Time! Is it at the top of your Christmas list?

We have all been there! How often do you say those immortal words… “I haven’t got time”. Your work tasks are piled high around your ears but your friends and family are clammering for your attention. You are torn. You know that important task has to be completed but your conscience is being pulled in two. Put simply… your work-life balance sucks.

It is an easy trap to fall into. We all take on those tasks that just aren’t a good use of our time. Sometimes it is because we believe that no one can quite do that job as well as we can. We may think it will take us longer to find someone to do the task than it will to actually do the task. It can be because we think it will be too expensive to outsource the tasks so we use our own valuable time instead. Whatever the reason may be, business owners, entrepreneurs and managers have all become time-poor. We sacrifice our own lives to try and achieve the impossible.

You can do anything, but not everything – David Allen

But what if there was another way? What if you could take some of those important tasks off your desk, get them completed and delivered on time with very little input yourself?

That exact scenario happened in the office last week. We have a regular client; for the purposes of this blog, let’s call him Mark. He came to us with a dilemma. He wanted to send out a corporate Christmas card to his clients. After a year of digital communication, he wanted to reach out with a real tangible item that said that he had appreciated their custom in a tough year and wished them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The only thing was, Mark had bought corporate cards last year and they were still sat in a box in his office. By the time he had gotten around to sorting them and getting them delivered by the printers he no longer had enough time to write them all and get them in the post. In the end, he had given up.

Time is what we want most, but use worst – William Penn

Over the last year, his company had undertaken a rebrand so the old cards were now just an expensive paperweight. He knew what he wanted to achieve but was so overwhelmed with the work he had on his desk he wasn’t sure he could cope with another unticked task on the Christmas to-do list.

Time for a solution?

How did we solve his woes I hear you cry? Well, here at Eighty3 we are all about coming up with creative solutions to our client’s challenges. We came up with a plan to get those cards out the door and a weight off Mark’s shoulders.

  1. We designed his corporate cards and print managed the job with our trusted printer. This meant that Mark never had to deal with the printer directly. He was just regularly updated by the team as to the status of his cards and when we expected delivery.
  2. Our development team helped him export his contacts from his CRM in a usable format. We created a mail merge, ready for getting those cards in the post when they arrived.
  3. Took delivery of the cards and handwrote each name, to give a personal touch.
  4. Delivery labels and postage were printed and applied.
  5. The cards were dropped at the post office with proof of postages obtained.

The whole process, including printing and postage, cost less that £150. This meant that Mark’s actually saved money based on the time he reclaimed and his hourly rate.

He was thrilled to get that frog eaten in double-quick time. It allowed him to concentrate on some key business tasks and gave him the clarity to get other business operations in motion. He wasn’t being distracted by yet another time-consuming task.



The Tao of the Graphic Designer – my creative journey

It all started a pretty long time ago... way back in 1994 would you believe! I was 11 years old and decided I wanted to be a graphic designer. I had recently started my new secondary school, not the best I will  grant you that, but the place that would start my journey down the creative path. You see, as I came from what was considered a "deprived" area the school had recently received quite a lot of money and had been given Technology college status which meant, a shiny new graphic design studio among other things (I also got to try my hand at engineering, pneumatics and ceramics, but that is a very different blog covering the fact that I am a rubbish girl).

It captured my imagination. I got to create stuff that solved a problem by using creative thinking. I had to give reasons why I used colour, type, shape and form. It opened my eyes to a new big world out there that I had never really thought of being part of, it gave me my career path, graphic designer here I come!

It is safe to say I have always been a bit of a creative type, while my little brother would save up pocket money to but the latest thundercat or wrestling figure I would buy books, pens and paper. My shocking stationary habit exists to this day and my collection of pro-markers is now something I enjoy with my own kids (supervised of course, they are my babies, and not really for children :D) I loved art, photography, museums, books, whatever I could get my hands on really, and my parents indulged me. Music was another big influence, with bands like the Beatles, the Kinks, the Move & the Who being played at home it meant I dodged the bullet of the likes of the Vengaboys and early 90's pop forever frying my brain.

So you weren't academic then?
Actually I was, I was a complete swot. My parents got called aside when I chose subjects like graphics, art, media studies & history instead of more preferred subjects like double science and languages. I was going to be wasted taking creative subjects was the general opinion. The lack of understanding for the creative process and the level of knowledge that came with it was amazing. Why would I want to be a graphic designer when I could be an accountant or a lawyer? (Nothing wrong with those professions, but they probably wouldn't let me wear my Doc Martens to work each day like I do now). I probably use more math in my role as a web designer than I would have done in most other jobs I could have chosen, today alone I have worked on a site in german coding to meet their commercial needs, and had to apply knowledge of history, culture and fashion to put together a design for a client. Sounds like a pretty rounded education to me.


The now disused Longlands Campus of Stourbridge College. Click the image for some awesome photographs documenting its decay

The gloriously retro old Tarmac building that is home to The University of Wolverhampton's School of Art & Design

So where next?
From school I went on to my local art college and believe it or not only touched a computer around five times in the whole two years I was there to do any design work. I hand rendered type, used a grant enlarger (do they still exist?) and learnt all the fundamentals that came with being a designer. Learning the hard way made sure that it stuck in your head. If you had spent two days drawing a layout by hand you were gonna be damn sure you had thought long and hard about every alignment point and piece of content.  It was hard work but it laid the foundations for skills I use every single day.

Onward & Upward
From there was a university degree in graphic communication, in the very orange Wolverhampton University SAD (it must have turned my brain somehow). We explored typography, film, semiotics, conceptual design, philosophy, so much I can't even begin to cram it in here. Making you see things from all perspectives, to analyse each element with equal importance & to use creative skills to solve a multitude of problems was where I wanted to be. We probably didn't realise it at the time but out lecturers were pretty amazing too, I still refer back to things they said and told me about now over ten years down the line.

Into The Big Wide World
And so off I went. I guess I have been pretty lucky as things go, I have been able to work with huge household names and I have see small businesses grow from the corner of a back bedroom to being a global brand. Being a graphic designer has meant I have interacted with people I would never thought possible and has taken me out of my little corner of the Black Country and out into the world.

I do what I love and I do it every day. I think people struggle with that, the fact that I don't switch off, I look for inspiration everywhere, I encourage my children to absorb the world around them. Because after all, a world without designers would be a pretty boring place.

Books that formed my journey

Roland Barthes - Mythologies

Pop Fiction: The Song In Cinema - Steve Lannin, Matthew Caley

Layout / Making it Fit: Finding the Right Balance Between Content and Space - Carolyn Knight, Jessica Glaser

Roland Barthes - Image Music Text

The Art of Looking Sideways - Alan Fletcher

The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson