Category Archives: blogpost

18 Sep

Anatomy of an Infographic: CATH project flow diagram

This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions. 


INTRO: Yes, it’s busy and overwhelming but I love this piece I designed in 2014 for a collaborative arts project in Birmingham.

BACKGROUND: The project, headed up by a team from University of Birmingham, saw 3 types of organisations come together into smaller project groups to essentially ‘see what they could come up with”. Academics would bring a research capability, SME’s would perhaps offer technical services or design skills and SCOs (Small cultural organisations) would bring cultural awareness and challenges.

BRIEF: my brief was to create a diagram that truly captured the complexity and challenges faced by the project and to give a feeling of chaos moving into organisation.

THE DATA: I was given a Word document table, with a row for each group with the name of each SCO, SME and Higher Education representative in that group.

THE PROCESS

  • Expand the data: The data was a useful starting point but I felt there was more interesting data to be uncovered by getting more specific. By drilling down into each individual participant, I uncovered more data and develop a hierarchy / categorisation of everyone involved. So a lecturer from Birmingham University was given a more specific categorisation based on his specialism – e.g. Humanities > History. SME’s and SCO’s were similarly broken down into more specific sub-categories.
  • Structure the data: Whilst I had added new layers to the information, I also had limited space in which to present it, so I had to go through a round of merging and rethinking in order to create some smaller groupings. I also wanted to get data-sign-off before starting the design stage, as it would be much harder to change later on. I used a wireframing app (e.g. Draw.io or xDiagram (mac)) to create a basic flow chart which the client could easily understand. It was also important for each participant to approve their categorisation – this was to be a permanent record of the project and we needed buy-in from everyone involved. These basic wireframes of each sector were sent to the relevant participants for their comment. As you can imagine there were some changes with some valuable feedback and suggestions. By the end of this process I had a spreadsheet with each participant on a different row, with maximum 4 layers of detail for each one, plus their outcome project title.
  • Create the basic diagram:  I used RAW (http://rawgraphs.io/) to create a basic alluvial diagram. Whilst a complete mess it was simply a starting point and once imported into Illustrator as an SVG it was incredibly useful.
  • Finalise the diagram: At this point I realised that the left hand side of the chart required a more hand-drawn approach, whilst the right could rely more heavily on the output from RAW. This had the additional benefit of capturing another element of the project. The tree-branch feel on the left represented the human, natural unstructured growth of the participants, but when pulled together they produce a more digital, structured outcome. I spend considerable time in Illustrator developing the left and side of the chart in order to distribute the ‘chaos’ and ‘twists’ evenly, but also aid comprehension.

 

 

18 Sep

Stop: you’re doing infographics all wrong

Infographics can be a really effective way to communicate. Whether you’re a journalist, a researcher or a PR professional, using a visual format COULD be the perfect way for you to reach your audience.

However, the internet is full of terrible examples of infographics that offer little value to the reader.

Here are five ways people are getting it wrong.

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You’re doing it for the wrong reasons

When a client approaches me to design an infographic, I ask them a simple question.

“Why do you want one?”

I’m happy when a client answers:

  • “We have a lot of interesting information that we’d like to get across to our customers”
  • “We’ve just finished a big project and we’d like to tell our investors all about it”
  • “We know our audience responds to this format, so we’d like to present our latest report in this way”

However, alarm bells start ringing when I hear:

  • “Another company down the road has one, and we think we need one too”

That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Perhaps that company has a different product or audience. Even if they are in the same industry, with the same audience, they may simply have got it wrong – who says it’s right for them?

  • “Because it will drive a lot of traffic to our website”

Sadly, only a small percentage of infographics ‘go viral”. You are bound to be disappointed if you looking just for clicks. Think about your infographic as a useful communication tool for people interested in your company/product/story. If it’s of wider interest, those people will share it.

If you chase the audience you may end up dumbing down or editing your content – creating a less useful tool.

  • “I saw one in the paper and it looked cool”

Infographics in magazines and newspapers tend to be content-rich and tell a specific story. Often they’re used to supplement a longer article, helping tell a more complex story. They may have been weeks in the making, with a team of journalists and designers.

Now compare this to the information you’re working with, the time to have to spend on it and the resources available. Will yours look so cool?

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Too much “graphic”, not enough “info”

Equal weight should be given to the information and the graphical elements of your infographic.

Too many examples exist online than are thin on content because the creator wanted to produce something that looked good and would attract attention. However, if there’s no content to keep the reader engaged, everyone has wasted their time.

If you don’t have enough information for a strong full-page infographic, think about other approaches. perhaps a smaller graphic would work? Don’t rule out doing some extra research to add more information. Sites like data.gov.uk can be handy for finding national data that could support your arguments.

 

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You’ve forgotten about your audience

During my training sessions I constantly remind attendees about their audience.

Treat an infographic like any other form of communication – a report, article, Facebook status update or press release. In each of those you should be tailoring your content, message and language to the audience.

 

Who is most likely to find your infographic interesting? What do we know about those people? (old, young, male, female, professionals?)

Having this sorted will help you answer some further questions to decide what to feature in your infographic.

  • what do they know about the subject? (how much do you need to explain?)
  • how will they feel about the information?
  • what do you want them to do?
  • what information do they need / want from your infographic? can they find it quickly?

Also, trying to tailor your infographic to “everyone” means you risk engaging no-one.

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You don’t have a clear message

This goes back to the “why?” question in the first point.

What are you trying to say? Take a good look at the information you’re intending to use in your infographic – what is it saying? Are you trying to:

  • demonstrate your company’s good work over the past year?
  • persuade the reader to do something?
  • explain why something has happened?

Make sure you keep this in mind as you are designing – even write it on a post-it and stick it to your computer, so you don’t forget.

I always get my information in shape first. I’ve got a handy process involving lots of post-it notes and big sheets of paper that really helps me assess my information and help me decide if I need to edit it or add to it. It also helps me decide what’s important and begin to develop an overall structure for the final piece.

This helps me stay on message.

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You’re trying to do too much

Whilst I use quite a few during my training, I have a fundamental issue with those long thin infographics.

My main issue is that  – with no page size to work within – there is no editing or quality control and the creator is tempted to throw everything into it, to make it “better” (read “longer”).

An infographic is not a magic spell that will solve all your problems. Throwing more content into it will only make it less effective. Instead, think – can you break your information down into several smaller infographic images, instead of a full-page? These can be handy for social media, adding to reports or on slides.

Plus – each graphic could have a different message and focus, you could easily create graphics for different audiences.

 

28 Jun

Anatomy of an Infographic: University of Oxford Economic Impact

This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions. 


 

INTRO: One of my more recent infographics but definitely a favourite. I’d been looking to create an isometric map for ages, and this seemed like a perfect time to do so. Sadly, I was called away on a family emergency towards the end of this process and would have liked to have tweaked a few things, but all-in-all I’m very happy with it.

BRIEF: I was approached by the University of Oxford to create a series of digital assets for their latest campaign to promote the economic value of the university to the local region.

THE DATA: I was provided with a list of bullet point statistics explaining how much income and jobs students, staff, tourism, science parks and spin-outs bring to the region.

 

THE PROCESS

ASSESS THE AIM AND AUDIENCE

Aas part of my new process I now spend time considering the message of the infographic. This helps me shape a clear narrative and decide on an effective design approach. The aim here was to reach people of Oxford, and explain that the University has a value to the whole area, not just the students who attend. This led me to consider a variety of techniques for reaching a local audience – local landmarks, references and maps for example. The client had already asked me not to use the traditional ‘dreaming spires’ imagery of Oxford – and I was glad to oblige. This was a local audience, not necessarily an academic one, so the information had to be relevant, interesting and understandable. We removed one data point regarding the number of ‘spin-outs’ as I felt it was not relevant to this infographic.

EXPLORATION AND WIREFRAMING

Writing the information onto post-it notes I was able to experiment with different layouts quickly. The data lent itself to 2 possible approaches. We had 6 topics, each with 2 data points, which could be arranged into a neat 6×2 grid. Alternatively we could give each topic a geographical location and place all the information on the map. I created two datamaps / wireframes for the client (see below), so they could focus simply on the information being included and feedback on any changes they wanted to the text or narrative. The client eventually opted for the map approach.

 

 

LOCATING THE TOPICS

First, I had to allocate each topic a geographical location.

The two science parks were easy to place so they were placed on the map first.

Next I researched the main student residential areas in Oxford (despite the fact so many live in halls) and placed the ‘student’ topic to the east of the city. The ‘staff’ topic was located north-east – where the main administrative building is located. This left tourism, which could easily be located in any part of Oxford, due to its popularity with visitors. The research related to the wider Oxfordshire area, not just Oxford, so this area had to appear on the map. However the locations we were referring to were all clustered in Oxford. I used some artistic license to distribute the locations around  the outside of Oxford itself.

CREATING THE ISOMETRIC MAP

The base: Thankfully Adobe Illustrator has an isometric function – which means you can create a grid and tilt it using the Effects > 3D function and changing the option at the top of the box.

 

The roads: using a screenshot of Oxfordshire I recreated the roads as best i could using the grid format. I did this on a flat square (before I applied the isometric effect above). In retrospect, I would instead use a large green grid, and simply recolour the squares I wanted to show as roads. This would have kept consistency and made for a neater map.

The buildings: I used several buildings from Adobe stock as a base, but amended some key features and added colour to tie in with the topic colour. I attempted to make the science parks look as similar to their real buildings as possible, based on research via Google Earth. I edited some of the windows on the student building to maintain detail-consistency and made some changes to shadow direction as the buildings came from different sources.

The people: I found a set of isometric people which I amended to create the population of the map. I added longer white coats to the scientists, changed the hair colour and dress of the other characters to bring variety.

 

AND NOW?

I’d definitely like to create another isometric map – I really enjoyed the process of creating the universe and found it a creative way to present information.

04 Mar

PROJECT: how to create an animation in Illustrator and Photoshop

WHAT

An animated gif of an album cover (Eat Yourself Whole by Kingmaker)

Kingmaker

WHY

I’ve wanted to learn animation for a while. I’d really like to be able to offer simple animated graphics to my clients. Many of them ask for small images to use on social media, as well as full infographics, so I’d like to be able to offer an animated version as well.

Social media is so busy with images, so a GIF that plays and reveals information will help the post really stand out.

I’ve also been feeling creatively dry recently – I’ve had a lot of work on and no time to explore and play with new ideas and methods.

After some Googling I came across this great article about creating animations in Illustrator and Photoshop.

 

I followed that article to create my first animation  – a cheeky robot – using an icon from Noun Project. I specifically didn’t want to spend excess time thinking about the icon itself (I’m no illustrator) so borrowed this cute one and added some simple movement.

 

Blinking red-robot-(l) animated GIF created in Illustrator and Photoshop

HOW

Next, I wanted to create something more detailed – but again using a current image. I was a big fan of Kingmaker in the 1990s and remembered their album cover was illustrated and fairly simple  – so in theory possible to illustrate with my new skills.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted the image to do, but this was more of an exploration of what was possible.

 

Step 1 – Prepare the Image

it wasn’t hard to find a copy of the album cover online. I dragged this into Illustrator (artboard 400px x 400px)

I quickly counted the colours that were used, and used the Image Trace tool to vectorise the image down to 6 colours.

After expanding the image I was left with the entire cover broken down by colour area.

screenshot

 

Step 2 – Creating Layers

The first step was to break the various elements down into separate layers.

  • the black background
  • The pink circle
  • The 4 spermy things
  • The monster
  • The drips around the monster tongue
  • The text

One thing to remember is that the image existed as a flat shape – so the pink circle layer has some very unsightly gaps (see below). The same went for the black layer – which has the outline of the pink circle.

 

screenshot

By this point I’d decided I wanted to rotate the pink circle which, in it’s current state, would have left ugly white spaces as it moved round.

My solution was to recreate the black background and pink circle.

The black layer was easy – I simply deleted the old black areas and replaced it with a solid black square that filled the space.

The pink layer was harder – it retrospect I should have simple counted the number of points, however I went through quite a longwinded trial-and-error process to work out the correct number of points.

Once I had completed this I was left with the following layers

 

screenshot

Step 3 – The animation elements

The principle for animation in Photoshop is to create different versions of the shape you are moving, and we will move through them in the film.

The circle – the wheel was an easy animation. I duplicated the circle layer 3 times, and rotated each of them slightly. Leaving all 3 layers visible I can ensure I’ve distributed the points evenly to create a smooth motion.

I’ve given each layer a different colour so you can see the distribution:

 

screenshot

The spermy things – this was even easier! I duplicated the layer with these little fellas, and flipped them  – so they looked like they were swimming in the original film.

The tongue – this was harder and took some trial and error to get the right effect. I broke each drip down into separate layers so I could animate them separately and I tried various patterns of ‘on and off’ to get the right effect.

 

TIP: The next step is to paste these separate elements into Photoshop. From my robot experiment I found it very hard to make sure all the items are placed in the right spot. So I developed this solution.

Draw a square on one of your layers – as large as you want your final image to be.

Duplicate this square onto all layers and ensure they are aligned.

Set the line and fill colour to transparent.

Then group each layer with the transparent box – now each layer is exactly the same size.

 

Step 4 – Moving to Photoshop

Open a new document.

Place Illustrator and Photoshop side by side.

In Illustrator, select all the items from one layer (ensure they’re grouped) and paste into Photoshop.

Choose Smart Object, right click and PLACE.

Repeat for each of the images.

Each of your layers now appears as layers in Photoshop which you can rename if you need to.

If it’s not selected, choose TIMELINE from the Windows menu.

All of the layers now appear as purple bars on the timeline – you can slide and move these to turn the elements on and off.

screenshot

Permanent layers: 

Some of your layers will simply be ON all the time – in this case the black background, the text and the monster face. These purple bars then before full width.

The animated elements will only be on the ‘screen’ for a certain amount of time”

Circle animation: 

I had 3 versions of the wheel in its rotated stages, I duplicated these to create a faster rotation.

(Duplicate by selecting the elements in the layers menu, hold down ALT and drag!)

This is the circle animation – I’ve coloured the elements (same colours as the wheel breakdown above) so you can see how they repeat.

screenshot

Tongue animation:

Each of the 8 drips has a separate layer and I staggered them in the following way to create the effect.

screenshot

 

Note: this was lots of trial and error!

 

Step 5 – export from Photoshop

File > Export > save for Web (legacy)

Ensure the LOOP FOREVER option is selected, make sure you’re happy with the film (check out the preview to see the image online)

You now have an animated GIF.

Kingmaker

Step 6 – get this damn thing on Instagram

 

This is way more complicated than it should be. Instagram doesn’t allow GIFS but can play movie files so you’ll need to convert it.

https://cloudconvert.com/gif-to-mp4

This will spit out a single play video.

To get this on Instagram your video will need to be longer than 3 seconds.

I lengthened the video by creating a new project in iMove (Windows Media tool will allow the same) and dragging the new film in as many times as needed to increase the length to >3min.

14 Feb

Infographics? Infovisuals? Stop and think

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Visual communication is nothing new.

Man has been daubing on walls and scratching into rock for centuries. Whether it’s “5 Ways to Catch and Skin a Deer” or “The River Styx: Everything You Need to Know”, visual representations of information have been the simplest way to pass information from one person to another.

Nowadays, the data explosion has meant there is not only more information to be conveyed, but an increased demand for access and understanding. We want price checks, reviews and evidence before we hand over our money and companies have to work harder to gain our loyalty. There’s also the decrease in trust of power – public organisations have to be transparent, as each member of the public becomes as hungry for facts and proof as the most voracious reporter of the past. Add the internet and especially social media into the mix and you have the perfect transportation method for this information.

Of course, with every shift in human consciousness, there are those who misunderstand, misuse and abuse this shift. The demand for infographics has reached fever pitch and organisations are now jumping on this dangerously overcrowded bandwagon.

If you’re one of those people thinking, “we need to get visual” but aren’t sure how or why – read on.

 

What are you visualising?

buttons-02-150x150I’ve been approached by organisations in the past who want infographics creating, but have no idea what the content will be. They’d simply heard the phrase and wanted a piece of the action.

Your visual communication must be driven by content. Would you write a press release or blog post, with no idea at the start what it’s for? Of course not. An infographic or data visualisation must be part of your overall communication message.

If you’d like to use visuals, take a look at your current projects. What kind of information are you dealing with?

For example, are you dealing with numbers/stats, the most common form of content for visual communication? Charts and data visualisation are tried and tested methods of explaining numbers. Great for showing prices, budget cuts, population counts and user demographics.

Perhaps you have location data. Maps are the most obvious way of communicating geographical data, as we understand how maps work and can instantly put ourselves into the picture – we can see how the data will affect us directly. New store locations, country of origin of products, transportation routes all work well mapped.

timeMany organisations overlook the third type of data: time and dates. Visit a museum and you’ll probably come across a timeline – again, a tool that allows us to put concepts into a visual form for us to understand. If you’re trying to explain the growth of your company, future development plans for an area or a events schedule, a timeline allows the user to access this data in a logical way.

There is another form of data that does not fall into any of these categories, but often requires the most explanation: systems and processes. How your company is structured, how that process works or why that thing happened. Flow diagrams and mindmaps can be useful tools to turn that understanding into something that anyone could follow.

Of course it could be a mix of these – showing stats on a map or the timescale of a process – and this is where infographics and data visualisations get really interesting.

 

Who is Your Audience?

Spending some time considering your audience will help you pick the right tool for the job. No point using an interactive online only tool if you target audience are not computer users. Of course, infographics and data visualisations can work well in print, whether that’s billboards, posters or flyers – it’s just worth thinking who they are before you start designing.

So here are a few questions to ask yourself about your reader

  1. what do they want from your visual? Why are they engaging with it?
  2. How old are they? You’ll use a different visual for young people and adults
  3. where are they? Reading online? In a doctors surgery? Different attention span, different tool – think
  4. What prior knowledge do they have? Avoid confusing them, but also don’t be condescending.
  5. What are their literacy/numeracy levels? Can you rely on text and stats, or does it need to be simpler than that?
  6. What will they think? You’ll use a different approach to announce job cuts than to promote your new product.
  7. What is their starting point? If you’re mapping libraries in your town, what will they use to search – will they necessarily know the library name or their “ward”? Think about how they’ll interact with your information

 

Why are you doing this?

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What story are you trying to tell with the information? As with a press release, there is something you are trying to get across. Are you announcing some new plans? Is there budget cut information you need to explain?

Each set of data will contain key information – this has probably sparked the idea for a visual in the first place – so make sure your visual tells that story clearly.

Then there’s the message – it may be that you’re not conveying any opinion or feeling on the data – or perhaps you need to make sure you appear sympathetic about those job cuts, or excited about the new product announcements. Either way, you need to make sure that tone is clear through design decisions and tool choice.

The final consideration is action – specifically, what do you want the reader to do? An anti-littering infographic will have the aim of encouraging them to use the rubbish bins. Perhaps you want them to think less harshly of your organisation, or simply understand the situation a little better. Make sure you keep this intended action at the front of your mind when developing your visuals.

 

Caroline Beavon is a freelance infographic and data visualisation designer. She has worked with local authorities and charities offering information design solutions to comms teams across the UK.

18 Sep

Anatomy of an Infographic: Where’s Werritty

This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions. 


INTRO: It’s an oldie but definitely one of my favourites. I gave this a refresh a few years back as it was looking a little tired.

BACKGROUND: In 2011 the Guardian newspaper released a story about then-Defence Minister Liam Fox. Specifically it questioned the access his friend Adam Werritty was getting to defence meetings across the world whilst claiming to be Fox’s adviser. The investigation uncovered a series of unsanctioned meetings involving Werritty and Fox subsequently resigned.

BRIEF: This was a personal project. I had just handed in my Masters in Online Journalism final project and used this as a practice piece of data journalism.

THE DATA: The Guardian data blog published an MOD list of all the meetings between Adam Werritty and Liam Fox. That list is still online and available here

THE PROCESS

  • Clean the data: I wanted to create a simple yet effective visualisation, so for the purposes of this I simplified the data by removing the US states named, and merging them into USA.
  • Create the map: I imported the dataset into Tableau and generated a simple circle map – the larger the circle, the more days Werritty spent there. This was quick and effective. I then ‘printed’ the map as a PDF, and imported this into Illustrator, where I could tinker with it further.
  • Create the timeline:  Similarly, I use the data in Tableau to create a timeline with a coloured square foe each date – the colour decided by the country Werritty was in. Again, I ‘printed’ as a PDF and imported into Illustrator.
  • Create the final image: Once in Illustrator I could begin to connect the map to the timeline with a series of lines. I added the county names, the dates and a darker map to add to the visual appeal.
27 Apr

Why data is more than just numbers

Quick thought: When I’m delivering a training session, or talking to clients, I try to avoid using the term ‘data’ and instead use the word ‘information’.

 

Many clients and trainees fall into the trap of thinking that data means numbers, whether that’s sales figures, yearly activity data or survey results. However, it’s more useful to think of data as information  – which can cover anything from times and dates, locations, systems, lists of names … anything that can inform.

 

In the same way we can turn statistics into charts, so:

– place names can become maps
– dates and times can become timelines
– systems can become diagrams

 

Adding this non-statistical information to your visuals can help the readers engage with your content. If they’re naturally put off by numbers (as many people are), they may be attracted by a map or diagram alongside them. Adding extra content can also give the reader more rounded information, by adding context to the story. For example, seeing where your offices are located may help the reader understand differences in sales patterns.

 

The benefits of adding non-statistical information to your graphics

 

– more context for the reader
– delivers a more rounded insight into the statistics
– more appealing to readers deterred by statistics

 

If you’re working on an infographic or data visualisation, don’t forget about the other information around this subject. It could make all the difference.

15 Apr

Is Agile design the answer to ‘free pitching”?

For several years I’ve been testing and trying different pricing structures for my freelance design work. However, one area I’ve been looking to explore is agile pricing.
The problems I’m hoping to solve are:
– new clients asking for ideas as part of a ‘pitch process’
– scope creep kicking in and pushing the project over budget, with no clear grounds for me to increase the price
– addition of new items
– blurring between the various stages so unclear when I can resort to my “I charge more for changes in this stage” caveat

What is Agile?

If a project is agile, it is broken down into “sprints”, each of which has a defined and tangible deliverable, in my case, a wireframe, image or report. With a tangible outcome, we can also attach a pre-agreed price to that ‘chunk’ of work.
Each section is priced up during the sprint before it – to allow for changes in scope.

The Positives

– setting a price for each ‘sprint’ (including initial consultation) will mean I am paid for any work I do, even if the client takes it no further.
– currently my initial suggestions are made with a single pre-defined outcome based on quote price, this allows for more flexibility as we (the client and I) explore the project.
– it is an easy entry point for clients not 100% sure about working with me
– we can easily discuss and price-up changes that arise during each sprint
– if it’s not working for either party and the project does not reach completion, I still get paid for the work done – often not possible to quantify with a flat rate job with one outcome

The Negatives

– it is an unusual approach for design work and might confuse / deter clients
– charging for ‘ideas’ may put some clients off from the outset
– as with hourly – clients may be unwilling to enter into a project with an unknown final price. The solution here may be to offer an estimate or even a Max price.
What are your thoughts? Do you, as a designer, use this method?
13 Apr

Relocating as a freelancer

 

I’m about to relocate 3 hours across the country from Birmingham to Brighton. To my American readers that may not seem very far (I know people who’ve moved from New York to LA), but it’s still a big deal to me. I’ve been talking about moving for about 3 years and I’m not going to lie – the main reason it’s taken me so long to actually do it, is my business.

 

I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with some great people in and around Birmingham. It’s a big city strong communities in the digital, arts, heritage and local authority fields. I’ve done interesting projects and had great feedback, and so word has spread and I now have clients all over the country.
However, this hasn’t stopped the concerns.

– Will my current clients keep me on, once I’ve moved?
– Will my current cheerleaders (my network in Birmingham) continue to spread the word about me?
– How easy will it be to meet new people, and potential clients, in Brighton?
– Will my freelance business take a hit after I’ve moved?

 

Here’s my advice:

Keep people informed
Current clients – Back in December I emailed my largest clients and let them know I’d be moving. Word was starting to get out and I wanted to assure them that I would continue to be available for future work. Several of them messaged back, wishing me luck and saying they’d continue to book me in the future.

New clients – Since deciding to move I’ve had several new Birmingham-based clients come on board. I’ve been up-front with them about the relocation and assured them that I’ll still be available (apart from on my move day!)

Via my website / social media – I’ve kept more public discussions of my move under wraps until a little closer to me leaving. I was concerned that it may put people off contacting me about new work.

 

Find a co-working space
Joining a co-working space will be a great way to meet new people, both socially and for work purposes. Brighton has several to choose from but I’ve settled with The Skiff, which seems to have a laid back vibe and a digital/tech-heavy membership. It also means I get membership to the Wired Sussex network, which means more people and access to jobs and projects forums.  I’m planning to visit the The Skiff 2.5 days a week, and will work from home for the rest of the time. Hopefully with a cat.

 

Find other communities
I’ve used meetups.com to find relevant groups in Brighton, and joined them. I”m not even there yet and my diary is full of things to get along to, when I land. These are a mix of work-related and personal interest groups.

 

I’ve also volunteered myself to help revive Brighton Hacks and Hackers which should be a lot of fun and great way to meet people.

 

Lurk like crazy
Social media has been great and tapping into the Brighton scene from a distance, although it was been more successful for my social life than my work life, at the moment. I’ve:
– set up a Brighton Instagram account  – no posts yet but following a lot of bars, pubs, cafes, magazines + venues.
– made a Twitter list of creative and digital organisations and people across the city

 

Save up
I’ve had a good couple of years and have managed to save some money in my business account, so I can pay myself and keep my things running for 5/6 months. Hopefully it won’t come to that but it means I won’t have to take any old job that comes along and I can actually spend some time enjoying my new life in Brighton.

 

 

Comments disabled but let me know your thoughts via Twitter

 

05 Apr

Freelancers: pricing structure options

noun_help_89606

My role as a freelancer means I work on a wide variety of projects. From one-off infographics, to long-running research projects. I’ve found that there is not a single perfect pricing system – instead I make a decision on a project-by-project basis. I will ask myself:

– is there a defined outcome / product?
– have I done anything like this before?
– how easily can I estimate the hours I will spend on this?
– is there a risk of ‘project creep’?
– could there be ongoing work?
– how long will the project last?
– who is the client? How well do I know them?
– does the client have a set budget?


noun_tag_15204Total Project Cost 

I will quote a total project cost if there is a single, defined outcome that I can easily scope. There must be little risk of ‘project creep’ or clearly set boundaries for stages within the project.
– Pro – set price for the client so they’re more likely to agree
– Pro – beneficial for me if the project is completed within my budget
– Pro – project management made easier due to set hours / budget
– Con – I could lose out financially if the project runs over


Hourly (unlimited) 

I will quote hourly if the project brief is still being defined or has the potential to change in scale. If the project is ongoing work with many elements I will quote hourly.
– Pro – I am paid for the work I do – so I will never lose out financially
– Con – clients get nervous if they don’t know the final amount. An estimate is sometimes needed

noun_alarm-clock_317Hourly (maximum price)
This has been a successful combination of the 2 previous pricing structures. I will invoice based on the hours worked, but the total will never exceed the value stated in the quote. This works if I have some idea on the scope, but there are some uncertainties.
– Pro – client more likely to agree as they know the maximum price
– Pro – In most cases I will be paid for the all work I do
– Con – if the project runs over significantly I could lose out financially

noun_checklist_373700Project BuilderThis structure works if there are multiple ways of presenting the information with sets of images. The client is given a list of potential options with a price-per-item. They can pick and choose items from the list to match their budget.
– Pro – client gets flexibility
– Pro – client has early editorial input
– Pro – flexible if client already has strong ideas
– Pro – pricing per graphic means I am less likely to lose out financially

Retainer

A client may wish to sign you up for an extended period of time, agreeing to pay you a set amount each month, for a set amount of hours based on your hourly rate. This is different to a full time contract as multiple clients may have you on a retainer. Note: I do not currently have any clients using this pay structure.
– Pro – client has an expected invoice each month
– Pro – I have an guaranteed income each month
– Pro – potential to be paid for hours not worked
– Con – difficulty / reluctance to charge for hours over the monthly allowance
– Con – client may not realistic understanding what is achievable in the monthly allowance


 
19 Nov

Hitting walls with a project? Going in circles? Try the Stuck Wheel

There are times in projects when you get completely stuck.

You may find yourself going in circles, with a million reasons why you can’t continue. These could be the fault of the client, overload of tasks, or a general bad feeling about how it’s all progressing.

For example you’re:

waiting for more information from someone else
not enjoying the project
struggling to understand the clients needs
overwhelmed by too many tasks
Every way you turn there is another reason NOT to progress, so nothing gets done.

This happens to me from time to time. I am often working on several projects at a time, and it can be easy to keep heading towards the easier ones than the harder ones. As a freelancer I don’t have a line manager to talk to, so this is one of those times when I need to play both roles.

That’s why I started using a Stuck Wheel.

Some of this stuff may seem really obvious, but it’s helped get me out of a stuck project many times.

 

 

You Will Need

A4 sheet of paper / large notebook

2 pens of different colours

 

Scannable Document 2 on 19 Nov 2015, 14_02_07

Stage 1

Write the name of the project in the centre of an A4 sheet of paper and draw a circle round it.

Then, creating a ‘spider diagram’ (and leaving space between each entry and the edge of the page) write down each of the problems you are facing with the project. All of them. They can be an insignificant or as personal as you like, no one else is going to see this. The idea is to capture all of the BLOCKS you are facing with this project. Think carefully about all the things you need to do, and why you can’t do them right now. Remember: there are no stupid entries here, so if you just hate the project, and don’t want to work on it any more, write it down. Just make sure its not the ONLY thing on your wheel!

Connect each problem to the central circle with a line.

 

Stage 2

Now it’s time to act like a boss for a moment.

Using the other pen, go through each of the problems and write a response to them. for example:

 

BLOCK: waiting for a response from client

ANSWER: email or call client for a response

 

BLOCK: don’t have the software i need

ANSWER: set aside some time to download and install the software

 

This seems pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how often these little easily solved problems can sit and fester, and halt the whole project.

However, when I do the STUCK WHEEL there are always some emotional blocks as well. The answers to these will depend on the particular project but could go as follows:

 

BLOCK: I’m worried XYZ will happen

ANSWER: it might. Plan for XYZ to happen by doing ABC

 

BLOCK: I don’t feel like doing this right now

ANSWER: (if the project is not urgent) – schedule a time to do this in the future, forget about it for now and do something else

ANSWER: (if the project is urgent) -TOUGH! you have a responsibility to your client and your business. JUST GET ON WITH IT

 

Seriously, this is how I talk to myself in my STUCK WHEEL. Sometimes you need someone to kick your arse, and in this instance, it has to be yourself.

 

Scannable Document 3 on 19 Nov 2015, 14_02_07

 

Stage 3

Read back through your answers and transfer any actionable items to your to-do list (in my case a bullet journal).

email client for confirmation on something
schedule a day to work on this another day
download X software

 

 

 

10 Apr

Bits and Pieces: design-related podcasts

I’m a big fan of podcasts.I’m only sad that I don’t have more time to listen to them (for example, I can’t listen whilst I’m working, just when I’m at home, travelling or driving). I use the Pocket Casts app on my iPhone, which is a very smart, easy to use app and for the past 6 months I’ve been listening to a lot of design-related podcasts – here are my favourites (in no particular order!)
[toc]

 

 

The Stack

The Stack

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: Studio host, with guests, reports and discussion
  • Tone: informative, intelligent and ever-so-slightly smug. 
  • Usual length: 25 – 40 mins
  • Frequency: weekly

The first of 2 offering from Monocle, publishers of the high-brow monthly magazine. They run a radio station, but the shows are also released as podcasts. This has been a long-time favourite of mine.

Usually presented by Editor-in-Chief Tyler Brulee, its a 30 minute look at the world of magazine publishing. Guests bring along their favourite titles, and discuss design, content and the wider industry.

Section D

Section D

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: studio host and reports from global reporters
  • Tone: dips a toe in the water of every type of design – a good overview
  • Usual length: 60 mins
  • Frequency: weekly

The second podcast from Monocle, this time the design-focused Section D. A recent change of presenter has improved this no end, with a more relaxed style. Covering graphic design, architecture, fashion and everything in between all over the world, it offers an interesting insight into the industry.

99% Invisible

99% Invisible

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: radio programme on a different design related subject each week
  • Tone: highly produced, intelligent with comic asides. 
  • Usual length: around 2o minutes
  • Frequency: weekly

A recent funding push has meant this brilliant radio series is now weekly, maintaining it’s high standards. A high level of production and presenting means recent topics such as “barcodes”, Pizza Hut buildings and number stations, become fascinating subjects.

Data Stories logo

Data Stories

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: 2 hosts + guests
  • Tone: incredibly friendly, passionate and geeky in places 
  • Usual length: 45 – 120 mins
  • Frequency: monthly (not regular)

I adore this podcast because it lands exactly in my wheelhouse – data and design. The hosts, an academic and a professional data designer, clearly enjoy the podcast and create a friendly and warm environment. Both incredibly knowledgable, they bring in big name guests and cover a range of subjects including, recently, data journalism. As I’m not a coder, I am occasionally lost by some of the code-speak, but it’s handled well and moves quickly.

Do listen out for the adorable cross-nationality marathon goodbye session at the end of the podcast!

Design Matters

Design Matters

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: head to head interview
  • Tone: intimate, warm and knowledgable 
  • Usual length: 45 mins
  • Frequency: weekly

This podcast focuses entirely on one subject a week, with an in-depth head to head interview. I’ve found interviews to be interesting and insightful, irrespective of the interviewee, thanks to host bigwig Debbie Milner.

Deeply Graphics Design Cast

The Deeply Graphic Design Podcast

(website) (iTunes)

  • Format: 3 hosts, discussion and listener questions
  • Tone: friendly, industry-insight discussions and advice
  • Usual length: 40 – 60 mins
  • Frequency: fortnightly

This is a more serious version of Adventures in Design  – with 3 professional designers discussing a specific graphic or web design issue each episode. The tone is friendly, with no silliness or banter and the issues are handled professionally.

 

Adventures in Design

Adventures in Design

(website)(iTunes)

  • Format: 3 presenters with chat, occasional interviews and Q & A
  • Tone: casual, yet informative with occasional (ok, quite a bit) of swearing
  • Usual length: 1 hr 40 – 2hr
  • Frequency: weekly

When I was working alone at home, this podcast acted as my colleagues, with enough banter and interesting facts and tips to make me feel human again!! It was great to hear 3 guys chatting about every day designer issues and moans, with some smart ideas and advice thrown in.

Recently the podcasts were recorded on the road as the crew took a trip to the Flatpack Festival in Austin, Texas as part of SXSW with some genuinely funny moments!

21 Feb

Information Designer for Hire: what to expect

Whilst organisations may have had experience working with graphics or branding designers in the past, the process to develop an infographic is very different.

screenshot

 

Ask any graphics designer who’s been asked to convert a 20 page report into an image, and chances are they’ll tell you that designing an infographic requires a whole new set of skills. I think of myself as a designer-meets-journalist-meets-number cruncher – as the content needs editing, selecting and crafting, and *then* designing.

Your input is vital to the success of the project – you know what you want and you know your industry – it’s up to you to point out the important information and decide on your message.

Here is a run down of the process structure I use:

[toc]

Initial Decision

So you’ve decided your company needs an infographic.

You may have a strong idea of what needs communicating (ie you’re end of year finances, a new process or a summary of your work) or you may have simply heard the word, and feel you should get on board.

Knowing what you want communicating (the concept as opposed to the specific content) is important and will save you time . It’s also worth thinking about a few key things, as they will be useful to know at the start of the process:

  • what are you trying to communicate? You can read more about this here
  • who is your audience? age, knowledge, gender, nationality
  • is this for online, print or both?
  • what is your deadline?
  • what is your budget?
  • do you have the information, or do you want me to source it?

You will be asked more questions as the process goes on but these are a good starting point.

Initial Contact

Normally via email or social media asking about prices and timescale

Much of my work comes in via email, Twitter or Linkedin – with a client contacting me with a tentative query about costings. It’s such a new area of design that the pricing structure is an unknown – and few designers (including myself) put prices on their websites. (This is because every job is different. Pricing is based on final output, amount of research required and how quickly you need it).

I’m usually happy to give a ballpark figure but always ask for more information before giving an official quote.

Many designers quote by the hour – I quote per job. I find this puts everyone at ease (including myself). Of course, I have contingency plans in place if the project spirals out of control through changes by the client – but these are explained fully with my initial quote.

I’ll give a full and detailed price quote once we have completed the next stage, the initial discussion.

First Discussion

An opportunity for us to set out initial ideas, and discuss the project in great depth

Your initial conversation with your infographic designer is key. It may be held face to face (my preference) or over the telephone. It’s your time to explain what you want, or be honest and say you don’t really know *what* you want. Make sure you have as much information as possible to hand.

Treat it like a first date – find out as much as you can about each other, the process and how each other works. From this you can decide if working together is right for you.

I may do some rough sketching (on an iPad) whilst we are talking, so we can make sure we understand each other.

Full Quote

 

Once I have a better understanding of the job, and we have worked out the basic aims and objectives, I will send over a final quote, before starting any work. You will be asked to sign a New Job Agreement form, which quotes the price and details of what the quote does (and doesn’t) include.

Depending on the size of the job/length of time it will take, I sometimes ask for 30% or 50% upfront.

First Drafts

A series of draft ideas to show you some options of layout and theme/styling

One we’ve had the initial discussions I’ll spend up to a week (depending on the amount of work you want) developing a series of options. Here I’ll be exploring 2 areas:

  • content layout
  • styling  / theme / concept

I will usually send 2/3 very different images (by PDF or image file), each one showing a different layout and theme, but you can mix and match if you prefer. Of course, you also have the option to scrap all 3 options, and offer feedback or guidance as to why you don’t feel they’re right.

These will not be fully completed images (the themes often develop over time) so I’d ask you to be prepared for some changes in the future and any temporary placeholder content in the image.

One you’ve selected a content layout and theme I will start work on the final image.

Work In Progress

An opportunity for you to see a part-completed image, and make sure you’re happy with the direction

As I said above, this is a collaboration, so I will be checking in with you as I design the final image. This could be for several reasons:

  • if I shift dramatically from the original image
  • if I want to confirm you are still happy with image
  • to avoid the disappointment of you not liking the final image

I may send whole images, or part of images to make sure you’re happy.

Final Proof Image

The final image – before spell-check and final tweaks, for you to approve

Once I’ve worked up a final image I sent it over for you to review. This image may still have typos, spelling errors and require more precise tweaking, but I always leave these until you are is 100% happy with the image (no point pixel-checking content that may change!)

You will then be asked to confirm the content, make any final changes (if major changes it will lead to further charges) and run it past their team (if necessary).

Proof-reading / final tweaks

I employ a proof reader to check final images in terms of spelling mistakes, statistics and grammar issues. If you stare at an image for so long, it’s easy for errors to slip through the net. I also ask you/your team to check the final information as well – the more eyes the better.

Once I’ve made any changes I will tidy the image up, make sure everything is aligned etc and prepare a final files for you (depending on their requirements)

Final Image

Final image is sent over and once you have given it the final OK, I will invoice for the full/balance amount.

 


03 Nov

5 key elements of a freelance career

I was recently invited to speak to BA students at BCU about enterprise – and specifically, how I managed to forge a freelance career for myself.

Having retrained (I used to be a commercial radio journalist) I think there are 5 key areas I focused on to make it

GET ALONG WITH PEOPLE

People have to be the main focus of your freelancer career – you work alone so you have to generate all your work yourself.

Social media is a brilliant tool for finding new contacts and maintaining those relationships. I keep an active Twitter account (3 actually, but that’s for another time). I make sure I regularly share interesting links AND reply to people, so my account isn’t just broadcasting. I certainly don’t talk about my own work all the time, although I will tweet when I have a success (i.e. a piece of work doing well in an awards) or about things I am working on. I have regular conversations online and try to be engaging.

However, it’s very easy to rely on social media and never leave the house. As a freelancer you need to be getting out to see people. Talk to people in your field, and look for meetups and groups you can go along to. It’s great to have someone else to talk to, especially as you’re probably on your own all day.

However, don’t fall into the trap of *only* hanging out with people in your field – remember, they’re not likely to employ you (unless you can secure sub-contract work from them). Who are your potential clients? Where do they hang out? If you offer a valid service to different business sectors, offer to talk about your services to them  – but don’t just promote yourself, promote the general benefits to them. You’ll be amazed how much work will come your way.

I am eternally grateful to Andy Mabbett (aka @pigsonthewing) for inviting me along to speak at Brewcamp over a year ago. Brewcamp is a local Government comms meetup, where very forward thinking people look for new ways to help councils. I was initially sceptical of the benefits, but that 20 minute talk has led to a host of work and a real reputation in this sector! Thanks Andy!

MONEY

There is a very active campaign right now to protect interns and young people from exploitation in the work place. However, I’ve always believed that there is too much focus on money. I always recommend students get  job to pay the bills (bar work, waitressing etc) and spend their free time working for little/no pay in the area in which they want to work in the future.

So, forget, “don’t work for free” – it’s all about “don’t work for nothing”.

Working for a business can increase your employability no-end by

  • giving your actual experience
  • teaching you new skills
  • meeting new people
  • boosting your reputation

A year ago I decided I needed to learn a little more about how design agencies work – I was doing more and more design work but with no formal arts training I was lacking those practical skills. I spotted an intern opportunity at a local branding agency, Orb,  who were looking for a copywriter one day a week. I spoke to them, explained my situation and they agreed to let me work as a copywriter whilst sitting with the designers to see how they did things!

I did this for 2 months before my own work took off and I had to move on, but I learnt a huge amount about how agencies work.

BE FLEXIBLE

You have to be flexible. This is a useful skill to have, wherever you work – especially as offices are now merging jobs and roles as they cut back on staff. if you’re working for yourself you have to do everything.

When I first left BCU I used my social media and blogging work to pay the bills whilst I worked to build up my other line of work – this was not only  financial necessity, but kept me sane! You’ll get more work if you’re already working. I was also DJing regularly at the Actress and Bishop in Birmingham.

It was being invited by Paul Bradshaw to help teach at his Online Journalism module at BCU that opened up a new area. It’s not only nice to get out of the house but learning now to present and teach has give me a new set of skills, and give me another reason to keep up to date with the industry. This led to more teaching work from Dave Harte (on his MA Social Media course).

If you’d asked me 3 years ago if I wanted to teach, I would have said no, but embracing this has give me more opportunity – corporate training is now a big part of what I do and wouldn’t have been possible without my experience teaching at BCU.

If opportunities present themselves, think “how will this help?”.  Always be open to doing new things but do watch out for the Jack-Of-All-Trades pitfall – when you have too many areas of interest, no-one really knows what you do and you’re not considered an expert in anything.

KEEP MOVING

I’m at the stage now where I know I’m going to need to add some new skills to my repertoire, because the industry is changing and clients want new things. For example, I’ve had a spate of clients recently asking for infographics that they can modify themselves, with others asking for animation. In order to keep my clients and stay on top of my game I will have to learn new skills. Luckily there are lots of resources online for training (Youtube is a goldmine) but I am also looking into formal training. The hardest part is finding the time to do it.

Make sure you’re up to date with changes in your industry – there is no excuse with social media and blogs – follow the right people, read the right articles and stay one step ahead. I use an RSS reader to keep an eye on all the major blogs and websites in my field and I always keep an eye on Twitter and Linkedin.

HARD WORK

You will underestimate how hard you’re going to have to work – trust me.  Be prepared to say goodbye to your evenings and weekends at times. When you’re starting out you’d be foolish to turn any work down – say yes and then work out how to get it all done. If that means working round the clock, or calling on friends to help, then so be it!

Do remember to pace yourself. There will be days when you find yourself with nothing to do. You have 2 choices here, depending on your situation.

If you have a lot of work on, but are waiting on a client, for example, so can’t do anything – enjoy the day off. You never know when your next one is going to be so enjoy it. I’ve been known to have a Saturday on a Wednesday, do my big shop, go to the cinema, meet friends for lunch. Enjoy it!

If you’re not that busy, a free day is a great opportunity to boost your exposure – write a blog post, get involved in some discussions online, go and sit in a coffee shop and make sure tell your contacts where you are through social media. It’s amazing how many people will swing by and see you – and who knows, it might lead to some work!

Make sure you use your time smartly – I am not ashamed to say I have a cleaner. I also have someone to chase my invoices for me, because  I was spending a lot of time emailing and calling clients, and I was really, really bad at it. Now I employ the virtual assistant company Lulaberry to do this for me! I also employ a proofreader, the brilliant Editorialgirl as this means my work is spotless, and again frees up time for me to focus on the more creative side of things.

31 May

10 Ways I Stay Productive

As a freelancer it’s very easy to fall into bad habits – working from home, lots of different projects and being my own boss means long days of low productivity, and no clear division between work time and free time.
Since I left my “proper” job in 2009 I’ve been trying a host of ways to get things done – these are the things I’ve learnt work for me.

1. Find Your Work Hours

It’s taken me a while but I’ve found I am super productive early in the morning – irrespective of how tired I am. I had several years working on a radio breakfast show so getting up at the crack-of-dawn doesn’t terrify me, but the point is – find your optimum working hours. I know people who prefer to work in the evening or overnight … whatever works for you, make sure you stick to it

2. Go to Work

One of the perks of working in an office is the division between hometime and work time. I miss the walk to work, those few minutes (in my case) to prepare for the day. Even wearing work clothes changes your mindset.

This is lost when you stumble from bed to sofa in your PJ’s.

Eventually I plan to have a home-office, but for now I have a rented desk not far from where I live. I’ve also found co-working spaces, sneaky corners in coffee shops and other locations really handy.

In short, don’t work jn the room where you live.

3. Reboot in-between tasks

This is something I’ve only recently discovered, and is good for both me and my laptop.

I reboot my computer when I change projects. My jobs tend to be very varied, infographic design one minute, and planning social media training the next – so it’s good to have that mental refresh.

Plus. I’m often dealing with big files and my laptops not a robust as it used to be – so a reboot is a useful way to stop it grinding to a halt!

4. Next Task Approach

This is a trick I leaned during my time working for Think Productive. Don’t make endless to-do lists of tasks that can’t be done because they depend on something else happening first. Ie: No point adding Book Plane Tickets to my todo list, when you haven’t Booked Holiday yet.

I only have tasks I can achieve on my list, and replace them with the next doable task when it’s completed!

5. Keep a separate project list

As well as a todo list, I also have a list of all my current projects, and the stage they’re at. I use a great Ipad app for this, called Sticky Notes. It’s essentially a series of pages with digital post-it notes. I have 2 pages:

Post_it_structure_planning.PNG

Page 1 contains post-its of 4 colours

Each post-it contains my Job Code, job title and the price I’ve quoted for it.

  • PINK – currently working on
  • GREEN – confirmed projects but not currently working on
  • YELLOW – awaiting initial meeting
  • BLUE – random projects I need to decide on

This page helps me manage my workload – I like to have 4 “currently working on” with between 4 and 8 “confirmed but not currently working on”.

Page 2 contains a host of those projects that I’ve been contacted about, but nothing’s come of them yet. I keep them there to chase up when I get a moment, or can refer to if they do spring back in action.

6. Filter and Auto colour emails

Whilst I use Sparrow on my Iphone, I try to do most of the email management on my PC. where I run Postbox. I have 2 main email addresses, with a few random ones too, so it’s a good place to see everything together.

As with most email systems, you can set up filters. Whilst I heavily use filters for social media notifications (and have a regular email reminder to check the folder every few days) the most useful thing helps me deal with those “bacon” emails that come in, ie software updates, service announcements and other content that isn’t spam, but isn’t vitally important right now

I’ve simply built up a filter that turns the text of these emails (in the inbox) pale grey. They’re still there, and I’ll tend to check and delete a few times a day, but they’re in the background when I’m focusing on work.

7. Turn of notifications

I’m a pretty heavy social media user but only recently have decided to turn off all notifications from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Instead, I allow myself to check these accounts whenever I want, so that Social Media and Email Tension doesn’t build up. I’m getting a lot more done and am more relaxed about having long stints of working, knowing I can check them whenever I want.

8. Check email on the hour every hour

I try (although I do fail at this often) to only check my email every hour, on the hour. It’s an easy time to remember, and means I can focus on work for an hour before it comes round again. I have Postbox open at all times, with notifications turned off, and simply switch to that window to see new messages. It takes a second if there’s nothing in there, and with filtering and colouring (as above) it’s easy to see the important emails first.

9. No meeting days – 3 a week

I’ve learnt that I much prefer having a full day to work, without having to dart out for midday meetings. To this end, I try to keep at least 2/3 days a week free from all meetings. On a Sunday night I’ll check the next 2 weeks and add all-day calendar events to the days with no meetings – with the intention of keeping these free.

Similarly, I prefer meetings first thing in the morning or last thing in the day – it means I still get a good few hours to get stuff done!

10. One collection point – Evernote

Evernote

I’ve spoken at length about my love for Evernote. It’s getting better with every update. I use it as my central management system – where I send everything.

As emails come in, I’ll smart-grab sections of text (WIN-A) instead of forwarding emails and archive the email.

I go through my RSS feeds twice a day in the Feedly app – and save a bunch of images and articles into Evernote

I store all my briefsheets (single documents I use to store information about individual projects, including those bits of text from emails)

I also send all my draft images there, and email the client from within Evernote.

Have a free months trial of Evernote Premium here

18 May

10 Rules for Using Icons on Infographics

Icons, pictograms, smileys, dingbats – call them what you like – visual language is a fascinating area of design.

Yes, varieties of visual language has been used for years, with varying degrees of success, and it’s likely that icons will one day be relegated to the “naf bin”.

For now, thought, there are a range of icons out there that can really spice up your website, infographic or presentation

But use with care – here are my 10 tips:

  1. Don’t use them for the sake of it
  2. Use logical icons – don’t make the reader work out what you’re trying to say
  3. Do use them to break up lots of text
  4. Don’t use them to fill up space – get more content or make your infographic smaller
  5. Avoid using icons from radically different sets – try to keep the same theme throughout
  6. Use them if your audience may not understand the text (ie young, international)
  7. Consider using an icon OR a word, not both  – i.e. avoid EMAIL word and an EMAIL logo
  8. Use an icon to illustrate a long header/paragraph
  9. Try to use icons appropriate to the audience – classy for business, cute for children. Why do we still use the traditional “telephone” symbol for phone, when no phones look like that any more?
  10. Don’t be naf/cliche – bored of “toilet man”? Try using a different style character

If you want to find some good handy icons, give these font based ones a go (by sharing these links I’m not vouching for safety of anything you download – virus scan folks!)

The Noun Project

http://www.dafont.com/

http://www.fontspace.com/category/dingbats

http://cooltext.com/Fonts-Dingbats

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020