As I made a Christmas wallpaper last year, I’m hoping that this is going to become something of a tradition on the blog, because I love having a tradition, especially if it’s festive. Plus, it’s really nice to see how my work and style changes year on year. The difference between this year’s and last year’s is huge, and as much as I still appreciate the stuff I made this time last December, I’m personally really excited about how my work has evolved.

This year I wanted to go with a wreath based design. Wreaths have been a Christmas tradition since the 16th century, and I love the idea of being a part of that running history in a slightly more modern way. While the religious symbolism of a wreath perhaps isn’t as important for a lot of people now, the actual makeup of the wreath hasn’t changed all that much, although we don’t use the candles as much. They’re still made up mainly of evergreens, offering a sense of life in the cold months. Personally, I really like the way that wreaths are a public symbol of embracing the season. As soon as you start to see wreathes out on people’s doors you know that your neighbourhood is getting into the Christmas spirit.

That’s what I wanted to do with this wallpaper, because I’m planning on using it at work as an official notice that I am fully embracing the festivities. Hopefully, it can be your symbol too and we as an online community can hang our wreathes on our digital doors (backgrounds) and use it as a reminder to others and ourselves that we’re letting the Christmas spirit in.

Download the background for your desktop or for your mobile.

If you do end up using it please let me know/share a picture on one of my social pipes – it would honestly make my day!

It’s Christmas!

I’m so excited!

I feel like I’ve waited a whole year for it to be December again and I’m so ready.

This year I’m going to be doing Blogmas again. That’s right I’m going to be posting every day up until the 24th. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing this to myself again, especially as I am busier than ever, but I love Christmas and it seems like a good idea now.

Each day I’ll be opening a new door on this advent calendar to reveal a new piece a brand new post. So, feel free to come back and check to see what’s new and see the doors change colour because I’m going to pin this post to the side bar. I’ll also be sharing some extra bits on my Instagram stories, as well as more behind the scenes bits and pieces because I really want to get back into using Instagram for fun.

But unlike last year, I’m going to be varying my content a bit more. My usual posts (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays) will still be my normal content, we’re talking design, work, and a few random thoughts. That still leaves Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays for festive content, which I have been working up in secret for months.

Even though I’m doing fewer days of festive content than last year, this blog is going to be jam-packed full of Christmas-y inspiration, illustrations, and perhaps even a recipe or two. I’m hoping there will even be a slight spiced cinnamon scent that just radiates from the page!

What’s behind the windows?

One of the goals I set myself for the next year (of my life, rather than calendar) was to learn some new skills. There are a whole range of things I want to learn about from calligraphy to how to create animations digitally, but I’ve started with taking some time working on my design thinking skills. Along with a lovely group of colleagues I started Ideo’s human-centred design course.

The course is an introduction to design thinking essentially. It covers everything the theory of design thinking as well as leading you through a test project where you get to gain some hands-on experience of every stage of the design process from research to concepts to prototyping and actually making the thing. IDEO, a global design company who create positive impact through design, lead you through each step and give you tips and advice from their years of experience. It’s a completely free online course, that runs quite a few times throughout the year, so if you find anything in this post interesting at all I’d recommend it. It’s intended to be done as a group, so you might need to round up some friends too.

But what is human-centred design? According to Ideo it is a “process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. Human-centred design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out into the world”. I’ve done a whole post on design thinking more generally that goes into a bit more depth, but in a nutshell, that’s the crux of what you need to know.

The human-centred design process follows 3 stages, that Ideo call inspiration, ideation and implementation. Where I work we call them discovery, design and delivery, but they cover the same ideas, as explained in the diagram below.

The first stage in making people the centre of your design universe is to engage with them. This user research phase is the part of the process I’ve had the most experience with at work, so I thought I’d walk you through it a little bit and give you some ideas for how you can apply the techniques to your own life, even if you’re not running a big design project.

User research can come in many forms with the most basic you might think of being desk research and interviews. But there are so many other ways to find out how people really behave. Observing how people go about their day to day lives can give you real insight into their unfiltered actions. You can also create diaries and have people share their thoughts and feelings, or work with your users to build something really hands on to see how they think. As well as researching the direct users of whatever you’re working it can also be fruitful to look for people doing whatever you’re looking to change well already in different sectors – find a group shows great team work, or an education process that’s really effective, or a product that service that caters really well to people with a specific need.

Human-centred design can be used to help you create products, services, spaces and systems. Those four areas cover a whole range of things that are super interesting, even if you’re not doing this for work. Here are just three:

  1. Could you use human-centred design to make your home work better? If you kept a log or a map of how you/your family use your space, you might find out that some areas are working better than others, and that there are some pain points that might be easily fixed. I’ve done this in my room in my bit of kitchen space, and little things like rearranging my cupboard so the things I use the most are easiest to reach has made such a difference.
  2. Could you use these methods to improve your commute? One of the first tasks in the course is to research your team’s commutes and work out how they could be improved. This is something anyone could do, either on your own by mapping out your journey or by getting someone else’s perspective by having a friend interview and vice versa.
  3. Could you improve how you, and your team work by researching the way that people actually handle their day to day tasks? Is there a better way to fulfil their needs so that everyone is at their best?

I’m planning on turning this into a bit of a running series/theme, so I might go into a bit more depth on how to get useful information out of people interviews, as well as some thoughts on the other stages of the design process. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to read about though!

It’s cold and wet outside, so what better excuse do you need to stay in and veg out. As you know my viewing time is pretty sacred, especially when it comes to absolutely rubbish TV. But sometimes I don’t want to switch off as soon as I put the TV on. There are so many films out there about creativity and making that you’re never going to be short on inspiration, but I thought I’d put together a short list to whet your appetite and save you some searching.

HELVETICA & OBJECTIFIED

So, I’m kicking off with a double bill. Helvetica and Objectified are two parts of Gary Hustwit’s design documentary trilogy, with the third in the series being Urbanized. Each film shows the design and craft that goes into the world around us. Helvetica, unsurprisingly, charts the history and design of one of the world’s most popular fonts – I promise it’s actually really fascinating. Objectified gives the same treatment to everyday objects. Hustwit’s films really open your eyes and change how you view the world around you a bit, which is the perfect way to find some inspiration.

FRANCES HA

Any movie where Greta Gerwig gets to dance will always have my seal of approval. Frances Ha is a take on the classic girl comes tries to find herself and her art in New York story. Frances is an apprentice at a dance company, she isn’t really a dancer though. But she doesn’t let that stop her doing what she loves and pursuing the life that she wants with a real joy. If you’re struggling with keeping going because the real world is hard (and this film doesn’t pretend that adulting isn’t hard) then this one might be for you.

THE PIXAR STORY

The Pixar Story is one of my favourite documentaries ever. I’ve seen it at least 5 times. While Pixar might not be the same giant it used to be a decade after this film was made, as someone who grew up with Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo it still holds a lot of sentimental value. It’s a great piece of movie history and a wonderful story of the triumph of some pioneering artists. Plus, like any great Pixar movie you leave it feeling uplifted and like you can be the hero of your own story.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE

This might seem like an odd pick, but hear me out. The Princess Bride is all about story-telling and putting a spin on a classic, and if you can’t find inspiration in either of those two ideas you’re going to be struggling. There’s a reason it’s a cult favourite, even thirty years after it debuted. It’s a magical piece of escapism, so sit back, relax and say “as you wish” to all of the ideas you’re going to have after watching it.

THE DEAD POET’S SOCIETY

If you’re looking for a rousing endorsement of the power of the arts look no further. The late Robin Williams is at his heartbreaking best in this one, as a group of schoolboys discover a love of literature through his incredible teaching. It’s honest and raw, and a real reminder of why we make things and why we engage with art.

As I said there are so so so many more you choose from. When it comes to looking for inspiration I love turning to films that are just a feast for the eyes, we’re talking movies like The Fall, Amelie and pretty much anything Wes Anderson has made.

Which films do you turn to for inspiration? Is there anything you think I should be watching over the next few weeks?

I know I’m super behind in doing this but I’ve finally updated my shop ready for the festive season, including some new card designs!

As I’m still starting out in this game I only wanted to design one set of cards this year, a Christmas card and an updated Thank You card just in case Santa stops by.

I kept the designs themselves line based, going back to the kind of work I love. But I still wanted a little bit of festive cheer. That’s where my new love/hate relationship with gold foil comes in. I love how shiny and magical these cards are. I didn’t quite love getting the artwork uploaded as much, but it’s all a learning process right?!

I basically just designed the cards I wanted to send out this year, and I’m so pleased with how they turned out. I can’t wait to send them out to my friends and family, and hopefully to you too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also updated my commission options because I’ve had few requests for things that weren’t up there. So now you can get group and couples portraits as well as custom patterns.

Gifts are best when they’re personal, and nothing says personal like having your face all over something. So get your Christmas orders in soon, because I only have a limited number of spaces before I go home for the holidays.

Plus, if you needed any more of an incentive I’m offering free shipping on all orders over £25 with the code SANTASHELPER