Whitenoise is a creative design agency based in Northern Ireland, proud to shout about our team of skilled graphic designers, videographers, animators, project managers and more! No day is the same and every day brings something different to the table. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind our doors? Or what it takes to become one of our epic team?
Continuing our 'An Interview with..' series, we talk to Senior Designer and Website UX Specialist Andy Day.
Andy, what inspired you to become a graphic designer?
As a child and all the way through school, I had dreams of becoming an architect. That was until I realised that mathematics was a prerequisite and unfortunately maths did not come naturally to me. So what was I going to do? With dreams shattered and my path to the future no longer visible, I continued with Art and Design classes (which I did ok in). I just ambled along until I found myself enrolled in an Art Foundation course at Coventry University. Instinctively, I hated it. I had made a bad choice. I could see no obvious career path at the end of the course. I frequently asked myself whether I was destined to be a fledgling artist selling prints of my work at the market.
Despondent and uninspired I carried on with the course until, during one of the modules, we were asked to produce a CD cover that represented a period in our lives that meant something. At this point, I didn’t really have an understanding of what a graphic designer was, but I loved designing the CD cover and started to research Graphic Design as a career.
After finding a Graphic Design course that would accept my GCSE and A-Level results, I left my foundation course with a clear vision of what my future may be. In hindsight and with the experience gained over my career, I have realised my artwork always had a graphic quality to it.
How would you describe your approach to graphic design?
Ultimately, graphic design is a problem-solving discipline. To solve a problem you really need to understand the problem. Every project should begin with research, and if you do enough research, then 9 times out of 10 the solution to your problem will reveal itself.
I have always been a less is more designer and have a very strong view of what is a good or successful design. If I am designing a poster to communicate an idea or event, everything on that page needs to have a reason for being there. Creating design because it looks nice is not my style, you may as well be an artist!
In my opinion, designers should be all about the detail, it is that which elevates good designers to great designers.
What type of brief or project do you enjoy working on the most?
I really enjoy working on large, multi-faceted, complex projects which require a lot of problem-solving and require a clear design system that can be applied to different types of media whether that be print or digital. Projects that involve a user experience are particularly interesting to me because everything has to be simplified right down to the basics and can improve people's lives if done correctly. A great example of this was the Translink Way-finding project I produced in 2018, which coincidently scooped Whitenoise an Irish Design Award in 2018.
What qualities do you think a person needs to become a graphic designer?
Thinking back to my Graphic Design course at university I quickly realised that graphic design was not just a job, but a way of life. You need to immerse yourself in design all around you, from the clothes that you wear to the products that you buy. It's about understanding and appreciating good design where you find it.
You can be taught design thinking at university and you can have natural creative flare, but what universities don't prepare you for when entering the industry is how hard it is to land your first job. Perseverance is a quality that a designer needs when starting out, and for the rest of their career, as more often than not, getting a project over the finish line needs serious perseverance.
Being able to take constructive criticism is also a must. Whether you are a recent graduate or have worked in the industry for 20 years, people will have an opinion on your work. Listening to that advice and taking it on board, will help you become more self-critical - a benefit in the times when there isn't someone there to help you.
Finally, be curious, ask questions and always strive to be better.
What has been a memorable moment in your career?
As I mentioned previously universities don't prepare you for how hard it is landing your first job. My very first step in the design industry was at a small printers, which was not a bad job because it taught me the artworking skills needed to take a design to print-ready file. This invaluable experience gave me an understanding of the design and print process as a whole.
One of my most memorable moments was landing my first agency job at Palmer Hargreaves in Leamington Spa. This was primarily an ad agency for automotive clients like JLR, Ford and Mercedes. Knowing that you stood out above other recent graduates gives you confidence and a sense of achievement. I will never forget the feeling of being in your first team briefing and having other experienced designers critique your work. It was incredible to work alongside a Head of Design leader who I admired and who helped shape and inspire my love of graphic design. I already had a passion for typography and Jon Kielty further fuelled that. I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be the designer I am today without his influence and enthusiasm.
Another memorable moment was when a member of staff drove their car through a wall of the creative studio, but that's a whole different blog post!
What are your thoughts on specialisation versus generalisation (with regards to skills)?
Being a graphic designer is a specialism in itself, but I think that a good designer should be able to design across all mediums, from print through to digital, from brochures to websites. The fundamental design principles are the same, it's how they are applied for each media that is different. You may not have the software skills to execute an animation but you should have a good understanding of how it works and build skills over time.
Back when I started out as a designer you were either a creative, graphic designer or a multimedia designer. The lines are now blurred and a graphic designer is expected to do perform all three roles...and rightly so.
If you don’t keep up to date with the way the industry is progressing and new technologies then you are going to get left behind and not grow as a designer.
Do you have any tips or tricks you can share with fledgling designers?
There is a wealth of knowledge available on the internet today, from blog posts on critical design thinking to YouTube tutorials for any number of software applications. I remember a time when these resources weren’t available free of charge. Make the most of them.
When first starting out, design books helped me out with inspiration and motivated me when I was struggling to get my first job. I will always have a place and need for a printed book, as there is something special experienced when flicking through a physical object rather than scrolling on a screen. One book that stood out for me in terms of advice and motivation was Adrian Shaughnessy’s How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul.
Again, ask questions and never be the last to arrive morning or the first one to leave in the evening, you want to show that you are dedicated.
Failing this, you might as well retrain in another career, as you might not be cut out for this demanding industry!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Of all the pieces of advice that I have been given over the years the one that has stuck with me is, that when someone is offering you free advice you should listen to it - even if you don't agree with it or act on it. Time and expertise usually come with a cost, so when it is been given to you for free - take it.
What is your personal motto?
I don't have a motto as such, it's more of a philosophy. When starting a design project, or any task for that matter, do it to the best of your ability. Giving 100% into everything you do will give you greater job satisfaction. If you don’t put everything you have into it, there is no point in doing it at all.
In other words, push for perfection but accept you might not reach it, as there is always room for improvement!
To work with Andy or any of our fantastic creative team members please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to hear from you.
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