After my post on my commission process to help explain some of the things on offer in my shop, I want to spend a little bit more time here talking about my work, and how it actually gets done. So, today, I’m going to talk you through a recent illustration project I took on at work for my old grad scheme website.

As a quick bit of background if this is the first post of mine you’ve read, last year I was a part of the Engine Graduate Scheme. The Grad Scheme is a year-long look into the world of marketing and communications, which comprises of four three-month long rotations in various best in class agencies covering everything from consultancy, to sport sponsorship, to events, PR, data and, of course, above the line advertising.

Every year the most recent group of grads take over the website, so this year it was our turn and we wanted to give the site a bit of a spruce up. The first step in this process was moving to the Engine Group site, from our .wordpress site. Then we moved onto content and visuals, which is what we’re talking about today.

So how did we go from a need for a new style to the site that’s up now?

CREATING THE BRIEF

First off, we came up with a bit of a brief, which was relatively informal and more of an agreement between ourselves as to what we wanted. We knew that we needed something fun and colourful and that suggested we were a more creative scheme than the visuals we had before.

As well as deciding what we wanted we also had to work out what our limitations were. We knew we weren’t going to be able to get any new photography done, so we decided to go with something illustrated. We were also limited by the structure of the web pages on the Engine site, which meant we were mainly just working with set header images.

But we also knew we’d need designs that could work for our social media in terms of branding and generating content later.

COMING UP WITH IDEAS

The ideas for the images bounced off the copy, for example, the sweets in the companies page came from someone describing the choice of placements as a bit of a pick and mix. The one image I really struggled with was the scheme page, so we came together as a group (over WhatsApp because I had a meltdown at 10 pm) and tried to come up with the simplest image for building we could, which turned out to be children’s building blocks.

THE ILLUSTRATION PROCESS

Then we got to my favourite part, the illustrating! I started by gathering reference images for the portraits, then drew from those. I also found references for the hands and the sweets in the companies header. Once I’d drawn the outlines of all of the images I came up with a colour palette. I started with the red of the Engine logo and worked from there, adding a darker version of the red, two shades of the blue, and the yellow for highlights. I stuck to this palette for everything other than the skin tones, and I think it really ties all of the images together.

SIGNOFF AND UPLOAD

As anyone who has ever made a commission like this knows, the work isn’t actually done until it’s signed off and on the site. In order to get sign off, I put the designs into very basic web page scamps in powerpoint, to give an idea of how the pages would come together. Once we’d made all of the amends to the copy and visuals we needed to, I worked with the guys who run the Engine site to get everything live which included editing sizes and doing a few tests on a staging platform. I also made versions of our imagery for the scheme Facebook and Twitter.

If there’s something you’d like to work on together, or you just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line!

I know I’m a little late to the game. But I know that there are probably some of you out there who are still looking for gift inspiration, if not for Christmas then for new year birthdays. So without further ado, here are some of my picks for gifts for creative types.

THIS BOOK

So you all know I love Adam JK. Things Are What You Make of Them is his latest book and it’s incredible. It’s the pep talk we all need from time to time. It’s chock full of great advice and support. Each page is in full colour, and is perforated so you can save it for later or even share it. This is the gift you’re going to want to get two of, because there’s a good chance that as soon as you start reading you won’t be able to give it up.

THESE TRAVEL GUIDES

Travel is one of the best forms of inspiration, and while in the age of the smart phone you might not necessarily need a printed travel guide these ones are so gorgeous that your recipient is really going to want one.

SOME CLASSES

Give the gift of learning. Picking up new skills is essential, but it can easily be overlooked. So vouchers for classes work as a great reminder, and give someone the opportunity to expand their horizons and their practices.

A STATIONERY SUBSCRIPTION

So who doesn’t love stationery? Keep your loved one full stocked throughout the year with a stationery subscription. There are plenty of good ones out there. In particular, I like the Paper Gang by Oh Deer and Post by Katie Leamon. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

A PRINT, OR TWO, OR SEVEN

It makes sense that artists love art. Getting someone a print by a maker they love is a great way to show you care, and to give them something that they’ll look at and think of you every day. You can even support a good cause or two, by buying prints where the profits are given to charity or inspire social action like The Good Cause.

SOME COMPANY

The studio can be a lonely place. Get your friend a little company.

SOME PEACE AND QUIET

So one of the best things I’ve bought this year are a pair of noise cancelling headphones. If you’re feeling a little spendy, they’re an incredible gift. They’ve helped me focus and kept me on task and sane throughout so many hours of work this year.

Writing Christmas cards is one of my favourite parts of the season. I love letter writing at any time of year but the added bit of festivity and the added excuse to write to people I wouldn’t normally is something I relish.

I mentioned in my Christmas planning post that I’d be sharing a few of my thoughts on writing top-notch cards, and this is it. This is by no means a prescriptive guide, the best cards are the ones that you write from your heart but I (at least) think it’s always nice to have a bit of nosey into how other people do it.

DRAW UP YOUR LIST, AND KNOW YOUR TIMINGS

Before you do anything, you’ll want to work out how many cards you’re sending out and to where. The further away your cards are going the earlier you’ll need to have them written. I’d suggest checking your local postage times, Royal Mail last posting dates can be found here.

 

PICK YOUR CARDS

Obviously, you then need to pick your cards. I have a set that I’m very proud of in my shop, which have just the right level of sparkly in my opinion. But you should choose the cards that go with the kinds of wishes you want to send out into the world, are you going for something humorous, are you trying something traditional, or something minimal, or are you going for all-out glitter, sparkle, and sequins? Finding cards that you want to be your marker on someone’s mantelpiece can be tricky, but it’s so nice when you stumble across that set that’s just right. Just remember whatever you buy to make sure you buy enough to have a couple of spares because mistakes will happen (if you’re me).

PERSONAL, FORMAL UPDATE, OR A MIX OF BOTH?

Now to the format, where you have two main choices if you’re going for something other than the “Dear John, Merry Christmas, Love Jane xx”. The first is to write a personal note in each card, something specific and thought through that is more about your individual relationship. The second is to go formal with a pre-written or typed insert, one of my friend’s mums is particularly great at these. If you’ve got a lot of updates you want to share with grandparents this way can definitely speed things up. Or, you could merge the two and have your pre-formatted updates go into a personal card, which is what I’m potentially thinking of for this year.

PERSONAL

This is the route I normally go down. I like to use Christmas cards to reflect on my relationships and why I’m thankful to have the people I do in my life – I guess because we don’t have Thanksgiving here. Where possible I like to include a story we’ve shared over the year. I’m also partial to throwing in a Christmas cracker style joke in there too – because they’re great and you can never have too many in your life.

FORMAL UPDATE

As I said I receive a lot of great examples of these from mums – is there anything mums can’t do? These often come in the format of a typed up insert and can be designed as much as you like and even include photos. In terms of copy, think about including the big events that have happened over the past year. Have you changed jobs? Moved house? Taken up a new hobby? Got a pet? If not, what are you enjoying in your day to day? It can be a great chance to look back over the last 12 months.

DRESS UP YOUR ENVELOPES

I love a good finishing touch, and when it comes to letters that means adding something a little special to your envelopes – of course, make sure that your address and stamp are still clear and visible. You could adorn them with doodles, stickers, or add a few extra words. How about wrapping them in gift wrap so they’re like mini presents in and of themselves? Whatever you do, add something you wouldn’t normally and you’ll feel like you’re really sending something festive out into the world and who knows you might even make a postman’s day along the way.

 

I’m going to be reviewing the kind of content I put out in the new year, and I want to make sure it’s stuff that you find useful or interesting. I can’t see things changing too dramatically (I’m not suddenly going to become a make-up guru) but I am going to have a bit more focus to my content, and perhaps my posting schedule.

I currently just write what I feel like or what I think you might find engaging. But going forwards I really do want this to be a useful resource for other people as well as something that it’s nice for me to work on. What better way to do that than to ask for a little bit of your feedback?

So, I’ve put together a very, very short questionnaire that I would really love if you could honestly fill in.

It should only take you 2-3 minutes, there are just 10 quick questions, and it would help me out a lot if you could give me your feedback. 

Take the questionnaire below!

Create your own user feedback survey

I need no help getting into the festive mood. I’ve been planning and waiting for Christmas since mid-October when the evenings started to get darker and there was that first chill in the air. But I know not everyone has a two and a half month build-up period, and I know that not everyone is so Cindy Lou when the fairy lights start going up. So, these are my top Christmas spirit building tips to get you or your more Grinch feeling friends in the mood for sleigh bells and the pitter patter of reindeer feet on the roof.

WATCH A FESTIVE FILM

This is probably the most basic answer of all but by Jove does it work. Christmas movies are the best. I have far too many favourites to list here but as you’ve seen this post’s cover image you’ll know that White Christmas is up there, with Miracle on 34th Street vying for the top spot in my heart. There will be some you’ve seen so many times that you can have them on in the background and still know exactly what’s going on – I promise you know more words than you think you do! If you’re not feeling festive at all, start with the slightly less Christmassy Christmas movies like the first Die Hard or Harry Potter (why are those movies always on at this time of year? then work your way up.

PUT ON A CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST

There’s no denying there are some Christmas bangers, well maybes not bangers, jinglers might be more accurate. What I’m trying to say is that there are so many classic Christmas tunes that you’d be hard pushed not to find at least one that gets you in the mood. Last year I put together a list of my favourite Christmas albums, so if you’re not sure where to start head back to my 2016 list. Or, just hit play on one of Spotify’s many festive playlists, which is pretty much all of the music I’m going to have on til the end of the year.

BAKE SOME OF THESE GOODIES

Nothing yells Christmas than something sweet, and baked, and full of cinnamon. Baking always makes me feel like I’m a child again, especially when licking the spoon. So, I’d highly recommend donning your apron and heading to the kitchen to get into that elf mindset.

If you’re not a baker but still want the effect, I’m a big fan of Sainsbury’s Lebkuchen Stars and putting on a festive smelling candle like this spiced wonder to give the effect of baking without getting your hands sticky.

TAKE YOURSELF OUT ON A WINTERY WALK

For me, there is nothing better than going on a walk when it’s all crisp and cold outside. There’s just something so refreshing and calming about it, and taking that bit of time for yourself as an indulgence is a lovely way to get you ready to spend a few weeks reveling. I recently put together a post on a few of my favourite London walks. But if you’re looking for something to really get you in the Christmas spirit, why not try and head towards the nearest set of festive lights. That doesn’t mean you have to hit the high street (I know that personally I wouldn’t find that all too calming), instead, wait until it’s a bit darker then walk around the houses, there’s always someone who’s taken their decorations seriously. Plus, it’s a lovely chance to get a little bit nosey!

DECORATE (YOURSELF, YOUR HOME, YOUR OFFICE, YOUR DOG, YOUR STREET)!

Your surroundings can make such a big difference to your mood. So why not make your space or at least a little bit of it more festive? If you’re not feeling like going all out, adding some fairy lights or even just displaying and cards you’ve received nicely can hugely change up a room. I’ve also got a post coming up with some top tips for decorating a small or rented space, or at least how I’m planning on decorating mine if you need some inspiration.