September 26, 2016

Girls’ Life vs Boys’ Life

Photographer Matt Frye took his kids to the local library in Kansas City where he saw his 7-year-old daughter looking at the cover of Girls’ Life — a US magazine aimed at 10-15 year olds. A few rows up was an issue of Boys’ Life — the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. Matt sat them side-by-side and shared the snapshot on Facebook, calling it “a sad microcosm of what our society says being a girl vs being a boy means.”

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February 24, 2015

Virgin, Run a Holiday

Oli + Josie came up with a brilliant idea to link the Virgin brands.

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September 10, 2014

Antisocial media marketing

My Logo Design Love Facebook page has been "liked" more than 300,000 times, yet even the most popular newsfeed update (the photo album that's screen-grabbed below) isn't shown to everyone who has chosen to see what I share.

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December 13, 2012

On trading design services

When Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar started their design practice in the late 1950s, one of the first things they did whenever possible was to trade design for some minor services they needed. Ivan cites the following example.

Money kite

“When the time came to have an attorney to help with a simple contract agreement, we traded the legal fee for a letterhead design. We did such trades from time to time with landlords and other suppliers to whom we owed something — anyone who could use a little graphic design and didn’t have anything of any quality in place.”

Ivan isn’t the only professional who has traded design for something else of value. Vancouver-based Nancy Wu recounts an occasion when she traded her design skills with a man who specialized in custom woodwork and home renovations.

“He asked if I ever traded services, as he needed some design work done and wondered if I needed anything done around the house. In fact, I did. I live in an old house with splintered wood in one spot, so I traded for minor work redoing the floors in my son’s room, fixing some bathroom tile cracks, and creating a removable cover for one of the vents to keep the house warm during the winter months. In return, I designed a postcard, banner, and business card for an upcoming trade show. Our form of trade was less about monetary figures and more about value for value. He had one of his experienced men come in to put in new high quality laminate, taking advantage of the kind of discount rates they could obtain with their suppliers. Likewise, I had my own printing contacts and signage suppliers to help keep things affordable and on schedule to meet his deadline.

“In the end, it was a win-win situation and we ended up both being quite happy with the results. The key is that we kept it professional at the start, getting everything outlined in detail so that each of us knew what was needed and what the expected outcomes were.”

Excerpted from the "Pricing your work" chapter of Work for Money, Design for Love. Get the full chapter when you join the mailing list.

Chapter contributors include Alina Wheeler, Ivan Chermayeff, Nancy Wu, Ted Leonhardt, Andrea Austoni, Karishma Kasabia, and Mike Reed.

Other chapters have been excerpted on the AIGA website.

September 28, 2012

When pro bono design pays off

Working pro bono is an excellent way for inexperienced designers to build their portfolios, and for experienced designers to do great work for causes they love.

Javier Mateos of Mexico-based design studio Xplaye helped both himself and others with a successful pro bono effort. Two years ago, Xplaye started a series of tribute exhibitions that involved taking a famous music band and translating some of their songs into illustrations.

Last year, the studio created a tribute to Grammy Award winning Café Tacuba, one of the most popular bands in Mexico. The project wasn’t intended to make a profit, but rather to raise funds for children with spina bifida.

Through social media, Café Tacuba heard about what Xplaye were doing. They were so happy that they decided to autograph every illustration for an auction to increase the donations for the association helping the kids.

Café TacubaCafé Tacuba signing Xplaye’s illustrations.

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

The project was covered on CNN Mexico, in Rolling Stone Mexico, on, and in the most important TV and print media in the country.

Roughly $10,000 was raised, and five companies approached the spina bifida association to offer materials and supplies.

“This project grew our design bureau in a wonderful way. As a result we are now invited to many conferences, we’re asked to give interviews, and we gained respect from our colleagues in Mexico. It was an amazing and successful experience!”
— Javier Mateos, Xplaye

Just one example of how to grow your business while helping those in need.

In Work for Money, Design for Love you can read other case studies where pro bono design has led directly to paying clients.

Pro bono resources:
Five myths about pro bono design, on Co.Design
AIGA job board, contains a pro bono section
How to improve your portfolio with pro bono design, in the archives

And here’s a video of Café Tacuba unplugged with Gustavo Santaolalla. I love their sound.

November 28, 2011

TIME magazine covers: worldwide differences

The difference between the US version of the TIME cover and that of the rest of the world recently proved to be a popular comparison on Reddit, with some calling it censorship.

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September 4, 2011

Where to find the right designer

There’s an amazing variety of designers available for all levels of design investment, whether your budget stretches to a few hundred, or a few hundred thousand.

The more effort that’s put into finding the right designer, the more likely clients will be to get the level of design they deserve. As I’m not always the right fit for the projects I’m approached about, whether due to budget or skillset, I’ve collated a few broad resources that I hope are helpful.

Creative Review. One of the design profession's leading publications.
Behance. A portfolio network where designers show-off their skills.
LinkedIn. Allows designers to display their Behance portfolios on their LinkedIn profiles.
THE DRUM. News, information, jobs, a comprehensive directory, and more.
FormFiftyFive. Design inspiration from around the world.
AIGA. US-centric, but designers and clients don't need to be in the same country.
Graphic Artists Guild. Similar to AIGA, I think, only smaller.
Twitter. You could search for a relevant term, or ask someone to post a request.
Identity Designed. Brand identity case studies from designers across the globe.
Dribbble. A "show and tell for creatives."
Forrst. Similar to Dribbble in some ways.
Coroflot. Portfolios showcasing a wide range of creative specialities.
Creativepool. Jobs, portfolios, and freelancers.
Design Week. A professional publication with news and features.
Cargo. A popular portfolio platform with a "featured sites" showcase.
Graphic BirdWatching. Promotion of female graphic designers everywhere.
Design blogs. Those are just a few of the ones I like visiting.

Additionally, it can be a good idea for potential clients to contact companies that have distinctive branding, as there’s no harm in asking who created the work. Designers, too, can be a great source of referrals, as those I know are more than happy to recommend others in the design profession.

Further resource: Design Business and Ethics, from AIGA.

May 4, 2011

If design was an iceberg

Multi-million dollar investments in contest-listing websites will inevitably prompt a more aggressive marketing push, but as long as self-respecting designers continue to differentiate themselves this won't affect client acquisition.

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August 10, 2010

I wish I’d known that

What advice would you give a design graduate? Chris Arnold, founder of Creative Orchestra and former creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, offers his pearls of wisdom.

green dice sixesImage via Thinkstock

It's tough. Very tough. And there is a truth in the fact that only the toughest survive. The lazy ones fail. You need to be proactive, no-one is going to call you. You have to make your own opportunities, make your own destiny. Your success is in your hands. As is your failure. But here are a few tips. Most are based on the very basics of marketing. Many are common sense. Sometimes you just have to think like a creative director (CD) and then you’d wake up to what motivates them.

  1. Never send out blanket ‘Dear Sir’ emails. Total waste of time. Personalise all communications and do your homework. Know about them and their company and work. Quality is better then quantity.
  2. Do something that will get a CD (or senior) to really want to see you. They are time short so can’t see many grads. Like any good design or advertising, it’s all about impact. They are looking for the ones that stand out.
  3. You are not God, yet. Never tell them how great you are, “hot talent,” you aren't. Not yet. You are fresh but green and making claims you are great makes you look arrogant and deluded. They already have great people working there, so why will they hire you? Mainly because you are cheap, work hard, and have potential.
  4. Be different. So many books are all the same. Colleges turn-out sausage factory students with the same work. Blame the bean counters in Whitehall. Bin it. Start afresh and make the work yours. It should reflect your values, approach and style, not your tutors. Be employed for who you are, not who the college wanted you to be.
  5. Work hard. Really hard. You've been in cotton wool land for three years doing no real work with no real pressure by our standards. This is the real world. You need to work harder, faster, and all-hours. And never use Facebook at work. Friends, socialising, all comes second.
  6. Forget money. If you land a job, great. Most will spend months, maybe years doing unpaid or poorly-paid placements. It's not the money but the work that really matters. Get a job in a bar or pizza joint. You'll need it.
  7. It’s not just about the work but about people. You need to engage future employees, be nice, listen, be humble, take advice. Never argue or be arrogant (as an employee the boss's word is king). You need them more than they need you — the pool of talent for employees is very big. Make them like you. We want nice people with potential talent. Once you've seen someone, try and keep the connection going, come back, build a relationship.
  8. Think of yourself as a brand. You need to be remembered. What will they remember you for? What defines you? If you have it in you, do something that defines you. Invent something, develop a unique skill, get noticed for something — it creates a talking point.
  9. Action. Try and get a second interview. Ask to come back when you’ve renewed your folio. Ask about work experience. Ask for honest feedback or how you could make the grade to get a job there.
  10. Remember, it's a very subjective world and some will love your folio, some will hate it. The better it is, the more polar the response. If everyone just likes it then it's average.

Chris Arnold
Founder & CD, Creative Orchestra
(Former CD Saatchi & Saatchi, Draft, STH, Feel, Alliance...)

Chris is author of Ethical Marketing and the New Consumer: Marketing in the New Ethical Economy, available on

More help for design graduates from Lee Newham with these CV tips and design interview tips.

Other posts you might find of use: what graphic design schools are lacking, and self-employment advice for designers.

February 22, 2010

How pro bono design improves your portfolio

You’re a design student with a portfolio full of fictitious projects. You want to work with clients to build your experience, but you need to develop your portfolio to get those jobs. That’s when pro bono design can be a massive help.

Pro bono publico (usually shortened to pro bono) is a Latin phrase that means "for the public good." It’s generally used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment as a public service. But unlike traditional volunteerism, pro bono uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.

Small non-profits are the companies that are most in need. Larger non-profits are likely to have a percentage of their annual budget allocated to brand identity work, and will probably already have a working relationship with a design studio (although it can pay to ask if there’s a company you particularly want to collaborate with).

Search online, in a phone directory, or a local paper for a nearby organisation. There are a few advantages of staying local: You can meet your client face to face, helping to build confidence, and making it easier to ensure you’re dealing with the decision-maker rather than passing design ideas through a middle-person. You get the opportunity to take your own photos of the finished design (on signage, stationery, etc.) — if done right, these contextual shots can turn an average case study into a great one. And you’re building your network of local business contacts. The stronger your network, the more help that's available down the line.

Approaching a non-profit about pro bono work

Talk to the person responsible for the branding. In a small-sized company this is likely to be the managing director or chief executive. Pitch yourself as a talented designer with policy of devoting a small percentage of time toward pro bono, and that your client's mission is one you have a great deal of respect for (this should, obviously, be true). Detail the savings you are offering your client (your standard rate for an identity project, discounted by 100%). This’ll make sure the value of the outcome isn't underestimated, and helps keep your client motivated.

Ask for a 30-minute meeting, where you'll talk about design needs and set a course of action. That’s where you’ll arrive with your standard questions to help set the design brief.

Your client might be wary about having his or her brand identity created or redesigned. It might be seen as a risk rather than a way to help build the organisation's reputation. So the more in-depth your initial discussions, the more at ease your client will be.

Time the meeting, and if you haven't finished within half an hour say you’ve reached the end of the allocated time, and that you can call or email at a later date for any other information — your client will appreciate that.

I’ve outlined a number of questions to ask in the Logo Design Love book.

A few related reads:
Paula Scher on pro bono.
When pro bono design pays off.
10 tips for designers working pro bono, on Co.Design.

February 16, 2009

Getting your foot in the door

When Lee Newham worked as a senior designer at London-based consultancy P&W, he would receive three or four CVs each day. Here are Lee’s tips to get your CV to the top of the pile.

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August 1, 2008

Fifteen graphic design interview tips

The following interview advice for graphic designers was written by Lee Newham of Good People, former design director at London-based Davies Hall.

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October 5, 2007

How I reversed my Google ranking penalty

Yesterday, through a large increase in site visitors, I discovered that my Google penalty had been lifted. In this post, I'm going to tell you why I was penalised by Google, what I did to have the penalty removed, and how you can avoid a similar penalty for your website.

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