The newest addition to our team, Jack, is a talented illustrator with a 12,000 strong following on Instagram. In his blog post, he explains what it took to stand out from the crowd when establishing himself as a designer.
Becoming a designer
Many people strive towards self-improvement but often get stuck at the first hurdle, asking the question “but how?”. My answer is to step out of your comfort zone. It’s not as scary as it sounds.
A year and a half ago to this date, I realised that life was changing; university was over and the world of full-time work was fast approaching. And let’s not sugar-coat the truth, it’s hard, way harder than making it to a 9 am lecture.
Looking for my first break in design was frustrating, hard and demoralising. I had rejection email after rejection email (if I was lucky, some never even replied).
I decided I had to do something different, something that would make me as a designer stand out from the crowd. So, I started creating daily designs. It gave me something else to fill my days with, other than just applying for jobs. I set myself a target to post one design every day no matter how good or bad they were (trust me there were some very bad ones).
Using social media as my platform for a mini portfolio (great for job interviews) enabled me to make what I wanted when I wanted. Whether I was on the train, bus, plane, or anywhere.
Learning to draw
I have loved drawing since my grandma bought me a full artist set when I was five years old. I still own this artist set. Moving on to Adobe systems at university equipped me with the tools to bring drawings to life on screen, and suitable for use in a professional context.
When I first started my daily designs, I’d read design blogs and find one piece that would influence the design I was going to do that day. My first designs were generally making a word visually reflect their meaning. I remember looking at other people’s work and wondering how they’d thought of doing that.
I was never a believer in ‘that lightbulb moment’ you hear about, but funnily enough, it happened. At some point, everything clicked. I went from looking at other people’s work for influence to me in a way instinctively knowing what will work. I built up a catalogue of designs in my head and people began to take notice.
Developing a brand
I developed an ethos like all strong brands and companies have. Simplicity is key. From this, a set of unwritten, yet set in stone rules were applied to my work. This lead to me taking everyday objects or nostalgic items and making them the centre of attention in my work. I didn’t want anything else to compete with them on the page.
With time, my ethos developed and so did my following. Simplicity was still the key, but the proof was also now in the tiny details. Having a nice outline and nice colours weren’t enough. I began to experiment with highlights and shadows, still focusing on simplicity. Many designers use gradients so their highlights and shadows blend in with their work. My thinking was different, the shadows and highlights should stand proudly on top of the work. This theme has continued to develop.
Turning daily designs into a day job
My dad used to say “this colouring in won’t help you find a job”, which is one thing he no doubts regrets saying now. The skills I’ve developed feed into my role at Counter Context; I apply the same ethos to my illustrations which make for a more refined design. I’ve found that my illustration skills have come in handy in all the design jobs I’ve had, as it is normally a thing that is outsourced.
And now here I am, over 12,000 people who follow and like my work on Instagram, finally in a job that I like, learning from people with bags of experience but also finding myself with some tips to share, which I never thought would happen.
To progress, leave your comfort zone. Before you know it, you will find yourself back in that comfort zone, it’s just much bigger and better than before.