Surprisingly I was almost a football player, but that fell through when I got injured so I went to college to study Sports Science. That wasn’t for me so I changed to A-level Art the following year which was probably the best decision I could have made (I was better at art than football!). I then had to decide what I actually wanted to do with my life, and I had no idea. No one in my family had studied at university so it was something very new and strange to them and they couldn’t understand how a creative career would pay the bills. But I was determined to study something creative and chose Illustration – at the time I had no idea what design even was. After a year of studying Illustration I changed to Graphic Communication and slowly began to find my niche.
Having never used a mac before or any of the programmes it was quite frightening at first, but I found it exciting applying ideas in a different way. Thinking about typography, layout, colour and mostly, ‘what is the big idea’. The tutors pushed me to be different and this is something I appreciate now even more so. It made me think in a completely different way.
After graduating I began a one-month placement working at an agency called Elmwood in Edinburgh. I was petrified at first; I had never stepped foot inside a studio before and if anyone walked past me, I would hide what I was working on. It was a real eye-opener, but I loved it, so much so that when it was over, I moved to London for a year on another placement as a designer with Ranch Design. University was a time to explore my creativity, to try things, to be different. Ranch taught me how to steer those ideas in a more commercial sense. How to make my work look stronger, tighter, more expressive and really stand out.
I decided to move back to the North East and spent five years working for different types of agencies. At this point I knew I wanted to start an agency of my own. Opening Everything was a dream of mine and we are now almost seven years old. I set up the agency with my co-founder Mark Dawson (the idea came to us in the pub!) and we got a small loan to buy a couple of macs, a desk and a printer. Every year we have improved, and we now have staff. Having your own agency is very different to working for someone. We have a lot more responsibilities, things like new business, project management, turnover, cashflow, admin, etc. We made a pact at the very beginning to only work with clients that we want to work with and who we believe in. We only work with ambitious clients who want to make a difference in the world. We have helped save endangered animals, challenged the myths around sexual violence, supported local artists and positioned them onto a global scale, we fight against poverty, homelessness, loneliness and more every single day.
There are lots of things that I love about working in the creative industries. I love that I get to make a difference to people's lives, and how every new project brings huge challenges. I love the fact that we have staff who I’m responsible for. It is down to me to nurture them, to develop them, to share the things I’ve learned in my career and to make them better designers. I love the anticipation I get before a big presentation. I love how some days you are working until the early hours of the morning on a presentation due the next day, then you present and see the expression on people’s faces and win the work. The buzz or even the chase of new work is what really gets me excited. I turn into a completely different person, it pushes the creative to another level. I simply love what I do and every day I tell myself not to take it for granted, to continuously improve and become better.
I would advise future students to work hard and never lose belief that you will get where you want to be. Also feel comfortable making mistakes; without making mistakes you can’t get better. This is something that we encourage in the studio every day; - try out new things, collaborate with people and speak to each other about what you are doing. I would also advise that you keep an eye on what is happening in the creative sectors. I would always encourage people to go to university if they really wanted to study. I had the most amazing four years at university, and I found out a lot about myself. I worked hard and had a lot of fun but I still achieved what I wanted to do.”
Published 5 November 2020