From a self-taught UX designer to a successful creative entrepreneur: interviewing Miruna Sfia


I’ve been working as a self-employed creative person for about 6 years. I say "creative person” because, even though for most of the time I worked as a graphic designer and illustrator - I had about 2-3 years when I also worked as a UI/UX designer for mobile apps and websites, which at the time seemed like a dream job for me. I know, you’re probably thinking it’s a big gap between designing apps and drawing things for a living, and you’re right, but I was always attracted to exploring different visual creative fields and I like how they can co-exist.

In all this time I’ve been working as a freelancer, which involves the whole package of finding clients, doing a briefing, planning a project, doing research and finally starting work on the actual designs. The process is pretty much the same for every new project I take, but of course it wasn’t always like this. Since I’m self taught, I didn’t always have a structure and I used to play it by the ear a lot back when I started, so I made many mistakes that in time helped me optimize the process I have now.

 

First of all, a little background. When I started, I had no experience as a designer, my background was in communication and a little marketing, so I had to learn Photoshop and Illustrator from scratch. It helped that I was always passionate about drawing, but not by much, since graphic design is pretty technical and I was very new to all of that. I also had to learn to find my first clients, deliver the work and get paid, even if I had no portfolio and nothing to show for my work. So I did the easiest thing at the time: started by using freelance platforms like Fiverr or Elance (now Upwork), asking for very little money (yes, I did logos for $5) and pitching my design skills to clients who had no idea who I was. It was hard work and the satisfaction of earning the first money on my own was incredible.

Finding clients

It took me a few months to become a decent designer and increase my fees, after which I started to find clients on my own, among my network. Ever since then, I never actively searched for design jobs, because I would always have people recommend me to other people or, once I got a little exposure on social media, I started receiving many emails from people who just happened to see my work and had a design proposal for me.

I would sometimes become so overwhelmed with the amount of work that came my way, that I would have to say no. That’s also when I learned another thing: as long as the demand for what you do is high, you can raise your prices and filter the projects you decide to take. I realized it's better for me to work on one big project that pays well, instead of working on 4-5 small projects that pay little money and take the same amount of energy as a big project, if not more.

 

So, after the first year in the business or so, I never had trouble finding clients. But I would say that I did two things from the very beginning, that I think helped me get clients in the long run:

  • I took time for personal work, which meant experimenting, playing around with ideas, techniques, styles etc, which is very important because it allows you to play freely and unlock new ideas which you can later use in your paid work.
  • I shared everything I did online. When I was starting out I had this blog called Friday Illustrated, where I would interview artists and designers in order to learn from them (and this was a huge resource for me, in terms of learning). And almost every artist I looked up to said the same thing: always put your work out there, either through a blog or on social media or whatever, but just finish a piece, share it with people and move on to the next. And I started doing that, which helped a lot with getting exposure, over time. People get used to what you do and to your style and they always recommend you to others, or want to work with you when they need something designed - and that’s how I got my first big clients. They were people from my community, from my network, who were starting a business or wanted to redesign their brand and approached me, because they’d been seeing my work on Facebook for years and loved my style.

 

Briefing

Once a client approaches me for a job I’m interested in, the process usually goes like this: we have a first meeting where we both determine whether or not we can work together, and if everything goes well we exchange a few emails where I ask many questions, in order to create a brief and see what exactly my job will be. Based on that, I estimate the budget and I send them a quote. I usually like to work with project based fees as opposed to hourly rate, because I feel like the value of what I’m offering isn’t always about the hours I put in. Sometimes I might spend 3 hours to reach a concept, sometimes it might take me 20 hours, depending on the project. But the value for the client is always about the end results; and the amount of time I spend getting there isn’t always a good indicator of that value.

If the client is ok with the price, we sign the contract, I usually get an advance of 25% (or 50%, if it’s a smaller project) and I start working.

 

My favorite part, the creative one, usually starts later in the process. I first need to dig deeper into what the client needs. In my experience, there’s almost always a difference between what the client says they need and what they actually need. So it’s my job as a designer to do my homework and make sure I ask as many questions as possible in order to get the bigger picture.

If it’s a visual identity project, for example, there is a lot to figure out before I start to design. I usually start by doing research about the brand, get as much info as possible on their core values, their goals, how their customers perceive them vs. how they want to be perceived (many times there are surprises here), I do research on the competition etc. This is very useful in order to offer the client a real solution, other than just execute what they say they need.

Once I have everything clear, I usually start by defining the brand’s personality, along with the client, and creating a tone of voice for the brand, which are the base for everything that follows. All the designs, communication, vibe of the brand, everything relies on these things we define. Ideally, these should be done by an agency, if the client has one, but if they don’t, these are steps you shouldn’t skip, if you want to offer quality work that will last in time. Your client will appreciate you more for it.

 

Creative process

Once we have this structure, it’s a lot easier coming up with a concept and creating the graphic standards around it. Because once you can define “who is the brand?”, “what is it like?”, “what adjectives you can attribute to it?” and other such questions often used in branding, it’s easy to come up with fonts, the color palette and so on. If the brand is formal and conservative, you go with a certain font and choice of colors (taking into account what services they offer, also). If the brand is playful, innovative and cheeky, you might choose a friendly font, you might use hand lettering, playful illustrations and so on.

 

So design has very much to do with context. This is why it’s always a red flag for me when a client says they want their logo in blue because it's their wife's favorite color. Or that they want something similar to someone else’s design (and send me a picture). I can always do that, it’s the easiest thing for me to execute and take the money, but I never do it, because: 1. they probably won’t be happy and will keep coming back for revisions, since that wasn’t what they “really” wanted; 2. because I love what I do and a big part of that is knowing that my work has real purpose.

Here’s a story on that subject. I once had a client who hired me to design his upcoming online teaching platform. When I asked him what kind of logo he wants, he told me he loves the Apple logo and wants something like that. Of course, my designer mind immediately went to the bitten apple symbol, used mainly on grey or black, with a super simple font assigned to the brand. I could do that. But was that what he really wanted? So I started asking question after question, trying to understand what exactly about the Apple logo he liked. Ten minutes later, I got to the conclusion that what he actually wanted was a brand that was "as respected and desired as Apple is". So what he wanted was not the logo, but rather the character of the brand, and he subconsciously associated that with the logo ?

 

This is why you need to ask questions beyond what the client claims they want.

 

Creating the logo and everything else involved usually starts once all this is made clear. And I usually put all this in a document and send it to the client to confirm.

 

Back when I started out, I would usually create 3-4 concepts of a logo and send them to the client to choose which one he liked best. Now, I prefer to work on just one concept, which I consider to be the best solution, and work from there. I always explain my point to the client and I always have objective arguments, so that they can make a decision taking into account my expertise. Many times, the client doesn’t agree with you, but when you explain it to them, they might change their mind and trust you more because of that.

When I pick a color palette, I start from all the above, but once I have it narrowed down to a few color ideas, I start looking for inspiration. I like using color palette websites (colourlovers.com has been my go to for years), but also Pinterest or Instagram accounts like @designseeds. Another favorite is Dribbble, where you can enter a color code and see all the combinations of colors used containing that one color (you can even filter according to the percentage of color present in each composition). It’s an amazing tool when you’re in search of ideas.

 

In this stage, I always like to create a moodboard of imagery that speaks to me, like a collage of color palettes, fonts, patterns, illustration styles and so on. They can be images I find on Pinterest, Instagram, photos I take on the street, images of other work I might have done before, anything that catches my eye. The purpose of this is to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the project and get a better idea of what I want to create. This moodboard, along with a list of keywords that are assigned to the brand, are the starting point to my design process.

 

Once I have the visual style ready and approved, I create a visual identity manual where I write down how everything should be used. Things like versions of the logo, dont’s of the logo with examples like: never stretch the logo, never place X version on a black background, never use the typeface without the symbol or whatever etc, so basically graphic rules. I state what the main font is, what the secondary font is (for both digital and print), what the color palette is (with all color codes), what is the minimum size for the logo in print and you should never make it smaller than that, what kind of imagery is associated with the brand (you might notice there are brands that always use sepia or black and white photos, or brands that always use photos from an up close angle, very detail focused) - all of this is stated in the brand manual.

You usually learn all these specifics over time and after doing many such projects, but it doesn’t hurt to take a look at other brands’ manuals and study how they do it (you can usually find them to download online, or if you have friends who work in advertising or print, they have easy access).

 

This is pretty much the whole creative process. Once all these rules are set (and verified, because you must be sure it all works together the way you designed it), I design all the materials needed. That’s usually divided in two: digital materials (website, social media etc) and print materials (which can vary from stationery to promotional materials or packaging). When I do print I always use a Pantone color code in order to check that the colors I pick are true (and even then, it depends on the type of paper they print it on, but that’s a long discussion). The deliverables can include editable files or not (depending on what we previously agreed on) and I like to use Dropbox to share them.

 

What is something I know now and wished I'd known before?

That the more time I put in improving the brief and narrowing down all the info, the more chances are that I will come up with a design that my client is happy with from the start - and therefore they won’t ask for many revisions, which I know is a nightmare for designers in the early stages of their careers. This is something that used to frustrate me a lot too, and sometimes I felt like the client is capricious and can’t make up his mind.

 

The truth is, if you communicate well and you spend time listening and asking questions, you will more likely be on the same page with your client. I used to be afraid to do that, because I thought if I asked too many questions they will lose patience and become annoyed. But on the contrary, they will end up trusting you more, because you help them define what they want. And right there is why they pay you their money, that’s the value you provide for them.

You can follow Miruna's work on Instagram and Behance.

What do you think about Miruna's story? Did you learn something from her experience? Did she inspire you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Great Ways to Present Your Anniversary Gifts


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Are you going to make a romantic surprise for your boyfriend or girlfriend? Don’t miss the opportunity to please your beloved one. When it comes to your anniversary, each detail should be taken into account. Having romantic ideas of an anniversary gift is good, but it’s not enough to make the day unforgettable. The way you  present a romantic surprise for your sweetheart also plays a great role.

 

Do you know that feeling of continued concern every time you think about the upcoming anniversary date?

If your answer is “yes”, don’t worry, ‘cause it’s natural to feel nervous about making this event special, no matter if it’s your 1st, 2nd or 10th anniversary. However , in all cases, there shouldn’t be any mistakes, especially with romantic anniversary ideas, so look out!

If you already have a few romantic ideas of an anniversary present, it’s time to think of some steps how to present your anniversary gift to derive more benefits from this event. 10 th anniversary gifts ideas for him along with 1 stanniversary surprise ideas for her will not come in handy without really substantial preparation.

along with 1st anniversary surprise ideas for her will not come in handy without really substantial preparation.

  • Dazzle your partner with the first look!

 

Wrapping supplies are the first thing, which attracts the attention of the gift receiver! Increase the anticipation of getting a romantic anniversary surprise with the help of nice wrapping paper, decorated with a pretty bow.

You probably know what a great feeling it is to open a wrapped gift while trying to guess which one of the popular romantic anniversary ideas your partner has prepared for you! Moreover, what girl will refuse to post some spectacular photos with a secret present, wrapped in a colorful paper?  

 

  • Add a piece of trivial romantic!

 

Accompanying elements are as essential as the main present! In anticipation of getting one of the romantic anniversary presents, both men and women will be glad to get something additional, even trivial, but still romantic.

It’s about his/her inherent preferences. If you’re preparing a gift for a girlfriend, don’t forget about flowers and sweets! While ladies prefer magnificent bouquets and candies, a romantic surprise for a boyfriend may include balloons in the form of heart and his favorite fruits.

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A post shared by Cik Ayla Surprise (@cik_ayla_precious) on Apr 21, 2018 at 4:00am PDT

 

 

  • Be sincere and deep!

 

Gift ideas for romantic anniversary shouldn’t be limited to material items. Don’t think that a romantic surprise will tell your partner about everything you feel instead of you.

It’s a great pleasure to receive a present, but to hear such a desirable words about love is even much better! There are two variants to express your romantic feelings: tell by yourself or (if you’re too shy) put an anniversary card with a sincere poem in it.

 

 

 

  • Set the tone of an anniversary date!

 

No matter where you’re going to celebrate an anniversary – in public or in private – the atmosphere at the moment of presenting your anniversary gift should be appropriate.

It’s easy to create a special anniversary atmosphere with the help of dim lightening, candles, light dishes, a bottle of wine (or another favorite drink of the person you love), and romantic music. These few things will help you to relax, create an intimate atmosphere and become a starting point for an ideal anniversary surprise.

And what about the moment of presenting romantic surprise for your boyfriend/girlfriend? How to hand over an anniversary gift to impress someone you love? Of course, you may do it yourself, without resorting to other measures. However, there are some hints not to be like others.

A delivery service, a courier, or just a stranger. What a great surprise to get a gift from an unknown person at the most unexpected times. An anniversary is a great occasion to astonish your beloved person through somebody, he/she doesn’t know.

An empty present box. This way to present a gift isn’t a perfect variant for those who don’t understand jokes. It’s interesting to watch how your partner becomes disappointed after opening a box without an anniversary present, and then again becomes happy after receiving a new “true” present.

An adventure game. Are you and your partner admirers of secrets and research games? Then this variant is exactly for you! Create some tasks or puzzles, which your boyfriend/girlfriend has to complete to get a present. Fun and interesting!

The suddenness is the best approach. Don’t present your anniversary gift, let it be discovered! Just imagine how your partner will be happy, getting a present when he/she doesn’t expect! Stay unpredictable to create an ideal romantic surprise.

You also shouldn’t forget about an important fact that not the present is important, but your attention, care, and love. Following these simple steps, you’ll not only make the most romantic anniversary surprise for boyfriend/girlfriend, but also have a lot of fun!  

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Comfy Sporty Outfit Ideas for Women


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If you love comfortable clothes and feel most like yourself, you should focus your attention on cute sporty outfits. The athletic chic style is considered al trendy one that never goes out of fashion. Moreover, today's fashion commends the beauty of sporty garments and, therefore, you have the opportunity to wear something sexy and comfortable at the same time.  Don`t think that sporty clothes are the appropriate attire only for the gym or yoga class. No, no, no! You can also feel comfortable and confident putting on athletic essentials on the streets as the casual clothes.

 

Sportswear is known as comfy and functional attire and that's probably why ladies like to experiment with their sporty outfits. There are really a lot of easy combos that you can mix up together and get a great look. Mostly, you can experiment with a bold color palette because a perfect sporty outfit is actually super formulaic. Just remember you need five things that help you make your look gorgeous (by the way, these five essentials are the useful pieces of clothing that every lady should have in her wardrobe):

 

  1. Sports Bra (it's important to find the best sports bra for your size and, of course, color).

 

  1. T-shirt (experiment with size, color and style).

 

  1. Sweatshirt (if you want or need it).

 

  1. Leggings, sweatpants, cropped sweatpants or shorts (depending on the preferences).

 

  1. Sneakers (if you have some foot problems like the high-arched foot or peculiar feet like wide feet, you should be very careful choosing your sporty footwear. What are the best running shoes for wide feet? You have to figure it out before you buy the sneakers!).

 

Well, these basics make you sporty, but you also can add more colors and accessories to your looks like a lovely bracelet or a cute fitness tracker, sweaty headband or sunglasses can really make you look bright and eye-catching.

 

Look at the best examples of the stylish, sporty look in 2018 and think what ones will fit you.

 

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Psychology of colour and it’s important in your website design


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Psychology of colour

Psychology of colour relates to persuasion and so it can be a very important aspect of marketing.

Even though colour is dependent on personal experiences of people however, colour perceptions of people have rather messaging patterns. It is found that about 90% of snap judgements can be based on colour alone. Another study found that the relationship between brands and colour depends on the perceived appropriateness of the colour being used for the brand. The purchasing decision is greatly affected by colours because they affect how a brand is perceived. So, colour will play a very important role in deciding whether your product is liked and bought by your customers or not.

 

Different colours mean different things and they are generally associated with different meanings for different people. For example, red is often associated with your body and it means physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, stimulation, masculinity and excitement. It may also mean some negative things like defiance, aggression, visual impact and strain for some other people. It is a powerful colour.

Importance of choosing a good website builder template

It is very important to choose the right website builder template because the template is the base of your entire site. Website builder templates are designed by keeping in mind the psychology of colour. Depending on your brand and the perceived image of your brand, it is important to keep the design and color choices in mind. The colours of the template should match with your brand. Making the right colour choices can help to convert more clients for you.

If you have tough competition and you want to differentiate from your competitors, your website can help you to do that. It is possible to use colour to achieve that goal. Colour appropriateness is far more important than the colour itself and you will need to remember that while creating your website. The colour should complement the image your brand has and what your clients and customers think about your brand. If there is a mismatch between the perceived image of your brand and the colour you use in your website, it can work against you and may shoo away customers from your product.

According to research done by different researchers there may be different dimensions of the brand personality and the colour will vary accordingly. For example, the blue colour may mean sincerity, down-to-earth, honest, wholesome and cheerful products whereas yellow and its shades may mean outdoorsy, masculine, western, tough, and rugged.

If you do not know colour psychology and do not know how to match the colour which your brand, it is always better to buy a good website builder template which is designed keeping in mind the colour psychology. If you are not doing that, it means you’re not only losing possible clients and customers which you could have achieved without doing anything else, but you are also forcing your prospects away from your products. Just find out the right website builder template for you from popular and trustworthy sources like Best10WebsiteBuilders and others and see how the psychology of colour can help you to get more business.

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Selection of Colors based on Page Layout


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There are different principles when choosing a color scheme. Based on these you can put together color combination for any type of website. It is essential to know the purpose of the website right at the start. It’s obvious that you would pick different colors for outpatient clinic, for a restaurant etc.

 

Proven color combinations

The basic know-how of every designer is the ability to sense which color scale to apply when creating a website. There is a large number of variables involved in the website building process which can limit the designer’s creativity. One of the factors mentioned previously is the purpose of the website. There exist proven color combinations in this regard. What does it mean?

 

That they simply fit together.

 

On the one hand the individual colors and shades blend in. They may be monochromatic or complementary; or opposite. Simply these are any colors which fit into standardized color schemes.

 

On the other hand there are color combinations that users subconsciously associate with certain type of industry. Furthermore, the right selection of colors increases the click rate and page conversion.

 

As such color combinations are universal for certain website types, they became a guide or an aid for designers. Why to think of something that has already been invented and already brings the results?

 

Why all medical websites are white

Proven color schemes become a must-have for specific types of WordPress templates and websites. The associations these colors invoke for the users are the reason why these color scales can be recycled and repeatedly used for the given industry. And these color combinations will never go out of fashion.

 

White color will always be the designer’s first choice for creating medical websites, websites for doctors or dentists; because it is associated with the cleanliness, airiness and sterile environment (which is characteristic for hospitals etc.).

 

In addition, white color is absolutely perfect for any minimalist business webpage.

 

 

Also, it is not accidental that you come across a blue color whenever you open a bank or insurance website. Blue color (especially in dark shades) combines respectability, reliability and strength - the attributes that clients expect from financial institutions. But also from companies. Blue color will therefore always be a good choice for corporate websites and for Directory portals.

 

 

Analogous to white or blue color, there are also other colors that call up certain associations. Green color is related to environment or healthy lifestyle websites, black color to luxury product pages and so on.

 

How to choose the right color for the layout

Another factor that affects the use of a particular color scheme is the template layout itself. Not all the color schemes can be used universally for each layout type - the arrangement of individual elements can limit the color selection.

 

There are 2 completely different approaches to layout creation - Grid layout (or Card design layout) and Broken Grid layout.

 

Grid layout allows you to experiment with images

When working with Grid layout, you can choose from several color scales depending on the website type. For the presentation and business websites you can use more bold color combinations and shinier shades.

 

Apart from presentations, Grid Layout is often applied for websites with large amount of photos and content, such as portfolios, blogs and case studies.

If the Grid layout is used for portfolio, website color scheme should be simpler. Images in portfolio are highly colorful. Neutral colors should be used as a base, so that portfolio items can stand out. Thanks to simple colors it is possible to add and combine different photos - both color and type. Beware, however, of their composition.

You have to anticipate when using Broken Grid layout

Broken Grid layout is a new approach that violates the rules of organized boxy layout design. Since the main principle of Broken Grid layout is seemingly random placement of elements on the website and their overlapping, the selection of right colors is essential.

 

Therefore we recommend to sensitively consider color scale and ask yourself if it is suitable for this layout type. Will it visually fit together with other graphic elements, embedded pictures or typography?

Source: Multimedia Guides in Culture.pl

 

Where to find inspiration for your next website?

Even though design blogs and portals can be a good source of inspiration for color scale selection, WordPress themes as such often use proven color combinations therefore can provide useful guidance too. It requires some sense for colors, but remember that sometimes less is more, especially if you’re a beginner.

 

You will certainly pick your design WordPress template from 70 unique business and directory templates made by Ait Themes.

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From "Jeff Job Hunter" to a well-known illustrator: interview with Jack Teagle


1. What was the thing or who was the person that helped your career the most? In what way?

Nobrow. They published one of my comics and it pushed me to jump into self-employment.
I worked on a comic for them called "Jeff Job Hunter" while I was unemployed, and it helped me to find freelance work.
I got a variety of work off of the back of projects I made with them.

 

 

2. We could say you're a famous artist now. Could you tell us about your struggles to get here? What were the challenges? What were the hardships?

As you start to make a name for yourself, a lot of people want your time and attention, but without paying for it.
It's learning when to step away and when you can tell someone is trying to string you along and waste your time.
There still are hardships, to keep consistent money coming in.
I'm too trusting of people. Especially with freelance, give someone an inch, and they'll take a mile.
You need to have contracts written out to protect yourself. Good communication with a client is very important. Some can be very difficult to get a straight answer out of!

3. Was it worth it? What would you have done differently?

Yes, it was definitely worth it. It's extremely rewarding to be creating things to your best ability every day and pleasing clients, as well as fans.
It feels good to make people happy.
I would have told myself to stop making comics a few years earlier when interest started to fade. I'd also tell myself not to do favours.
Don't treat clients like friends. You have to treat it like a business. When you start being friendly, people walk all over you.
Keeping all of that in mind, you can have a very happy, healthy career.

4. If you could give an advice to aspiring artists trying to make it, what would that be?

Don't work for free. There will always be work around the corner. You may think this is your big opportunity and you won't work again, but it's not true.
Your time is the most valuable thing you have, so be vigilant and plan how you want to build your career, and what you want to do. Basically, work smart, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by planning well.
Always focus. Don't try to think too much like an artist, but more like it's a regular job. Just focus on doing the best you can, and if there are imperfections, it doesn't matter, move on. As an illustrator, you want to make a living from this. You're not setting out to make masterpieces (unless of course, you want to create personal artwork in your own time).

To see more of Jack's work, please visit his website and his Behance profile.

What have you learned from Jack's experience COLOURlovers? Has it been useful? Is there something similar that you've experienced you'd like to share with the community?

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From loving to draw to making it as an artist: interview with Steve Simpson


1. Tell us about the time when you were starting out. How was that like? Did you have a specific plan for your career?

From a very early age, the only plan I really had was to ‘draw’ for a living - I didn’t know exactly how I could do that and coming from a working class background in an industrial town in the northwest of the UK it wasn’t the usual career path. I left school at 16 (not being the most academic student) and studied technical illustration at a local college. This was 1992 and the pre-digital process was a very slow, constrained drawing process using rulers, ellipse guides and technical pens - I carried a briefcase full of my equipment to college every day - certainly not how I had envisioned art college and I was really missing freehand sketching. Aged 19 I left college without finishing the course - I’d been offered a job working in a large animation company and I jumped at my chance of escape. I think of the 6 years I spent there as my training ground for the career I now have in illustration and design. I was eager and inquisitive, always looking for ways to learn from the hugely talented bunch of guys I was working with. I spent a lot of my free time drawing and improving my skills.

I moved to Ireland in 1990 and spent a few more years in animation, by that stage I was working as an art director and director - I was getting frustrated by the lack of actual drawing I was doing and ready for a new challenge.

 

 

2. What was the thing or who was the person that helped your career the most? In what way?

After a spell doing comics I found illustration - or maybe it found me:) It was the mid-nineties and I’d been playing with Macs and Photoshop for a couple of years at this stage. I’d moved in to a studio in the same building as a graphic design company. One day my door was open and the guys stuck their heads in and said ‘oh, you’re an illustrator!’ - I was calling myself a cartoonist at the time but that meeting really changed the direction I was heading - It led to a long term relationship, illustrating for them and being introduced to other local design companies and ad agencies. I even took up desk space in their studio and was able to pick up the basics of graphic design, new software and general best practice. Looking back, this chance meeting was perfectly timed. It came just as Macs and Photoshop were becoming powerful enough (and affordable) to be able to create large scale illustrations. Back then ‘digital illustration’ was seen as a style of illustration. There was non of today’s subtlety - it was bright and brash. It was also perfect for design and advertising - it really stood out from the conventional illustration techniques. The big advantage I had was that most established illustrators didn’t want to change their style and those who were playing with digital weren’t established illustrators which left a gap in the market for someone like me who had 10 years experience, albeit in animation and comics. Within a few months I had stopped doing comics and was fully engaged in illustration.

 

 

3. We could say you're a famous artist now. Could you tell us about your struggles to get here? What were the challenges? What were the hardships?

My style back then was all over the place, I had worked on so many different animated series in other peoples' styles I didn’t have one of my own - not only that, I had painted backgrounds for certain shows and designed characters for others - I’d never really done a whole image. At the beginning it didn’t really matter, art directors were using me for everything from realistic to cartoony styles (sometimes the same AD in the same week), part of the success I was having was my flexibility. Much of this was pre- web folios and social media - finding other illustrators was done mainly through source books - it was another few years before I actually met another illustrator in person. When I did I suddenly realised they all had a distinctive style and looking at my portfolio, I looked more like an illustration agency in comparison. I took my work to a portfolio clinic at the AOI in London in the hope of getting some direction on which way to go. I’d broken it down into what I thought was 3 styles and presented them in 3 portfolio cases. I was told there were at least 20 different styles and even though the work was good I needed to pick just one style and focus on that. I should go back and take all the other work off my site and only show the one style.

This was very deflating, it made sense but felt like I would be starting all over again. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t afford to do a complete re-start and thought I’d try something else. I knew making my portfolio appear cohesive was vital but as I didn’t have enough of any one style to do that I kept all the work that could be grouped together using colour. I had been developing my limited palettes for a while and by taking out every piece of work that didn’t conform to this approach suddenly it all started to gel. Twenty plus years later and I’m still taking the same approach and it's still working :)

 

 

4. Was it worth it? What would you have done differently?

I’m very happy with where I am, I’m getting to work on some amazing projects with top brands and agencies right across the world.

However, looking back now, I wonder where my career path would have taken me if I’d taken a course more focused on drawing and painting when I left school - maybe one day I’ll do that…

5. If you could give an advice to aspiring artists trying to make it, what would that be?

I was always eager for advice when I was starting out, always looking for feedback from people I looked up and admired.

My advice, looking back, would be to question every piece of advice you are given (except this one - ahaha).

Much of the advice I was given really only related to a particular time or project but at the time I didn’t realise that. Some advice works for one person but not another. I would advice aspiring artists keep that in mind.

 

You can see more Steve's art visiting his Behance profile and his website.


Did reading Steve's story help? Did you learn something from it? Let us know in the comments below.

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How Would You Renovate Your Home If Money Were No Object?


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A home ought to be both a sanctuary and a personal statement, all rolled into a straightforward, functional package. It should be comfortable and classy, able to accommodate a restful weekday evening and an eventful weekend night. But too often homes are cobbled together hastily, neglected in favour of a hectic schedule, and never given the proper attention they deserve. And then there’s the other main obstacle, of course, which is money – renovations can cost a good amount of cash to be completed in a basic way, let alone in a thorough, classy manner.

 

This article is going to look at home renovations as though money wasn’t an issue; think of it as a sort of aspirational guide to home renos, one that’s here if you want to renovate your home after winning the lottery or scoring that major raise you’ve been gunning for. Renovations are separated broadly into three categories: the basics that you need for your house to function properly; the aesthetic embellishments you can add to turn your home into a sophisticated personal statement; and the luxury features you can add on to make your home a complete dream home.

 

Think of these categories as tiers of necessity – if you’ve come into a small amount of money, tackle the first category. If you’ve come into a lot, tackle the second. And if you win the lottery, go ahead and tackle the third category!

 

The Basics

These basics can be some of the most expensive, but they’re the most necessary. If your house has foundational issues, if the roof is leaking, or if the plumbing is suffering some congestion, work on those first. As a baseline, your home should function properly. No damage that could seriously affect its value or affect your wellbeing. If money is no object, go ahead and invite the plumber, the electrician, the roofer, etc. to come in and make sure that you have a happily functioning, livable house. That’s the basics.

 

Aesthetic Embellishments

Here’s where you get to have a bit of fun, and where the real “renovations” – as they’re commonly thought of – begin. This can be broken down further into four categories: physical space, room design, colour and light.

If money is no object, then considering physical space is a simple matter of optimizing your home for traffic flow, sightlines and openness. For this, hiring a design consultant can make a great difference. Essentially, you’re looking at what divisions should be there, and which ones can be torn down to facilitate a better sense of movement within the house. Are you going for a more modern, open concept, or are you dealing with a more classical home, where smaller rooms can add a sense of bespoke charm. It’s all case-by-case. You’re also looking at maximizing storage space (or, to put it in inverse terms, minimizing cluttered space), which could mean sectioning off – or even adding to your home, since money is no issue – storage rooms.

 

Next comes room design. You’ll want to work with an interior designer to decide on a colour palette, design flourishes, and a style you want to evoke. You don’t want to go “all in” on a single colour, lest your home end up looking too uniform and precious, but you want complimentary colours to create a sense of unity. For flourishes, consider the style you’re evoking – if, for instance, you’re going for a more industrial look, you might want a cast iron basin in your kitchen, reclaimed wood or copper accents; if you’re going for a Scandinavian mid-century design, your living room might work around a few choice, teak pieces of furniture. The style will probably dictate, to a certain extent, both the colour palette and the design flourishes, which is why it’s important to consult a design expert.

 

And then there was light! If money is no object, go ahead and let that natural light in by installing large bay windows or skylights. From there, consider the three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. Ambient lighting is the basic, uniform illumination that brightens everything, whereas task lighting targets a specific room and accent lighting targets a particular design feature. Having a smart mix of the three can create a layered, sophisticated lighting setup that brings out the most in both the basic space and room design.

 

Adding Some Luxury

Finally, this is where you want to throw around your money. Add a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a hot tub out back, a home theatre in the living room, and a brand new, gas-range stove in the kitchen. These are the type of over-the-top features that require a lot of money, but hey, this article is supposed to be about what you would do if money were no option. Consider what brings you bliss – whether it’s a quiet bath or a blaring sound system – and add features according to preference.

 

Depending on the kind of money you have, you can either do basic, aesthetic or luxury renovations. When tackling the basics, you want to ensure that everything is in working order and the value of your house isn’t compromised; when tackling aesthetics, you want to create a space that’s stylistically unified and well-lit; and when tackling luxury, really, the sky is the limit. Ask your boss for a raise, or buy a few lottery tickets. Your dream house may be more attainable than you think.

 

 

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Assessing Threat Levels by Colour


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If it was a Jeopardy question, would you be able to identify the present status of the national terrorist threat level without guessing? That’s what we thought. As presently configured, this color-coded warning system seems to have all the gravitas of the flag rotation at the beach that advises of strong undertow or the presence of too many jellyfish in the water. Actually, the resemblance is uncanny. Each has a five-color system that seems to randomly land on a selection depending on what a lifeguard or the Director of Homeland Security had for breakfast. Is it time to simplify our terrorist warning system from five flags to three?

 

The History of the Flag System

 

Color has a powerful influence on humans, shaping our moods and having a larger than you might imagine effect on your personal opinion of any particular day. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, officials in the newly created Department of Homeland Security decided a color-coded system was the best way to gain the attention of the average citizen, enabling them to discern at a glance the prevailing overall threat level, ranging from Green for “low risk of terrorist attacks” to Red for “severe risk of terrorist attacks.” In the near two decades since its establishment, the Threat Level Advisory System has been adjusted 17 times, the last in 2006 when it settled on Yellow, a “significant risk of terrorist attacks.”

 

Recently, the Homeland Security Advisory Council decided there might be a few too many flags and they may drop the bottom two, presumably on the theory that there’s a good chance we’ll never have a “Low” or “Guarded” state of affairs again. We can look to Israel for guidance here. Think they ever let their guard down? We’re guessing not. And presumably, five flag colors upon which our life depends is deemed more than the average citizen can keep up with

 

Stay Out of the Water and Watch for Madmen in Trucks

 

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano received the bad news from her council in the form of an official letter describing the current public indifference and lack of confidence in the Threat Level Advisory System. Though some panel members were in favor of scrapping the colored threat system entirely, the current non-binding recommendation is to move to a simplified three-color system that includes:

 

Yellow: A “guarded” state in the nation that urges all citizens to assume “standard” vigilance against potential terrorist action. This would be the new lowest threat level.

 

Orange: An “elevated” suspicion level in which protective measures are implemented upon the basis of specific information regarding a terrorist plot. An example - Johnny Jihad gets on Facebook and threatens to blow up the Super Bowl.

 

Red: This “high” alert level is intended to exert maximum protective measures against an ongoing or imminent terrorist action.

 

Keep the Politics Out

 

One of the compelling reasons to change the color-coded threat system, according to the council, is a recent revelation in former Homeland Security head honcho Tom Ridge’s book, The Test of Our Times, that members of George W. Bush’s cabinet urged him to increase the national threat level in the days leading up to the 2004 presidential election, theorizing that the move would go a long ways towards securing a second term for the sitting president.

 

Obviously, this kind of political chicanery doesn’t do much to increase public trust. Now the politicians at Homeland have decreed that the new system, “for reasons of public credibility,” won’t be politicized. They go on to assure us in the most insistent of terms that the new threat level will be changed only when public safety and security compels it. Riigghht. We'll believe it when we see it.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Ultimately, the world is a squirrelly place; it doesn’t seem we’re safe online or off. For the former, there are legitimate security steps you can take to protect yourself. With the latter, it may very well make all the sense in the world to simplify the Threat Level Assessment System, but the way to gain credibility is not to claim there will be no politics involved. That’s an insult to Americans everywhere. Of course, there will be politics involved. Politicians can’t help themselves. The best we can hope for is that, along the way to politicizing this new system, they might inadvertently do a good thing for the rest of us.

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Colourlovers community: Seven colour palettes you liked best


We shared, you voted. This article will present the best colour palettes of the previous month that you can combine and use for your creative projects.

 

1. Story told in waves

 

2. Five shades of dark

3. The shadows of the sea

4. Just a summer day

5. Magic in colour: Orange

6. Magic in colour: Purple

7. Magic in colour: Yellow

 

We asked a fellow Colourlover, Antonio Sánchez, to help us out and make colourful mandalas using the color combinations from palettes that were the most popular on our Instagram account in the past month.

Can you match the mandalas with the palettes?

A)

B)

 

C)

D)

 

If you want to try and make something similar, head up to his blog and check out the code he wrote for previous collaboration with ColourLovers. Isn't it great?

If there are any of you Colourlovers that love to be creative, original, love to share your work, shoot us an email or a social media message so we can see how we can collaborate and inspire our community.

How did you like mandalas? Do you do something similar? Let us know in the comment section.

 

About the author:

Antonio Sánchez Chinchón is mathematician who works as data scientist at Telefónica, where he tries hard to extract value from data every day. He is the creator of Fronkonstin, a blog on mathematical experiments, data science, data art and R programming. He plays the banjo in a rock band. You can find him on Twitter @aschinchon.

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