I'm still waiting for my big break, but I would love to build a company that inspires its people to aspire to be the best at what they do, to be proud of their work and to never accept "okay" as their benchmark. What I really want is to be part of building something of value.
My name is Brett White, I'm 28 years old, born and raised in Durban, South Africa.
I studied a diploma in graphic design and after working just over one year at an international advertising agency (working mostly on retail), I decided that it wasn't for me, and started my own freelance business in early 2007.
My business started out as BWD (Brett White Designs) Graphic Studio, which later became Born With Design, and later PEXCIL in June 2012.
I'm hell-bent on creative concepts.
What do you do for inspiration?
I scour the web most evenings on my iPad or basically whenever I have a spare moment, frequenting mostly the same sites, such as various award sites, ad and digital agency sites, a few brand identity and logo design sites, and a handful of web tutorial sites.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
- www.thefwa.com (of course!)
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I don't know really, to be honest I haven't achieved nearly as much as I'd hoped by now, but I would say running a successful freelance business for over 6 years. Awards wise, I would say my recent FWA Mobile site of the day would probably top the list.
How many hours do you work each week?
Hmmm... not as many as I used to having adopted a new ethos for a more balanced lifestyle and to work smart, not hard. But probably around 40-50, more if I work on the weekend or in the evenings.
How do you relax or unwind?
My favourite way to relax is to kick my feet up and watch a great movie, but more than that I enjoy spending time with my wife and our 2 year-old daughter (but technically speaking that's not always relaxing!).
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
Probably still working in advertising, but if design was off the table I think I would like to be a carpenter, if it was economically viable!
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
My favourite part of my job is learning new things, in web you never know everything, and it's evolving so fast that it's almost impossible to keep up.
The hardest part of my job... phew, there are so many! Trying to maintain a high level of creativity when churning out job after job, prioritising projects when I have several in the queue, knowing when to trust my instincts when it comes to deciding which clients to work with, and which ones to run away from.... I could go on!
For me, the best thing to get unstuck, is to step back, get some perspective, maybe even take a day or two to clear my head and usually the chaos tends to settle and things naturally work themselves out.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Over the years I've done several all nighters, but I would probably say the longest I've ever worked on the trot was about 30 hours at the desk (with the obvious coffee, snack and toilet breaks).
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
There was one very defining moment for me in my first year of employment, we had a guest speaker give a speech in our auditorium, he was the international creative director of a major international advertising agency, and he had recently read a book titled "Whatever you think, think the opposite", written by the former creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi, Paul Arden. He threw three books out into the audience, two of which came straight to me. Anyways, the one point I took out of that book was that if you don't want your bosses job, then there's no point in sticking around, and so I resigned. The best decision I ever made.
What software could you not live without?
Well, Adobe I suppose. The main ones being Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Flash (although not so much Flash anymore).
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
Well, It is just me, and there are only so many hours in a day, so it depends, but usually about four.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
Yes, Adobe Edge Animate, it's great!
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
It's difficult to say, there are so many great companies out there...
- Hello Monday
- Google Creative Lab
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Well, I've only won the one FWA award (so far), but unfortunately it hasn't done too much for my business just yet, I'm not sure whether it's because of where I am (South Africa), or because most of the clients I deal with are unfortunately not ad agencies or in the know about international web awards such as yours, so no matter which awards I earn, they don't seem to carry much weight right now. But that won't stop from entering.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I'm still very proud of my very first site, and yes it is still live, it was my original identity and acts as a sort of pseudonym for me. I get a lot of interest through the site purely because it's a little risque and people tend to enjoy the humour behind the concept. http://www.bornwithdesign.com
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
I don't get there nearly as much as I'd like, but the gym is definitely my sanctuary. A place to release frustration and reset, there's nothing like pushing weights to really release stress.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
That's a tough question, I think it's role is changing, I don't think Flash will stay relevant much longer for building standalone websites, due to lack of mobile support. However, I think it will remain relevant due to the fact that you can use it for app development, and that animations can be exported into various formats.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
I think it's really important to have a solid grounding in design and creative thinking, and design schools have a way of really pushing you to achieve more than you would have otherwise by forcing you to work in mediums and techniques that teach you to address problems from different perspectives. Technical skills however, such as web development coding can be learned entirely online if you have the commitment.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Put in the hours, look at the sites you love, try to understand why you love them, and borrow from that experience and try to put some of that into the next thing you work on and take it further. I don't believe there's anything entirely original left to create, all we can do is borrow from several places and mash them up until you create a new spin on something vaguely done before. Although, having said that, as technology move forward it is possible to create things in such a way that they could never have been done before, so it is an exciting time for creatives.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
That's easy, it is and always has been word of mouth. I'm not sure if it's just the way business operates in South Africa, or if it's the world over, but doors don't tend to open unless someone on the inside knows or has heard of you through someone they trust.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
The web, it's full of great resources of blogs, forums and tutorials all (for the most part) written by people who care about the development of the web and who aren't afraid to share what they've learned with others. There's a really strong sharing community in the web development sphere.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Awards sites, it's really the best way to keep an eye on what's getting people excited, and what people are doing to keep things fresh. It is however not always the strongest source in terms of gauging what clients want, it's more about creatives enjoying what other creatives are doing.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
That's hard to say, purely because I'm often surprised about where some of the sites I come across are built... but the obvious answer is the US, because there's just so much industry and technology development taking place there, with companies like Apple, Adobe and Google to name a few, all power houses in the creative industry providing us with the means to do what we do, and with all that infrastructure right on your (the American creatives) doorstep, you're at the right place at the right time.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
I honestly don't know, I'm still waiting for my big break, but I would love to build a company that inspires its people to aspire to be the best at what they do, to be proud of their work and to never accept "okay" as their benchmark. What I really want is to be part of building something of value.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Sadly yes, my wife grills me about it all the time, I try to tell myself that it's mostly for the quality factor, so I try to buy the most subtle of branded items, ones without the brand splashed across my chest, but yes, definitely a brand man.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
It's a ridiculous cliche, and at the risk of sounding like a real douche, "Try, try and try again".
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thank you very much for the opportunity, the privilege is all mine.