How did you afford to start a studio after you graduated from LCA?
We did a lot of small budget projects and free work for friends and family and really relied on word of mouth for projects. For example, we had a friend that was a hairdresser and wanted a logo creating. He said we could work from the office above there if we branded it for him, we were lucky really. We just kept trying to put our names out there to get projects, that's the best way to stay relevant in the graphic design industry.
How did you deal with money when starting out in the industry?
When we first set up, I was super anal about keeping track of the money going in and out of the business. I literally wrote every single transaction down in a big red book - I wouldn't advise this. Definitely do it digitally. We also did everything we could on a budget - we lived in a really cheap shared house, cycled to work, tried to not socialise as much and so on. As the first year passed, we decided to use an online service to manage our costings and tax and all of that other stuff. It was all a learning curve and I wouldn't say that we have perfected anything yet. We're still learning how to be as efficient as we can whilst not going completely insane.
How do you manage with your partners operating in NYC and London?
It actually works out really nicely. I'm able to work for the majority of the afternoon into the evening on a project and then send it over to Ollie in New York, where he will only just be waking up as I'm finishing off my day. It's like an endless loop of productivity that tends to run smoothly if we are both being as organised as possible. Sometimes, however, I do feel cabin fever and a little lonely working here on my own all the time, but there are plenty of other people in the building who keep me occupied.
Do you think business cards are still relevant for creatives?
An interesting question. My concise response would be yes, especially if you are looking to butter up a client or leave a lasting impression. I think personal branding is highly important especially if you are hoping to work for yourself or go freelance. Branding yourself is what can usually get you work. If you going into a studio and want to be working as part of the team, then personal branding can sometimes give off the wrong impression. People might think that you are trying too hard to produce yourself, which can be counterproductive in a collaborative environment.
It's also important to fill your portfolio with live briefs - that have real world value and mean something worth talking about. It's true that there is more to life than graphic design, and design about design can be pretty mundane. It's about finding the right balance between producing work you really love and work that could function in a commercial setting.
How do you view the creative scene in Leeds?
It's thriving, but it's often below the surface. There are plenty of amazing things going on in Leeds, which can seem intimidating and difficult to get a foot in the door. I would say that the creative scene is far more accessible here than in London or even Manchester. Leeds is a friendly place so I would say that starting out a design career here would be a lot more fun than in a massive capital city.
What is your advice for someone looking to get into editorial design?
Just make your own publications. You would be amazed where self-directed briefs can take you. Library Paper Magazine, for example, is basically just a printed version of the design blog that we started at Leeds College of Art. That has taken us really far and is now internationally recognised by a number of art specialist book stores. Just make stuff that excites you and you're passionate about, it should spark excitement and interest in others.