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Project 6 Task 1 – Personal Portfolio Websites

April 18, 2011

Project 6, the final installment of our course, where hopefully we should now have some vague grasp of what we are doing. Well I think thats the plan. So inevitably the final project is based on producing a portfolio website for ourselves whilst working in a team (and remember folks, there is no ‘i’ in team!!). But before we get to the fun parts, I first of all have to deal with Task 1 which breaks down as follows:

Task 1: Research Portfolio Websites

A) Personal Portfolio Websites

I am to research and analyse a range of portfolio websites. These can be for graphic designers, web designers, photographers or anyone in the creative/design field.

B) Employment Opportunities

I am to research and report on the range of employment opportunities for web designers within the Brighton area. I must identify any local companies that I find.

I am then to investigate and report on the role of the freelancer in web design.

Task 1A) Personal Portfolio Website

So then, what better portfolio website to start with than my own. Please bear in mind this hasn’t been updated in terms of design for a good 6 years or so:

 Sler

Lets start at my home page. This is different from my original home page as about 4 years ago whilst living in Brazil I finally fulfilled one of my life ambitions and had a range of t-shirts made under my brand name Sler. To sell these I had to have a website built with a shopping cart facility (more on that later) so rather than have to redo my portfolio site to incorporate it I had a separate site built enabling both sites to be accessed from my home page (and from each individual site). My home page is very minimalist, I am a big fan of less is more and so kept the details down to a bare minimum. My Sler logo I love, kind of a gothic feel almost but by doing it in pink it makes for a much more modern feel. I have clearly marked the two different entry points into my site stating what they are, my illustration and my t-shirts. I also have a great piece of music playing on the home page, inspired from my time living in Brazil, I forget what the words mean now but it’s quite positive from what I remember, and it also works brilliantly in a loop. You have the option of turning off the sounds though with the megaphone icon at the top left, although this also turns off automatically when you enter the illustrator site as in my original site I had no on and off button built in for music (and I didn’t want to pay to get it added). My site is a little dated now in the sense that it is a Flash site, 100% flash. Looking back I wish I had had it built in HTML for longevity but back when I had this built Flash was the man (not Gordon) and I had no idea Apple would stop supporting it. Anyway, lets take a look inside, starting first with my illustrator section.

Upon clicking on the Illustrator section we are brought to the contents page. Here (as on every page) I have running along the bottom my contact details. I felt that too many sites had you clicking too many times to get to the information regarding contacts. After all it’s what you want people to do so make it accessible to them. For some reason my email link is looking lighter than the others, I have no idea why as it wasn’t a few months ago. Also each of my pages features my ‘Swoosh’ (sorry stole that word from Nike) which is a mark made by a marker pen. This was a kind of identity I came up with when I worked more with magic markers than how I work today. It just helps tie all the pages into the same theme. But anyway, I have every possible way of contacting me, even Skype. If I were doing this again today I would also add the obligatory Facebook and Twitter links. So my contents page consists of a Profile, Clients, Samples, Storyboard Artists and a link to my sister site for T-Sler. Lets go through these in order.

In the Profile section I basically have a little bit of information regarding myself and my background. Believe it or not some people are interested in things like that. I also have text links to all of the other sections from the body of the copy, as well as introducing a Home Button top right that takes you back to the contents page we looked at previously. Again I have all of my contact info located in the same location at the bottom of the page.

Next we have a client list, which if I do say myself, is pretty extensive and impressive. This is just a small fraction of the clients I have worked on over the last 8 years. I have pretty much worked for at least one big company from any area you could possibly think of ranging from clothing manufacturers to newspapers to banks to car manufacturers. I think its always good to show a client list, it helps install confidence with prospective clients.

Next we come to my Samples section, or my samples mosaic as I like to call it. I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea from for this layout but I just loved the idea of having hundreds of abstract little squares that left you intrigued as to what lay behind them. I love the randomness of the colours that come through. There are 144 images on each of my 5 samples pages (the sixth hasn’t got anything on it yet) which brings a total of 720 samples of my work. Thats a lot of work. I try and add another page of 144 every year and with each year the page number down the side increases. Its a time consuming process as i have to set each image into a template grid I have for the enlarged images then crop a little square out and save that down as the preview image. The guys who built my site are some guys I used to work with so they have devised a device that just lets me upload the images myself and they magically appear. One thing I guess I would change on this page is that the newer images go to the first page on not the 6th for example. This way it would reduce the number of clicks required to see my latest work. Lets take a look at how the page appears when you click on an image.

Here we can see an image that has been clicked on (this shows a yeti character I designed for Nokia). Now I have a couple of problems with this section of my site. The main one being that there is no ‘next’ or ‘previous’ button that lets you scroll through the enlarged images. As it stands you have to click on the close button that takes you back to the mosaic samples page and click on another square. This is an obvious flaw and one that I intend to remedy as soon as I have some spare cash. The other main problem I have is the size of the enlarged image. Its not big enough. Although this image looks great and its very clear, it is a very simple image. Lets take a look at some more detailed images.

Here we can see a more detailed sample. As you can see it really is a bit small. There is a great half tone pattern in the background of this image (which was done for a Suppliment for one of the Broadsheet Newspapers, I forget which one) which you can really see. Also for some reason my samples seem to sit a little low. There is a great big space above them that could have led to a slightly enlarged image. This might have killed two birds with one stone as it were.

The image above (for Nike Run London) is another example that could have done with being a bit bigger so you can see the details on the lamppost. With all the different galley options available nowadays with sliders etc I think for this project I can make a much more interesting gallery that functions in a much more practical way. As well as illustrating myself I also rep out various storyboard artists. So they have there own section (see below).

Here we have my storyboard artists section. Quite often when clients want to contract a storyboard artist to work for them they want to see samples of there work. Rather than people having to come to me  for samples I put together a downloadable pdf file (in both Hi and Low res) so clients can download them remotely and select which artist they want to use. I even colour coded the pdf icons (they roll over red when rolled over). Below shows a screen shot of what the pdf looks like when downloaded into your browser. I think its about 40 pages long but a great resource the client can download and keep on there desktop for future reference.

Finally we come to my sister site for t-shirts, T-Sler. Whilst not directly a portfolio website (although it could be argued that its showing some of my work just on t-shirts) I though I would just show you a couple of pages. The contents page is similar to my illustrator site it just has more options as this site is bigger, and uses the diamonds from the logo to act as bullet points. Note the link again to my illustrator site, but lets skip most of the sections and go to the interesting section, the t-shirts.

Here we can see the t-short section, there are a total of 9 designs (only 8 are visible here, the shirts scroll sideways) and each design has the option of linking to close up details on the shirt as well as a choice of sizes. once you have added what you want to your cart you can check out by viewing your shopping cart. Again this site is very clean looking with only the minimum amount of information on each page. Its just a little something different other than just have a normal portfolio site, why not a a walking portfolio! Well thats mu site done with, lets take a look at some other great portfolio sites.

Bless Design

Bless Design is a design company consisting of married couple Dan Broad and Mary Lam (two friends of mine). They are great designers and I have had the pleasure of working with several times in the past and what I love about there site is the sheer cleanness of it all. The design is minimalist to the extreme but it brought to life with great photography (shot by themselves). For example the photo on the homepage changes daily and is always beautifully shot and usually it has some sort of type reference. You also have the twitter link on the page and of course the option for subscribing. Let’s take a brief look at the various sections prior to the actual portfolio section.

In the About section we have a brief intro into what Bless is all about. Again not to heavy and can be read in a few seconds. Again the simple black and white colour scheme is just so crisp. Really like it.

The contact section again follows this really clean look with no fuss. all the company info is in there that anyone might require along with contact number and email addresses.

Testimonials has some great reviews for bless from some pretty heavy weight bods in the industry, from Guy Featherstone (another good friend of mine and Design Director at Wieden + Kennedy London) to heads of Art from both BBH and DDB London, two of the most successful advertising agencies of recent times. I think it will be a good idea to include a testimonial section on my new portfolio site. Something to consider when I start designing it.

Next we come to Bless’ Shop section, where they have some great Bless branded items. This is a really nice touch I have to say with a really cool variety of different items for sale. Here you can buy anything from a wooley hat to a bottle opener to a tea towel (I happen to have both the tea towels and the bottle opener, and the chopping board for that matter). The photography in these sections really is top class, clear and crisp with rich colours, and I love the sort of little stages they set up for them.

Above and below we can see some of the more detailed close up shots used for each item, I particularly like there own clothing labels, again all created by Bless. They Obviously have a shopping cart facility built into there site which is great.

Again we see some great staging in the photos’s, King Ken in the foreground (every designer has him) and the great alphabet poster in the background (I also have this on my wall at home, as well as the chopping board shown below).

Bless are also represented on Flickr (linkable through the home page). Above shows a great album they have that just has photos of typographical B’s (B for Bless geddit?). Its just another little aspect that shows how passionate they are about Typography and design in general. There are some great B’s on there!

In Bless’ work section they have some great work. Above you can see their Christmas tea towel designs ( I like the brief bit of info at the bottom including sizes etc). Below shows a great idea they did for a friends wedding invitation, I’m gathering the pair of them liked a drink!? Again the standard of photography is top notch.

I love the fact that they have included shots of there snowflake letterpress during the process of it being made and printed. The attention to detail is great, even down to the little winter wonderland scene featuring the finished card (see below). That particular shot is lit in a really dramatic way. Love it!

Here we have a couple of examples that show off Bless’ Illustrator skills. The Bear logo is brilliant and the cake below all adds to there list of skills that might entice clients in. They really do seem to cover all bases.

Again some more examples of their work. I just love the differences in styles they can work to. Shows great versatility.

Some great examples of  a CD cover created by Bless, and below some great shots of a book they produced.

Again a good idea for presenting the poster, rather than have just a flat jpg of the poster for example, they have shot Dan actually holding the poster up. Its the little touches like this that I think really makes this a great portfolio website. There are a lot of elements from this site that I would like to use in my new portfolio, from the testimonial section to the idea of staging your work and photographing it. Some great ideas starting to generate.

Siggi Eggertsson

Siggi Eggertsson is one of my favorite designers/illustrators. His work is just brilliant, so simple yet so complicated. Everything he draws is made up of circles, squares or triangles. Its kind of like pixel art but he has taken it to another dimension, curving off corners and such. It looks very simple but it is very time consuming to create images like this. I know, I have had to do it. The rewards are well worth it though. Siggi’s actual website is simple to the extreme. The text content on the home page (above) is kept to a bare minimum with the focus really being on the work (it looks like a giant patchwork quilt, much like his work). For such a good designer I was expecting his site to be a bit more designed but I get the impression its supposed to like this. Simple standard type and he’s letting the work do the talking.

Here we have his illustration section, which is pretty much exactly the same as the home page. Below I have an example of one of his images once clicked on to be enlarged. You can see the detail involved in each of the images. He uses great colours also in his illustrations, not what you might expect. The one thing I don’t like which I am not sure why it does it is that each image is surrounded by scroll bars. I’m not sure if this is just a mistake or a Safari problem or what exactly. Its a shame as it looks a bit pants.

The sample above is one of my favourites. A poster advertising a new album from a band I have never heard of. I just love the way that when you look at it from a distance it looks like a normal photo but when you get close you can see the patterns! Very Cool.

In his typography section he has some great type, again very simple but it just looks so cool. I particularly like his font entitled ‘Times New Siggi’, based on Times New Roman. The guy has a sense of humor also it would appear!

In the animation section there are 4 animations featured. One of which is a mad movie that just shows hundreds of examples of his work. A good idea when it comes to promoting yourself. His graphic design section below has some great logo design in it.

His exhibition section is pretty self explanatory. It shows what is my favorite of Siggi’s work. His famous quilt that he produced as his final piece as part of his degree. It contains over 10,000 pieces of material all stitched together. Its based on memories from his childhood. You can see it in more detail below, it really is quite special.

I absolutely love Siggi’s work, I do feel his site is a little basic though, whether it is supposed to be like this I don’t know as the work definitely shines through and isn’t overpowered by the look of the site. I do feel like it could have had a little more to it. I do like how on the home page you just have a mass of ‘patchwork squares’, a bit like on my websites samples pages. When you look at his work I have to wonder whether this is on purpose also. So to summerise a site featuring brilliant work, let down by a slightly feeble site design.

Serial Cut

This Serial Cut website has some really striking images, which I guess is what you would expect from a company describing themselves as ‘Imagemakers Since ’99’. They obviously specialize in high end computer generated images and the quality of the images is really something. What I particularly like is the way the image completely fills the screen. The logo and navigation all sit on top of the image but don’t obscure it. On certain images the logo and navigation gets somewhat lost as it stays the same colour throughout, I think they should have addressed this and tweaked the colour depending on what colour its sat on. But this is not a major gripe. I particularly like the About section (see below): 

This About section is a great example of an accordion and it works brilliantly. It looks slick, the colours work well. I like the way in the screen grab they have separated there clients into groups. Maybe this could be something I look at doing as I have worked for so many different companies it might make life easier if I break them down into certain criteria, such as Ad Agencies, Companies, Publishing and so on. This is a really great accordion, one of the most effective I have seen.

The above image is a good example of what I was saying about the navigation and text getting somewhat lost against the background. 

For me its all about the crispness and clarity of the images on this site that makes it stand out for me. They really are beautifully presented. Kind of the complete opposite of what I was saying regarding the images on my site. After all, its all about the work so I think its going to be vital that my images are as crisp as possible. 

Again another couple of examples of how the navigation gets lost a little on the images. 

In summary then a great site in terms of images and I love the accordion and even the navigation, the way it sits atop of the images, although I wish they had made it more legible. Like the idea of adding an accordion to my site and using their idea of splitting clients into categories. So a couple of useful gems I can use from this site.

Chuck U

This Chuck U site I thought looked really interesting at first glance. A pretty cool illustration on the home page, although you have to click again in order to get into the main site which nowadays people will soon find irritating (time is money after all). But I still had high hopes. 

Now I love this illustration and I like the fact that he has tried to incorporate the navigation as part of it but for me it is a little hard to read, also not sure what the point of the reflected navigation in the bottom right corner. The other really annoying thing I find with this site is the terribly distracting background. It sends my eyes funny and any time spent on this site I think would end up giving me a headache. 

Next I looked at the about section. I like the self portrait idea but the font for me doesn’t really work, it looks a bit clunky. Again the irritating back ground is present. I kind of think this site is trying a bit hard and for me there is a little bit to much going on, everything a little over thought and fussy.

Here we have the portfolio section, again the dodgy type is present and the background. Another issue I have with this site is that it takes so many clicks to get anywhere. To see one piece of work you have to click 4 times from the home page. Personally I think this is to many. Especially when you have to stare at that background. Below you can see how the samples are laid out. Again I find it all a little jumbled and fussy, just look at those arrows, far to much going on there. 

Again here we see more of the same in the arts section. I think the illustrations are great and are very intricate, they are just let down by there surroundings. The car wrap below is quite different, I like that, but if I see stripes again it will be to soon.

Maybe its just me and my love for all things minimal, but I think its time to go and look at some more sites along these lines. 

Yuna

Ahhhh here we are, back with the minimal vibe, much more like it. This I am Yuna website instantly grabbed my attention, it kind of reminds me of a Playstation control pad. I love the limited colours on a white background, it really pops. It does get a little distracting as when you roll over each shape as they jiggle around a bit and to be honest when I click on any shape I am not entirely sure where I have been taken to in terms of which section of the site I am now in. I find these fancy navigation things a little distracting. When people want to browse a portfolio in my opinion they want to do it quickly and efficiently. People tend to have very little time these days so everything has to run as smoothly and effectively. I am not sure that this site is as efficient as it could be.

I like the way that when you click on a specific area, for example ‘digital’ here a section appears in the middle of the page showing some great examples of work. All beautifully shot again and presented in an incredibly professional way. I am beginning to think I need to invest in a new camera, I don’t think mine will cut it.

Again we have some more examples of some great work, both books and video. I once did the illustrations for an Irish Lotto Ad, I’m wondering if its work tracking it down and adding a video/animation section to my portfolio. After all having learnt a bit of Flash on this course I would like to animate more of my illustrations. I have a lot of ideas now for my portfolio, I think I will look at one more site before moving on.

Veronika Goldberg

Just as I was calling it a day I came upon this website which I love. This site kind of has everything I like in a site and has executed it brilliantly. Clean and simple home page with a collection of great icons giving you an insight into the person. I like the fact that it just has her name at the top and a job title and the little quote is a nice touch. Her contact details are understated but feature on each page. The journal and about sections aren’t up and running yet but they are coming soon. Then comes the sexy bit….

When you click on the work section I absolutely love what happens. You get 4 sliders appear, each one has a different heading, Identity, Web, Old School Print and Packaging. Everything is done so simply but it all looks so slick (a bit like a lot of her work, just check out some of those logos, very nice!!). I definitely like the idea of including a slider into my site. I like the idea of having a different one for each section but all on the same page. I was reading an article on single page websites the other day and how they are all the rage at the moment. I wonder if I can combine the use of an accordion with a slider? That would be interesting? Again every thing is beautifully shot, I feel kind of embarrassed looking at the state of my old portfolio site. Definitely time for an upgrade. Now I have had a look at various folio sites, what conclusions can I draw?

Conclusion

Well that was an interesting experience. One thing is for sure, you have to have a damn slick and professional looking website these days in order for it to stand out. Everyone of the sites I have reviewed have had a massive amount of time spent on them. I am definitely looking to create a very minimal site, I am even thinking of going black and white with the only colour being the actual images. I think we have seen here with the Chuck U site that if somethings to fussy it loses its appeal very quickly. I want something that loads super quickly and while I would love to include a slider I’m a little concerned about load times. I definitely want to include an accordion for all of the text heavy areas, although I want to keep the text content on this site to a minimum. Lets face it, people rarely read it. As I mentioned previously I like the idea of having a single page website, with anchor points set up ready for the page to shoot down when you click on an appropriate section. I also want to shoot some quality photos of toys I have designed, any work that might be up or any brochures I might have produced. I love Bless’ ideas of setting little scenes for each shot, it makes it much more interesting. So all in all some great ideas to consider when I start designing my site. But first, what employment opportunities are out there these days for web designers?

Task 1B) Employment Opportunities

So now that we are fully fledged web designers what are our chances of actually making a living from our new found skills? Especially in these difficult economic times. The first thing you notice when you do a search for web designers in Brighton is the shear number of them. In fact, I think there is a serious surplus of buddy web designers in the Brighton area. One thing I have noticed though is that there are a lot of BAD web designers. When you see some of the atrocities  out there on the web it does make you wonder why some people even bother. What this means is that never more so has it been so important to promote yourself. So just what can we do to help ourselves find work?

Web design – How to find work

With there being so many web designers out there competition can be quite stiff but as long as you work hard at your marketing and networking activities there should always be bread on the table.

Like the majority of freelance market sectors the best source of new clients is existing clients so quite often the hardest times will be the early days so it is often a good idea to build up a small client base before making the leap into full time freelancing.

When you make new sites for clients ask if they would mind if you built a small ‘designed by’ link into their site so if visitors like the design it may be enough to prompt them to send an email or pick up the telephone.

With the amount of businesses now taking the opportunity of having a web site there is good justification in making sure you have a listing with the Yellow Pages or other local business directories. Unlike the Internet generation a lot of older business owners do still resort to ‘traditional’ methods for sourcing their web designer so do not apply all of your time and energy to online advertising and promotion.

As we have already discussed web design is a catch-all term that can apply to the huge amount of skills and understanding that make up the various disciplines required to build a website and this is where specialisation and networking can go hand in hand. Using your networking skills to make contact with other freelance web designers with skills in areas where you are weak can pay dividends. This not only means that work is completed faster and with a better end product for the client but also that there are two marketing heads bringing in new work and also larger projects could be considered by presenting a joint bid. There are many freelance co-ops and groups already in existence, this is an excellent way of working as long as all contributors are prepared to work to bring in new clients and promote the skills of the group.

Something I see mention quite regularly around Brighton is Wired Sussex (see screen grab below). Wired Sussex covers many different types of media and appears to have a rapidly expanding community. It covers everything from Jobs, to training, to current projects as well as news. It seems to be a good starting place for any new freelancer.

Below is another good example of a freelance collective. The Brighton Farm has a huge collection of different skilled professionals. I am liking the way its clearly labelled as to what different peoples skills are so its easy for someone to track down the right person for a job.

There are also many national and regional agencies as well as the usual online job sites that are often on the lookout for freelance or contract web designers. This is another way of life entirely, it is possible to pick up short and long term contracts and simply jump from job to job. Some good techniques are to work with your employment agency, find out who handles the contract work and make sure they get your CV and details. Once you have completed your first contract with them they are often forthcoming with more as long as your client facing skills, as well as your industry knowledge, are suitable.

One of the other major factors to consider is whether you want to freelance or work for one of the many Web Design Companies that are out there. Maybe one thing to think of is how the client would perceive the differences between working with a freelancer or with a Web Design Company. So what are the pros and cons?

Web Design Companies vs. Freelance Designers

Websites play a very important role in successfully running a business. The websites have now become the display picture for companies. Looking smart in the eyes of customers is what a company wants from its web existence. Whether the company is small or the business is crossing geographical boundaries, the importance of having an appealing website carries the same weight.

The Cost Factor

A small company can decide to choose a freelance web designer to design its website. It can save its budget because the requirements are very low, the activities are limited. The preference of the freelance designer may be because of the lower cost incurred and the lower rates of the web designer.

The Quality Factor

Can a company that is very conscious about its image among its customers and that knows the value of the loyal customers as its asset, compromise over quality?

The answer is obviously ‘NO’. Customers are the real profit of any company. So why to step back at the point of quality of your website?

A web designing firm offers its services though at rates higher than a freelance web designer but the standard of the website is much better. The web designing company provides all the necessary support in developing the design for your company website. In most of the cases the companies don’t know what they want in their web presence. Web designing firm gives you solution to all of your problems.  You have to tell them your mind and they will give you with the options. Go with the best one that you think will brighten your company’s picture. The web designing firm will never let you down with your expectations.

Professional Approach for more revenues:

Web designing firms are more professional in performing their tasks. You don’t have to worry about any change in design and to pay someone else for the said purpose because web designing firm takes the responsibility of all the matters involved in web designing.

Online marketing through websites needs a serious approach for the website design because you are doing your business through your website.  If it would appeal your clients then you can think of high revenues. This is possible only if you hire the services of a more professional web design firm. A freelance designer can’t do the best thing as the team of more expert and more experienced members of a web design firm.  You have to beat your competitors, you want to have a different look for your website, you want best color schemes of your site, and you want your website to be the most searched site over the search engines. All these demands are met only by getting the services of a web designing firm.

Avoiding risk in promotion strategy:

Lastly developing your company website is part of your online promotion strategy. Can you afford to put your strategy at risk by handling all the matters in the hand of a single individual instead of a whole company comprising of specialists in areas of designing and marketing. Of course not! Then decide quickly. The decision can make or break the image of your company. Be critical in your thinking.

So perhaps then if you want the opportunity to work on some quality projects rather than Dave’s Hair Salons websites and alike, your best option might be to try and gain employment with a Web Design company, Brighton has plenty to choose from.

Brighton Based Web Design Companies

Mark.Design

Mark.Design are more of an all round design agency rather than covering solely web design. They do however seem to have a great range of websites featured on there site. When looking for a web design companies on the web I noticed that there are few Design Agencies that specialize purely in web. Most (most of the good ones anyway) cover all aspects of design from Logo Design to print and brochure work to web design to direct mail. I suppose on one hand you might feel like this might mean that they do all of those things well rather than one of those things expertly? Its a tough balance to make, as a company that covers many bases might have people who can help you with other aspects of your business whereas a more specific place might offer you less in other areas but absolutely nail the task you initially give them. It all depends on where else you want to go. At the end of the day the only real way to know is by going to see these companies and find out what best suites your needs, and indeed if looking for employment, where produces the type of work you would be interested in producing and getting involved with.

BozBoz

BozBoz is another Design company although this one does look as though it is more Web based than anything else. You can link to all of this sites mentioned on my blog by clicking on there name heading. Rather than go through each website I will you the viewer take the time to go and have a look around the various sites. Most are much of a muchness it seems. Some are individuals some are web design companies with shocking websites, which I never quite understand. How do they expect people to use them? Scarily though, people do. Anyway feel free to browse.

Moo Cow Media

Brighton Web Design

Justin Wanstall

This is an example of a one man band guy. He looks like he knows his stuff and his site looks professional if not inspirational.

Zig Zag Design

Here we have an example of a pony looking site advertising there web design services. Why oh why would anyone feel drawn to use these guys? Unless they are cheap of course.

The Brighton Media Centre

Now the Brighton Media Centre I had to include as its a great place to try and track down various media companies, not necessarily web design companies although there are some here, but there is generally quite a nice vibe around the place so it’s probably worth while checking out some of the companies there as they might well be worth a visit with your portfolio.

Conclusion

So what are my conclusions regarding employment opportunities for us budding web designers in the Brighton area? Well I think the first thing that is pretty obvious is that competition is tough. There seems there are numerous web designers out there, who are probably fighting for a limited number of briefs. This means that now more than ever it is important that you have the best portfolio possible, both a hands on folder style portfolio and an on-line portfolio, as well as using as many different ways and opportunities to market yourself. The more of these community websites you register with the better. But for me the best way of marketing yourself is by word of mouth. Getting those first clients is always the hardest. Being a freelancer myself I know how important it is to maintain a good relationship with every client you ever work with. This is not always easy. In fact sometimes clients can leave you pulling your hair out (could explain a lot). But its worth it. I was fortunate to start out working in a large advertising agency, but as people moved on from that agency, now almost 10 years ago I still work with most of them at various occasions, and if they ever know of anyone looking for an illustrator they will always recommend me. Why is this? Well I like to think its because I have 2 simple rules that I always follow and if you stick to these you will not go wrong. so what are they?

1) Never miss a deadline.

2) You are only as good as your last job.

So what do I mean by these? Well the first is pretty self explanatory, there, in my opinion is no excuse for missing a deadline. When you take on a job, allow for unforeseen circumstances, add on an extra couple of days if you think it will help. Never agree to unrealistic time restraints. It will only make you look bad if you then can’t meet your deadline. One thing I have learned being a freelancer is that there are 24 hours in a day, a freelancers life is not 9 – 5 (at least none of the good ones). You would be amazed how much more work you get done when working out of hours. No phone call interruptions.I regularly work late into the evening, I kind of get a buzz from it, especially when you are working for a client who has agreed to pay you over time rates (If people want to hire me on a day rate I say fine, my day rate is from 9am – 6pm, but anything out of these times is extra (I charge time and a half from 6pm – 9pm and double time from 9pm – 9am). There is nothing better to urge you on through the night on those late night projects than the fact that you are getting paid by the hour. Its soon mounts up.

Your only as good as your last job? This I find is very true. It’s a cut throat world as a freelancer. You could work for someone 10 times but if on the 11th time you fcuk it up, they more than likely won’t use you again, at least for a while, at worst ever. I rep out storyboard artists as a side line and I always remember sending a guy in who had been doing work for them for years and on one pitch he drew some terrible storyboards. I’m not sure why by for whatever reason they were shocking. The client complained as basically it had left them up the creek and had to pay extra to have them re done at the last minute and requested that I never send them that artist again, which I didn’t. I also had to swallow the cost which wasn’t great. There are so many other people out there other than you do not get fooled into thinking you are indispensible, you are not. Plus you should be taking pride in your work anyway, you are going to have a pretty useless portfolio if your not enjoying what your doing.

I may be painting this pretty ominous outlook as life as a freelancer. So is it better to try and find a job at a Web Design Agency, or any agency for that matter? In my opinion I think this is a great way to start out. It might mean starting off on a shitty salary being the scanner boy as a junior in the studio, but you can learn so much from the people surrounding you. I was very lucky to have worked my way into the Campaign Magazines Agency of the Decades Design studio after having written a proposal to the studio head showing how they can save money by bringing storyboarding in house. The 3 main studio designers all had Firsts from St Martins and were top of there game yet all different (one is now head of Design for Wieden + Kennedy Europe, the other has his own design agency that has just done the rebranding of the Eurostar). The amount I learned from just being around these guys was immense. I have never been formally trained in any of the apps like Photoshop, Illustrator etc (apart from this web design course) I picked it all up from working with these guys. The other beauty of working with creative people like this is to increase your networking potential, it’s bollocks people saying its all about what you know, its all about who you know (and then a big dollop of what you know). So this would be my advice for someone starting out. Try and get in somewhere, squeeze every little bit of knowledge and contact you can out of the place and move on into the world of a freelancer. Chances are they will hire you back as a freelancer anyway only this time on freelancer wages (so much higher), I know thats what happened to me in my first year of freelancing. You do have to be patient when building clients, but trust me, there is nothing better than being your own boss!

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