WHAT IS IT TO BE A DESIGNER?

I decided, at about age 14, that I wanted to be a graphic designer. It was either that or to be a vet, but after a two week work experience at a dog grooming parlour, the vet idea went out of the window.

At that age, I loved designing greeting cards, cassette tape jackets, CD covers and 3D objects. As a small child I’d painstakingly redesigned pages from some of my favourite books, particularly nature books and over breakfast would sit and examine the cereal boxes, questioning the printers marks and why things looked the way they did. School projects were always an opportunity to go above and beyond with presentation to bring the topic to life. I particularly remember a project about whales that I heavily illustrated and an Animal Farm workbook that I was very proud of. As I progressed into college I moved onto eco-friendly children’s shoeboxes and magazine cover parodies that questioned individuality and the tendency to ‘follow the crowd’ with fashion. I was intrigued by human interaction with a design, how you picked up an object or how a controversial piece makes someone feel.

For most of my degree and my intensive stint in the design industry in London I was focussed on packaging as I loved the interactive 3d nature of the formats, the element of intrigue and ability to tell a story. But, ultimately the corporate nature of the projects in agencies never quite sat comfortably with me; even at uni I’d been known as the one who wanted to work on all the organic and ethical brands! Design for positivity I guess.

So as I went freelance and added more fluidity and flexibility to my lifestyle, I also welcomed opportunities to work on things that felt more aligned with my visions and slowly made connections with more people who were working in ways that made more sense to them. Often it seemed to mean a sacrifice of earning, at least in the short term, but it seemed unanimous that the resulting fulfilment was worth it.

 

I explored other passions in amongst my freelance work, allowing design to work for me and what I wanted, rather than the other way around. Yoga and other spiritual practices, travelling and charity projects. After I did my yoga teacher training in 2018 I called up my accountant to ask him if I would be able to put any money that I earned from yoga through the business that I had set up for my design work or if it needed to be kept separate. He said something quite profound. To paraphrase… “Yes, why not, your yoga teaching is designing people’s well-being / helping people to design their well-being.”

Through education and the (frankly sometimes snobbish) way designers are trained to be critical and judgemental of work I had altered my perception of creativity to a fairly narrow channel. There had to be a successful single outcome that answered the brief. The focus had been on the finished product rather than the creative rollercoaster it takes to get there, which I now celebrate as being even more valuable.

But in the past I’d put things into boxes of good and bad, worthwhile and a waste of time because productivity was such a priority. 

As a child I had also loved to build little homes for snails, make sculptures from pieces of wood that I found and whole civilisations around miniature streams in nature. Everything full of imagination, creativity and completely subjective. Often the outcome wasn’t that beautiful but the process and intention was divine!

It’s only when those things are taken into a corporate, capitalist environment they have to be given a label and put in a box and given a productivity rating. And of course, it must make more money with the new design than it was previously.

Anyway, so when Adam, my accountant, said this it was kind of groundbreaking for me to pull down these barriers, let go of the definitions and see things more fluidly again, like a child. For me all those years ago, I didn’t differentiate between making a house for my kitten to live in and drawing a flower... it was all creative play and it was all just what I impulsively felt like doing.

 

After that it was much easier to see the connections between the things that I loved. They were all means of helping something or someone to grow effectively and intuitively, and certainly not about being perfect.

 

So I redesigned the way I thought about my design work. I created a platform to connect all the things that I loved.

Stop.Breathe.Grow is a concept that can be applied to almost anything that humans are endeavouring to create. It helped me to visually and verbally express the connections between the different passions of my life. And I knew that it would too evolve and grow as more clarity came…

It’s been fairly dormant these last few months as most of my energies have gone into the Nepalese charity projects, which are also a part of Grow. But having spent a few months back in the UK, gaining clarity on my motivations it’s ready to take a new step…

 

I love ritual and ceremony, the idea of honouring and marking an occasion in some way. This is something I have been noticing in myself over the last five years or so as I’ve spent time in other cultures and then in my own with fresh perspective. When something is recognised and celebrated, shared with a community, it is allowed to evolve into a next phase with more ease and grace.

In some situations, that might be a process of letting go and moving on, in others a deepening connection or a shift in how that connection looks from day to day.

Landmarks in life are personal and what seems trivial for one person might be of great significance to another. And in that way rituals can be personalised to fulfil the wishes of individuals. In the west we are a culture of tradition, even though some things are so ingrained and mundane that we don’t see them as that. So this is where we can start to ask ourselves what we would like to celebrate or recognise rather than just what society dictates that we have to…

I'm super happy to celebrate that rituals are one of the things that I now design.

© 2020 Grow is a trading name of Maliphant Design, UK

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