When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro
—Hunter S. Thompson
I’m Tony and I’m happy in my work. So happy that I really should declare myself a ‘passionate designer’ and throw up a cutesy mission statement expressing my undying love for the web, design, creativity and other creatives... or something.
But it wasn’t always this way...
I was forced out of my last ‘proper’ job by departmental re-organisation. I got ‘restructured’. Dazed, confused but determined as hell, I left the building and set up as a freelancer.
In practical terms that wasn’t too difficult, I had the art school education, the technical skills, the design ‘nous’. The real obstacle was fear. And there was plenty of that when starting out.
Fear of failure and where that might lead wraps its tentacles around your heart and sits in the pit of your stomach like a sociopathic Alien.
And the godawful loneliness just magnifies the illusion that you live and work in some desolate region of deep space.
But after you’ve fallen on your face a few times and still managed to haul your ass off the deck to face another day, it starts to dawn that fear can be managed. You also realise that the mistakes you’ve made, actually, have provided the best learning experience you could possibly have had.
I came out of Bermondsey in South London. I’ve witnessed a lot of falling down and getting back up, but that’s another story...
People come to me looking for a ‘web guy’ or a ‘graphics guy’. And that’s fine. But a little clarity goes a long way online.
Marketing sits at the centre of any web presence today, and a website without a plan is an empty shell. It's the same offline, design proceeds from content and content proceeds from a concept.
So what’s the plan?
People without plans turn to Wix or Godaddy, set themselves up and wait... and sleep... and wait.
People with a plan know that the design they commission has a specific and measurable endgame.
Are you that person, the one who goes minimal white because it ‘looks cool’? Of course not, it’s why you’re here... ;)
I do what I do for pleasure, love, self-empowerment and the thrill of sharing what I know to help others... before you throw up in your mouth I'll clarify:
Good design requires groundwork otherwise it’s just a shot in the dark. My first piece of advice to my post-redundant, fearful self, and, most of my clients:
have a vision.
You need to know what you really want and what it means to you. A clearly defined vision lifts your wanting above mere survival, it allows some dreaming to leak in. It becomes about what you desire to grow into. Having a clear idea of where you’re headed will also keep you anchored.
Then plug into your inherent difference by identifying your personal truth, your core values. This will give you power and leverage. Your version of truth won’t be for everyone but it doesn’t need to be. Another word for this is ‘authenticity’. Your authenticity helps to render you visible in a landscape of bland and is endlessly attractive to those who care about your kind of visibility.
Design tells your story by giving substance to these aspects of your personality. If this is sounding like a brand identity exercise it’s because that's the level you need to aspire to now. There are automated systems these days that throw together colours and shapes into generic eye candy. But the 'competency' this approach declares looks tired and defensive to our ever more educated, design-aware eyeballs.
How you show up becomes the difference between merely pleasing the eye or pleasing the mind. In other words strong design is, by definition, strategic. As we enter a post-industrial economy that thrives on connection, anything less would be just too ‘fake news’…