Russell Hancock is a freelance graphic designer, who came to talk to us about his experiences in the industry, but more importantly about what to expect / how to set up as a freelance designer when leaving university. I was really interested to hear what he had to say about this, as so far this is an area we haven't yet covered while on the course.
Before becoming a freelance designer, Russell worked in a collective called "Soup" that he set up with friends from university. They gained a series of small-name clients, which gained him experience, but his most influential work was the publication they produced for free titled "From Carn to Cove". It was this that gained Russell more work. Although the majority of the work Soup created was small-scale and for free, Russell told us to be very wary of clients expecting free work. Although good "for exposure" this is often just a way of taking advantage of your skills for free.
After a while at home, Russell gained a job at Empire design agency, who create many of the movie posters that we see advertising films today, but sadly lost out to a permanent position there (much to his disgust) and then worked for ASHA (Arthur Steen Horne Adamson) where he found it to be a bit of a pyramid-shaped business and his opinion didn't matter. Despite this, he got to work on some brilliant projects and gained a lot more experience.
Russell's biggest job to date however, happened a lot out of luck - he saw that his local old art-deco cinema was becoming more and more dilapidated, so he wanted to improve it, and try to get the owners to re-open it. He and a friend helped to decorate the exterior of the building for free and he produced a petition to open up the cinema again. The cinema was bought by a new owner and is in the process of being renovated and restored. The owners also have plans to create a franchise, and now Russell has the opportunity to create the branding for a whole series of cinemas.
In terms of freelance, Russell gave us a lot of really helpful hints:
- Get money upfront and a signature
- Be sure of your opinions, but rememeber... it is just an opinion
- Demand respect, but all in all keep learning
- Assess free work carefull
- Act professionally
- Remember people, and be remembered
- Sometimes clients are bad(!)
- Don't be afraid to talk about payments / salary
- Be organised
- Digital portfolios are a MUST
These may seem like common sense, but can be so easily overlooked, so it was really helpful to have someone drill them into us.
I also spent some time talking through my work and portfolio with Russell, which was really helpful. He gave us even more tips on how to create and present a successful portfolio, be it in paper or digital format. I was really pleased that when talking through mine he was very impressed with what I had to show. My portfolio has always been one of those "hazy" areas, where I've never been too sure how to present my work best. I've had quite a lot of contradicting opinions on it so far, mostly less positive from my tutors because they want me to push my presentation further, yet a lot more positive responses from others. I'm a little bit confused at the moment, but I think I want to develop it more as it is a little... generic. Here is an example: