Never burn your bridges - the industry relatively small and everyone is connected in some way. Leave your ego at the door. Nobody enjoys working with an arrogant person, no matter how good you think you are. Never stop learning. Aim high.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I'm Leigh from Manchester, England and I'm a freelance Creative Director/Art Director/Designer. I recently spent two years living in New York working as an Art Director and Associate Creative Director for Firstborn and I've now gone solo.

What do you do for inspiration?

It depends on the project I'm working on but I tend to get inspiration from unconventional places, like music and TV shows. I've recently started a Tumblr blog to collect visual and audio inspiration, which has been great. I'm a bit late to the game with Tumblr but it's really good for finding inspirational graphic design and photography. I follow lots of switched on people on Twitter too, so that's become a great way to keep up to date with the work other people/agencies are doing.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Being made Associate Creative Director at Firstborn. I'd always loved Firstborn and getting the opportunity to work there was honestly like a dream come true. I started as an Art Director but being promoted to ACD was special.

How do you relax or unwind?

I play guitar (yes, I am a designer cliché). I also try to do personal projects too which I find relaxing. You can spend months working on projects in your professional career, so doing a typography or illustration piece that can be done in a few days is something I enjoy a lot.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

Maybe a chef. Not in a professional kitchen though, I don't think I could hack the pressure. I'd open a sandwich shop or something.

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 is when a new project begins to take shape. Whether you come up with the seed of a good idea, or a design starts to feel right.

The hardest part is when things just don't seem to come together. I think design and creativity is very much a confidence game. When things are good you feel like you can do anything. No matter how long you've been in the industry, when things don't go well your confidence can take a hit.

When I get stuck I ask for help from the people around me. I always try to get opinions even if things are going well. Taking a bit of time away from the project can help too, although you don't usually get much chance to do that. Just putting it out of your mind when you leave work until you come back in the morning can be helpful.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

Maybe around 4am or something. It's hard being creative when you're over tired so I try to stick as close to more reasonable hours as I can. When I was working at an agency in Manchester I really wanted to get some experience working with an agency in the US and to add some strong projects to my portfolio. I contacted an agency and worked on two projects for them, all for free. One of them I did after my normal working day and the other I spent my entire Christmas holiday working on. It was worth it though.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

Moving to New York. It was a life changing experience professionally and personally.

What software could you not live without?

Photoshop and Illustrator. After Effects is great for demonstrating interactions and animations. I'm also trying to get into photography more so I've been using Lightroom too.

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?

Firstborn, B-Reel, FI, North Kingdom, Stink Digital, Odopod, Kokokaka. I know that's not three but I could go on and on...

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Yes definitely. I was lucky enough to be part of teams that have won three FWAs. It's certainly given me more confidence in what I do.

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

Finding the right balance between the brand and quality content can be tough. Users don't want products and brand messaging rammed down their throats, but the client wants to be prominent enough to make it worth their while.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

My first site was a personal portfolio. I made it in Flash and it was pretty awful thinking back. It was crammed full with every timeline animation I could think of and had a Chemical Brothers sample looping soundtrack. Thankfully, it is not still online.

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

Possibly one day. I've been thinking about writing a blog to help people getting started in their careers. I'd really like to get my friends and colleagues involved in it too, but it's just a question of time right now.

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

Cadillac ATS vs The World, SoBe.com, Mustang Customizer (our version is no longer online).

What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

I used to do Actionscript a long time ago. I wasn't good at it, but I tried to learn as much as I could. As soon as AS3 came into play I gave up and concentrated on design. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

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 studied Graphic Design many years ago and I think it gave me a solid grounding in design principles which I carried through to digital. Something I've noticed over the last few years is students learning to use Photoshop, but having no understanding of the basics like typography and layout. I would much rather hire someone who knew the fundamentals of design but wasn't quite as polished in Photoshop.

I do think people can get into the industry without going to college or university. Again, if they learn and understand the basics of design though. It is a tough industry to break into, but hard work and genuine passion does pay off.

If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Pour as much love into your projects as you can. Surround yourself with people you can learn from. Keep working on your portfolio. Be ambitious but patient. Work hard and enjoy it.

Lastly, concentrate on doing good work rather than self promotion. The plaudits and career opportunities will come if you do great work, not because you have thousands of followers on Twitter.

How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?

I've been part of the interview process at every place I've worked at and yes, finding the right people is very difficult. Without meaning to sound like a broken record, you want people who understand the principals of design. You see portfolios from designers who can create beautiful things in Photoshop, but you need to know they can see the bigger picture rather than just details.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

I try to keep up with what's going on but for me, design trends don't really matter. You can't force-fit a trend into a project if it doesn't fit the brand. Trends in development are more interesting to me. Knowing what is possible as technology moves forward opens new doors in what you can do.

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

I've always thought about one day starting a small agency. For the time being though I just want to work on great projects and continue to learn and improve. After more than 13 years in the industry I still love being hands on with design. When I no longer feel like I can cut it, or I don't enjoy it anymore I may choose to concentrate purely on Creative Direction. Or do something completely different...

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Never burn your bridges - the industry relatively small and everyone is connected in some way. Leave your ego at the door. Nobody enjoys working with an arrogant person, no matter how good you think you are. Never stop learning. Aim high.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thank you. Thank you very much.



Cadillac ATS vs The World - Homepage
Cadillac ATS vs The World - Homepage

Cadillac ATS vs The World - Patagonia
Cadillac ATS vs The World - Patagonia


Mustang Customizer
Mustang Customizer

SoBe Try Everything
SoBe Try Everything

Personal project: Black Keys poster
Personal project: Black Keys poster

Personal project: Golden
Personal project: Golden

Personal project: Brother
Personal project: Brother

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