Published (again)

I won't ever get bored of seeing myself in print. This article taken from our site appeared in the Cadia quarterly publication.

This one is going on my fridge.

How to do a good interview™

I've interviewed a lot of people in time. I've filled design, developer, copywriter, illustrator and photography roles over the course of my career. Being on the 'other side' of the interview table really highlights how easy it is to make mistakes along the way. Below are some things that i've learnt along the way...

1. Take your work
Ok let's start off with the obvious. Some people i've interviewed have shown up without a portfolio or any work samples. Even if your going for digital work, don't expect the interviewer to have a kit for you to browse your site on. You are being asked in to look over your work, without it, you might as well not bother showing up.

2. Remember who your showing the work to
This was echoed in Shaughnessy's book and it's something i once fell foul of. Simply remember to turn your portfolio/monitor so the interviewers can see the work. It doesn't matter if you can see it or not, you've seen it before.

3. Don't be drawn in to moaning
If your trying to leave a job, unless it's for a relocation, it's usually excepted that you don't like it there. But when your asked about your current job or why your leaving don't start moaning about it or the people. Remain positive, but be clear why you've decided to leave.

4. Know your portfolio
Every now and then you get people showing you their work and seemingly looking at it for the first time. You need to know what's on the next page and all about every piece.

5. Ask questions
Anyone who knows anything about interviewing will give you an opportunity to ask questions. When they do you'll need to have something ready. I would recommend thinking of a few (please don't bring a printed sheet of them) in case your best question gets covered during conversation. What ever you do, don't try and turn it back on the interviewer i recently had a designer answer my request for questions with "well what can you tell me?" - that's annoying, i had just told them all about Preview and our work. If you don't ask questions it seems like your not interested and besides the interview is as much for you to determine if you want the job.

6. Get a business card
This might be more relevant for more senior roles, but it can still be useful for others. Before the interview is over try to get a business card and/or brochure. That way you can follow up the interview with a direct contact or stay in touch if it's a freelance role. Worst case you can add them to your contacts for the future.

7. Find out about where your going
Have a proper read through the agency's site and do some research on them. It's not always easy to find out the details, but it's impressive to show specific knowledge of the people or work.

8. Don't be afraid to say 'I don't know'
You might not be able to answer every question and if you really don't have a clue then be honest. if you try to blag it, you'll either look stupid or get caught out later.

9. Leave something behind
Designers and Creative Directors always like nicely designed things. It's a fact, there aren't many that i've met who don't hang on to really great samples. So why not create something for them to keep. it can be as simple as a digitally printed card with your details or it can something more elaborate like a large poster or hand made book. It will make you stand out - however i would recommend not leaving an air biscuit for them to choke on, no matter how nervous you are.

10. Never ever, ever, ever have a go at the receptionist - ever
Never ever. I can't stress this enough. The person who welcomes you through the door is often a key part of a studio, so be nice as hell to them. Never shout at them about parking or how quickly they answered the buzzer. If your nasty to them, they will let people know.

Whatever the outcome of your interview it's vital that you don't take it personally, you'll end up hating yourself very quickly if you do. It's not about who you are, it's about how right you are for the job. If your an amazing creative, but too senior or you've got too much brand work you won't get the job, that's not because your no good, it's because your not right for it.

Oh and one more thing don't ever bring your dog to the interview. Please.

Royal Academy of Dance

Preview's digital work is getting better and better (largely down to our ever improving developers). I think it's the area of our work that has improved the most over the last year. Our most best and most recent project went live today for The Royal Academy of Dance. The design and build phase both went off utterly seemlessly. We overhauled almost every part of the site and re-evaluated each part of the page and user journey. Makes me very proud to put my name next to this one.

Have looky here


Spotlight Ideas

Spotlight Ideas
Eamon is an Account Planner who has created a uniquely comprehensive blog on the nitty gritty of advertising.

If you (like me) have a sick desire to know everything about every function in the creative process this will cover off any questions you have about developing the 'big idea' and why planners are so intergral to successful campaigns.


Recent Activity

A lot has been going on around these parts. Here are some of the things i've been up to lately...

- Welcoming Rob our new developer
- Preview strategy meeting/review
- Met with Paul at Generation Press regarding Preview's DM work
- Kick off meeting with our new client Vector
- Photo editing and retouching for the Criterion branding
- Account planning and costings for Vector
- Picked up samples from Gen Press
- Interviewed two Northbrook students for an internship
- Scoured Creative Brief for new projects
- Meeting with Holiday Options to go over updates this year's brochures
- Rendering our showreel for our site (update due next month)
- Writing a reusable high street bag proposal
- Reading the Advertising Handbook (laughably out of date)
- Bidding on 80's football toys for our website update
- Writing notes in my BB Saunders 365 book.
- Creating User profiles for Vector
- Discussing a possible rebrand for two law firm's merger
- Designing a press ad for Don Palmer to go in Evo magazine

phew, that's not even all of it. i feel knackered looking at that list. it just about covers the past couple of weeks.

Out of town

I've found some brain shakingly good work recently and none of it has come out of London. Of course there are some great London based agencies that everyone talks about like Madethought, BBSaunders, Blast etc etc but it seems that lately each time i find a really great portfolio its from an agency or creative who is based out of the city.

Here are some of my favourites...

Paperjam simply beautiful. I recommend getting a copy of their Brand Personality publication.

RGB Studio. Former member of the Attik team and featured in the current issue of IDN.

I Like Blue. Like RGB Studio, this portfolio is from the Love/Thompson stable of talent.

Touch. Worth digging through to see some incredibly well crafted print work.

Hurson. This is a new one to me. Simple site, high quality work all round.

The Consult. A personal favourite of mine. Everything they touch is golden.

Attik. It's been at least 5 minutes since i blogged about them. I could teach a course on these guys. Their recent work for Coke has been incredible. Look and learn, they are the ones who showed us how to do it properly.


Books / D&AD and me

D&AD announced that Neville Brody will designing the next D&AD annual. I've heard it can be somewhat of a poison chalice, your work gets promoted around the world to your peers, but equally it's a mighty task that will be scrutinised by designers of all levels. I don't have any doubts that Brody is up to the task and can bring something fresh to the publication. I've enojoyed watching the comments crop up on the blog rounds already.

- - - - - - -

On an extremely teniously related note, the book i designed and self published arrived last week. i'm glad i did this experiment. i can see the limits and quirks quite clearly. amongst the glitches i found along the way are that...
  • it seems to have problems with full bleed pages
  • it adds 3pp to the start for binding purposes
  • the cover is sealed with a gloss sheet
  • cover artwork needs to be bold, as it only allows jpegs
  • you have to allow for the hinge on the front cover etc etc
i took the opportunity to take some snaps of it and update my holding/home page.


Herding Cats

This morning was the first half of our agency strategy meeting. Basically myself and the other two directors locked ourselves away in a secret location (it's HR Manager, Nicky's house really) and review the year and make plans for the coming 12 months.

We had so much to cover this year, that we decided to split it in to two meetings, one this week and another next week. We covered staffing, recruitment, a creative review, office space and profitability amongst other things. Next week it's on to Sales, Marketing, roles and overall strategy.

Today was really about covering the past 12 months and routing out any problems. The exciting bit is still to come. The plans for the coming year is the part that really gets me giddy with enthusiasm. We tend to keep this kind of meeting as tightly controlled as possible, we plan them very closely so there are no meandering discussions or random stories. Quick and effective. Which is in fact my aim for the coming year. To make us as lean and mean as possible. Cut the fatty bits and bulk up. We've done some good work recently and we can confidently stand up to any of our competitors and now we need to do some great work so we can stand above and beyond them.


Strategy Meeting

All three director's are locking ourselves away for our annual agency strategy meeting on Monday morning.

It's really great for us, as a team, to get out of the office and focus on what's happening in the company. It also gives us an opportunity to plan for the year ahead and resolve any outstanding issues.

I'm looking forward to this one, even though we have a number of sticky topics to cover i hope that we work through everything and ready ourselves for what is potentially be our most significant year.


Creative Integration

i've been banging on about it for ages, but there is more and more evidence that having agencies that can only operate in one media channel are dying off.

i recently read on brand republic that the traditional 'above the line' ad agency grey has hired a new creative director who comes from a digital background in order to bring integrated concepts from the top down.

it really shows that the old approach of clients using a digital agency, an ad agency, a brand agency, a dm agency are coming to an end. now more stories are emerging of clients forming long term relationships with agencies who work closely with brand and marketing teams to offer strategic solutions that are right for the audience/users, instead of just saying 'we do print'.


P2P (people 2 people)

i recently read a book on creating direct mail for b2b clients. sounds electric i know! not a badly written book by any measure. it certainly has some good tips for those wishing to learn more about direct mail campaigns.

it got me thinking though. i've really always struggled with the whole b2b/b2c premise. i realise that the decision making process for businesses and customers is very different, largely as one is generally weighted by cost and rationality, however i don't think it's all together wise to separate it up like that.

fundamentally the process of attracting someone with advertising/branding/design/marketing is the same regardless if they are at work or not. there still needs to be a real emotional connection made. it's still important to strive for loyalty beyond reason .

i've decided to pioneer a new model of creative called p2p (people 2 people). it's all too easy for designers and strategists to forget that it's still a matter of people talking to other people. the unquantifiable emotional response that happens when someone has contact with a brand is really not possible to dismiss, even when it's weighted by budget and policy.


font love™

my most favouritest fonts right now are...





cross pollination

i'm always trying to see in to other people's design studios. I take a huge amount of inspiration from getting out and seeing where other people work. There is something about the environment which people create around them that fascinates me. I've often wondered how much of a bearing creative environments have on the work which is outputted.

Since i got a chance to meet simon waterfall and see inside poke i've been wondering where else i'd like to see and who i'd like to meet. my dream list goes something like this...

jonathan ive at apple
paul smith in covent garden
the new aston martin design studio
frank gehry's studio in la

after i wrote this is realised there aren't any graphic design studios on there. i've always tried looking in to other design disciplines and taking approaches and ideas from other areas to bring in. but at the moment there aren't really any studios that i feel i could take from in terms of original set ups and environments. they all tend to look the same after a few years. for a good example of the usual format for design studios you can look at Howard Smith's book documenting the inside of some of the UK's best known design studios. Lot's of flat screens, joining veneer desks, white shelves and creative review posters.


best of the best

having worked at brand, ad, digital and pure design agencies i've got my own run down of who does each element of the creative business process best. i've always learnt as much
as possible from every agency i've been inside, no matter how brief. now i'm in a position to use the best bits from each one i've compiled my list here

New Business
This one has to go to Brand agencies. The leap of faith a client has to make when selecting a brand agency must be greater than commiting to a single element of the brand. Any agency that can convince a client to take total control of their brand is doing very well

For my money the best pitchers have always been Ad agencies. There seems to be far more joy for those agencies who have a taste for grandeur and who can introduce an element of the theatrics. Ad agencies go at brainstorming and pitch developing like no one else.

Self promotion
This category is dominated entirely Digital agencies. Even when Digital agencies aren't producing blogs, portals and 'on screen' direct mail, they even manage to produce amazing offline self promotion. See Hi-Res and AKQA

Client Retention
Not the most glamourous category, but an essential one. This last category has to go to Design agengies. They have always seemed to hang on to clients and build long lasting relationships better than anyone else. I think it comes from a 'work horse' mentality that exists here that is not at the fore in other faster paced agencies.


Pitch result

We got it.

We got shortlisted and asked to produce further work and send it over. However after we discussed it at great length we realised that doing more work wasn't going to be very beneficial for us or the client as there was no further information, so instead we asked if we could simply meet with the client again and show some rough development work. The idea was that they would either buy in to our process and agency or not.

Thankfully they responded very well to us and our approach, then awarded us the job. Woo hoo we will be acting as Design Partners and rolling out a brand overhaul across all material.

I'm extremely proud and excited by this win and i feel chuffed that i've achieved my number two objective for the year in the first week.

Time for a drink.


Creative Directors

i'm not one for blogging about blogs, but i found my way on to Scamp recently and enjoyed reading another Creative Director's blog. I particularly liked reading this review of who is moving around in the London Advertising scene.

I love reading about other CD's and how they are evaluated. It's purely ad focussed, so there is emphasis on tv spots created and d&ad pencils won, but it still gives you a view in to inter-agency goings on, particularly reading the comments below.

Thinking about the regional design industry it would be quite interesting to write a similar description of the CD moves in the area. As well as my posting here Mosaic, Bellman, Vision, TDG and Designate all got new creative directors. I've heard various things about each of them and i wonder how they'd compare to each other when stacked up like this.

Also whilst reading this i couldn't help but notice the similarity in how each of the players look. It seems we are close breed. On the other end of the spectrum you'll find WK London's Noe Kuremoto. Just look at those shoes, look! awesome.


Pitch update

we had feedback from yesterday's pitch. apparently our presentation was well received and we've been shortlisted for a second round. the client is unable to decide which agency will be best to take the pitch to it's next stage and we'll be submitting further proposals over the next few days.

i'm glad the pitch went well and it was positive from that respect. in all honesty i don't think we are the favourites to win this one, simply because the other shortlisted agency has worked with and is currently working with the marketing consultant who is running this pitch.

around we go again.


This morning's pitch

Early this morning myself and paul (our sales director) set off for our first pitch of the year. Over the course of last week we prepared our presentation and worked out the final details of the creative proposal.

we went fully loaded for this one with creative board (15 of them), credential docs, cost projections and proposed schedules. we took it all seriously as we are keen on bagging this one. it could potentially be a very client to work with.

as with all time pressured work. equipment plays a big part in delivering, however we were not so lucky as our big bertha printer ran in to some difficulties, but here at preview we don't let things like that slow us down.

the pitch went off without any problems and the client seemed to respond very positively to our work. we got some good feedback and we hope to hear over the next few days if we won or not.

i won't ever predict pitch outcomes, because it's never as straightforward as you think and there are always a great deal of factors that are out of our hands when the final decision is to be made. i've done some pitches that i thought were awful and won it. as well as other pitches which i felt were in the bag, which we didn't get. so we can never tell. fingers and toes crossed.

after our final internal review it's tim to get exporting the pdf files for print

after some final tweaks it's getting late, but no time for sleep.

and the printer gives up on me.

the final stack of creative work comes in at a satisfyingly tall stack.

we unleash our fancy new binding system once the creds and costings are ready.

the glamour never stops in the media world as we jump in to our pitch wagon.



ok, so the time for making stupid comments about the 2012 logo has passed. like most things that are run up the tabloid flagpole very little attention has been given to the details of this work. frankly how self styled 'celebrities' feel about it means fuck all. Wolff Olins are the UK's best branding agency and if they say that we'll all be making pink jagged type in four years time, then i for one am going to listen to them. When it comes to branding these guys litterally wrote the book on it. So now that everyone has stopped jumping up and down let's remember two facts that have been overlooked.

1. this is an identity. not a logo. nobody paid 400k for a logo. wolff olins has produced a huge international brand campaign that covers tv spots, press ads, guidelines, signage, research, planning, documentation, websites etc etc

2. this is for 2012, not 2008. the agency was given the unenviable task of creating a cutting edge and memorable identity for four to five years time. we are judging the aesthetics by today's standards and all indications are that this work is bang on target.

So let's move on and stop calling for a return to those tired old script/landmark/leaping figures marques. It's not going to happen. In an attempt to position ourselves back on the cultural map we are holding ourselves back by being too scared to progress.

I'm glad everyone has stuck to their decisions and i was pleased to read patrick cox's comments on the matter.


New Year's Reading

I got a some good design books for christmas:

Talent is not enough: Business Secrets for designers
This is a fantastic book that distills a lot of the things i've learnt in the past year and has showed me some great routes to building teams, promoting agencies, running teams, pitching etc. It essentially covers all the topics that people spend years learning (the hard way) about running a design business. Although it's very focussed on American trade and industry it really is worth looking over.

A comprehensive look at branding projects from start to finish. it covers who each agency tackled their project and shows work in progress and roll out of brand campaigns. There are some really good examples of how decisions have been made. It's not mind blowing work, that makes you drool over each page. it's some very pragmatic solutions and some great insights in to the process of some of the best branding agencies around.

20th Century Type
A real modern classic. i first read this back at victoria real it's a great way to learn about type and how it really works. from the very beginning, it takes you through decade by decade. it's amazing to look back at work from the 50's and 60's that still looks cutting edge.

i also went back and re-read
Great graphics on a budget
a really good book that i've revisited a number of times. it's written and designed by the amazing dixonbaxi and showcases a number of wide tanging design projects that have found creative ways round tight budgets. love it.