I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity of an internship, along with 1 other illustration student and 2 graphic design students from Stockport, with top design agency LOVE, located in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. The basic premise was that we would just go into the their studio and fill up some unused space, continuing to work on our own projects and just to get an idea and feel for what working in a design studio feels like. However…. This quickly changed for me… I admit it feels a little daunting moving into to somewhere new, a place full of creative’s and professionals where you are seen as just a student maybe, but our go to guy – Steve Owen – who is an ex stockport student helped us settle in and so I felt quite comfortable wandering across the studio to the other side just to talk with him or let him know whats going on. We were all given a brief run down of the full studio space, who to talk to and what they did and then what they expected us to do… as I said, I quickly set about wandering around the studio space and over the 5 weeks in which we were there I managed to get to know a few people more than others and had a great time. Firstly, Steve didn’t want to have to worry about setting briefs to occupy us as at the end of the day they are a working design studio and have their own stuff to do rather than babysitting us lot, but whenever they fancied a different point of view or felt like getting us involved they would venture over to “our” side of the studio. Some of the jobs we were getting involved in weren’t anything to write home about (packing up some bits for post, tea making etc) but others were really enjoyable, I personally felt like I had to try harder to create something that would be of a professional quality in order to go to print or pitch to their clients. Sadly I can’t talk too much in detail about some of the work I undertook whilst there but I shall say a little without landing myself in it.
Due to where we were sat, we were immediately introduced to Phil Skegg the executive creative director and one of the founders of LOVE, who was kind enough to look through my portfolio purely because he was interested to see what my work was like. He took an immediate liking to my subverted famous characters and I think he liked a lot of my ideas for some of the humour involved in it which led on to him getting me to pitch some ideas for a project which may go to print in a couple of months (I hope). He wasn’t worried too much about the layout of my folio but was more interested in seeing all my sketches and the development of my ideas into the final thing. I always think people are just being kind about my work when they talk about it, but Phil really did seem to enjoy it and find the humour in it all… Hopefully he could see/sense my enjoyment in drawing and playing with ideas. Anyway, I am currently working on more ideas and mocking up clearer examples to return to Phil with in the next couple of weeks.
Because I kept strolling across the studio to talk to Steve every now and again, I got chatting with Alan Wardle another designer – sat opposite Steve – about illustration (see the post about my folio review with Alan later)… he later asked me if I could simply convert some flat jpeg images into illustrator files, with separate elements… but this developed into me actually adding some of my own creative touches to the designs and I don’t want to sound too cocky but I think I actually helped solved a problem they were having in trying to represent certain aspects of their design… I really enjoyed working on this project with them, but I do feel like I neglected my own project in favour of doing this work for them. I mean at the end of the day, I feel like some of my work has gone to print and is being used in a live brief, although there’s probably very little of my original work left in the final designs as once they were approved, Alan and Simon went through them to tighten up any details and make any last minute changes. I even got involved with some other pitch work alongside Chris Jefferies, but the client rejected this idea in favour of a stronger one. It’s been a bit of an eye opener seeing just how much work does go into some of these pitches… there’s never just 1 idea but often several, then the strongest 3 (for example) are taken a step further and then the client chooses a final 1 to go ahead with and its then created to a final piece… I did feel a little like my work had gone to waste and no one other than Jefferies would know what I’ve done in terms of the work for that pitch… but this is how it works in the real world.
At one point in the time there, the 3 other students I was with went down to London for portfolio crits and Studio visits with the course, but I stayed to work on my own project more and also helping out with the project Alan got me involved in. Rather than sitting on my own in the corner, I was invited to sit with the main design team, which really helped me, talk to some of the others around me… I really do feel like I fitted in with them all but in particular I got along quite well with Simon Bradley. I’m not suggesting that we’re now best friends, but we both are quite friendly and chatty and it helped me settle into the studio more as I felt like I wasn’t just talking to him or the others as an annoying student to busy professionals but as 2 creative people discussing work, exchanging pleasantries or just talking crap - In the space of a few weeks he actually realised just how much I worry about stuff and told me to calm down too! From sitting in the main area, I think a lot more of the people round the office saw my face more and started recognising me… it again made just talking to others or saying hello that much easier... luckily I wasn’t tasked with making TOO many cups of tea or coffee. I even met a freelance video editor, Ben --- who was brought in to do some work for LOVE and being sat next to him, we got chatting and I even showed him some of my work… Being in a studio environment I got to meet a lot of different people… this is why I want to work in a studio, but almost everyone said I should freelance whilst I’m young so I can do all these different projects that I want to work on.
We actually saw the last few days of the Office Manager Helen Dewett and just how close a group of friends they all were, the atmosphere in the studio is fantastic… when they need to work they all get their heads down but other wise the music in blaring, people are chatting and making each other drinks and its just a really inspiring place to be all round. As a bit of fun for Easter, they even had an easter egg painting competition run by Steve for which I ended up creating 2 designs (just because Michael Ngo-Tu’s went a little bit wrong). I also have to add 2 more people to this too, Chris Conlan the managing director and Dani Hawley – operations manager. I didn’t pester Chris too much but I did quiz him on copyrighting… now I meant about the legalities of my subverted characters where as he thought I meant writers who create the copy or body of text. This was another eye opener for me, as again we were introduced to the accounts team in LOVE, and I thought this was all about the money side of things but in fact they all handle the different client accounts… so… we learn something new everyday. Anyway, his main advice in terms of copyright was not to bother... if it’s a risky/grey area then why run the risk of it. I know a lot of graffiti artists have done this and I never know were they stand with it, some work anonymously so they avoid it... but others such as Ron English openly use representations of famous characters but this is why “ QUOTE STICKERS”. I was nervous about talking to Dani as I didn’t want to just assume or disturb her but Steve originally said that if we wanted anything printing then she was the person to see… and just before leaving I ran some ideas by her to see if she could get some quotes for me! I managed to catch her at a pretty awkward time, in between chasing clients for payment, fixing problems with printers not delivering on time or meeting the original requirements she was an absolute star and managed to get me prices on printing a newspaper for our own little collective in college, for business cards, postcards and even some larger than normal stickers for a silly idea I have for my end of year show.
Overall it was a fantastic experience, and I feel it went well for both parties… Hopefully it went well enough so that it may be repeated next year for the other students in the year below us. If I’m being completely honest I didn’t want to return to the college studio at all… I was just a lot happier turning up to a clean, bright studio than our own as it just didn’t have the same creative vibe. The experience actually made me just want to visit more studios in Manchester for the chance to work there and also to show my folio around more… rather than saying “fingers crossed” that I will do this... I WILL make I a goal to visit at least another 3 studios locally and maybe some further a field. Not necessarily London as I see a lot of artists are actually based in or exhibiting in Bristol at the moment... is there something we don’t know about?