Everybody has different paths to their chosen career. And everyone will have different experiences with self-development professionally and personally. Education has always been important to me as a designer. From the moment I entered the creative scene in London, to now where I am the creative director of a Sutton Coldfield design studio, keeping myself skilled-up is a key element of my working week.
Graphic design and brand consultancy may be based on talent, but it’s hard to be a good designer without additional skills in software, technology, understanding businesses…
When I was an artworker at a London design agency, every lunchtime I stayed in and basically hacked on a scrap document to learn what could make my typesetting faster. Soon, I was the person that would know a shortcut key if there was one. It helped being recognised as a valuable team member and it felt like the right thing to do. Back then we used Quark, and Adobe was that new thing that made pdfs that would embed fonts, oh wonder! I guess I was lucky to start my career at a time when software started to change the creative industry in a storm.
Two years on, I was studying at Central Saint Martins whilst working freelance. I’d spend most of any spare time in libraries going through books about advertising, graphic design, interior design, typography, colour theories, human behaviour, communications – and how to run a business.
As soon as I transitioned to working full time as a designer, it fascinated me how we’d end up with those briefs to design a brand identity. What If there was another way to shape that brand? So off I went again to Brunel University to do a course on brand strategy.
And on it goes – workshops, networking mastermind sessions, online tutorials… all the way to starting our Sutton Coldfield design studio back in 2005. To be fair, Essence is probably not a regular graphic design studio: Steven, the other half, is super tech-focused, our data meister and the man that taught me all about CSS, JS, JSON, HTML, how to troubleshoot, and how to comment on code. And I come from a highly conceptual, ideas-focused advertising background with a passion for typography, print technology, copywriting, and using photography to tell a brand story in different media. We like to call Essence a brand consultancy for those reasons.
Even now, more than 16 years in business here, my motto remains: ‘Every day is a school day’. My biggest ongoing learning challenges are UI / UX, tech, automation, and SEO-related because that’s what my clients need help with beyond solid graphic design and branding. There’s so much out there nowadays, even here on social channels, the learning world is your oyster.
To keep improving your skills has nothing to do with your field of expertise – whether you are a business coach, interior designer, marketing manager of a hotel or restaurant, a shop owner selling products to the trade or consumer – or you are a brand consultant and graphic designer, like myself – it is vital to keep learning.
What running a brand consultancy and Sutton Coldfield design studio taught me is not just about business methodologies, project- and client management, cashflow planning, having pricing structures, sales and marketing plans, a vision for the brand, and a comprehensive service setup… It taught me that everything is in flux and you have to move with it. Industries change. Trends change. You change and your experience can greatly enhance what you sell and how you sell it. Keep looking around and up from your work to see what else is out there. It will be time well-spent.
I am a brand consultant and conceptual designer. I love using creativity to solve problems for our clients. In my spare time, I like jigsaws and probably a bit of a board game geek.