Guest Speakers

Professional Practice

 Ian Lowly.    Guest Speaker   11/11/2016


Ian Lowley is an informative and engaging guest speaker as he talks about his 20 years of experience as author, editorial designer and journalist.

He explains the diversity of skills in his portfolio career and how his ever changing path helped keep life interesting. Mixing within a wide range of high profile creative circles and social environments, Ian expresses that although there have been some difficult cash flow moments over the years, it is not always just about the bread and butter. Efforts and research placed in projects that have shown little return in the early days have proved valuable in later ventures, along with connections and good will. His investment of energy has paid off in some unpredictable ways.  He strongly believes paper print is still popular and especially valued when it comes to collaboration of techniques and making connections and that these can take you in unexpected and exciting directions.  His approach may not be considered commercially strategic or ambitious but he is clearly rewarded with a feeling of value in contributing a substantial tribute to the art and design culture.

From naive brave beginnings of co-publishing , Nude, an alternative magazine based on his own interests in alternative underground art and culture , Ian has mapped out a career that suits him. This path may not have happened if his choices were based on market research and business plans, which would have hindered his personal exploration, growth and importantly self-fulfilment. From author and journalist, his understanding of the significance of layout and grids has developed. Recognising that although his published content, from the heart, was being appreciated, the layout and design was just as important.  Over time his interest, along with skills, in layouts and grids have helped his printed material have an improved polished feel and appearance. From the initial days of a self-published magazine with a problematic name, badly chosen typefaces and no concept of cohesive layouts and editorial design, Ian has come a long way.

One clear message Ian gives during his talk is to “look after your own copyright” and when other designers refuse to cooperate when it comes to theirs, it worth checking to see if they themselves are protected, especially when their content can be pivotal to your own project.

Ian Lowly’s  co-authored book ,The Graphic Art of the Underground: A Countercultural History, is a visually stunning and academically informative journey of decades of visual art and design created by underground sub cultures.  For me, many of these images are wonderfully new and tantalisingly thought provoking, often produced by creative geeks and a reminder there are many more cultures of design than I am aware of.  I find delight in recognising there is an endless pot of creative diversity to explore.


Ioan Said  Guest Speaker  18/11/2016


Ioan Said is a photographer based in North Wales, working in and beyond the surrounding area. He specialises in the commercial and PR sector, along with weddings and portraits in the private sector. He keeps the two separated, with independent webpages, for simplicity. This helps the two distinctly different client bases find what they are looking for. He also has quite a unique interest in photographing farms and farm animals.  Ioan has a noticeable presence and personality, and appears to ooze enthusiasm and confidence. He comes across as a people person with enviable social skills. His personality traits must be of great benefit when dealing with individuals in many new and unknown environments.

Ioan graduated as a mature student who started his career in sales of shoes.  This helped him gain an understanding of costs and family economics. He has also had a spell in marketing, selling a variety of products to a diversity of clients which also influenced his approach to pricing. His philosophy is to know your price, see your price and get on with it. He calculates his rates based on knowing the running costs of his business, cost and maintenance of equipment, location and desired lifestyle. Rather than compare and undercut the competition, he firmly believes your rates should be based on your own needs. A price that is fair for you and your business will find the clients that will respect your work and skill set.

His previous career is quite diverse, including aircraft and ground equipment maintenance. There are many similarities with my own career history in engineering which also includes maintenance of equipment for remote flying of full sized drone aircraft, used for ground and air missile development. There is reassurance, not only in his ability to have such a career change, but also in his belief in all these previous skills being useful and transferable. Likewise, he returned to education later in life and he has proved to be successful. Becoming self-employed has enabled him to manage his own time, which in turn has improved his work/life balance. He often works later at night once the children have gone to bed.

Ioan was self-taught as he started out in photography. Often posting on websites, he had to get used to critical feedback from others. He emphasises that what drew him into photography and what he does now is a tenuous link. It is difficult to be passionate about the subject matter or content, especially in the commercial sector, but if he understands it, he will do it. To be successful you need to work with other and understand their brief and it’s critical to deliver the product on time and on budget. This may not be sexy or interesting but you are working for someone else and need to deliver what they want. Although he stresses it’s important to work in an area that’s suits you, if you are too unique and others don’t get you, you will struggle to make it commercially. Your work has to be interesting to other for them to be willing to pay. These can be hard realities for newly graduated photographers venturing into the world for a living.

Being organised and professional is vital. Photographers must always arrive on time as studio, equipment and models cost money. People need to know they can trust you. It is important to know your camera and what it can do along with peripheral equipment. Different environments, fleeting moments and high profile clients often call for speedy and efficient photoshoots.

Cameras can feel like personal beasts and you will have your favourite but always prepare backups. Many cameras and equipment have failed at a crucial moment. Events and clients time are expensive and they do not want to hear any excuses. It’s important to keep rolling seamlessly when equipment fails to work. This may mean the additional cost of renting equipment to cover an event until you’re in a position to own your own. It goes without saying to back up your files and in more than one place. Your images are your assets, it’s important you don’t lose them along with maintaining control over their use and who owns them.

Branding goes beyond your use of a logo and chosen colours, branding is also woven in the fabric of the way you dress, the words you use to communicate and the way you conduct and display yourself. You are as much of the brand as any logo. Try and avoid trends in photography as this can time stamp your work. Discover your own style and recognise when it is good to express your own individuality. This may not be obvious initially, but Ioan has recognised recurring patterns in his own work.

It may seem like there is an immense amount of competition but a good picture is the result of a good relation and trust with your client. They need to feel comfortable, especially when photographing personal moments, they may feel vulnerable and having a connection can make all the difference. Their needs and wishes may be simple, such as a photographer of the same gender or spoken language. Rather than argue against their wish or feel threatened by the competition, it beneficial to recommend another photographer. Building trusted networks in the profession is good practice, it’s a two way process and work will come your way through their recommendations.

Networking and finding clients may feel daunting. As a mature graduate and from overseas, Ioan has not had the benefit of life long UK based networks to start from. This has not hindered his success and he has found his way into networking through social media and Linked In. He describes Linked In as the cookie trail to locations, sector and circles and has helped direct his career. It is also a benefit to be a member of a recognised professional institute. He has won many prodigious awards for his work. In a comparatively short period of time, Ioan has gone from graduate to being approached by the highest and most recognised members of our society. He clearly loves his clients and feels it’s beneficial to do so, as he finds them and what they do interesting and from them he learns a lot.


Visiting speakers 25 11 2016

sharonmossbeck  Sharon Mossbeck

m_borkowsky  Micheal Borkowsky

Sharon Mossbeck and Michael Borkowsky are two Sheffield based artist collaborating together in the same studio space. They are both unique in their interests and seem to have stubbornly remained in their individual niche specialities.

Sharons main themes tend to focus on death and religion whilst working in a variety of media such as painting, sculpture and textiles and seems to have a passion for cross stitching.

Michael’s niche is in using scent to express character and feeling.

Whilst I admire their determination to stick with their individual passion, their audience is naturally limited.  These artists are prime examples that highlight my concerns that fine art is a difficult area to carve out financially rewarding career. Both require separate jobs to earn enough money to pay the bills and support their interest in art. It is these kinds of concerns that prompted me to study graphics, which I felt would help keep my own career options open.

The main interest in their work has come through their induvial webpages and blogs and they have put a lot of effort into keeping them well ordered, active and up to date. They are also a great place for them to reflect on how far they have come and are a living record of their journey.

Their success in making connections and immersing themselves in the creative community has come from social media. Social media has proved to be the most powerful tool for networking. This is a message reflected by many other guest speakers, especially those who move to a place where their do not have an pre-established community of family, friends and colleagues.

Their efforts seem immersive, taking up so much of their lives. Although this appears to be a difficult path, their determination has taught them some interesting lesson of life. They have become skilled at raising funds for events and have realised that anyone can organise an exhibition or gallery space. As a result they have now become a considerable driving force in their own creative community, organising and many galleries and events. As a result they are helping to promote other artist and their social and networking circle has increased exponentially. Although this kind of existence may not be greatly financially rewarding, it is clear their lives are rich with a diversity of people and events and is fulfilling in many, many different ways.

Joe Magee   freelance Artist, Illustrator and Film Maker 2 12 2016


Joe Magee obtained his degree in graphics and a MA in communications but similar to myself wanted to be a fine artist. His tutor recommended graphic design and there is some comfort as he expressed its good to work outward from graphic design.

Joe worked with the Guardian for 20 years as a political illustrator after approaching them with a large 600 to 700 volume of images. He has also worked with the likes of Time Magazine, Liberation, New York Times and Newsweek. It’s clear from his portfolio of work that Joe is very politically aware. This is something that has grown with age and the territory he works in.

His images are worked mainly in Photoshop and surprisingly Joe uses either a relatively cheap point and shoot instant camera or images from his mobile phone. Rough sketches are confirmed before work on the image begins. He has to work at some speed as a typical turnaround time of tabloids can be less than 6 hours in preparation for next day publication.

Freelance works has led to longer term commissions where the end product is a much better considered and toiled piece of artwork. Low budget commissions tend not to quibble about quality or composition however high end publishers, such as magazines, pay more and are more discerning. As a result they have more editorial input and control.  In contrast the less they pay, the more self-expression can be implemented into the image.

Joe has an Instagram account which he has heavily populated with images. As a result people often approach him requesting to use some of his images. This provides him with small but additional revenue.

He met Bill Bailey some years ago and designed his book; Bill Bailey ‘s Best of British Birds. Now they collaborate on many projects. Joe often produces short animations that become backdrops for Bill Bailey ‘s anecdotes when he is live on tour. The animations are humorous within their own right and compliment Bills stories in a way that the comedic value is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Joe advices getting out and meeting people to improve your networking and to attempt to include some bigger companies within that network. Don’t be frightened of approaching people. Once a good relationship is formed this can provide ongoing commissions. It is essential to be resourceful in creating your own work as this is a very competitive environment. It pays to suggest to potential clients what they may benefit from.

He offers one small piece of advice for making something go viral. He suggests removing the hard sale and making it quirky. This will grab people’s attention and draw their interest in.

copyright-copyCopyright lecture by Professor Neil Grant.    10/02/17

This lecture on copyright gives a clear indication of how complicated copyright law is and how easy it is to fall foul of accusation. The law automatically protects copyright but what images are protected depends on how they are used and by whom and the law has differences in different lands. When it comes to contracts, the detail is very much in the small print and many who assume they have control over copyright can quickly find out otherwise. Whether a person is falsely accused or feels a need to pursue a claim, it is an expensive territory to find yourself in and can eat deeply into any pocket by the thousands and be very damaging to a reputation.

Professor Grant tells some cautionary tales of how people have so easily been caught out to their cost and how some companies aggressively pursue and protect their copyright assets. When it comes to using others peoples images the message is clear: if in doubt, leave it out. Being aware of small print and having control over your own designs and images is imperative as they have value that directly affects your own income revenue. This is a message loudly iterated by other guest speakers and as complex as it is with many grey areas, it is a subject well worth familiarising with.

Scott Duffy and Jonny Kimber 17/02/17


Scott Duffy graduated from Chester University several years ago and has returned to talk about his random and unplanned journey into his career world.  His path has been guided through friendships, collaborations and support, along with help and inspiration from others. He now aims to help others and his story may reassure those whose direction is unclear. A visit to a gig screen poster gallery inspired him and a random conversation leads him to a screen printing course at the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary Arts. Following this course Scott applies for jobs but gets nowhere fast until he meets Lucy Barret, a photographer who introduced him to more people and directs him to a music magazine and bands. He then learns Web design, HTML and CSS from a friend. He starts working with him as a web designer and his website grows. Collaboration and introductions to others led to some package design and illustration. He becomes head of design at the Listen Group and continues to learn new skills through working on projects and meeting yet more new people.  From his inspiration tale of a Stepping Stones career path, he is now running his own business and independent print studio This enables him to vent his own creativity.

His main message is there are communities of people and meet-ups that have international reach. These give valuable networking, feedback, inspiration and shared knowledge. Along with ‘short breaks are healthy, good production follows.

Jonny Kimber has a similar unmapped story. He is now a senior digital user interface designer but soon after graduating, he took time out and travelled looking to sort his life and direction out. After a period of time he gets an entry level designer job and discovers the digital world is awesome. He explains there are lots of jobs and if you want to get involved, do some free work in this area.

Jonny has specialised in Brands ID and digital presence and analyse of user interface and website visits. He has helped find out who the user is and redesign and improve navigation and page visits.  Through heat mapping, wire framing, branding ideas and design testing he increases sales traffic. His view is that nothing is perfect and there is always room for improvement. His success in this area leads to companies heading hunting for his skills.

Tim Sharp & Erika Shorter  24/03/17


Uniform is a design and innovation company with a base in Liverpool with some big names on their client list. Tim Sharp joined the team in 2007 as Creative Director and Erika Shorter role is Creative Strategist. Their aim is to work with clients to create change and help them achieve their goals. They opened their talk with a video of their work environment, which looks like a well-designed, inspirational and productive place to work.

They have just over 50 members of their team and for the business to profit, each member needs to bring in a worth of £100k a year to the business and each individual is expected to evidence that. They appreciate creative input from every team member. There are many disciplines in the company covering a wide range of skills. This includes workshops which enables them to design and build prototypes of concepts. They appreciate physical objects and interacting with them. Although each member studied one particular discipline, many of them work flexibly across disciplines.

Tim stresses the importance in talking to the client about commercially focused change. To agree the strategy before the creative elements begins. It’s important to understand what the client needs and to respect their opinion, knowledge and experience. Keep them on the design journey with you, breaking it down to individual stages, images and words.  Research crude concepts, understand the complexities in the design and let the client choose the direction. This may mean compromise on elements that you may disagree with.

Using a quiz, they emphasised the importance of recognising and knowing brands and what’s happening in the market place. They showcased some of their designs and how they had progressed through the process from initial concepts to final design.


They also showed their fun and crazy side, such as emoji radio, which would look at your facial expression, gage and show you your mood and choose music accordingly.

Michael Bennett AKA Henry Pulp     12/05/17


Michael Bennet delivered his presentation with great energy, enthusiasm and gusto. If there was a person who demonstrates and oozes zest for life, Michael would be him. He talks about how he has taken risks starting renting a huge, publicly visible studio space in central Liverpool and filling it with lots of creative people, showing off a variety of talents to cover the enormous rent. The space became the place to go if you wanted anything creative done. It has always been his dream to be a musician and he feels graphic design and music go hand in hand. He came up with milk as a brand, represented by an M and symbolising the nature of the first breast milk a baby feeds on. He used this brand symbol repeatedly and everywhere and had it tattooed on his neck. The brand became better known than the person and in poorer times would become his saviour. Much of his own design work was created with physical objects or persons. I connect with this as I to prefer to make and create objects to communicate a message.

Michael had no money but started to throw themed parties in the studio space. This took off and the studio became crazy party central with a diversity of events and Michael was on a high and banking some good money. This went on for some time until the authorities shut him down, slapped him with huge business rate bill and the studio was lost. He suffered a big fall and with his savings were lost. Just when Michael thought it was all over, his band had caught the attention of Jane Kay who offered him the use of a warehouse.

With a rename and larger location, he was back in business and bigger than before. With larger capacity parties and more studio space the shows and entertainment grew, along with the band to international status.

With so much energy, Henry Pulp also opened a successful beer garden and a cafe. With all this going for him, he then decides to start Shy Billy, a new band. He is now doing exactly what he always wanted to do and professors to be as happy as is possible and loving life to the full.

His main message is dreams do and can come true but it’s up to you to make it happen.

He finished his presentation with a number of insights.

  • work to your strengths and find strengths you lack in others
  • be open to ideas
  • don’t be another cog, make stuff happen and create your own job
  • network
  • make yourself indispensable
  • get ahead of the game
  • do your research and keep learning
  • get away from the TV and get a life

Paul Pensom   12/05/17


Paul Pensom has worked as the art director of Creative Review for 10 years. I was surprised to learn that such a well-established and revered monthly publication has a permanent staff of only 6 people. They have a library of people they outsource and commission work to. Paul is constantly mindful of who is on this list, being careful not to forget talent whilst adding new fresh contacts to the list. Commissioning others help keep the content fresh and outside the limitations of their own skill set.

Paul comes across as an easy going and quietly confident person. He explained how he could have done better on his course and that it took him some time after the course finished before he truly realised what he wanted to do and gained some direction. As with many creative people, his path has been indirect. Experience seems to teach us what we enjoy and what paths we ultimately want to follow.

Paul diversifies with other projects that also interest him. This takes some careful management of his time, especially to avoid a clashing of deadlines. I was particularly interested in how he tied geometric coding of music to graphic patterns. He expressed that it is useful if there is a coding link from the subject to the pattern. This link can then be used as a theme, for instance, if the subject is music, then two tunes will create two individual graphic patterns whilst retaining some connection.

He offers pointers of advice:

  • Do something shocking, don’t rely on the same, move outside your own preconceptions, push and surprise yourself.
  • Reverse engineer. If you see something that is good, work out why. Deconstruct he grid layout. Find out who printed it and how.
  • Drop the drip and don’t follow the trends. Imitation is not clever…..
  • Do your homework. Know the industry, places and people. Find out what makes them tick.
  • Ruthlessly edit your portfolio. Little of the best rather than lots of bad or nothing.
  • Don’t lose your curiosity. Play and keep yourself inspired.
  • Don’t skimp on detail. The final finish should be polished.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy your work. Simple pleasure and a lucky job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: