A Month In The Life Of A Graphic Designer

Over the next month, Michael C Place of Build and Creative Review will be conducting a unique experiment. We are going to document one month in the life of a graphic designer.

Build desk

Over the next month, Michael C Place of Build and Creative Review will be conducting a unique experiment. We are going to document one month in the life of a graphic designer.

Mr Place (whose desk is shown above) has agreed to record everything that he does during this period. Every piece of work. Every idea. Every presentation. Every meeting.

During the four weeks there will be regular updates here at the CR Blog. You’ll thrill as he meets his bank manager. Gasp as he checks some proofs. Marvel as he tours exotic locations such as Walthamstow and Epping Forest. All will be revealed.

At the end of the four weeks, we are going to publish this unique insight into the life of a graphic designer in a special August issue of Creative Review, out the week of 23 July.

As a first taste, here is Michael’s diary for last week.

11.06.07 – E17
07:48 – Studio
07:56 Keys, Door, Stairs, Door, Key-code, Alarm, Door, Power on, Modem, Printer, Airport, Desk, Switch, G5 power on, Blinds, Window, Password, Font Explorer X, Photoshop, FreeHand MX, Entourage, iTunes [Strategy – Can’t Roll Back], Safari.
Build is Michael, Nicky, Brockmann & Betty.

Thinking about 50 exhibition design, Generation Press identity/print, Design Museum project, Getty Images project, Faber & Faber project, Get Involved poster, Our new identity/website.

Weekly meeting, discuss with Nicky what we are doing this week, who gets priority etc. I find the business sides of this job really difficult, Nicky is brilliant at it. I just want to design but i’ve really realised that the business side is really important. Build is now a limited company. We are 5 years old. Year 1 [Months 1-3] – Dining table in a basement flat in Camden. Year 1-2 – Table in front room Fulham. Year 2-4 – Spare room Clapham. Year 4-5 Bigger spare room Walthamstow. Year 5 Current home [and a dedicated] Studio space in Walthamstow.

Simple Sounds album sleeve design, photography by Chris Allen. Just got the scanned shots for the album back from Paul down the corridor. Colour correcting day. Really enjoyable. Wren flew into the studio, chased around by Manni [cat], chaos ensues…

Leave 19:12.

Get in late [11:01] due to eczema playing up, quite depressed. Sat at home until it subsided. Although i hate my eczema and i wish i didn’t have it, if it was a toss up between getting rid of it and losing the ability to design, i would [i think] stick with being able to design. I really think that me having asthma & eczema has been fundamental in me pursuing a career in design. It generally kept me indoors, and my development for all things art was born from not being able to do all the things ‘normal’ kids could/did do. My life would be perfect if i didn’t have eczema, my asthma isn’t that bad, i can put up with that.
Music: Adam Johnson – Chigliak.
Worked on more ‘Simple Sounds’ colour correction, sketched ideas for Design Museum project. Inspiration from my collection of old Letraset catalogues [I collect them, usually from eBay]. Especially liking ‘Fino’ at the moment. We completed a project for a shop in Hong Kong called ‘Type’ [almost a year ago now] that hopefully will be out soon, every piece of print had a generic layout/system, and a different display typeface [re–drawn from scans of various Letraset catalogues]. It’s really frustrating that it isn’t out yet, maybe i’ll put it all in the CR piece?

Leave 20:53.

Music: Found Sound 3.
Design Museum project, work up ideas [in FreeHand MX], send to Simon at DM.
Start/Finish poster for Get Involved.
Leave [2:13] for meetings in town [Marc & Tommi re. Our new website + Patrick/CR re. A month in the life piece].

Meet Marc & Tommi [Design Club, ex-Hi-Res! people] at The Diner [Hoxton], really exciting seeing the our new site working for the first time. The whole website project has been a new thing for us, we asked M&T to not only build the site, but to design it as well. So we became the dreaded ‘client’! The whole project started in January this year and over the course of 3-4 meetings we are nearly there. Being the client was actually really enjoyable, Nicky & I found that we almost fell into the ‘good cop/bad cop’ routine at meetings, i just want it to look beautiful, Nicky wanted it to be really functional. What M&T have come up with really ticks both boxes. It’s really interesting to experience the process from the other side, and i can imagine it was quite hard at times for M&T, i found that when it came to type choices etc. i couldn’t hold my tongue. The technical side we were really happy for them to do their thing, the whole coding thing for me is a black art. We really enjoy working with web/motion people, generally directing though. Letting go was really hard, but i feel that i have gained something from the whole process. So now it’s just small tweaks, tidying up lay-outs and hopefully the site should launch in late July.

17:00 Meet Patrick, Gavin & Nathan at Creative Review towers in town to discuss what we are going to do with this column/piece. Surprised at their office [i was expecting this swish ‘designer’ office], so it’s not all glamour! Patrick suggested going to the pub [I am midway through a cleansing month off the booze at this point so i had a sensible Coke™] to discuss how to do the piece. Got slightly worried when i discovered it was 12 pages and the cover. All sorted though, hopefully people will enjoy it.

Home 21:12.

Music: Bill Hicks – Flying Saucer Tour, Vol. 1: 6/20/91, Pittsburgh, PA [Live].
Get Involved poster tweaks, approved by Gavin.
Start sketches/thinking for 50 exhibition print. New job, cover for Sun Electric [an electronic music duo that i used to do covers for at tDR], as someone who basically did record sleeve design for most of his working career i still get really excited by the medium. We don’t do as many record sleeves as I used to but when i do it’s something i really enjoy. The Simple records sleeve for instance, working with Chris on the photos, travelling out to Epping Forest, dodging cars on the dual carriage-way, un-used tennis courts and vast open-spaced car-parks, people looking at you like you are crazy for taking pictures of a lump of Yellow plastic at World of Beds™ on a very depressing retail park in E17. But then you get the pictures back, and lay the sleeve out and it becomes this beautiful [yet odd] narrative. I love seeing the beauty in objects/places that to most people are ugly and ignored. I think that’s the job of a designer, reacting to the environment, seeing beneath the crap of everyday life, seeing the beauty below.

2nd Year Brighton student Laura Southcott in for an interview/portfolio show for a summer placement. We get so many emails for placements/jobs and Laura’s was one that we liked enough to get her in for a chat. Now that we have the studio it’s been great having people come in to show their portfolios, it’s really important part of a students course/life and one i recognise [i did a placement at I–D Magazine & tDR when at college]. Last week i did a talk at Ravensbourne to the 2nd & 3rd years, and i tried to impress on them that this isn’t a 9-5 job [i know for some it can be], if you really want to succeed/get on then the worst thing you can do is turn up late and leave early, as soon as someone does that personally i forget about them. We offered Laura a week placement to see how she gets on [and as much for us to see how we get on with someone else in the studio], with a view to another 1 or 2 weeks.
More work for The Design Museum project, leave the studio at 02:30am. See two foxes on the way home.

Meeting at the bank. Realisation: All banks are crap. It’s just a case of finding one that understands a creative business. being a small business one of the things that can be a struggle is cash flow, people generally don’t pay on time. I made the mistake of when i started of almost ignoring the business side of the company, it was all about the design, and that still is true but now Nicky is full-time [she previously worked for Sony Playstation] we are really working on getting the business side sorted. It’s really important.
Check proofs from Generation Press [a really good printers] for a side-project we are doing with them, really excited working with Paul and Generation Press, we use them whenever we can, it’s very important to build up a good working relationship with your printers. I remember it used to be a bit of a battle the whole designer/printer relationship, sometimes a real struggle to get what you wanted from a printer. The project we are doing with them is going to be amazing. We are also in the middle of redesigning their identity and print collateral.
Leave 18.11.

16.06.07 [Saturday]–
Still sorting out the room that we used to work from home, dismantled the shelves and brought them up to the studio. Studio still not finished, boxes everywhere, but Nicky is making really good progress.
Music: Innerzone Orchestra – Programmed.

17.06.07 [Sunday]–
Music: Isolée – We Are Monster.
Nicky assembles shelves, sorts out boxes of old tDR work. label copy in for ‘Simple Sounds’ cover, lay out inlays ready for deluge of ‘thank you’ credits. Collate notes/images for ‘A month in the life of…’ piece. Say we will leave by 13:00, leave at 15:14. I always knew we would eventually get a studio space but never realised how positive the move has been in terms of work and life, whilst working at home i used to really enjoy it, i am a very focused person so i never used to slack off and watch the old Black & White film in the afternoon [though i did watch ‘Bargain Hunt’ religiously], i had the cats for company, i could work in my pyjamas if i wanted to [and did sometimes], but after a while not being able to seperate work from home started to become a bit of a problem. We used to walk past the mews and see this building at the end that looked interesting, we looked it up online and went in just before Christmas last year to look around, we were shown this space and was wowed, but thought it too big, we saw some other units that were small, too small really. We then got a call from the owner of the building who made us a very good offer and we moved into the space in late February this year. Having the studio has enabled us to do so many things we couldn’t do whilst working from home, from projects [spray-painting sheets of glass all night for D&AD] to having students in on placements, to thinking in a different way, the space really enables me to think more clearly, it’s less claustrophobic, lovely light etc.
Leave 15:14.

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Sent: 217.
Junk: 28.

What's the story?

The Storytelling issue, Oct/Nov 2017, is out now.
We invited writers to respond to our cover image
this month: read their stories inside.
PLUS: Tom Gauld, Oliver Jeffers, Giphy & S-Town

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