on around the world. He also spoke about the importance of research and thinking and that no stone should be left unturned. The doing should be the last thing and the smallest part of the process. It should be think, re-think then do. It is all about working out a process that’s right for you and works the most efficiently. He also said that we should be agile as you may never know what will happen or what new technologies will emerge and with that we should adapt when needed and to not get caught up in the day to day. One example he gave was when it comes to rebranding use the perception that’s already there and turn it to make it work in the brands favour.
However, the best piece of advice I feel he gave throughout the talk was this; ‘To effect change, you need to be the change.’
The second talk was given by Jo Davies, who is the founder of ZAK, a creative, independent agency, that helps to transform brands through developing them and creating platforms for global clients, one being New Balance. The company has now been running successfully for the last 11 years.
I found Jo’s talk to be the least inspiring in regards of what it means to be a graphic designer, but did give some of the best advice. One piece of advice was to find your inner rockstar and find what sets you apart from everyone else. Another was to learn about agencies… RESEARCH! No matter what you should always be happy, otherwise what’s the point? In regards to the gaining a job she said that you should make a strong impression and be interesting – go and do cool things, travel, see the world! Once your in, live the companies values and always deliver excellence. Another key point to remember is that you’ll be constantly assessed and observed – just because your in doesn’t mean the hard work’s over.
In regards to going freelance or setting up your own agency, she did advice that it’s worth gaining the experience of working with real clients and gaining the studio experience is key before starting your own business. This will allow you to gain more contacts and clients.
The third talk was given by Matthew Baxter who is currently a Creative Director at Baxter and Bailey. He has worked at some of the most renowned design agencies, not only in the UK but also internationally including; Tricket & Webb, 3Deep and 300million. He also writes for Design Week and has judged awards for D&AD and Design Week.
I personally found his talk to be my favourite and felt incredibly inspired listening to what he had to say. One of the biggest things that I took away from the talk was; ‘talent and skill are small parts to it but practice is key.’ Here were his stone cold pieces of advice… (which he went on to contradict)
- Know where your going. Or don’t because it keeps your head up and looking round.
- Say YES to everything. Or don’t – you will know if it’s the right job for you (trust your gut).
- Fake it till you make it. Actually keep faking it, it means your always learning something new.
- Go places. You don’t have to – there are benefits in staying local, just do what’s right for you.
- Don’t do free work. Don’t let other companies or people take you for granted.
Although this advice is slightly confusing, there were some non-contradictory words of advice he gave which are things to always remember:
- Always read the words – direct the brief.
- Spellcheck again.
- Be nice.
- Keep in touch.
In regard to portfolio’s the advice he gave was very helpful. He said that a very simple and well articulated portfolio stands out and therefore you should reduce the work to its simplest form to ensure its clarity.
He also very kindly put a video together of all the people he has worked for, to give two pieces of advice to future graphic designers hoping to enter the industry like myself one day.
- NEVER talk yourself down.
- Dare yourself to do something new.
- Show your commitment in everything – over deliver.
- Hard work and good attitudes pay off.
- Know it, Research it, Live it.
- Focus on what you want.
- Don’t worry about not knowing – ask questions.
- Nurture your curiosity.
The final speakers were Brian and James Webb – a father and son duo, who undoubtedly gave the most entertaining talk of the day. Brain Webb founded Tricket and Webb in 1997 and in 2003 founded Webb&Webb along with his son. It is a very well respected design firm who have clients including Royal Mail, V&A and the Tate.
Much of their talk reflected on past works they had done, but some advice that I took from their talk included:
- Protect your Identity – people will take it and copy it.
- Get used to change.
- Always know the ob better than the client – become experts.
- Always look for the answer – but avoid the obvious.
Although they did not give as much advice as the other speakers, it was incredibly enjoyable to watch the two of them work together and present the talk with one another, showing the relationship they have.
Overall, I found the whole day incredibly inspiring and motivational. The advice given was great in my opinion and is something I will keep close, some more than others of course. I felt like I had a real insight into each of them and the key things to remember when entering the industry. When listening to designers I find that some of the advice seems to be a recurring theme, which cements it in my mind and therefore remains at the forefront of my mind.