What did you study, and how did that set you up for where you are now?
Graphic Design BA (Hons) at Falmouth University. It set me up massively, I began my career as a designer and moved into doing mainly illustration. Design is very employable and gives you a much broader skillset than pure illustration (although that has its advantages too). It got me into a studio right at the start, as I wasn't successful enough at that stage to go it alone. Having a paid day job doing mainly design work was really useful while I focussed on my illustration career outside of work, eventually transitioning to full-time freelance illustration, but I still do the odd graphic design job to help pay the bills. Not to mention being able to use InDesign and make neat presentations and pitches sometimes gives you that professional edge over a lot of people, who just send JPEGS of their work. I think you can ultimately get where you want to be no matter the course, or with no course at all! But I personally found Graphic Design to be a great foundation for a creative career.
"Having a solid workflow, organised folders, and being really good at emails is very important. Being able to talk to clients professionally means you're less likely to get taken for a ride."
What skills are essential to your job?
It's kind of boring but having a solid workflow, organised folders, and being really good at emails is very important. Being able to talk to clients professionally means you're less likely to get taken for a ride.
What, or who, are the main inspirations for your work?
I guess I’m very inspired by the creative community, seeing the amount of different styles and approaches is exciting and challenging at the same time. It keeps you on your toes and makes you try to keep your work fresh. I feel most inspired when I get a brief and client that really clicks with me — it makes me want to work and produce something special. I am continually inspired by Kate Moross, who I previously worked for, for 5+ years. Her massive output, influence and attitude to have a go at everything is something I try to do also as much as I can.
More recently, having a studio space myself that is shared with others is a big inspiration too, seeing all the different creatives come in every day and grind away at what they want to do is a positive influence. It helps you see that this career isn’t based on some weird talent, but time and effort.
Was there a particular step that helped you at the start of your career?
Putting work out there, sending it to studios and contacting them. I made a little A5 printed pack — some samples of work in a fold-out zine, with a poster and custom cover letter. I did this physically as I thought it would have more impact, but this could essentially also be done in an email. I think if you’re going to send in any physical work, you have to do so in a professional and clean way, nothing too handmade and bizarre! Emails are probably the easiest option, but I do feel like they can be easily ignored unless you have someone specific at the top to send it to, like the creative director.
Later on in my career, when I was focusing more on freelance, getting featured on blogs and attention on social media really helped. With approaching blogs and other organisations, if I could I would find an email address or connection through a friend, as a way in that wasn’t just emailing the generic contact address. Established some kind of link or connection as best I could, so I wasn’t just a random dude.
"Once the initial branding was established, the subsequent years were easier to build on, although had their own challenges too."
You worked on the rebranding of Parklike Festival in 2015, and have been creating their visual identity every year since with Studio Moross. What has been your experience of working on such a big project, and what have you learned in the process?
Oh gosh, many things! Lots of technical stuff, lots of production skills, being able to work on-demand and make artwork very quickly. It certainly sped me up and made me a lot more adaptable. The experience has been a good one on the whole. It's a lot of work and has often been frustrating, but it's great to have creative control over something so big, and to see your artwork in action.
The biggest obstacle was the initial branding itself for the first year — we’d committed to a specific creative route for months, but despite everything we tried, we just couldn’t get to look good. It got to the stage where it was too late to do anything else, and the client spoke about canning the project completely. Finally, at the last minute, I lay out all the illustration in a totally new way, changed all the colours and redid everything, and turned it all around overnight (guy-field.com/Parklife-2016). It was a massive relief! It was very close to death.
Once the initial branding was established, the subsequent years were easier to build on, although they had their own challenges too. With the client wanting to up the complexity each time, it’s been a real challenge to draw more and better artwork year on year.
What one thing do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
You're gonna have a bad time before you have a really good time! (for me at least).