note to self

Note to Self

Last night I attended an event at Texture in the Northern Quarter in Manchester. The event ethos is:

“Bring people together with a shared passion for knowledge and creativity.”

It was a wonderful evening, chatting with fellow creatives and listening to some amazingly talented and creative people all on the theme of Resilience. There were four speakers, all with very different stories of how they got to where they are today and their thoughts and advice on resilience in creative industry.

Jim Williams
Jim4-1
I was lucky enough to have Jim as a lecturer at Staffordshire University. His love and passion for type, was something everyone respected and learnt from, I still today when designing think about things he said to me in crit sessions. He spoke briefly about how he started his career, at  Collett Dickenson Pearce, and shared wonderful memory of a lady called Maggie who Jim said he saw as his inspiration and beginning for his love of type. He shared a personal story about how she used to make him crumbles. Jim spoke about creating long copy adverts, and how this instilled accuracy in his work, as you couldn’t afford to make mistakes. He spoke about a module he teaches at Staffordshire University, which I took called experimental format, where you take a piece of copy and reflect its quality in a format most appropriate.

With his love of Typography, after doing a series of presenting he decided to create a small booklet that could help people giving them simple everyday tips. Staffordshire University backed the publishing of the booklet and gave it to students, Creative Review heard about it and did a feature. Jim explained this was when he got emails from across the globe wanting copies including from Apple in California and publishers in New York. The first publisher who offered a deal dropped out but with his wife’s support he sent to publishing houses to see if it would be something they would be interested in. He explained he had a wide range of responses, some wanted to make it into a InDesign guide, others wanted it to be a chapter in another book and some thought there wasn’t enough to create a book. He said at this point he realised, ‘it went ahead as he saw it or not at all’ 

He stayed strong and resilient then got contacted by Merrell Publishers and in 2012 the book got published, He said the book is written in a Google generation style, with information being able to be seen at an instant. The book as now been adapted and translated into German and Dutch editions and people around the world are enjoying and learning from Jim’s book. He also had new opportunities for new project like working on a range of ceramics with a pottery company in Stoke-on-trent. He said he gets the biggest buzz from feedback that people find it ‘easy to understand’ He finished saying Typography he believes is ‘the glue that holds the industry together’. Go and search for a copy of Jim’s book; Type Matters, I promise you won’t be disapointed.

Chris Gaffe
Chris started his talk, with great passion and energy; he started asking questions to the room, saying who are you? Are you designers in employment? Are you freelancer? Are you a student? People raising their hands. He then told us about himself, that he had grown up in Salford, and after an accident had lost the sight in one of his eyes. He followed by saying that after doctors told Chris’s parents to suppress his creativity because he could only see from one eye. He felt he has been trying to prove them wrong ever since, he went to art college and in 1987 began his career as a visualiser then moving onto being an art director. He then said between them, there were awards, successes but also knock backs and his inner voice still kept telling him he wasn’t satisfied. Eventually developing his career into video and film.

He said his secret to success is NOTHING! Chris has been working for 28 years in creative industry and still feels it’s ‘a daily battle to create something ‘I’m happy with’ He believes he loves the industry and keeps going because of the constant stream of problems that need to be answered and he enjoys the feeling of defeating them.

Chris then said he defines resilience by saying ‘it’s what you do or don’t do that matters and who you are’ explaining its your capacity to bounce back with a relentless drive and desire. He said the more mistakes you make the more you learn and not to fear failure. It’s all about ‘CRAFT AND GRAFT’ He explained, its about caring more than the next person, going longer, that there are always dark forces; budget time; people own agendas but ‘HUNGER BEATS TALENT’ Chris followed this by saying obstacles make you stronger and not to fixate on history and to practice optimism and a successful career in creative you need strong armour.

His talk was all about answering questions and exploring them and asking the audience to think. His next question was ‘Why do we admire resilience?’ He explained its because human nature is to struggle and survive. He followed by explaining the theory of the Hero’s journey the monomyth that all block buster films follow, it’s a theory people are oblivious to, it’s just been hard wired into us. He said this theory of the monomyth is like any creative task we undertake with the need for change with a client, convincing them to overcome the fear, getting them to commit then it gets exciting to test and explore, then the client descents into doubt and you convince them and you get a revelation, then you are on the ascent again with clients accepting the ideas, then there always a sacrifice in the idea or design, and always that last minute danger before completing the work.

The last question Chris asked was ‘why do we find it so satisfying?’ He believes it’s because life is an epic adventure of unknown quests. As people we are fascinated by triumphs over adversity, we need a hero! His last message was that following a survey in creative review the results showed that people who had worked in creative interview where the ones who where most happy, showing the longer we survive the happier we are!

This talk in particular resonated with me the most, I found it very inspiring to be reminded to keep going and working hard, and to believe most of all in my self. It is advice we all know but its something that needs reminded of from time to time to keep on going even if things feel hard or hopeless.

Lord Whitney

Lord1There was passion from the minute they started was infectious, explaining how they met and it happened they started working together. They describe themselves as the ‘Connoisseurs of Make-Believe’ They presented there talk over 4 Chapter.

Chapter 1 – don’t fall at the first hurdle. After university they explained they created a collective who worked together in there spare time to answer any brief and make up briefs to keep making things, with them all being recent graduates. They explained it was like a support group as they where like us all pushed into the world with no guidance we have had for many years in education. – they explained so many people just didn’t understand what they where creating and told them to get proper jobs and to grow up. Then there was money as a hurdle, trying to balance creating and working temp jobs having money to create things. Their third hurdle was space, taking over there share houses and annoying housemates. Fourth hurdle was they had very limited business knowledge – they confessed they would sneak back into there university at Leeds to listen to lecturers, one that stuck in there mind, just said whatever you do ‘just don’t quit’ and that’s what they followed. They felt as they had each other for support if one wanted to give up the other would talk them around.

Chapter 2 – Making things up as you go along. They said they just kept making, anything and everything with no plan. They said yes to everything then decided what they liked and disliked working on.

Chapter 3 – Learning from mistakes. They said they do regular evaluations on work they have done to make sure they learn from mistakes and shared some of them, like painting cardboard and it all curling up, there talk was so personal and honest. Saying a quote they used when stuff went wrong ‘well at least nobody died’ one I have used myself many of times when stuff’s gone wrong.

Chapter 4 – Taking criticism. They found this the hardest part, showing us a humorous clip from Mighty Boosh; another great love of mine! The clip showed Howard and Vince the main characters, Howard asked Vince for his opinion, he reminds him that he doesn’t take criticism well and he says I do. Then Vince says something great about it but then says but… and Howard starts smashing stuff up, as Vince gets away. They said they got through it using a stubborn persistence to succeed.

The whole talk was so honest, positive and energetic and showed how much passion and love they have for there work. They left on a finishing note of a quote ‘sometimes living out your dreams ain’t as easy as it seems’

Spin Studio 

Spin4Claudia Klat, who is the design director at Spin Studio started her talk explaining who Spin are and what they produce. She said resilience for her was essential in any designer, you have to learn to live with failure and criticism regularly and have to have thick skin.

She talked about the process that Spin go through getting a brief. Firs they think and research getting to know the company and competitors so they understand them fully and what they want to achieve, then they present this back, then start producing creative,  then make and deliver the work. She used a case study of a company they worked with called W12, which she explained design digital products. They took the brief and found the two founders had very different personalities and styles they liked. She explained how idea after idea was knocked back, and back again, each time getting harder and harder to know which direction they actually wanted to go in, exploring new route after new route – then the client giving them feedback of words which where total opposites to create visually.

Then they shock moment, when she revealed after they had made a selection and where happy with the design – they fired the agency.  It is bold for an agency to share such news so honestly. She made the point sometimes you can’t keep everyone happy and things like this happen, its annoying and frustrating however you show resilience by being able to just move on to the next job regardless of the last and not let it dishearten you.

I think I speak for all the people who attended, that it was an inspiring event, it was great to have a wide range of speakers from all types of background, explaining and exploring the idea of the theme resilience, which I think any creative would know is a battle we have all faced to keep on going. Can’t wait for the next one.