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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve heard a lot of talk, especially during the current climate, around whether or not graphic designer should consider creating their own side projects. Opinions tend to vary quite widely on the subject – some designers see them as somehow a waste of their time, in that it takes them away from doing paid work, and perhaps sends the message to prospective clients that they’re not so much in demand. Others think that they’re a great way of doing something ‘out of the norm’ and taking it as an opportunity to expand design portfolios, and indeed knowledge within the field of design.
While I can see both views, I think that, done right, they can enhance a design portfolio, and even lead a designer off in a new direction that might not have been possible within ‘the day job’. In fact, I myself published a book showcasing my design journey, and am currently organising some events promoting local designers, both of which were things that have come as a result of my own passion and desire to push myself beyond what I normally do.
I think, as creatives, it’s easy to get bogged down in doing work for others, so in occasionally doing things that come from our own passion can be a welcome release, and a really good way to inspire us. I’ve found that, in doing these side projects, I have so often been inspired to try different techniques and designs for my client work, too.
Looking around at other agencies, there are some examples of side projects that have been so successful, they have enabled the agency to take on completely new projects that they might never have had the opportunity to bid for under normal circumstances, like London agency, Accept & Proceed, who created a kinetic sculpture representing the impact of meteors on the surface of the moon that led to a commissioned project for NASA. Ok, so that might be an extreme example, but you never know…
Of course, there is no harm at all in flexing your creativity and working on a project just for the hell of it, even if it goes nowhere. It can teach you a lot – not just by playing around with different styles and techniques, but also giving you practice in new programmes which might not come up in your usual work. Unlike some industries, the graphic design field is ever-evolving, and it’s good to try out new ways of working now and again. It might give you the opportunity to incorporate a new service for your clients, or even take your agency in a different direction.
And they can be so varied – I’ve seen designers doing online courses teaching others simple design techniques, YouTube channels showcasing everything from ‘a day in the life’ to time-lapses of works in progress, blogs and magazines, photography…the list is endless.
Do what you love
I know what you’re thinking – if you are busy indulging your passions, doesn’t that pull you away from the money-making projects? And yes, of course that’s true, but if you don’t make time for creating your own stuff, then what’s going to inspire you if all you’re doing is working for clients? As a creative, you need an outlet, somewhere. After all, most of us got into this industry from a place of love for creation and design, and if we fail to keep doing what we love, then there’s a danger that working could become monotonous.
A fresh perspective – for you and your clients
Of course, there’s the added benefit of being able to show your clients a different side to what you do. If you’ve been designing as a job for a while, you tend to end up doing the same kinds of things, but think about this: what if the very client you are designing that website for is also in the market for some photography, or a new identity, a video…if they are not aware that you have a talent for those things, you could be missing out on a whole new set of projects.
All in all, I believe that there can be great things to come out of doing side projects. So why not plan for them? Even if it’s simply a one-off, or a few hours at the weekend? It could be great for both your mental health, and your career.
I wanted to talk about a subject that I touched upon in a couple of earlier articles, where I write about why I went back into education to complete my design MA, and then about being a designer working within a smaller community. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own working location, a small-ish market and college town, and how perhaps larger places have a much closer design community.
Shrewsbury, where I live and work is quite a unique, and in some respects, vibrant town. It comes with a lot of history, and is also a great hub for businesses.
What surprised me, though, is when I began to look around at my own industry, there really isn’t much of a community at all. It’s not for lack of designers or design agencies in the town – if you know where to look, there are some very successful designers here. But they seem to be quite isolated; hidden away from view. Seemingly keeping to ourselves, not through lack of interest, but more because we don’t go out of our way to know about each other. There is simply no interaction between us.
The discovery led me to look around, at other places, and how they have come together to collaborate and communicate, creating a ‘hub’ for their design communities. I looked at some of the most successful ones – the Graphic Design Festival Scotland, and closer by the Birmingham Design Festival. These designers seem to not only willingly collaborate, but celebrate doing so. They come together for events such as these – perhaps because, rather than see each other as competition, they see the value in working together on occasion, in pulling together to learn from one another, and creating their own ‘hub’ in their own communities.
The positives of design communities
There are many positives that can come from being part of a close design community – and creating local festivals and exhibitions to celebrate and collaborate. Of course, it does have the obvious benefit of showing off our work in order to give publicity to our individual studios – but I think it does much more than that.
Being so isolated, in many ways, can be such a negative. For starters, by working in such close quarters, you lose that sense of the world around you – you become self-absorbed in your own work. And yes, you might argue that we are all part of the ‘online’ community, but is that really the same thing? Is there really any substitute to getting to know what’s going on in the immediate community, what’s happening in your own industry, in your own town?
The opportunity to bounce ideas with each other, to learn for each other’s experiences, to come together to work on bigger projects, can only help us to thrive as designers.
Being part of such events as the ones mentioned above can be such a positive experience, a moral booster, and give us a sense of where we are going, as an industry collective. There’s such a lot we could learn from each other.
Can we create our own communities?
This is where I am right now. This is the big question I’m asking – how can I facilitate putting together something in my own community which can bring together other designers?
I’m looking at other local events – there are regular, and successful events for other creatives in my town. There are exhibitions for local artists, both traditional and modern, festivals for writers and comic book artists, amongst others. So there is scope – and some really great venues in which to host such things.
I’d be interested to learn how other places do it – perhaps you have even been where I am, and have seen the opportunity in your own town or city. If you have, maybe you could give me the benefit of your experience. Tell me how you did it, what obstacles stood in your way. Were you successful?
Shrewsbury, I think, would be the perfect place to host a festival for graphic designers – and I’m hoping that in the future, I can facilitate that. I can see a huge benefit in raising the industry profile in the town and surroundings.
I’ve worked as a graphic designer for a long time, graduating from Wrexham Glyndŵr University in 1993 and working in various studios, bringing me to launch The Severn Agency in 2017. You might say that I’ve made it – that there’s nothing else that I need to achieve from here. But you’d be wrong. Graphic design is a fluid industry, ever changing, ever evolving, and to stay in the game, it’s important that I don’t sit still, because chances are, if I do that, I’ll fall behind, and things will move without me.
In the early 90’s, things took a real leap in the field of graphic design, as it was in 1990 when we saw the first version of Photoshop arrive on the scene. This changed the industry a lot, as it meant that designers could experiment with graphics in a way that we’d never seen before. The techniques it allowed were ground-breaking, with overlapping text, image overlays, and faded elements, which previously had been impossible to achieve on-screen.
By the 2000’s, the tech had become much more powerful, and we saw a surge in portable devices. Graphics evolved again with this new technology, and images with movement came into focus. Corporate design and logos began to look much more like they were in motion, using new techniques with angles and shadowing.
Now, trends change year on year, and there are so many styles and techniques open to us in the graphic design industry. But both design and technology continues to change and evolve.
The next step
This year, I have embarked on a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design. Why? Because I want to safeguard my future in this industry, and I want to be the best that I can be. And that is the reason for my writing this article. Whether you are a graphic designer, are looking to get into the industry, or are pursuing another job entirely, I think there are huge benefits in going back into education in order to get better at what you do and advancing your knowledge.
It can be a great refresher on what you’ve already learned, or it can take you to the next level in the evolution of your career. And of course, it gives you the opportunity to learn about advancements within the industry, whether that’s technological changes, changes in trend, or changes in the industry that you might otherwise have missed out on.
As well as this, you could be connecting with people who are at the same point in their career as you, which gives you the opportunity to learn about what others in the industry are doing.
Why go back into education?
For me, going back into education, to get my Master’s Degree in Graphic Design, is about me keeping up with the industry, and becoming an expert in what I do. But there are many reasons for you to seek further education, whether you’re already working in the industry or not. And you can do it at any age.
It could be that the career path you’ve chosen is no longer a good fit for you, and you’re looking to change. There are plenty of people who decide very late on in life which career path they have a passion for – it’s a myth that everyone who leaves college or even university has a clear idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives. People change, and so you shouldn’t be afraid to make changes in your career, no matter your age.
Perhaps you are in your chosen career but have come to the end of your potential, either by salary or skill. If this is the case, you might decide to take the next step and go back into education in order to climb the ladder and further your career.
Or it might be that you simply want to learn something new, to accompany the education you’ve already got. There are plenty of jobs in which graphic design feature, and having some kind of formal education can do wonders in enhancing your skills.
Graphic Design never stays still – and whatever your reasons, learning the skills needed to keep yourself current in the industry is always beneficial.
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…
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…