Andrew Whittle is a Web and Graphic Designer currently working in West Yorkshire, with 18 years experience in the design industry it was great to connect and talk more about his thoughts on the industry.
Who is Andrew Whittle? What work is your favourite to undertake in 2014?
I am a Graphic / Website Designer based in West Yorkshire with 18 years experience in the design industry. I have worked within in-house teams, agencies and for myself. Most of my work these days is digital, however as a traditional Graphic Designer I love to work in print too.
During 2014 I aim to work on more integrated design solutions encompassing print, branding and digital for a more diverse range of clients. I am also keen to introduce more illustration and animation into my work.
What are some of your goals and targets for 2014?
2014 is going to be the year I go full time freelance, working with design agencies across the UK and direct to clients. For the past couple of years I have been keeping an eye out for a new full time position, even turning a couple down in sunny Cornwall, however I want to spend as much time with my family as possible whilst working on more diverse work. I want that work / life balance which as Designers we are in the position to have, you just need to make the jump.
What have been some of your favourite projects to complete through your career so far?
My favourite projects are complete end-to-end design solutions which include branding, print and digital, great examples of these are ArtyThreads and SDA where I designed and developed their complete branding both offline and online, alongside printed literature and website design. There’s a lot of talk in the industry that you should specialise and although I agree to some extent, say for example if you have only designed and built websites, as a Graphic Designer, it’s my responsibility to solve a problem through design, whether that be ink on paper to pixels on a screen.
Who were the designers who inspired your work growing up? Have the people you’re inspired by changed today?
When I was growing up I was heavily into skateboarding and the whole skateboarding scene influenced me. Skateboard graphics, magazine layouts and the whole underground culture. It wasn’t until I was at college that I was influenced by the likes of Peter Saville. Today I’m not necessary inspired any anyone in particular but more the fast pace in which the industry is moving and how we as Designers have to adapt. It feels that with every project we adopt a more streamlined approach.
Where do you search for inspiration when beginning new projects? Online/Offline?
To be honest I don’t really go searching for inspiration when I start a project. I start with understanding the brief and what the main objective is. Usually, once I have digested the brief the solution usually presents itself. The visual look and feel of a design comes after I have worked out the layout and if its a website the user flow through the website.
What route through education did you take to where you are today?
I was a bit of a late starter when it came to my higher education. When I was at school the only lesson I was interested in was art and design. I had a great art teacher who also designed skateboard graphics and as a keen skateboarder in the 80’s that was a great influence.
When I left school I had no idea what to do, all I wanted to do was skateboard and travel to competitions. I knew I could not skate forever and so after working for a few years stacking shelves I decided to go along to my local careers office and they opened up a whole new world to me. They advised me that I should go along to my local college and discuss available art and design courses. I did not have enough GCSE’s to get straight onto the course I wanted, which was a BTEC in Graphic Design so I had to start at the bottom and work my way up by completing a GNVQ in Art and Design and at the same time gaining the GCSE’s I had flunked at school. From there I was accepted onto the BTEC Graphic Design course and was told I could skip the first year as I had spent so much time outside college developing my skills such as idea generation, magic marker visuals and I had also started to pick up some Mac skills.
After completing my BTEC I was actually looking at going to University in Falmouth, Cornwall to do a degree in Illustration but was talked out of it by my tutor, saying that I would spend far too much time surfing and not studying. So with that I left College and within a couple of weeks was taken on as a Junior Graphic Designer at a local engineering company working in their in-house publications and marketing department. This job primed me for the rest of my career.
I spent the following 10 years or so working my way up to Creative Manager at a Manchester based ISP where I led a design and development team, then onto launching my own design business in Manchester.
Do you have any plans to give back through teaching/lecturing in the future?
I would love the opportunity to talk about my work and my process such as wireframing, AI, prototyping, UI design and site builds. This may take the form of workshops or talks at conferences or industry interviews.
What advice would you give to graduates coming out of university in 2014?
My advice would be not so much ‘when’ you come out of university but whilst studying, take on as many side projects or self initiated projects as possible, read blogs, listen to podcasts and generally keep an eye on the industry. I still do this every day because in the digital sector, what’s hot one month is old news six months later. Because of the fast pace in which the digital sector is moving, it’s impossible for the education system to keep up let alone implement course work that relates to what is going on in the real world. It’s akin to learning to drive, you only really start to learn to drive once you’ve passed your test.
I’ve also met graduates who think they can just throw images together, buying iStock assets and saying job done. There’s no scamps or ideas behind their work and they feel that sketching out ideas is old school. These people will not last long because an idea does not start on your Mac! So even if you are a designer working in print or digital, always keep sketching because that’s what I want to see, not a fully rendered, half baked idea.
As both a digital and traditional designer, do you think print or the more traditional methods of design and media will ever be fully squeezed out?
To some extent they already have. I remember setting artwork on PMT machines, using the dodge and burn technique in the dark room, long before Photoshop. Its inevitable that as technology progresses, we have to adapt. The Internet has to some degree spawned millions of so called web or graphic designers on crowd sourcing websites that offer work at rock bottom prices. Unfortunately this has led clients to believe that design work is cheap, which damages the industry.
WordPress is another culprit. Its fine as a blogging platform but it has been tweaked into a bad CMS platform and is splashed across many a website design magazine and your every joe blogs who pick up a copy of a web mag takes it home, runs a simple installer and has a play around with it. Next day they go into work and say, “I can do this” or we can get an web design company to build our new corporate website in WordPress and jot won’t cost much. You can spot WordPress websites a mile off and people need to be aware that theres more to web design than WordPress.
In terms of web design tools, theres a massive shift in the way we work. Typically we use to produce visuals in Photoshop, but now we have to be able to show clients how a design will work on various devices and breakpoint. How do you best show this? Well I say we should be presenting in the browser, not flat mockups. I do however think we can not ditch Photoshop just yet as we still need to give clients a visual design reference. The design may not be final but is more a style guide and as long as clients understand this then I believe thats the best route.