Going Freelance

Daunting, to say the least. Becoming your own company, brand and identity is one of the most daunting things I can imagine, second to elevators. However, I’ve learnt some effective tips to becoming freelance which I think will help greatly.

Firstly, create an effective online portfolio. This will draw attention to who you are as a designer and will be a showcase of your work that the potential clients can look at. This is your first port of call, it should withhold all of your best and diverse work. Nobody wants to hire a designer whom works within boundaries, being narrow-minded isn’t going to be a successful practice to hold.

As well as an effective online portfolio, you have to create an equally mesmerising print portfolio, along with business cards, CV and maybe even a cover letter.

Be brave, bold and professional. Your work should be a broad spectrum, don’t limit yourself. In the design world you have to be innovative, you can’t put yourself with everybody else. Doing this will only limit you clientele and your chances of working your way up the ladder. Don’t be afraid of the word no.

Go the extra mile for your customers. Word of mouth is your best tool, recommendations are the foundation of business. For example, you have really good customer service at one store, you are more likely to go there again. It’s simple psychology, as well as common manners.

Take the small jobs first. There is no hope in marching to companies like Vogue and asking if they want to pay you for a double page spread on the influence of Coco Chanel; they will laugh you out of the building. You have to build a reputation for yourself.

Never underestimate yourself. Your abilities are not defined by what you did yesterday but what you can create today. You are able to build upon your skills, strengths and weaknesses. The world is your oyster, kid.

Networking is the best thing you can do. Build yourself a social networking empire and be sure to keep up with the new trends. Popular social networks include LinkedIn, Digg, Pintrest, Behance, Google+, Freeshot, Vimeo, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, the list goes on.

Practice, practice, practice. Again, building on your already existing skills will only make you a better designer.

Funding and a business plan. Many banks now offer new businesses a small loan (not the Donald Trump definition of a small loan; a million dollars. It varies on your plan and how detailed it is. Which, in turn, all comes down to how driven and motivated you are to get you business started.


But, is it design?

A lot goes into presentations and its imminent you need to think about how to present before you actually do it. You could be saying a lot without realising you are. For example, body language says a lot about an individual. If you sit with your legs crossed, one foot tapping and leaning on a table with your chin in your hand then this says you’re probably bored out of your brain and you’d much rather be doing something else (like binge watching The Walking Dead from seasons 1-6 before season 7 comes out). However, binge watching your favourite show isn’t going to get you your dream job now is it? Not to worry, I have some tips that may help.

Let’s start with body language. No matter what you’re saying, if your body language suggests that you’re disinterested, your chances are already limited.

Firstly, DO NOT look at the slides. Keep eye contact with the audience/client/panel. If you don’t this comes across as bad manners and this can come across as though you aren’t completely confident in your own abilities. Keeping eye contact with the audience will keep that personal engagement and will draw them in to what you’re saying, simple psychology says keeping eye contact makes you look more believable.

DO NOT slouch, put your hands in your pockets or scratch. All of these things are what’s known as negative body language. Being too casual comes across as over confident and nobody likes that. When presenting you need to have open boy language, this gives the impression that you are confident in your work, but you aren’t too confident. Positivity is key.

DO NOT repeat your words or use words like ‘urm’, ‘but’ or ‘if’ and always use an indoor voice. The last thing somebody wants is a bumbling idiot talking to them, never mind working for them. Repeating your words makes you look unprepared as well as using words like ‘if’ and ‘but’, it doesn’t give the best impression. Always use an indoor voice, shouting or being loud doesn’t go in your favour. Remember that although you may be the loudest in the room, is anybody listening to you?

Look interested and motivated in the subject matter. Whether its a client, company or the weather, whatever you are presenting about you have to come across as motivated and interested. Imagine hiring a politician as an interior designer, you wouldn’t would you? They would have no idea what they were doing so what would be the point? The same applies for you.  If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you more than likely won’t be employed. It’s as simple as that.

That’s body language. Now, lets talk about the actual pitch.

When pitching you must ALWAYS do the ground work. Who is the client/company? Why are they important? What are their achievements? What resources do they have? Can you find any background knowledge? All of these questions will give you the upper hand when it comes to your pitch. You will come across as driven, enthusiastic and knowledgeable; 3 characteristics employers are looking for.

PREPARE for your presentation. Do they have a computer? Do you need a back up? do you need to take any physical copies? If so, how many? Don’t be afraid to ask. Call or email the company and ask how many people you will be presenting to so you can plan ahead. This will allow you to prepare any extra props or resources you may need; again, you will come across as prepared and driven.

ALWAYS tell the truth. Lying will get you nowhere and, if anything, it just makes you look silly. The client knows you haven’t landed on the moon or designed for Vogue, if you had, you probably wouldn’t be pitching to them. It’s a simple matter of honesty is the best policy. This applies in all aspects of life, not jut your career.

Have a START, MIDDLE and END. When planning your presentation be sure to have a opening, middle and a conclusion. This will stop you from waffling and chewing off your audiences’ ears; they don’t want to hear the same thing repeated 7 times in different ways.

PRACTICE. As they age old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Give yourself a time schedule. A lot of companies will give you a time slot and they expect you to present your work in a concise and methodical way; having a time schedule will prevent you from waffling and/or digressing. The last thing employers want is for you to be talking about your political stance in the middle of a pitch; unless you’re pitching for a political leadership, of course.

Be prepared to STOP and ANSWER QUESTIONS. Have background information on everything you have planned to say. If somebody on the board stop you to ask you a question and you’re not sure what to say, either ask them to repeat the question or to clarify. They could interrupt your pitch at any time so don’t be alarmed if they do, just be prepared for it and take your time to talk to them. They asked you a question, you’ve blatantly caught their attention with something you’ve said, that can only be a good thing!

DO NOT do any fancy PowerPoint transitions UNLESS it is NECESSARY. The last thing you need is to have a concise, planned out speech and for your audience to be more interested in the transitions of your PowerPoint. You want all of their attention directed at you and what you are saying, not what’s going on behind you. I can assure that the information leaving your mouth will be more impressive than that fancy swoosh transition on PowerPoint.

ALWAYS be prepared to go back over the pitch if NECESSARY. Sometimes, the people watching your presentation will miss something or maybe they won’t quite understand what you meant. This is nothing to fear, just be prepared to go back over any part of your pitch and maybe explain something in a bit more detail. As long as you were honest throughout your pitch, you have nothing to be scared of.

ALWAYS ask if there are any QUESTIONS. This gives you a chance to engage with the panel/audience. They can converse with you and get to you know  little better than they would from just hearing you pitch. Never be afraid of questions, if anything, they’re an aid.

All of these points will help when it comes to a pitch or presentation, whether it be to an audience of one or one hundred. If you keep them in mind, you will go far.

(This was the foreground for a presentation we had to do; read about how that went here.)

Vernacular Typography

Vernacular typography is a concept I had never come across before. The dictionary definition of vernacular is ‘the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people of a country or region. For example, I’m originally from Lancashire and people in my area use the following words or phrases as part of their vernacular;

‘nowt’ – nothing

‘Ta Ra’ – goodbye

‘chucking it down’ – raining

‘barmy’ or ‘barmpot’ – crazy

We were set a task; on our journey home from university we were to take pictures of typography, chose our favourite three and email them to our tutor to print off. These could be any form of typography from illumination to deterioration, vandalism to architectural  lettering, folk/outsider to ghost signage, economic to facia, the list goes on. It became obvious that if we wanted more unique typography we should look in more obscure places.

These are the typography examples I found on my journey home;

Now, the three images I chose to have printed off were a range of typefaces which I will elaborate on individually later on. We were tasks to go around the room looking at everybody else’s typographic finds and to describe what we see. For example, you could elaborate on the weight, style, classification, context, purpose etc. Anything you thought, you would write down. This helped the tutors engage with us and it showed some individuals knowledge. From this we constructed a three column table to help us classify a piece of type. We had three classifications; Construct, Context and Classification.

Construct (how it is made and/or applied)stencil, template, tile, hand-rendered, engraved, laser cut, relief, embossed, neon, painted, printed, projected

Context (why/where/what is it used for?)- directional, anti-establishment, informational, decorative, advertisement, safety, memorial, instructional, warnings, vernacular, personal, greetings, contrasted

Classification (what kind of type is I/how would you describe it?)- serif, sans serif, CAPS/uppercase, lowercase, condensed, script, slab serif, bold, italic, light, facia, black, folk/outsider, logotype, architectural, friendly, playful, fun, formal, serious, factual, utilitarian, functional, institutional, contemporary, modern, traditional, classic

These are my three chosen images;


‘2’ A stencilled, informational piece of typography that is beginning to deteriorate due to weather conditions. I specifically liked this because of the gaps in the lettering and the worn green overlay on top.


An informational sign which uses sans serif type and, once again, has deteriorated due to weather conditions over the years. This is on it’s way to being a ghost sign.


An example of aged signs. These are directional and like most informational/directional signage it uses sans serif font as it’s easier to read from afar.

The Task: 

We were tasked with making a cube; with a twist. We had to choose one piece of type which we had photographed and repeat it as a pattern on a cube. There wasn’t any particular structure for this task, no time for trial and error o planning; just pick up a pen and go. This isn’t something I’m used to. I usually like to sit and plan my designs, create a few different methods or approaches but this was a think on your feet task so that’s what I did.

My approach:

Straight away I knew I was going to use the stencilled 2 as I took a particular liking to the style of the font and the way it looked. In particular like the weathered/rustic look and I wanted to recreate it. I decided to proceed with an overlaying layout which meant when the cube was finally formed, it would create the 2 shape again (that was the idea anyway). My final outcome didn’t exactly replicate what I had in mind, but maybe that’s because I worked with the wrong materials. I used different colour greens rubbed over some spare tracing paper and then dabbed onto the cube to mimic the dirty/weathered look, to adapt from this I would maybe use watercolour to allow the colour to run/mix freely which would achieve a more natural weathering look rather than the obviously mimicked one I achieved with my process.  If I was to do this process again, I would maybe look at the 2 a little more delicately and plan my placement so it comes together perfectly when the cube is formed. As a first attempt, however, it wasn’t too bad. It was a learning curve for me from which I learnt that your time may be limited but that doesn’t mean to rush the design process; always plan first.

Final outcome:

Josef Müller-Brockmann

‘I would advise young people to look at everything they encounter in a critical light … Then I would urge them at all times to be self-critical.’ – Josef in an interview with Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin for Eye Magazine, 1995.

Josef is one of, if not the, most famous name in 20th century graphic design. Ironically, he became a graphic designer by accident. Growing up in pre-war Switzerland he focused on his talents and studied art, design and architect at the University of Zürich. At school he had a tendency to not write notes but instead he would create little illustrations. His teacher took a liking to this and encouraged him to pursue an artistic career. He took his teachers advice and found an apprenticeship a retoucher at a printing works but he only lasted one day as he said it wasn’t art, he then found another apprenticeship where he lasted a month and that was with two architects. Overall, he wasn’t happy. He finally found something that interested him; graphic design. So he took to the telephone directory because he wanted to see what they did and wanted to know if this was something he would see himself doing in six months time. Afterward he enrolled to study graphic design at the Zurich Gewerbeschule.

Josef is mostly recognised for his grid technique. One would assume he learnt this technique from architect; working in a systematic order which he then developed into his graphic style and this idea is still used today. In his 1981 book, Grid Systems in Graphic Design, he wrote that the grid system creates a ‘sense of compact planning, intelligibility and clarity, and suggests orderliness of design’. This idea was important to Josef as he most frequently used a clean design and just looking at his work  you can tell he has used a grid system because his designs, also sometimes complex, they look simplistic and your eyes can easily flow. This influenced designers on a global scale and we are still learning about it today. He loved teaching young designers the basics of graphic design and seeing how they would take that and make it their own, adapt and use their own style. So much so that at the age of 43 he became a teacher at Zurich School of Arts and Crafts.

His influences fluctuated from art movements to psychiatrists to handwriting. His big influences were art movements by the likes of Constructivism, De Stijl, and Suprematism. Interestingly, the Bauhaus was also one of his influences. Whether it was the art process they taught, the young individuals and their artistic outcomes or the building itself, I’m not sure why this particular place influenced Josef but I can understand why (I will write a separate blog post on this matter and link it here). He would judge a person and their characteristics on their handwriting, this really interested Josef and he claimed that he wasn’t often wrong on his judgement. However, this wasn’t the case with Carl Jung, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. In an interview with Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin for Eye Magazine he said the following regarding Carl Jung; ‘As a young man I was intrigued not only by psychology but also by graphology. When I met people who interested me I would read their handwriting and was rarely wrong in my judgements. But this gift began to disturb me, especially in my dealings with clients, where it would unnecessarily prejudice discussion. So I abandoned it overnight. Later I paid the price for giving up these analyses when I took on partners and employees whose handwriting would have given me an early warning of trouble ahead.’

Josef Muller-Brockmann is somewhat of a graphic design pro. He had the ability to make text and image flow simultaneously. You knew what you were getting when you hired Josef for a design job; professionalism, expertise and an innovative design. No matter wat he was designing, he would always make something new, and that is what I admire about him. Each design is different but it still has his corporate identity. Starting with the grid layout and developing on from there, he was a genius of the 20th century. What you have to remember about Josef is that he lived through two wars and when everything around you is crumbling, the last thing most individuals would be is inspired. But that is something Josef never lost.

Unfortunately Josef passed in 1996, but his legacies haven’t.

Dalton Maag

Founded in London by Bruno Maag in 1991, Dalton Maag are an independent type design studio with offices around the globe. The team consists of 41 international font developers, software engineers and creative designers whom collaborate and have worked for big/small businesses alike. Their portfolio consists of work developed for Rio 2016, Toyota, Google, Vodafone, BMW, Amazon, Nokia and many more.

Dalton Maag offer a range of fonts on their website which you are able to buy a license for; the price varies depending on the font you want. For example, Setimo Family costs £90 whereas buying the family of Aktiv Grotesk would cost £240. However, you can buy individual fonts for around £15 each. So, whatever your budget, Dalton Maag has a variety on offer. Still, this is a lot cheaper than the Helvetic family which would set you back over £700.

The man behind the magic himself is Bruno Maag. born in 1962, he is  Swiss type designer whom started his career as an apprentice typesetter forSwitzerland’s largest newspaper; Tages Anzeiger. A typesetter is an individual whom is sent the images, text and any other illustrative material and they begin setting it out on the page ready for print. After his apprenticeship, his began to study a degree in Visual Communication at Basel School of Design in Basel, Switzerland. He had a placement at Stempel Type Foundry in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. This is where he met Rene Kerfante and was later invited to join him working for Monotype. This was a bold move for Maag as he worked for Monotype in both the UK and the US, where he later designed typography for The New Yorker; an American magazine published by Condé Nast (whom also publish Vogue). He has designed many typefaces in his career such as Aktiv Grotesk, Co, Elevon, Stroudley, Viato and many, many more. His is reknown for his severe dislike of the typeface Helvetica, which I am personally a fan of so I can’t relate.