A few months ago, I worked together with co-founder Kat Garner of Rye Here Rye Now, our networking group for creatives to write an article for Lecture in Progress on networking specifically for creatives and other people who find it a bit daunting and are not sure how to get started. I realised over the three years that I have been running the studio how much networking I have had to do to get things off the ground and running. I also noticed that so many people that we meet at Rye Here Rye Now mention how they almost didn’t come that night because they were so terrified to try meeting new people in a networking setting. They say that they were really glad that they did so this made my really think about how many other creative people who might be out there that were scared to try going to a meet up. The article has now also been published in the biannual newspaper called ‘Off’ that has just come out. Here are some pics of it. Here is a link to the full article online at Lecture in Progress.
Rye Here Rye Now one year, Studio space one year and own studio three years.
Even though I am no longer in school following the academic year, it seems as if there is something ingrained in my psyche which drives me to make major creative and life decisions in the autumn, specifically September.
September marks the first full year of taking on a studio space and three years into having an independent practice. September also finds us celebrating one year of Rye Here Rye Now, the monthly meet-up for creatives started with fellow designer Kat Garner.
One year in the studio
It took me almost two years to find the right studio. Many of the places that I looked at were either too expensive or too far away. Regular desk spaces did not feel very inspiring, as they did not allow me to work around other creative people. Last year, I noticed a post on Twitter from Linzie Hunter, who was looking for a replacement studio mate. She is a very successful illustrator and it has been so helpful to get advice from her on how to navigate the freelance life as a relative newbie. The fact that she also has a similar taste in music and drinks lots of tea is a bonus too. In the end, not only did I find a good space to work in but I also found a good friend.
If you are working from home or in a office that is driving you crazy, here are few tips for finding the right workspace for you:
Tips for finding your happy, creative space
1 Do your research
I checked out about ten places before I found mine. I searched online, compared prices and visited various desk spaces and studios. I talked to friends with workspaces and to friends who shared their spaces. I also asked around in case anyone knew of spaces.
I had to consider how much I could afford (including bills, VAT if required) and how the cost would spread out over the year and beyond.
This was really important to me. I wanted it to be close enough so that it wouldn’t become too difficult to travel. I was worried that if it was too far, I just wouldn’t bother going.
It’s always worth thinking about the security of a space before leaving your equipment and precious work in there! And if you want your items to be insured, it’s worth noting how secure your place is.
It may not seem like a key factor, but I made sure that I met everyone that I was potentially going to share a studio with. I also asked them how often they used the space. It doesn’t make sense to rent a space to share with other people if they are never there! Also, keep in mind that working in a small space everyday with the same people can be quite intense, so it is important that your personalities do not clash.
It is noticeable that business advice articles always seem to address the challenges faced by studios or start-ups as they try to stay afloat during their first year but often fail to mention the fact that it can be a real struggle to keep the energy going after the first year. How do you cope after the novelty of being a new business owner wears off? Admittedly, I was concerned that I would find this period challenging and it proved to be the case - this past year has been a tough one.
Without doubt, my favourite experience of the year has been the running of the various projects that Rye Here Rye Now took part in. It was very exciting to be involved in so many different events but I found it very challenging to do the work whilst also looking for new clients. I was able to meet my goal of working with organisations such as Impact Hub King’s Cross, who have development scale-up programmes to help social impact start-ups get off the ground. They help them to develop their ideas and give them the support that they need to grow to the next level. I am happy to say that I will continue to support start-ups but I also plan to focus heavily on those who are scaling-up and on other organisations creating social impact, whether they are charities or commercial enterprises. This will allow me to grow my studio and learn from a range of projects.
Three things I’ve learned over the past year
1 Keep the energy up on the marketing activities.
Sometimes I am not as diligent as I used to be about promoting my work, my projects and the things that inspire me. It is easy to forget how important it is to do this so that people don’t forget that you are still in business and are looking for opportunities. It was great for my profile to be featured in publications such as Communications Arts and The New Statesman, and it really helped me to reach a wider audience. All of this is worthwhile, but it does take time.
2 Networking is still key
Meet new people and follow up with those who you have contacted before. It is still a great way to build contacts and to find out about projects that could use your help.
3 Side projects
Before I set up on my own, I think I was a little sceptical about the benefits of side projects. I can honestly now say that they have added another creative dimension to my work and that they help to ensure ongoing creative development. Taking on personal projects or side projects outside of the client work that feeds your day to day still seems to be really key to getting the paid work that you would like to do.
One year of Rye Here Rye Now
When we started Rye Here Rye Now, we were not sure what the response from other creative people would be. Would other designers and creative people share our view that meeting each other and swapping stories is important? Where would the journey take us? Who would come to the events?
Our first event, held 13th September last year, drew around 25 people. We felt really excited that we were starting something and building a community. Many of the people that we met at our first event attended our first birthday do and have been with us throughout the entire journey. It feels so good to know that we are building connections which are lasting and meaningful. Building meaningful social interactions helps to enhance the freelance experience, combating isolation and promoting personal and professional growth.
We also took part in Peckham Festival, which was truly exciting. We set up as a community group, giving everyone an opportunity to exhibit, sell their wares and get feedback on their work. This is not something that I tend to do in a day-to-day basis so I found it quite interesting and useful. It was wonderful to see how hundreds of people took part in the One Minute Portraits, providing a snapshot of Peckham.
One thing I learned over the year
Over the past year, we have held 13 networking events (including 5 sold out events), a day of talks at Tate Modern with Pempeople and an exhibition/market at Peckham Festival. We have also been featured in notable publications such as Time Out, It’s Nice That and Lecture in Progress. None of this would have happened unless Kat and I decided to say yes to various invitations and being willing to see where it could take us. Rye Here Rye Now would not have grown if we had just stuck to the same monthly event format. We have developed through all the people we met and decided to collaborate.
Thank you to all of the wonderful folk that I have met over the past year. It has definitely been a busy year, but it has also been a fruitful one. I look forward to the next one... Please do get in touch if you have a project you would like to discuss.
A few months ago, Rye Here Rye Now received an Instagram message from Pempeople, asking if we wanted to get involved in a Southwark Untold project that they were putting together at Tate Modern. Pempeople are a community-based organisation working with residents and championing locals in South London, from Southwark to Lambeth.
The team at Rye Here Rye Now decided to take part. It marked the beginning of an intensive journey, planning and preparing for the event with Pempeople.
The Southwark Untold event offered an amazing opportunity for Rye Here Rye Now monthly regulars to showcase their stories, to do a talk at Tate Modern and to be involved with other Southwark creatives. The speakers at the event were a mix of local creatives and dedicated visitors to Southwark. We decided on a series of 10 minute talks, with a panel discussing their creative involvement in Southwark. We also contacted Lucie Russell of Drawing People Together, a regular to Rye Here Rye Now and discussed how we could incorporate sketches into our event. The result was a series of combined ‘Doodle Talks’, with the audience drawing the speakers. This idea was conceived by Lucie Russell.
We started Rye Here Rye Now in order to build a community with meaningful connections and to create strong networks of creative friends that we could hang out and work with, not just collect business cards from. So, we also wanted to show other aspects of Rye Here Rye Now, like the interactivity and the relationship-building. We developed a Rye Here Rye Now-specific ‘Networking Bingo’, with questions relating to the speakers, E.g. ‘Find someone who speaks more than one language.’ Many of the speakers in attendance on Sunday are from all over the world and often speak more than one language, sometimes even two or three.
We also included our ‘One Minute Portraits’, which are a firm favourite at Rye Here Rye Now events. Kat created a ‘DIY poster-making’ workshop so participants could have a go at putting together a poster and looking at the relationships between the different elements in the layout.
Next stop, prep
Our drawing boards were created from off-cuts of grey board. Our studio happens to be very near a large printer who kindly donated some off-cuts. We also printed and cut out all of the bunting, bingo cards and signs, and Kat did the poster workshop elements. This meant weeks of cutting paper but it was worth it to see all of the beautiful worksheets on display at the Tate. We also chose to print on coloured paper to coordinate with all the Rye Here Rye Now notices.
We were really pleased that most of the speakers that we asked were up for being involved in the Doodle Talks. We were a little worried that it might become a little chaotic at times, but everyone seemed ready to take on the challenge. It really says a lot that the speakers were committed to trying something new.
We promoted the event mainly through social media but we also sent mailers and a press release out to the London press. We were featured in Time Out London and we are also waiting on some pieces which should appear after the event.
Despite the worries of planning and organizing a rather big event, it turned out to be a resounding success. The event was packed. The speakers shared their amazing stories and everyone doodled, networked and designed their way throughout a very busy day. One of the highlights was witnessing the enthusiasm of the kids as they got involved in the activities.
Thank you very much to everyone who came down on Sunday. It was so nice to see you and to have your support. It was a really magical day. Thanks to Nicholas Okwulu at Pempeople for having the vision to create SouthwarkUntold and for inviting Rye Here Rye Now. Thank you to Julia Piekarczyk for her excellent coordination of the event. A big thank you to Tate Exchange for providing such a wonderful space. Thank you to Drawing People Together for collaborating on the Doodle Talks with us. A massive thanks to the volunteers who made the day run smoothly. Thank you to John the Unicorn for sponsoring the art materials. Thank you to Kat Garner, our Rye Here Rye Now co-founder. Finally, to everyone who spoke - you inspire us. You guys showed up and told some truly inspiring stories and we feel really humbled to have heard them.
Photo credit: Claudiu Joacabine
A bilingual visual identity is something that we have been interested in exploring for some time, so when we were approached by NTree a few months ago, we were intrigued. 'NTree' had chosen their name partly because it sounds like 'Entry' but also because it includes the word 'tree', symbolising growth. Ntree provides a service educating European investors about China so cross communication is imperative. As their business provides a gateway of sorts into the Chinese market, we looked at ideas using a series of Chinese characters such as centre 中, gate 门 and tree 木 and thought about how we could combine them to create a mark that was also understandable in English.
NTree had a lot of interest in their initiative and needed to prepare their pitch decks and proposal to meet demand. This meant that timings were tight. The key for us was to ensure that we could help them get their visual identity up and running as fast as possible.
We developed several visual concepts and presented NTree with four different options. After some consideration, the ‘gate’ concept was deemed to be the favourite. The Chinese character for ‘gate’ doubles as a box which we developed into a branch-like framework for the logotype. The leaf references the ‘tree’ of NTree and suggests growth without being too naturalistic. We also created some branch-like icons to augment the visual identity for various applications.
The key to getting this identity right was to really understand how the identity could be perceived in both cultures and also as an abbreviated mark on social media and beyond.
'Overall the project was a super success. We’re really pleased with everything.'
Ashwin Tirodkar, COO, NTree
Late last year, Sarah Williams of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, got in touch with us as they were looking for a rebrand for their good food magazine Jellied Eel.
The brief was simple. The Jellied Eel has been running for about 8 years and has grown from a small newsletter to a print run of 30k, with each magazine having about two readers per copy – an estimated readership of about 60k people. They wanted us to refresh the brand and to make the magazine more modern and appealing. The Jellied Eel have a loyal fan base so we wanted to make sure that the rebrand was something that both captured the essence of the great work that they do but also enhanced it.
We were really excited to be involved with the magazine as we were fans of the great stories that we had read in previous editions. Jellied Eel told us that they were intending to publish new and back issue stories on their website so the rebrand needed to be sympathetic to both print and online. It was an excellent opportunity to help them amplify their message through both outlets. The brief from the team at the London Food Link was ‘to entice people to read about good food and the associated issues. We hope that by engaging with our content in print and online, they will be inspired to think more carefully about these issues.’
We started by looking at some historical London pie shop signs for inspiration and noticed the bold and decorative letters that are often quite ornate and can be found hand-painted on mirrors in and around the shops. We wanted to reference these but to also create something fresh and modern. Since the logo was to be the masthead for the magazine, we worked on a landscape format.
For the typography, we created a new alphabet called ‘Jellied Eel Caps’ which formed the basis for the logo and could also be used for headers or Drop Caps in the future. Utensils were incorporated into the crossbar of the ‘E’ and, as there are four ‘E’s in the logo, this made it possible to include a knife, fork, spoon and spatula. We paired this with a Google font Work, which could be used across the team at no cost.
We also created a colour palette which was an extension of the Sustain palette. This could be rotated across upcoming issues to maintain consistency both online and in print and also help to build the brand.
The magazine’s layouts needed to be set out as templates which would not only allow them to have distinct styles for certain features but would offer uniformity across each issue. They could also be updated more quickly and efficiently. In our print design templates, we colour-coded and styled some of the feature sections so that they could be easily recognized each month and would allow fans of that particular feature to access them instantly. We designed the index page to be very visual and easy to navigate and the ‘Around Town’ event page to be very systematic.
Our next step was to design a system of icons to go with the theme ‘Eat, Save, Forage, Cook, Grow’ which could be used in the online and print magazines. Overall, the team at Sustain were very pleased with the work and Gavin Dupee, Head of Digital and Design who was overseeing the rebranding process on their end said: “Miho really understood what we want to say with our rebranding of the Jellied Eel. Great work!”
For the online magazine, we worked up some visuals for the homepage and the main article and the team translated it on to the lovely site that we see here, in line with their exact content needs.
We are excited about this work and really glad that we could create a comprehensive solution which will help to showcase these important stories for many more years. A project like this is really exciting to be a part of and it was inspiring to witness how we can potentially use our design skills to create an appealing brand that will engage those who read it and are interested in good food and sustainability.
Be sure to get your copy in various foodie locations across London like Borough Market. Please also check out their online site here. A special thanks to the Jellied Eel and Sustain team for all of their help and support in getting the project completed. Thank you to Syd Hausmann for the artwork assistance on the letterforms.
In early November last year, I was approached by Communication Arts magazine for a feature on our work in the Fresh feature. I worked closely with Michelle Yee, Associate Editor of Communications Arts to collate my experiences, examples of work and share my philosophy and purpose for my work. Sometimes, it takes an experience like that to take the time to reflect on the journey that has led me to where I am today. Setting up a branding and design studio with a focus on social enterprises and start-ups has definitely been challenging but it does feel really great to share my work and vision in the magazine to a wider audience.
Communication Arts is a magazine covering design, typography, advertising and all things design which I have greatly admired for years. I remember flicking through it when I was in the States prior to coming to London. It has been really exciting to be featured in my home country. To see the actual article, please follow this link.
Here are some visuals of the article.
I was invited to speak at the Good Stories 2017 conference yesterday, which was produced by Matter & Co, Pioneers Post and SE100, and held at 250 Bishopsgate in London. During the conference, I met with social entrepreneurs from across the UK, who shared some great insights as to how stories can transform the way you communicate your brand. They also gave some wonderful advice on how to use social media and on how best to get your local MPs onboard.
Shortly after the first break, I took part in the Building Brilliant Brands panel with Claire Pearson from Belu Water. It was really interesting to hear about Belu's journey from its origin through to its recent successful expansion. Claire also spoke about the importance of Belu's brand in the company's success in the high-end hotel and catering sector.
Next up, it was my turn. I gave some branding tips based on my experience. I have shared the slides below for those of you who were not able to attend the conference.
But… Good is not good enough.
We have been fortunate to meet some really impressive social entrepreneurs doing wonderful work but, as we tell them in our workshops and clinics, having a great social message or story is not enough to succeed as a brand and business. You need to ensure that the quality, service, experience, design and other needs-based aspects are as well-considered, as ultimately the business has to serve the needs of its customers. There must be a balance between the social message and the experience of the product or service itself.
Inspire to do good, not by making people feel guilty or fearful
It is more powerful to inspire people with positive stories and the potential for change than to make them feel guilty about social issues or the fearof inaction. There is a possibility that you may make people feel guilty enough to act once, if that is your brand's message, but your customers will not keep engaging and will not share their experience.
Stories are key
Telling stories about the brand makes it more memorable and shareable. Stories are the easiest way for people to remember information. It brings the people out from behind the brand and it bridges the gap between customers and the brand.
Head + Heart
Branding is not an exact science. You may have a superior product but your branding might only communicate the functional attributes of that product. The brand that bridges the heart and mind to the product ultimately succeeds. Businesses need to think about the look and feel of their brand, the people behind the brand, their customer service and the other sensual aspects of the brand. As Jeff Bezos, 'Your brand is what consumers say about your product when you are not in the room.'
Design & Beauty Matter
In this day and age, visual culture is very important. You are bombarded by over 100,000 words a day on the news and through emails, social media and ads. People look to visual culture and to sites such as Instagram for some light relief. This means that brands need to really think about how they present themselves visually. Also, the visual identity is the face of the brand and if it not memorable or appealing this will reflect poorly on the brand.
We had a great day at the Good Stories 2017 conference and it was nice to meet so many inspirational people. A special thanks to Matter&Co.
The Logoform article we wrote for Grafik is now live. http://www.grafik.net/category/logoform/b-w-friday
Christmas is traditionally a time of giving which includes many celebrations and traditions shared with family and friends. We've selected a few lovingly designed items to enjoy and share over Christmas. All of these items are not only beautiful, but contribute to a charity, are a social enterprise or think differently about the concept of giving to create impact long after they are shared.
Christmas Cards with a difference
Every Christmas presents a unique challenge to designers who try to find the ultimate card in design and quality to exchange. This season, designer Syd Hausmann brings us these bright and beautiful, limited edition, and lovingly hand silk-screened cards. Everyone deserves a hand-crafted card and these mean that you can give them without having to make them yourself. The best part? All proceeds will go to the MS Trust. http://www.sydhausmann.co.uk/new-products/
A Christmas do, doing good
A Christmas party, that highlight of the holidays, need not be bland or lost in a haze of wine. Mazí Mas is a wallet-friendly, tasty and unique restaurant dedicated to supporting women from migrant and refugee communities. Bookings recommended. http://www.mazimas.co.uk/
No more soap on a rope
Back in the day, soap on a rope was all the rage. It was a present no one really wanted, but many received. Fast forward to 2015 and Soap Co. create beautifully packaged and deliciously fragrant products that anyone would love. On top of that, Soap Co. employ people who are blind, disabled or disadvantaged people to make these quality products. http://thesoapco.org/
Life saving beer
Jay Rayner has been quoted as saying that this is 'the best excuse for drinking beer yet.' Well, it's the festive season and this cleverly branded beer, called Two Fingers Brewing gives all of their profits to Prostate Cancer UK, which makes having a few beers even more merry this season. http://twofingersbrewing.co/
Nothing for Christmas
When a loved one says that they don't want anything for Christmas, what do you do? James Wallman, author of Stuffocation came up with this clever and thoughtful solution. Instead of giving something, present your loved one with an experience that they will cherish forever. http://www.grouphug.guru/
Last night, we attended King's College's 'Disruption: technology, sales and marketing' event. It brought entrepreneurs together with industry leaders bringing them tips to help start-ups survive and thrive. There were five speakers including: Brent Hoberman CBE, James Caan CBE, Razvan Creanga and Mark Chaffey founders of the start-up Hackajob and Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi. There were some interesting discussions on branding brought to the fore.
A couple of the speakers highlighted the importance of branding for start-ups.
Kevin Roberts - Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide
Kevin Roberts wowed the audience with examples of expert brand building. We thought his five ideas to build businesses and brand was worth sharing.
Idea 1: 'Stay in beta.' This meant have lots of small ideas constantly.
Idea 2: 'Transform likes to loves. Technology, info and hardware enables, but human emotional storytelling connects.'
Idea 3: 'Story-sharing not storytelling. Heroes of the 21st century are not storytellers, but story sharers.'
Idea 4: 'Brands are dead.... or they must learn to be irresistible. They must have mystery (more you know, the less interesting), sensuality (appeal to all five senses) and intimacy (close to how customers feel).'
Idea 5: 'Execute, execute, execute.' 'Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.' Tom Peters
Hackajob's Razvan Creanga and Mark Chaffey also highlighted the importance of branding by stating that 'when trying to sell a disruptive product, understanding our messaging and positioning was very important.'
Getting branding on the map
There were quite a few questions about how to scale up businesses, hiring the right people, equity sharing, but not much focus on branding. Afterwards, we spoke to a few entrepreneurs about their start-ups and their brands. They admitted that they felt that it was something that they should understand more about, but somehow it had not been on their radar until now.
With these conversations in mind, we are putting together some branding workshops for start-ups. Watch this space.