OUGD502 - Studio Brief 2 - A Design Presence

To begin developing my branding and identity I wanted to somehow stand our amongst a crowd. I believed that rather than making a logo and branding myself as 'Alex Dyson Design' or something that so many do, I would use a creative name.

After speaking to John to make sure it didn't sound unprofessional I settled on the name Pencilwound. I originally came up with this name the same year I started university when I was trying to figure out an online name for my Steam account so I could play Left 4 Dead 2 with my friends. I wanted something that sounded like it could be related to design but at the same time killing zombies.

The twist behind this meaning is I have an unusual grey lump on my left arm where I was stabbed with a pencil by some kid in school. All of these things form together to form my name which I use for all of my online ID's now apart from my twitter where it is already taken by some guy in Ottawa.

I didn't want to use a font for the logotype as it wouldn't be 100% personal, therefore I began sketching.

I then created a calligraphy brush on illustrator and completed it digitally.

I had to choose very wisely in regards to typeface restrictions as I needed enough weights to be an efficient part of my identity so hierarchy can be used if needed.

The typeface which I found fit the bill the best is Fira Sans + Mono.

This typeface is an Open Source font designed by Erik Spiekermann in the 1980's originally for Mozilla Firefox. I needed to know the licence rights and such and discovered it was 100% free which of course made me very happy haha.

"The SIL Open Font License (or OFL in short) is a free and open source license designed for fonts by SIL International for use with many of their Unicode fonts, including Gentium PlusCharis SIL, and Andika. The license is considered free by the Free Software Foundation, which states that a simple hello world programis enough to satisfy the license's requirement that fonts using the license be distributed with computer software. The Debian project agrees."

I'd already mentioned previously in my investigation of colour meanings that I would be using turquoise in my branding to signify communication, clarity of mind, practical and idealistic. I will group this colour with black and white for legibility and clarity to further compliment my branded colour.

This shade of turquoise was chosen as it is achievable both in print and web at the same time as being a shade of colorplan stock colour from GF-Smith making branding more consistent for stationary.

I tried my logo in both black and white on the turquoise background. I felt that the black appeared as more professional and as if it was written straight onto the background with a calligraphy pen.

The more and more I looked at this colour, the less it felt right. I sent the colour to a few people and asked them if they thought it represented me well, I got not yes answers. A few said a darker colour would work with me more, they couldn't put their finger on why but it would. I have always liked the use of dark blue in certain elements of branding so I gave that a try and it felt so much more comfortable, and also looked more professional.

For stationary I ordered a nice selection of GF Smith stock on which I would print my business cards, promotional pack and envelopes (along with some stock for another brief). This gave me the opportunity to keep perfect 100% consistency across my products.

OUGD502 - Studio Brief 1 - The Sharp Agency

Yesterday I received a phone call from my mum telling me that one of my little sister's friend's parents run a design studio based in Huddersfield called The Sharp Agency. Apparently my sister's friend showed her parents my work on Behance and they decided to call my mum and ask if I was interested or in need of a placement as they were overly impressed by the quality of my work and saw a lot of talent and skill.

This made me tremendously happy as I hadn't even spoke to them before, nor knew they existed so it was wonderful to have a studio in a sense approach me rather than the other way round.

I decided to send them an e-mail today starting a conversation and introducing myself as well as asking them about their work and also feedback on work I am currently doing.

It will be interesting to see where this leads. Hopefully some contacts to network with as well as some work experience at a studio which has worked for Best Western, NUS, The NHS, Gola, and Chrysler.

OUGD502 - Life's A Pitch - Studio space visit

Today we went to Duke Studios in Leeds to have a look around the area to figure out if it was suitable for what we'd want as a studio.

I prepared some questions before heading down:

How many freelancers / studios work here?

What facilities are available and how much use can you get out of them? Does it work as a booking service?

What studios work here already?

What times and days are you guys open?

Clint and Rosanna greeted us and took us on a tour around the workspace and facilities and were really friendly and helpful. They showed us the 'Motherfrickinlaser' cutter and tech room where anything physical is made and then the photography studio. Then went to explain the three different levels of residents that coexist there, studios, desks and then spaces. Studios have their own walled off area where they work, desks are individuals and freelancers who rent out a desk space in the studio to work and then the spaces are generally just access to the communal areas to work in a creative environment.

There is a huge mix of creative workers in the studio space: landscape architects, web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, video fx, fashion designers and more. They are very very accommodating to the residents and encourage collaborations within the space between the creatives.

On top of the other facilities, they have a meeting room called the 'Not Bored Room' (punny) and 'The Snug'. The 'Not Bored Room' is used for meetings and pitches for clients and can be rented out by the residents and the 'Snug Room' is used for private phone calls and Skype meetings with clients and other creatives.

After we were shown that they took us to the office and introduced us to the people in charge James and Laura, who told us some more interesting facts about the studios and then asked us if we had any questions so I listed off the ones I had which hand't been answered and they answered with a lot of enthusiasm.

There are roughly 85 residents in the studio split over 45 different creative businesses. And the opening times are different for each resident level. Studios have 24/7 access and their own keycards, desks are allowed in every single day until 11pm and spaces are allowed in 9-5.

Overall it was a really good and interesting visit and left me feeling rather inspired just being in there for 45 minutes. In my opinion, definitely the best place for our studio.

OUGD502 - Studio Brief 1 - Contacting Analogue

I decided to bite the bullet and write a letter to one of my favourite studios today to see if they would let me visit them at their studio just outside Leeds.

My letter said:

To Barry, Jake, Anna, Josh, Adam and Richard,

My name is Alex and I am a graphic design student at Leeds College of Art currently moving through the last modules of my second year.  I thought I’d address this letter to all of you at Analogue as my appreciation of what you all do as a team is something that holds a lot of motivation for my own practice and studies.

I first learned of your studio when I saw that you collaborated with Drew Millward on the artwork for the Icons Custom Toy Show here in Leeds. I think that was in the Christmas holidays of my first year of university.

Since then I have been a keen follower of the work you have produced, particularly work that I have been able to experience myself in the city such as Oporto’s Dogging Club identity and more recently Cielo Blanco’s branding and web design.

As a student developing my practice I’d be really interested in seeing the space in which you all work together as well as meet the faces behind what pushes me so much with my own work! Would it be possible at all to come and visit you one day soon?

Kind regards to all of you and keep up the amazing work!

Alex Dyson
07788 587307

I decided to save this until my branding and identity is complete so I shall update this post once it is sent and I get a response.

OUGD502 - Life's A Pitch - Financial Considerations

In a hope to figure out what kind of business we would be starting up, I researched into the different kinds of businesses that you can have and we discovered that we would be a Private Limited Company.

Company – the correct name for this is a joint stock company and it’s made up of a number of people who put their money together to form a ‘joint stock’ of capital. These people are more commonly known as shareholders and, as the name suggests, they each own a share of the business and each expect a share of the profits too.
Each shareholder puts money into the company and receives a portion of the company – shares – equivalent to what they put in.
Despite each shareholder owning a piece of the company, in law it is seen as a legal entity – the same as an individual – that is entirely separate from the shareholders or members, as they are sometimes known. It can be sued, make a profit or loss, be held responsible for its employees’ actions and go into liquidation – the term used for companies that go bankrupt.
Private Limited Companies – Most small businesses are private limited companies with the shares only available privately, for example, to family members. The shares are not available to buy publically so they cannot be traded on the stock market.
Accountant - I found through a business forum site that the going rate for an accountant is £500-£1000 per year so we decided to go for a mid-range priced accountant at around £750 a year. This would help us organise taxation documents and the best ways of organising our finances in the eyes of the government.
Location - We all decided that Leeds was the place we all liked as a location and could see a future for a design studio. For a start up company we wanted a creative space to work where we could develop contacts with people in other disciplines as well as get work done with good facilities and a friendly and hard-working atmosphere. We discovered a space called Duke Studios where all of this is what they are about.
We sent them an email asking if we could go and visit them and explained to them that it was for a university brief. Their pricing worked out at £425 a month for the space and facilities that we would need for our business, this worked out to be quite a cheap alternative to renting an ordinary office space and then having to buy equipment too. This would also protect cash-flow in the first months of business as we'd be paying for what we were using by month rather than at once.

Website - for our studio's website, we looked at a few different places to gather information and it looked like it would cost us between £100-300 a year to host a website along with all the other aspects necessary like a domain name. We decided we would pay for the top amount for website service because of how digitally orientated the world is. A good website makes a good first impression to potential clients and gives them a better feel of who we are and what we do.

All of the above rounds up to £6240 a year in reflection to expenses, and this doesn't include materials and other forms of expense that the business would be liable to such as promotional materials, advertisements, etc.

John said that on average we'd be expecting roughly £65 an hour as a start up studio but of course this does depend on the work being done and how long it takes, what it is for, what the design entails, etc.

We all agreed that the business needed to earn its own money to expand and grow as a company so we would be able to upgrade our location, promotional materials and service as a whole, at the same time as us getting paid the right amount to keep us alive and happy to work. So we agreed to split up the finances as following for each job:

17% cut for each job for us. 15% cut for the studio.

With earning estimates of £65 an hour for the studio with assumptions of constant work to do.

The studio will earn - £9.75 an hour / £390 a week / £1560 a month / £18,720 a year

Each individual will earn - £11.05 an hour / £442 a week / £1768 a month / £21,216 a year 

OUGD502 - Studio Brief 1 - Pricing.

What should I charge?
This largely depends on how skilled you are and how many customers you have. Obviously, when you’re starting out you’ll be charging almost nothing. When Go Media started I was charging flat-rates. For example – I was charging $100 to design a flyer. I would spend two days (20+ hours) doing an elaborate illustration for the flyer. So, basically I was making about $5/hr. This sucks, but I was doing what I loved.
Now obviously, with me putting in so much work and charging so little, word got around fast. Soon I had all the $100 flyer jobs that I could handle. So, I raised my price… $150, $175, $200, $300. Every time I was slammed with work I would up my price. I think this is a really good strategy for the designer that is just starting out: start with really low rates and when you get busy enough increase the amount you charge.
You will lose some customers when you raise your rates. But if you want to survive in the long-run you can’t make it charging $5/hr. Currently Go Media charges $100/hr for print design and $125/hr for web and multimedia work.
Flat Rate vs. Hourly Billing.
When we started I was really in love with the concept of Flat-Rate billing. It seemed very clear and simple to me. I know that when I am buying something – I like to know what I’m going to pay up-front. And, so long as my prices were really low it worked out fairly well. Let’s take a logo design for instance. When I started I charged $300 for a logo. Most people thought this was a fair rate and I got lots of work. Some of those logo projects, however, took a really long time. As I began working with larger and larger companies they wanted more concepts, more revisions, more discussion about their logo. Obviously – a company’s brand is VERY important. Cost is not a deterrent for these larger companies. So, of course, my price kept going up. Soon, I was charging $900 for a logo. This was a fair price for a big company that wanted lots of concepts and revisions. But for the little guy, I would practically knock them off their feet when I told them I was charging $900 for a logo. They would say: “900 DOLLARS??!! All I want is a little logo – it will only take you an hour!” And they were right. I COULD design them a logo in about an hour.
This is where the flaws in the flat-rate billing system begin to surface. What does a “logo” really mean? I could spend 1 hour on a logo and I could also spend 50 hours on a logo. So you either create a crazy scale of products like “simple logo design,” “Average logo design,” “Complex logo design” and “Ultimate logo design” OR you switch to hourly billing.
In the end we decided to switch to hourly billing. This IS how most service industry firms work. If someone asks for a flat-rate we don’t turn them down, we just talk about their project and get all the details before we give them a rate.
How can I avoid Being Stiffed?
Over the years, particularly in the early years, I got stiffed a lot. Eventually I found one little trick that prevented this from happening:
Require a deposit before you begin work.
It’s simple: if someone wants to hire you for a $300 project, tell them you require a $150 deposit before you start. That’s it.
This one little step will eliminate 95% of people that will eventually stiff you.
I usually will try to get a 50% deposit before I start, then they make the final payment when I’m done. If the project is really big then I will reduce the deposit to 33% or 25%. If someone wants to take advantage of you, they don’t want to make any payment at all. By requiring a payment up-front you scare off the jerks. If someone balks at making a deposit, they probably never wanted to pay you a dime in the first place. Be happy they are leaving your life. You’re better off for it.
One exception to this is working with big corporations. If Pepsi says: “Bill us, we will pay you in 30 days.” I would tend to believe them. If they stiff you, go get a lawyer and sue them. They have lots of money and the lawyers would love to help you sue Pepsi (for the record: Pepsi has ALWAYS paid us.) Which brings me right to my next topic:
Should I have contracts?
My quick answer is: Skip the contracts for little fish and small projects, have contracts for big fish and huge clients.
A contract is only good if you can enforce what it says. Lets say, for instance, that you design a $300 flyer for a nightclub owner and you make him sign a contract. Then let’s say he stiffs you. What now? Do you wave the contract in his face and say: “Or Else!” No, you go to court – which I have done in exactly this scenario. And when you get to court, the very first thing the judge will say to you, as he did in my case is: “The court is not a collection agency. You have to collect this money on your own.” So, the club owner never shows up and you win the case. Now what? Well, you can go back to the club owner and say: “HA! I won the court case – now pay up!” And he’ll probably laugh at you. If you go to a professional collection agency they won’t touch anything for less than a few thousand dollars. And if they DO succeed at collecting any money they will keep at least 60% of it.
So, now you’ve spent all the time writing the contract, going to court, hiring a collection agency and sleepless nights worrying about this bum, and for what? You still probably get stiffed.
This is what happens when you’re dealing with little fish. The scenario changes when you’re working with bigger companies and bigger projects. Obviously, if you’ve been hired to do a $200,000.00 project – you might want to get a contract written up. You’ll want this because 1. You probably have a lot more at risk. You may need to devote months of your time to the project, hire more staff and buy equipment. And 2. In the event that you are stiffed there will be lawyers willing to help you collect. In which case, they will be able to get good use out of a contract in a trial. Go Media will only mess with contracts for projects over 50k.
Other tips to avoiding Busters
“Busters” is the term I use for people that have no money and want you to do work for them. They will do everything in their power to convince you that their idea is the next big thing. They will promise you great riches, fame and success beyond your wildest dreams. If you’ll just do this first job for free they will pay you triple on the next job. Or, if you do the design – they’ll pay with royalties when their product starts flying off the shelves.
Guess what? It will never happen. 99.9% of the time you will be stiffed. On the off chance that one of these buster DOES make some money – you won’t see a dime. He will stop answering your calls, stop answering your e-mails and find himself some other sucker to work for free.
Be wary of clients that are hyper active with energy and try to get you pumped up about their business, but have no up-front money to pay you. If they offer you part ownership in their company – but YOU do all the work, that’s a bad deal. If they offer you a part ownership in exchange for your services I would say: “Why don’t you pay me for a few projects so we can see if we work well together?” Anyone that is serious about having you as a business partner will think this is a good idea.
Do I need an accountant?
Yes. I highly recommend getting a good accountant involved in your business as soon as possible. I know that starting out you probably can’t afford one. That’s fine. Make due by flying “under the radar.” But once you have enough money – get yourself a really good accountant. Their advice is priceless. You don’t want to end up the next Enron.
What’s a “Kill Fee”?
Sometimes a client will pay you to create concepts that they may not use. That payment is called a kill fee. If they decide to use your concepts they will pay you more money. This often happens when a company needs to pitch your work to their customer. We run into this a lot with the t-shirts we design. A merchandising company will want to pitch a line of t-shirts to Metallica. They will pay us a kill fee for some designs, pitch them to Metallica, then pay us more for the designs Metallica likes.
Working for a kill fee is just a matter of preference. Go Media tries to avoid kill fees. We would rather be paid in full for our time. But if someone brings you a project that you’re really excited about, you may be ok accepting the risk that the kill fee is all you’ll get.
Pitching is when you create a design for free, show it to the client and hope they’ll pay you for it. In truth, Go Media does not pitch very much, but that is starting to change. I know that the large advertising companies work in this way. They create entire marketing campaigns then pitch them. These pitches are usually with large companies and winning a contract will result in MILLIONS of dollars of business. SO, obviously it’s worth it for them to invest the time and money to pitch.
Pitching is also a matter of preference. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to a company or to break into a new industry. Obviously there are risks (that you’ll not get paid for your efforts), so weigh those against the opportunity to land a savory job.
How do I send invoices and track sales?

Go Media uses Quickbooks. This is a somewhat complex piece of financial software, but it’s great. It takes a while to learn, but it’s well worth it in the end. Don’t try to understand all of it at once… just learn as you go. Start by focusing on how to generate an invoice. Little by little you’ll learn more over time. Your accountant can help you too once you have one. Quickbooks even offers credit card processing for a small fee.

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