September 22, 2021No Comments

A little industry comparison can be healthy – but don’t get carried away.

As creatives, we all do it, don’t we? We are naturally curious creatures, and as such, we just can’t help but look around at what other designers are doing. That might mean noticing posters in the train station on the way to work or getting design-envy over a book cover or magazine spread or piece of packaging on a shelf.

The thing is, we’re surrounded by other designers’ work, and we can’t help but analyse it. It’s normal to have moments where we compare our skills with others – and that can be a very healthy thing. It can keep us on our toes, help us try out fresh ideas, and encourage us to be better at our craft.

But nowadays, we live in a digital world, where we are not only casual observers of other people’s design but also force-fed it every minute of every day. We see it every time we check our social media pages; we see it on websites and pop-ups and emails and digital newsletters. Right now, many of us are in danger of suffering from a very recent phenomenon; “comparison fatigue”.

OK, so maybe it’s not entirely a new thing, but it’s certainly a lot easier to be exposed to it than it was in the past. I’d like to explore that a little. Because as the title of this article suggests, comparison can be healthy, but it can so easily become an all-consuming, paralysing thing that stops us from being our best.

Should we be checking out our competition or avoid doing that altogether?

Why we might compare

We don’t - and shouldn’t - work in a vacuum. Outside design can inspire us and influence us to break out of our comfort zones and try new things. Purely from a design perspective, a little comparison can fire us up.

Knowing what the latest trends are, how they work and who they appeal to lets our clients know that we have a handle on modern design. And one of the ways we do that is to look around at how other designers are doing it.

It can also be useful from a business viewpoint. Like it or not, most of our clients don’t want to be given old-fashioned or outdated designs. For them to sell their products, it’s vital that they are able to appeal to the masses – and (perhaps, unfortunately), the masses want what’s ‘right now’.

If you’re set on making money from our business, then even in your own branding, you have to be able to balance your appeal to your audience with your own individual identity. Yes, you want to stand out and be recognised, but you don’t want to be so ‘out there’ that your branding is off-putting.

It’s impossible to avoid comparing ourselves to other designers, and while we need to realise that it’s useful to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, it’s also important to know when to draw the line…

Being ‘you’

I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, and I still find myself looking at what other designers are doing and thinking, “should I be doing the same as them, or them, or them…”. It’s a trap that many of us fall into from time to time – I think that’s pretty normal and most definitely human. We’re conditioned to ‘fit in’, aren’t we? Right from the days of wearing school uniforms and sitting in neat little rows on the classroom carpet, our lesson starts early. To be liked and accepted, be like the rest.

Perhaps that’s why it’s become normal to compare ourselves so much. We are almost afraid to break out of that mindset, so we seek validation that we’re ‘doing things right.’

But hang on – isn’t it true that the clients who hire you to create their websites, their branding, their brochures, etc., choose you because they like your style and how you do things? So, if you were to do the same things as your competitors, then why on earth would businesses choose you over them? They’d have no reason to, would they?

Sure, you might look at what other designers are doing with a pang of envy, but the thing to remember is that the people that buy from them are not the same people who buy from you. Your clients want something that only you can offer, but if all you’re doing is mimicking another designer, then why shouldn’t they choose them? They are, after all, the genuine article.

This translates not only into your design but the way you do business and conduct yourself. There have been plenty of times when I’ve questioned my own decisions – should I have remained with my last agency? Did I do the right thing by going it alone? Should I have done what X did, and would I have ended up being as successful as she is if I had?

Again, it’s common to feel that way. But trust your own instincts – they’re usually right. Everyone’s path is different, and the fact that somebody else looks like they’re doing better than you isn’t always the truth. And I’d be willing to bet that by following your own way, you’ll find that there are plenty of people who admire what you’re doing and are thinking, “should I be doing that?”.

September 9, 2021No Comments

Silver in the Creativepool Annual 2021 competition.

Our concept for the Emergency Services Self-Help wellbeing app ‘OPPO’ has been awarded silver in this years Creativepool Annual 2021 competition.

The Creativepool Annual showcases the ‘most’ people and companies who have achieved creative excellence in the past year. In its sixth edition, the Creativepool Annual 2021 is a chance to celebrate creativity as we all ease back into a new normal, with a global mix of agencies, brands, and individuals participating in the 2021 competition.

Project write-up

Oppo: A colleague or friend; ‘an old oppo of mine’. Origin the 1930s: abbreviation of opposite number. SEVERN looked into the issues faced by emergency services, initially focusing on the police service in particular.

Research found that public awareness of police mental health could create targeting in some situations, as emails get deleted, and leaflets get binned. The app is designed to work like a personal diary to self-monitor stresses and pressures. It logs working hours and moods at any given time. Users can add notes to say what triggered any changes. Oppo can build up a user profile based on their inputs and offer tips on how to self-help.

Judges Comments

“A well designed and well-conceived app which could help to break the stigma of seeking help and taking time to consider and protect mental health within the emergency services. Perfect to create as a discreet app which people can use on the go.”

Miranda Hipwell

September 9, 2021No Comments

Bronze award for our Market Hall – A Day in the Life project

Our book documenting a day in the life of the Market Hall in Shrewsbury has been awarded bronze in this years Creativepool Annual competition.

The Creativepool Annual showcases the ‘most’ people and companies who have achieved creative excellence in the past year. In its sixth edition, the Creativepool Annual 2021 is a chance to celebrate creativity as we all ease back into a new normal, with a global mix of agencies, brands, and individuals participating in the 2021 competition.

Project write-up

Designed in 1965 by the award-winning architect David du Roi Aberdeen, the Brutalist style Market Hall building in Shrewsbury causes much contention. This record of the day-to-day from inside the landmark building reflects the people who use it. Tony’s team wanted the design to be dripping with references to the Pevsver synopsis; “clean lines and simple forms; vertical black fins in an echo of close studding”. The strong, clean vertical lines outside are brought through to the layout using narrow full-length columns, stark white space and the Compacta typeface from 1963 with its industrial appearance, a popular genre in the early 1960s, used throughout.

Judges Comments

“Beautiful photography, smart layout and well-crafted typography that work together to evoke the architecture of the building and the 1960s. Overall, a lovely piece of graphic design.”

David Alexander

September 2, 2020No Comments

Winners of a Creative Conscience Award 2020!

We’re really chuffed to be able to announce that we’ve won an award!

The Creative Conscience Award is an annual competition with a bit of a difference – it focuses on design projects which have a social impact. The main starting points provided for the brief are Mental Health, Equality, Conscious Consumption, Climate Crisis, as well as an open brief.

Oppo main screen examples

In view of what’s going on right now in the world, it was perhaps pre-determined that I should focus my design on the category of Mental Health, and looking at a group of people who are particularly often ‘missed out’ of the equation – our Emergency Services.

This is a section of our community who are often called upon when we ourselves are facing trauma, mental instability, and the emotional fallout of injury and illness, but we neglect to consider that they too are on the frontline dealing with often unimaginable pressures every day.

Like no other, this is a section of the workforce who are expected to be able to deal with all kinds of emergency situations, and in many cases feel that they have to cope with those situations on their own, or relying only on the team around them who are going through the same things.

“It’s when you’re on your own afterwards you have time to process, and think about it and everything hits you at once”

PC West Midlands Police

As I began to look further into it, I uncovered some worrying facts and stories. I heard reports of police officers who were suffering from varying degrees of stress and anxiety, who continued to work under the same pressure, being forced to try to manage their issues alone without support.

I learned about more and more instances of physical abuse from the very people they were trying to help, resulting in injury, and even death.

I read worrying statistics of members of the emergency services and military who, due to immense pressures, had attempted to take their own lives.

So I set about researching things that could help raise awareness of the issue, and offer advice, help, and support to those who needed it.

“Now, ‘lone-wolf’ or ‘active shooter’ situations, the policy is that the first to arrive on-scene go straight in”

Armed Response Officer, West Mercia Police

The concept of a self-help/self-awareness app appealed to me, because I felt that from speaking to those who were affected, mainly focussing on the police force, it could be used as a tool which was discreet – many of the officers I spoke to felt there was a stigma in the force around mental health, and the possibility of simply ‘raising awareness’ with the general public had the danger of undermining their authority, and in some cases making them a target for abuse.

Ways to input your data: stylus, voice recording, text or from a keyword menu

By giving them the option of being able to log on to an app, I could then offer them a way of recording their mental state, and give them a space to ‘talk out’ their feelings in private, without judgement. In this, the app could offer them practical advice based on their individual circumstances, helping them to gain control over their feelings, and take action.

Oppo's AI Chatroom Screens

This was a very different project for me – it meant that I had to delve into a subject that I previously had only a basic understanding of, and forced me to thin about ways of designing something for a very specific set of people. From the styles and colours I used, to the language and tone, every element had to come together in a way which could be clearly understood, was visually impactful, yet made the user feel that the space within it was peaceful, personal, and friendly – even the name ‘OPPO’, meaning ‘Friend’, gives a sense of support with no judgement.

All in all, it was a fantastic project to work on. And clearly one which appealed to the judges too.

Take a look at our case study for more project details.

June 12, 2018No Comments

People of Print: TENYRSLTR BY SEVERN

posted by POP MEMBERS June 12, 2018

Graphic Designer Tony Clarkson tells us about his journey that led him to create his hardback book that promotes his new studio venture: Severn. “I’d been pretty restless at the old studio for quite a while but told myself that it would be ok, that things would change and things would…

Go to peopleofprint.com

June 8, 2018No Comments

Creative Boom: Severn celebrates 10 years of design work ‘worth shouting about’ with a beautiful book

Written by Katy Cowan

08.06.2018

It happens to the best of us. One minute we’re excitedly launching our own business; the next, we’re stifled by a large client and our creativity is compromised. This is what happened to designer Tony Clarkson of Severn when he worked for another agency.

“I’d become very restless at my old studio,” he explains. “We had fallen into the trap of having one main client which took up most of the time and…

Go to creativeboom.com

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