Surviving 2009 as a freelancer
Posted in design,news by Mark on the December 22nd, 2009

To summarise for the lazier of my readers, 2009 has ended on a very lovely high point from 2008, which ended pretty grimly, as it did for many.

This is the first of a series of rather verbose rambles I intend to share, if they go down well there may be more.

It started very quietly, the end of 2008 was a quiet time for my work, several regular clients reassessed using freelancers, and other clients lost some of their regular work and simply cut back in all directions. It was in many ways simply everyone holding their breath to see if the money would continue to flow into 2009, which had a very nasty hiccup effect on various people, myself included.

So it was pretty scary stuff, I of course reached out to some of my peers for advice, wondering if I should consider weathering the storm in a permanent job, I was met with comments along the lines of “ahahaha it’s your turn to go through a recession now youngster” (cheers Gez), followed swiftly with a jibe at my age, as I’m headed with deadly speed towards my thirtieth. But foolery aside, after some slightly more sensible advice I decided to hang on with freelancing, (as I really do enjoy it – the flexibility, the highs and lows) and the work did indeed begin to flow again.

So after a slow start, 2009 became a changing year for my work life – going from working within a few regular client agencies who had supported me in my first year or two of business – to suddenly finding myself working directly with clients, which was full of new challenges (and pitfalls of course). Project management isn’t entirely new to me, but there’s room for improvement still, and I’ve had an uphill lesson in working and managing clients needs and expectations during the year.

Being fully involved in the creative process really has led me to produce far better work than when I’m involved towards the end or (as I’m sure some freelancers can sympathise with) when you work on a project only to be unable to follow the project to completion due to other commitments or the work being finished internally. Some designers prefer to be insulated from the clients, and whilst there are moments I appreciate the cushion between me and them, I’ve enjoyed the change and developing those relationships.

I’ve worked with a total mix of clients, and on a wonderful variety of projects. The quality of work I’ve been involved in has been much higher overall and on projects I can really feel positive about, in the arts and education sectors to name a few. All in all, despite a rocky start, 2009 has really started taking me in a direction I want to keep heading in.

Other freelancers and small operations have also become a source of both inspiration and a wonderful source of work, combining a healthy mix of skills to offer clients something really special has been something I can really be proud of.

With that in mind I’ve also continued to develop plans to combine my skills with Rihards, more of which will be seen in 2010, which is very exciting to me considering we’ve discussed the possibility of working more together for some years. Rihards developed Sreski, Upload Pie and SGN‘s site, while I crafted the look of them, all of which have been very well received, indeed all three have been featured on the very lovely siteInspire.

What else has helped me survive the year? Oddly enough I’d actually name Twitter, something I scorned when I first joined it, it truly is something you get more out of the more you put into it, and it’s compensated for the increased amount of work I’ve done independently this year. Prior to this year I mostly worked in design studios and creative departments, supplementing teams in a variety of roles, or working on specific projects. This year with so much work from home it does help you feel grounded, keeps a little of that studio banter going so you don’t completely lose touch with humanity.

But am I having a big victory dance about lots of direct work this year and more working from home? No, I hope not, it’s been different and exciting. Would I have done it from the outset as a freelancer? Probably not, my time spent in many different studios introduced me to a great number of designers and other members of the industry. It widened my own knowledge and experience for the better, giving me the ability to learn from their stories and experiences. And I’ve certainly had some opportunities work with some great brands and produce lovely work for clients I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I hope to keep the balance in 2010, whether working from home, or walking into a totally new agency like it’s your first day on the job especially when you often have to jump straight into the deep end.

I guess I still like the swim.

Holmes covers
Posted in design,illustration,niceness,notmine by Mark on the November 22nd, 2009
holmes covers

These aren’t terribly new, 2007 I believe, but I’ve been reading my way through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books after one of these wonderful covers caught my eye. The books themselves are brilliant, far better than I expected – I think we’re brainwashed with expectations of the deerstalker hat and “elementary my dear Watson” which is never said, and the hat which is never worn.

holmes covers

The books make a beautiful set and I’ve been treating myself to a new couple every few months when I get a chance, and the designs perfectly lend themselves to the real spirit of the books and the characters, not the parodied cliché of Holmes.

The full set continues after the click.

Upload Pie – The Simple Image Sharing Tool!
Posted in design,illustration,news,tool by Mark on the June 14th, 2009

Another little project between myself and Rihards. It’s a very simple, small & helpful tool, handy for showing someone an image within your browser (for me it’s handy to show people some of my WIPs to get a second opinion) without fussing with FTP, or worrying about deleting it later. Good for when messenger is being rubbish at transferring files.
Take a peek.


We decided it’d just target images you can view within your browser, so it’s not ideal for huge files, so I’d happily recommend either or for those cases.

As a note, Rihards is still ironing out a few bugs, so any problems just fire us an email. We hope you enjoy it and find it as useful as we have :)

Upload Pie – The Simple Image Sharing Tool

A few wallpapers in various flavours for your pie needs :D

Upload Pie Wallpapers
Upload Pie – Red Back – 1920×1200
Upload Pie – Red Back – 1680×1050
Upload Pie – Red Back – 1440×900

Upload Pie – Green Back – 1920×1200
Upload Pie – Green Back – 1680×1050
Upload Pie – Green Back – 1440×900

Upload Pie – Strawberry – 1920×1200
Upload Pie – Strawberry – 1680×1050
Upload Pie – Strawberry – 1440×900

Upload Pie – Blackberry – 1920×1200
Upload Pie – Blackberry – 1680×1050
Upload Pie – Blackberry – 1440×900

Upload Pie – Blueberry – 1920×1200
Upload Pie – Blueberry – 1680×1050
Upload Pie – Blueberry – 1440×900

Business Cards 3 – Designs on Saying Hello
Posted in design,illustration,news,photography by Mark on the June 7th, 2009

Business Cards 3

The third in the series of books on lovely business cards by Michael Dorrian and Liz Farrelly, which I stumbled across in Magma on Friday – I’d forgotten it was coming out this summer!

It’s a lovely resource for all kinds of inspiration and styles. And I’m very proud to have my cards be part of the collection (must be scraping the barrel and all that – before Coxy could say it). But yes, very lovely and happy they’ve been so well received :)

Business Cards 3

Business Cards 3

Business Cards 3

Business Cards 3 – Designs on Saying Hello @ Laurence King Publishing

Posted in design,photography by Mark on the April 16th, 2009
mojo images

Been a while since I posted any of my own work, this is an identity I did the other month for the lovely Mancunia based photographer Jo Harter-Tong, of Mojo Images.

Mojo on Flickr

Humble pie.
Posted in design,random by Mark on the April 16th, 2009

I came across the rather wonderful piece by Adrian Shaughnessy on design paradoxes over on Design Observer. (One of my favourite authors on design, yes sometimes I look at more than the pretty pictures.)

And on reading these 10 (11 actually) points I found myself guilty of one or two of them, I’d blame a few of these hiccups on stress and pressure, and thankfully I’ve never actually used some of these statements on clients, but I’ve more than once made the “doctor’s aren’t questioned, why are designer’s opinions so disrespected?” case amongst friends. Apparently my comparison was out of date, in the day where Google and Wikipedia reign supreme, doctors are indeed challenged every day by people who think they know better. In fact my gran pre-dated the internet with her belief that all doctors know less than her, so it was a bit blinkered of me to really presume no one questions a doctor.

So, humble pie really. I think I came through the list relatively unscathed, and in the areas I didn’t well, shall just have to do better. Tut tut.

Number eleven of the ten points (yes) was lovely to read just because it’s nice to see it confirmed.

11. When a client says the words — “you have complete creative freedom,” they never mean complete creative freedom. Whatever you show them, they will find a problem with. Happens every time.

DO – 10 Design Paradoxes

SGN 09 Site & Forum style
Posted in design,news,random by Mark on the April 10th, 2009

The lovely geeky blog myself and Rihards have been working on now has matching and fully upgraded forums ! As ever, design and about nine million gazillion icons for vbulletin done by myself, and the arduous task of making it all actually work, was Rihards so a huge thanks to him.

sgncore new design
sgncore new design
sgncore new design
sgncore new design
sgncore new design

sgn – geekery & goodness
sgn – geekery & goodness – forums

Our Dark Materials
Posted in design,illustration,news by Mark on the March 31st, 2009
our dark materials

Shameless promotion alert – I made these posters to promote my friend Seth’s new book group which focusses on lovely fantasy & sci-fi book nerdery. So if you’re in Mancunia, come along – the next book is Jurassic Park! A timeless classic. Well maybe not, but it’s remained one of my favourites for years.



There I said it. It contains dinosaurs. Massive spoiler. Ruined for you really.

So yes, come along have pints, discuss geeky books, and ramble about other things. We tend to go have grub after too, so it’s not just bookery.

Plus. Dinosaurs, I mean, come on.

The next meeting is Wednesday 29th April.

Our Dark Materials

Manchester’s Art, Music & Fashion Awards: Now open for entries
Posted in design,news by Mark on the February 26th, 2009

I know I said I’d start posting pretty things again soon, but crazily I’ve actually got rather busy. However this was nudged in my direction, and ordinarily I’d have probably skipped it as I tend to assume anything for art snubs graphic design, and vice versa (well actually the latter probably holds true.) but it’s a very broad description, so get submitting stuff :)

Anyhoo, full details below and more on their site:

They’re open. The Best of Manchester Awards are now open for entries, the start of a 10-week campaign to find the artists, musicians and designers whose boundary-breaking work deserves the Best of Manchester crown.

Organised by Urbis, the annual awards celebrate innovation in art, music and fashion. Anyone working within the fields of music, art and fashion, and who lives or works in Greater Manchester, can enter – and stand the chance of having their work judged by a panel of 24 industry experts that includes Peter Saville, Wayne Hemingway, the Turner Prize winning artist, Jeremy Deller, Tim Marlow (White Cube, London), Miranda Sawyer, Yvette Livesey (In The City) and Luke Bainbridge (Observer Music Monthly).

The categories are deliberately broad. The art category, for example, includes graphic and product design, photography and illustration, as well as fine art.

For those working in the creative sector, The Best of Manchester Awards are more than a pat on the back from the industry. They’re about more than the winners & £2,000 cheque and a major exhibition at Urbis. The awards are a chance for the winners to kick-start their career with the kind of contacts and professional development that money can’t buy.

The awards are open for entries until Midnight on 1 May 2009.
Entry is online, at


Geekery & goodness – new site
Posted in design,news,random by Mark on the January 11th, 2009
sgncore new design
sgncore new design

As mentioned briefly in my last post, the new geeky site/blog me and Rihards have been working on is live – hurray! So head over and take a peek, the design is my shenanigans, and all development and coding is done by Rihards.

(The new style still has to be transferred over to the forums however.)

sgn – geekery & goodness

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