Monday, 25 April 2011


For the past few weeks a few friends in our class have been using the facilities in Love, a creative agency based in the heart of the Northern Quarter. The idea was for a group of students to work on their final major projects but in a professional environment. So as I knew they were going to be there for a few weeks I thought it was a good link to be able to get my portfolio seen, after a bit of nagging on both ends, Steve very kindly took 20 minutes out of his busy schedule to look through my work and have a chat about my portfolio. I felt a bit guilty, as I knew he had lots on and everyone had pretty much asked him to see me at some stage, but I guess if you don’t try, you don’t get! I’m not sure if it started particularly well, I was very conscious of the time and felt I skimmed over the first two projects a bit quickly. My portfolio wasn’t in the right order either, which was a major foe par but I had been told about the slot to see him a few hours earlier so I explained I had just grabbed my portfolio and dashed out of the house, so he didn’t seem too put off.

The first project was the ‘Ritz’ redesign, he was really interested by the ‘Christmas snowflake’ idea and felt the two other flavours could have a stronger idea to them potentially. He said they worked well on the shelf to stand out against their competitors and look good visually but they feel weaker compared to the idea behind the Christmas edition. He felt it was good to show brand extension and he liked the extended name of ‘Bitz’ but felt the pack design didn’t link up to the initial redesign enough to tie them together as the same brand, saying they almost looked rushed compared to the main packs. I understand this as I feel the look of the ‘Bitz’ packs is missing something. I know I will be changing the logo and I definitely think something additional can be done to link them better with the initial boxes. He liked the tear, which emulates a bite-mark but said that could even be bigger to highlight it more.

Next I showed him the Helvetica Neue editorial spread and the V&A end sting. He though the editorial spread was good but struggled to say anything more about it because it is what it is. I have had this before and agree but still asked him whether it should still be a part of the folio and he said yes because it shows understanding and visually looks good. He said a similar thing about the end sting but felt it probably didn’t need to be in there. He liked the flicker book and said that the design was neat and looked great but in terms of selling a big idea that it again was pretty self-explanatory and could maybe be passed up.

We talked through the 7x7 book but I was aware that Mike had already shown him this project so I very briefly skimmed over the details of the brief again. He really liked the design of the book and said it had a really nice flow to it. In terms of the poster he talked about ways I can give the poster an idea without changing the design too much and suggested using the circle and cross as a focus point. The point he was making I think is if there’s not necessarily an idea there: create one!

We talked lots about the Ted Baker brief; he feels I need to find a way to sum the brief up in one sentence, even if it is creating a different title for the brief, saying it’s about making it work for the portfolio and he’s right. The Ted Baker project always throws up a problem in explaining it and although the visual aid helps, maybe changing the title of the project could help it further. He was really interested in the packaging of the shoe tins and said he would really like to see how this develops further such as the inside of the tin box, how would they be contained etc, which is very much do-able then he said he would prefer to see more of the in-store concepts and felt the app was un-needed. He took an opposite opinion to the obsession of showing digital in a portfolio and the new craze of that is showing an app. He liked the idea of visualising the shoe on your own feet but then felt I could do more interesting things with the Tea theme. He even suggested a brief such as Twinning’s creating a range of shoes that would be sold in Ted Baker, which I thought was quite an interesting idea. There is definitely more work to be done on this project, I will probably keep in the app because I think it does have a nice idea in which is practical and clever.

The last project was the London Pasta festival and he really liked the idea saying it had a bit of work to be done on it but was a really strong image, suggesting I drop the plate and typography almost and focus solely on that graphic of the river, and look to create other London landmarks out of pasta, we then discussed some other ideas/options I had for it and a bit of my final major project and he said if I wanted any feedback or help with my last project to give him a shout.

He said he thought I had quite a strong portfolio and there were some really nice ideas in there with a good understanding for print. His best suggestion was making sure I tailor my portfolio when going to agencies and to do my homework on what kind of work they do and how they work. I think Steve’s approach was very honest and he wasn’t afraid to tell me when something wasn’t working and why, so there’s lots for me to think about.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

True North

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I had a visit set up for True North today, a contact I made through my placement in London. I was looking forward to it following my meeting at TBWA. I felt a lot happier with the way my portfolio sat and was curious to see what advice I could get to really push it. I saw Matt who has been with company for 9 years and he was great, really friendly and easy to get along with. We had a chat about my placement and the guy who put us both in contact, but also about 3rd year, which was good as a starting point. We quickly dived into my portfolio and what was really great from the start is how much detail he was looking at the project in, and really getting to grips with what the project's were about.

We started with the Ritz project, which I think he really understood that our main concept was to push the unique shape of the cracker and to have packaging that draws your attention and sets itself apart on the shelf. We talked through the project and the choices we had made regarding the logo/pack designs he said really positive things about the way we were thinking and how we had applied it saying that it was brave to design something so graphic for that type of product and it would definitely be eye catching on the shelf. He talked about having the three flavours all next to each other and keeping the christmas editions as separate elements on a new page. In terms of the Bitz, I talked about previous comments made about the size of the logo and we discussed ways that could be altered to make it have a slightly different look.

We talked through the helvetica brief and we talked about how it was important to be able to use typography in a creative way and he believed the layout showed great understanding of not only the typeface but also in the structure. He thought it was difficult to arrange type in the way I had done so with a range of different column sizes and vertical and horizontal blocks of text. I think the brief almost speaks for itself in terms of what it aims to achieve, but he mentioned it would be nice to see other examples of editorial work or maybe even some of the poster designs that we had done around the same time.

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We talked quite a bit about the V&A end sting, as he was really looking into the detail of every project, he actually made me feel really passionate about the idea again! The initial concept was to keep the elegance of the V&A logo and to bring it together in a way that mimicked the symmetry that designer Alan Fletcher had created. Matt really picked up on this and really highlighted the fact that it had been kept elegant and clean and said he could imagine this on a website or after an advert, easily. He appreciated the difficulty of trying to express something within a 5 second window but for the fact I could have gone in any direction, he thought I'd chosen something that really epitomised what the V&A Museum is all about. I then decided to talk to him about my thoughts on taking it out of my portfolio and the reasons that I didn't know whether it was needed/didn't have enough to say about it . He seemed to think it was a great little project that did show an understanding of design and working with a big identity but also keeping something neat and simplistic. At the same time he pointed out that I should only keep it in if I felt confident about it and the idea. I guess up until now I've lost a bit of passion about it but after talking to Matt or rather hearing him talk about it to me, It's definitely made me relook at it and actually realise that there is a good idea in there and it shows if anything else that I know how to apply design over not just print based artifacts.

We moved onto the 7x7book and talked through the process of working with other people and the importance of having a live brief to give you a real understanding of real deadlines and what's actually required. However he really felt that the book and poster didn't connect as well as they could do and he said he could tell the book wasn't printed to the same quality all the way through and as a result of that looked almost like it could look amazing - but doesn't. He thought it was a great way to show an experience but as design work, he had seen more in my portfolio that would suggest I didn't need to include it. There's definitely lots in that that I agree with. I still struggle with the quality of the book, even though plenty of designers have said they hardly realised the printing mistakes, it still makes me highlight the experience side of the project instead of the design side. I find myself almost ignoring the design elements of the book because I find it easier.

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Ted Baker was the next brief and again I was trailing my all new mood board to introduce the concept and idea. He was really into the concept and thought the packaging was really strong. He liked the quirky elements of the patterns and the tea theme and thought there was real legs in the in-store/window display arrangements. but felt I could definitely show more elements over more boards. With showing inside the tins to show how the shoes would sit and possibly some other forms of promotional items, like store bags, direct mail etc. This has really made me think of how to extend the project. All the elements are there it's just a case of bringing them together to show how I can apply the idea over different things. Matt really made a point of showing as much as possible of how an idea can work over different platforms and I think I could definitely show more of this for the project. He loved the idea behind the app and thought it was presented clear and well. He thought the app icon page was maybe a little unnecessary as one or two elegant designs would suffice and he wasn't sure whether the changeable interface was even possible.
He also gave me great advice how to improve the layout of the project, he thought the idea of an introductory page with visual stimuli was great but could be arranged in a better way toi really explain my train of thought. (Ted Baker + Tea = Tea Baker) Using this as a way of explaining how I got to that fusion, then really giving the project breathing space by then having the identity 'Tea Baker' on its own page then feeding that into the packaging, instore concepts and then the app. He believes this would make presenting the project a lot easier and it would create suspense and build momentum to the flow of the presentation. I couldn't agree more with that. I have always been conscious of how many pages you should have per project and he explained that sometimes a project needs space and why not, if it's something your proud of you should want to spread it out. He also thinks it would allow the audience to really consume the designs without me having to explain the concept, logo and designs all in one go. This I think would help with me talking less and letting the designer really soak up the project.

The last project was the london pasta festival, which was one of the pieces that was sent over to Matt previous to him getting in touch. Similarly to Craig Oldham, this was the brief that really caught his attention and made him want to see me. He said it was the simplicity in the idea and with a bit of tweaking it would be there as a really strong identity. He suggested getting rid of the logo designs on the side of the page and focussing on the concept - giving me some ideas on how to push that, branching out on the pasta festival idea. We spoke about how it would be good to then see how that would work over stationary, bags, side of a van etc. He said it would show my ability to take an identity and visualise it across different platforms. As my final major project has taken a different route I want to retain this idea and develop it because I think it is strong and has potential.

Matt then went back through each project and told me ways to improve the portfolio his suggestion was to break up my big projects to flow over as many pages as they needed. E.g. the Ritz project he suggested that the old logo and new logo should be on the first page then the 3 boxes on the second with the Christmas editions after on their own page with the brand extension last. This allows me to get my explanation out of the concept and idea then not have to over talk as they look at the packaging and how I have applied that concept. This feels like it would work really well for Ritz, Ted Baker and Pasta Festival (once it has been developed) He strongly suggested taking out the 7x7 book as it felt weak in comparison to the other projects. As I feel more confident about the V&A end sting I am definitely considering this, although I do like having tactile things in my portfolio - the book might not be the right answer. He gave me lots of really helpful ways of allowing the portfolio to flow and I felt I got some really genuine feedback from him, which is not always something that transpires out of portfolio visits. He said he was looking forward to how the portfolio has changed for the next time I see him so all hands on deck with making it as good as possible.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

TBWA - Manchester

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Previous to my visit at TBWA I had received some tough feedback on my work so I was a little nervous about how it was going to go, but I had made quite a few changes to some of the projects and felt that the portfolio as a whole had a better consistency to it. So very much mixed feeling before I got there. Their building is right around the corner from my house in Didsbury and right next door to my old playgroup in an wonderfully renovated church. The agency had a brilliant buzz to it, really spacious but with all the character of the church still in tact. I met with Grace and another colleague called Richard. We spent a large amount of time talking about where I was up to, so covering the course, we talked about my placement and what I want to do when I finish. We then got onto the subject of what is expected of students when they leave University and how important they feel having some basic digital knowledge is. Suggesting that if I get an online website set up or experiment with that it would show a basic understanding of what is considered a necessary area now. I really agree with this although I wouldn't really know where to start but it's definitely something that will only be beneficial so definitely before the end of the year I would like to get some help setting it up! They also talked about how important Photoshop skills are, this is a bit scary because I don't feel too confident with photoshop, I know the basics but no where near to a decent level, and this is the 2nd time very recently that Photoshop has been highlighted as the 'one to know' However saying that, they both didn't expect juniors to be the finished article and said it was as much about picking things up but good technical skills definitely helped. Most of my portfolio visits seem to start in the same way with a big chat about design or something regarding my experiences with the course or industry and I think this really helps settle into the visit. It's always a bit daunting just turning up and showing a stranger your work, so most of the time the chat is a great way to suss each other out and get rid of nerves.

We then dived into the portfolio with my Ritz project at the beginning. I made the decision of taking out the new shots of the new packs that we sent off for the competition mainly because I didn't feel they were as strong as the set of three (original, cheese and snowflake) and I knew straight away I had made the right decision as I felt more confident talking about it. They both really liked the redesign and thought the brand extension was a great way to see how we can push an idea. They did pick up on the fact the 'Bitz' logo didnt match up with the logo on the pack, which is something that needs addressing. They felt the packs looked really clean and professional though and that was good to hear because I have been toying with changing them.

We looked at the Helvetica Neue and the V&A end sting after and these were two that I felt unsure about after some feedback that poised them as generic university projects, however the editorial spread received great comments with them, they said it was clear to see that I really understood the best way to utilize the typeface and thought the structure was spot on. The V&A end sting went down well also but I'm not sure what place it has in the portfolio. I like the fact that it has the flick book to accompany it as it gives them something tactile to look at but I struggle with what to say about it, because it is what it is. I'm not sure whether that's ok and maybe it doesn't need to have a big explanation. I would love to have all the sketched up ideas that went along because I feel the idea's there would be better to talk through.

We talked through the 7x7 brief and they thought it was great to have some experience dealing with different teams of people and a great way to gauge the realistic turn around time for printers etc, they liked the layout of the book and the two colour flow of the book, but felt the poster could have incorporated some of the 7x7 graphics of the front cover as they felt like two separate elements and the circle didn't tie it together enough.

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The Ted Baker brief was the one I was most unsure about talking through. The concept is a bit out of the box and up until now it had been always a bit of a chore, so I decided to throw together a mood board to introduce the project a bit better with visuals that fed straight into our ideas and the way we approached the brief. This worked really well I felt I could talk about the concept much easier and it felt as if they understood it straight away too. They thought the project really highlighted the quirky nature and detail in their clothes/shoes in a way that made them the focus - which they admitted they had never realised before. They felt the app could really work as it taps into a consumers needs and they felt visualising the shoes was a nice touch.

The final project was the London Pasta festival. This makes its return after some absence, I guess I felt as if the project showed a nice idea and eventually I will be showing my final major project, which will be a follow on from this idea so it felt it was time. I also felt like I needed another project in and this felt by the end of showing the work that it was the right amount of projects. They liked the idea and really like the logo idea's in particular the type arranged around the circle as if it was the knife and fork but said the overall simplicity was what really made it interesting.

We rounded up by me enquiring how to make my portfolio interview ready. I think I am at a stage now where feedback is always welcomed but I now need to know specifics about how to make my collection of work communicate better and worthy of a job. They suggested to tailer my portfolio and said to set myself a small project that maybe stressed certain area's such as for their agency they would expect to see a bit more editorial work so maybe redesigning and fold out leaflet or publication. Mainly just know the company your going to and tailor your work for them. Do your research. I think this is really important and at the same time sometimes you have no idea what is going to go down well and not. I feel I could have shown lots of work from my 2nd year with the water brief newspaper spreads and even my designed typeface and specimen sheets and they would have really enjoyed to see that where as other places it would have been slightly lost. They suggested to keep rough work with me for interviews as it shows my process of thinking which is something I do anyway, so that was a comfort.

Generally I think I'm back at a stage where I feel areas of my portfolio are working well. I am keen to get some initial final major project ideas in there to see what feedback I can get and maybe see where that steers me. They both said they would be interested for me to come in and do a small placement in the summer when I finish and just keep them updated so I intend on sending over some of my fmp to get feedback and hopefully return with something digital at the end of my degree to impress them.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Chase - Manchester

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Last year I got a bit trigger happy doing portfolio visits and During my little feedback spree in London I visited The Chase where I got some really great advice on how to get the best out of my portfolio and also how to make the content relevant. I decided therefore to get in contact with The Chase in Manchester, as I thought it would be great to see how they compared and also to see how the reaction to my work differed, a year on. My visit was with Lise, who has been at the company well over 20 years and is only the second visit which I have had a woman look at my work, which was a nice change.

Coincidentally Lise and another colleague had been into Stockport the day early working with the Illustration students. Looking through their work and talking about how they work with Illustrators, this was great as it gave us a topic to start talking about straight away. It felt really comfortable talking to Lise and we talked lots about the Illustration course and our merge in the final year, that then spread onto talking about the structure of the Stockport course in general comparing that to Bristol (my previous uni) and the course she studied at MMU. We ended up nattering away for ages just about what we both perceived to be the best ways of being taught design, this was all taking place in the waiting area, where they have sofa's and tables and chairs and when Lise arrived she just joined me on one of the tables, which at first felt as if I was
a bit exposed because it was a little bit echoey and very quiet but in the end was fine!

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We talked through my projects and it wasn't so much a break down of each project more a general talk about how and why I had chosen certain outcomes. She really liked the idea behind the Ritz and Ted Baker brief saying the Ted Baker pages needed a little more imagery to help the explanation of the project, which I know is something I have needed to address for a while. The Helvetica Neue editorial spread again went down well. I guess it's the project that has lasted the longest in my portfolio and I have got to the stage where I am starting to question whether it should still be in there - mainly because it's a 1st year project but whether that matters or not I don't know. It still seems to be well accepted and I think its the best project that shows my understanding of type, maybe because I am so used to talk about it, it almost seems dated! She thought the end sting was a nice touch and making it into a flicker book was a great way to be able to show it visually. We had a good laugh about the 7x7 book as she had obviously seen and heard a lot from her previous day with our illustration students. She recognised the challenge that we faced working with not only other creatives but also class mates. She didn't feel the printing quality of the book hindered the
way it looked too much but understood how that would have effected certain individuals and maybe how we reflect on the overall project. I definitely feel at a stage where I can enjoy talking about the book and actually like it as piece of work. (Took long enough)

Before I came in for my visit I had mentioned that I was going on a placement so Lise, really kindly gave me lots of advice and generally just let me feel a bit more at ease about the whole thing. She talked through what they expected from the students they get in and the bottom line seemed to be enthusiasm and the willingness to learn and get involved. I talked to her about my worries and my reservations about the length of time I was there and the fact I was going to be paid but she just said not to worry and to be myself and try and get involved as much as poss. It was great to hear that from someone of her stature and experience because it's easy to get carried away and over think the situation ahead but her little pep talk was great and exactly what I needed. We also spoke about me spending abit of time at The Chase at some point which would be brilliant. We obviously realised with me being away for 4 weeks of my major project that it wouldn't be till the summer but I am going to try and fit it in just after we hand our work in and before our end of year show. The visit was great if more for the things that we spoke about and the topics we covered, rather than direct feedback on my projects. I think it's helped my confidence with the way I communicate with creatives and I feel I'm starting to build a nice range of contacts.