New website. AGAIN. Why?

A groundhog

A groundhog

A few months ago I updated my website. Now I’m considering doing it again. Say what?

The last update was an emergency thing (sort of. No-one’s house was burning down or anything). I wanted to add a contact form and other bits and pieces to the site, and the theme I had used originally was dragged down by ancient PHP-coding which flat-out refused to allow me to add a simple little plugin. So readers couldn’t subscribe to my newsletter or download my little guide to working with designers. Pah.

A quick update to the theme, retaining a lot of my original design, and after a weekend of bleary-eyed coding I came up with this site.

Which is okay. But not perfect.

The whole point about good design is that it engages people. It takes dry text and brings it to life. It shows rather than tells. It needs to show the world who you are.

So it’s vital to regularly review how you present yourself to the world. And although I’m not in love with this site, I couldn’t work out in which direction I wanted to travel. Until I saw this documentary on Parkour, and it all became clear. And now I hold an image in my head – a concept, rather – and I know how to move forward.

I knew this site was too wordy. I know that at present, I tell rather than show. Which is a bit silly, for a designer. But I know that a lot of people find design a bit scary, and get put off by the uber-minimalist image-led focus of many designers’ sites. So I wanted to talk to people and tell them about me, about what I do, and about the way I work. But I think I’ve got the balance wrong.

This site doesn’t suit me any more. I’ve grown leaner, fitter, stronger – and it hangs heavy around me.

My new site will be agile. Curious. Engaging. It will present my vision to the world (oh, it sounds hella precocious, I know, but I promise it won’t be so bad!). At the moment I’m all, “this is my business, you should hire me”. I want to be, “this is the energy and attitude I bring to the world – you want some?”

But, as doctors make the worst patients, graphic designers are their own worst clients. It’ll take time. I am blessed with a very busy period at the moment, but hope to have the new site launched for my birthday at the end of May.

Ah – the possibilities! One could drown in them.

Why Parkour can – and should – change the way we live


Yesterday, the divine Noreen Blanluet invited me over to her house to watch My Playground – a documentary about parkour.

What is parkour? This is parkour.

I’d seen this kind of thing before, and thought, “wow, that looks like fun”. But this doc opened a door for me. It reminded me why I’m doing the job I’m doing – and why a parkour-like attitude is what’s needed to expand our horizons and see the world with new eyes.

Somehow, with grace and power, parkour practitioners augment the ordinary. They see beyond the normal.”

In the doc, we are shown how the jaw-droppingly progressive Danish government not only tolerates but encourages what is seen as little more than dangerous vandalism in more conservative countries. The country’s politicians and architects explain how they have been inspired by the way parkour questions and plays with the city-scape; the way it drives involvement and inclusivity. And, of course, there are plenty of stunning shots of elegant, intrinsically humane Danish architecture.

Parkour takes the urban landscape and asks, “how can this be used?” Practitioners ignore the primary, ordinary function of an object. They take the normal human relationship with surroundings and throw it out of the window. With curiosity and imagination they transform walls and pillars and staircases and blocks of flats and girders and make them into something more than they were intended for. Somehow, with grace and power, they augment the ordinary. They see beyond the normal.

How much richer would all our lives be if we could embrace this way of being in the world? What if we all looked at objects, and forgot their names for a moment, and thought, “what are your possibilities? What is the most you can be?”

If we only see things the way we’ve seen them forever, we’ll only get what we’ve had so far. If we dismiss the obvious for a moment, we bring in inspiration, abundance, spontaneity, opportunity. We magically transform our world into a place to play; a space to explore and create. This, in my opinion, cannot be overvalued. It is where we find solutions.

Thoughts on discipline for freelancers

I haven’t blogged for a while. I feel bad about that. Therefore, this post is on the subject of discipline.

Judging by how frequently it happens, I can’t be the only person who works from home to hear the words “You must be very disciplined” all of the time. My response is generally that I don’t consider myself to be so. Look at those crazy 9 to 5-ers – getting up at the same time every day, ironing their clothes (pfft! what?), applying makeup, making packed lunches and even removing their dressing gown before starting work. That’s discipline.

I work to a more, ahem, flexible pattern.

Some days I’ll be up with the birdies, watching the sun come up and the lorries deliver bread and milk to the supermarket across the road. I’ll be doodling new illustration ideas, thinking about how to improve my website, cursing myself for not thinking up that awesome design solution before that brochure went to press. Or I’ll use that early-ness to go surfing, or practise yoga.

Other days I’ll wake up about the same time the rest of you are shuffling into your offices. I’ll blearily check my phone for emails and mooch into the next room to start the day. There’ll be a hiatus for a few hours in the evening when I go to my Welsh evening class and then I’ll work again until late upon my return.

What I’m starting to wonder is: is this right? Is this healthy? Is this me at my most productive? I don’t need discipline at all to do my work. None whatsoever. It’s my top priority – there is no other option. Even at my most stressed, I keep on. I may as well have a gun to my head, I’m that dedicated. What I do need discipline for is the other stuff – making time for washing up and riding waves. I’m waking up to the fact that these things are necessary – just as vital as money for the mortgage.

These are the things I need to have in order to be at my most productive/creative:

• clean & tidy environment (housework)
• clean & tidy mind & body (yoga, meditation, surfing, walks in the park, etc)

I’m beginning to appreciate the meaning of that clichéd mantra short-term pain, long-term gain (I’m a slow learner sometimes). Discipline, for me, is regularly doing the things you don’t have to do, because you know they’ll make things better in the long run.

And that is something I don’t have nearly enough of. But I’m working on it…

Anyway, apropos of nothing, here are some little close-ups of stuff I’ve been doing, plus a doodle of a pterodactyl-skull-shaped putty rubber doing a song and dance routine. I’ve got a few projects on the go, so I can only show you selected highlights for now…