Design Tips For Graphics And The Web

I started following my dream job a year ago and I have never been a rich man.

In fact, I think I can never remember being rich at all.

Like many, I have searched for a type of work that I could see myself doing for life and up until my 28th birthday, I had very little success in finding it.

3 years ago, I was involved in a very nasty assault that left doctors not sure that I would pull through. I was unconscious for eight hours and woke up to find out that whilst walking home drunk in the early hours, I was jumped for my mobile phone. The attacker hit me in the face with a bottle and stamped on my head 8 times when I was out cold. The ordeal left my face scarred for the rest of my life- with it taking 2 and a half hours to stitch me back up.

I hope that no one goes through what I have in the past and those who have, I’m terribly sorry. It’s a struggle to get your head around what has happened for so long and looking people in the eye for the first part of your recovery is a difficult thing to do. My advice is as follows, stay strong and use the experience as an opportunity to leave the past behind and begin new things, starting fresh.

This is what I did……

It became very apparent that when you come so close to losing everything, that you appreciate things a lot more and also, a lot less. A lot less, in that there are aspects of your life that when you really look closer, see that they need changing- as spending your life unhappy, is a life unfulfilled and with regrets in my new opinion.

During my recovery, I tried to find things to do to help me get myself back to normal. Looking back, that was never going to be the case completely, but anything that would help me come to terms with my attack was looked into and explored. I gave up drinking and have not had a beer in over 3 years. Also when exploring solutions, I found that one particular past time helped the most……. drawing.

I have always been a creative person and loved Art at school. I loved painting, drawing and sculpture and this led me to a university degree in Architecture which I began in 2001. I had always dreamed as a young person to create things that the public would appreciate. But from a problematic course at the wrong university with little finance to drive it, I lost confidence in what I was doing and disengaged with my learning. I never quite believed that I would ever see one of my designs become real.

It was not until my attack that I began to truly connect back with creative practice, finding that drawing things took my mind off what was going on and allowed me to escape using my imagination. What’s more, to see things grow from scratch there on the page into fully rendered sketches of people, buildings and landscapes gave a sense of gain and development.

This helped, so I began to explore the possibilities of learning new things, so to see creation happen in other forms of media. These were effectively projections of my imagination but was really therapeutic. Most importantly, this past time was there to add a little more value to me as someone dealing with that notion of being a “victim” which leaves you feeling quite useless at times and unproductive.

I learnt how to use AUTO CAD first of all so to revisit my designs that I drew up whilst at university, re-creating them with a little more detail and also, presented in a more professional manner. I also began to look at different types of software to design graphics such as posters and Leaflets- all conceptual, projections essentially, but something that brought about a feeling of achievement.

After a few months and on the way to work one morning, a colleague had heard that I had learnt to be an architect at university and asked about the possibility of designing his new conservatory, that he wanted to build himself. I didn’t know at the time that this day would become one that would influence the next chapter in my life and from taking on that project, would go on to learn so many new things that makes me what I have always wanted to be…… a Designer.

I designed the project and watched as the drawings came to life and it is to this day, still my proudest achievement. It is still 2 years on, in need of painting, but looks great if I don’t say so myself. It gave me confidence that even through an experience that could have taken me right off the rails, I could then see that life could still go on positively. Through Design, I was able to see improvements in me, I could see results, tangible results happening by my hand which was crucial to my development at that time.

I say that this period has seen great learning curves and this is true. I have been able to learn so much from using the internet and books.

I must admit that business has not been plain sailing, but I am able to do is in my view, something to write about. I can now design small buildings, Graphic Products such as Business Cards, Leaflets, Brochures, CD Covers and I also learnt how to design web sites.

Using Dreamweaver and now, MySQL based Content Management Systems using Concrete5 and some nice tricks using J Query and CSS to make things a little more exciting, I have a full online portfolio that is possible to view anywhere. I have taught everything you can see myself and I wouldn’t have it any other way, as every new thing makes me feel better about myself and more comfortable about the things that have happened.

I found that design was becoming a huge part of my day, thinking about what new things I needed to learn, what new products I could learn to design and generally, what creative projects I could get stuck into. My occupation at that time was a school teacher and for anyone who has been in teaching, you will know that it is a lot of hard work that needs 100% commitment. If your hearts not in it, then don’t do it as your not doing anyone any favours, especially your students. After returning to work and due to my new perspective, my eyes began to open noting a few things that gave me a clearer idea of what teaching was about nowadays in secondary education for the teacher.

I began to see politics in action, I began to see the tricks that other teachers would use to safeguard themselves and themselves only. This left me feeling very detached from what I believed in the past to be a job that was pro-people. In fact, what I began to see was people who could not be trusted, ineffective management systems and generally an occupation that uninspired me.

I remember the day I had made the leap of faith.

It was a Thursday, I was sat at my computer waiting for a parent’s evening to begin, thinking that I would be seeing three sets of parents and then off home for some web designing for my new on-line portfolio. I went to my inbox and found an e-mail titled RE: Parents Evening and opened it.

What I was to read was a list that initially started with three appointments, but described in the e-mail, a confusion with Admin that had arisen and what I actually found was I had 15 appointments. I would not be home till around 7.30pm. I think this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I picked up my bags, left my classroom and never went back.

From then on, I began to work on my online portfolio that I named Portobella Rain Creative Design Solutions. In 12 months, I have received 2 web design awards albeit bespoke titles from Nodus and MyDesign Awards for Web Excellence. I am also ranked 36th out of 2200 in the UK through Design Crowd, which also sees me 290th out of 34,000 globally. I have worked for clients around the world, ranging from Israel to Melbourne, Australia and with the first year in practice being the most difficult I have ever experienced with lack of funds and no life, funnily enough have never been happier. I am more confident, I have a thicker skin which helps in design and I am still learning from the knocks that working for yourself brings.

When I threw the towel in back then, unlike many people, I started with no capital to get the required tools to work with. All I owned was a laptop, an internet connection and some default software like Dreamweaver and Fireworks- as this was originally a work Lap Top. My first challenge and obstacle was to get the required tools with no money and sort out an online portfolio that would be considered credible.

In looking around, I have found some software that this article relates to. In the past 12 months, I have found tools that you may or may not have heard of, that I now use daily to get my work done for graphic and web and so far, I think they are brilliant.

All Open Source and thus, all free.

1. 000webhost (Free Server Space) 1.5GB Free Space
1.b 1&1 Domain Names for $1.50 / 12 months – Web Forward your Free Server to this domain and your cooking.
1.c Filezilla- FTP Software that will connect your local desktop to the server space.
2. Concrete5 Content Management System- a great, dynamic CMS that when using the right tutorials, can create sites that look as good as Drupal and Joomla, but so much easier to use and is growing popular with clients nowadays.
3. GIMP 2.0 – Photo Editing, for presentation and anything that you would use Photoshop for.
3. Inkscape – Vector Graphics, easy to use, dynamic and a tool that I use daily for web design, web graphics, logo design and so much more. Much of the results I have had through Design Crowd has been due to this package.
4. Google Sketch Up- 3D Modelling, product design can be done here and if you check out the 3D Design Page on the.co.uk site, you will see what you can achieve with the plugins that come with this fun and addictive product.

I hope you find this article useful on many levels. I hope that those of you reading this who have had similar experiences to me, or are simply wanting more out of life. Take everything I have written and see how with a little determination and passion for what you are doing, you can make a change and take steps towards making a life for yourself that you want.

I warn you, this is not a get rich quick scheme, its doesn’t describe the ingredients for gold making. In actual fact, these are the tools that you need to begin creating with in the 21st century and the rest is up to you. Marketing, Business Leads, SEO the lot is all part of the learning curve. Expect knocks. Expect people being rude about your work. Expect cheap clients. Expect all that. But if you have the desire and passion to take that leap of faith to get more out of life, then make that change. If you are a student wanting to learn new things, I highly recommend the list above as the work you see in my web sites are all done with these types of packages and being free, that leaves you a few more pennies to buy a few beers at the Union Bar.

As my first sentence of this article suggests, I am not a rich man. This is not a story of financial success by any means. I have worked part-time and earned more money. But I can say for the first time in my life, that I am happy and the decision I made back then, was worth it. Sometimes, I don’t see that with work being difficult or just life being life and throwing up obstacles. But as I put words down on this page, I do know that I am happy.

I always welcome messages about the work and the story that has led to this point and if you yourself are in the middle of a personal battle, then get in touch and the very least, I can offer some honest advice.

Thank you for reading.