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I'm an in-house graphic designer at Grays of Cambridge (International), a UK based sports manufacturer with four subsidiary brands, which include Gilbert Rugby, Gray-Nicolls, Gilbert Netball and Grays Hockey.
My role within the company sees me work across a large selection of design projects and varies from day-to-day. I have found that working in this way has helped me to become a versatile designer who can work across multiple tasks with differing brand identities simultaneously whilst consistently creating a well researched and informed design solution.
When I am not creating design solutions for Grays and their associates, I am nearly always out in woodland or on a trail somewhere with my mountain bike (weather permitting). I find the sport a great way of getting out into nature, even if most of it is passing by pretty quickly, and it to be an environment where I can get some respite, focus on an entirely different task and be both physically and mentally active.
I would describe myself as a fairly determined rider and I'm always trying to push my levels of speed, endurance and reaction. I regularly post times and stats on Strava, so if you're out there biking, running or swimming it'd be cool to see how you' re getting on too, just hit the Strava icon below and it'll link you into my profile. There's also links to my social media feed, but they're a lot more work related and used to showcase of I do.
WHY I DESIGN
For the last three years I have generated the brand identity for Gilbert Netball, after which, there is always a requirement for large format graphics, POS and social media content which can be used for the launch conference and then throughout the year at shows, sporting events and by the brands stockists and retailers.
For 2020, I implimented the use of hand-drawn elements and pastel colours with contrasting monochrome player imagery to create an identity which is bold and striking with a vibrant, youthful edge. The aim for the year being, that it should appeal to existing grassroots and young netballers whilst also relating to a new youth audience who may not be familiar with the brand, but may be thinking of getting involved in the sport since its growth in popularity after England's Commonwealth gold and 3rd place finish at the 2019 Netball World Cup. Another caveat to enacting this aesthetic was that it should also maintain or grow the brands current market share without alienating its existing audience.
As well as creating the brand identity for Gilbert Netball, I have also worked in partnership with another of Grays In-house designers, working on the cricket brand, Gray-Nicolls.
The focus for this campaign was the grit, determination and hard work it takes to become the very best at any level of the sport, and we felt that this need to be reflected in the nature of the brand identity. After mood-boarding and artworking several concepts, we decided to draw our inspiration from the Grunge aesthetic made famous during the 1990's.
Pioneered by designers such as Neville Brody and David Carson, 'Grunge' is famous for pretty much breaking every rule of design and utilises dirty backgrounds, layered textures, torn edges and distressed typefaces, ignoring grids and negative space to create a gritty, sometimes chaotic look. A look which we felt would reflect the qualities and traits it takes from any individual to become the very best at what they do.
I know it sounds cliche, but I have aways been creative. I started drawing at an early age and it soon became my 'thing'. Some of my earliest memories were of watching my father working away at a drawing board, only for me to come along shortly after he had finished and add my contribution with a felt-tipped pen.
I think the mix of creative ability and parental guidance naturally led me to want to be a graphic designer, or a creative at the very least, and by the time it came to going to university, studying graphic design was an easy choice to make.
The real draws of graphic design for me are the processes of being creative:
Research: I revel searching through sketchbooks and the work of other designers; pulling part their work and ideas to see how it has been constructed, the message it is seeking to convey and how the use of type or aesthetic marries the design together. I have always found this part of my personal design process an invaluable tool when it comes educating and keeping my informed about my own design choices and how to apply them effectively.
Experimentation: Playing with ideas, aesthetics and the application of type or imagery is probably one of my favourite aspects of being a graphic designer. Experimentation is the part of the process where there are no right or wrong answers. Experimentation offers up the opportunity to look at things in a new way and see what works.
Application: Combining two or more views on how a design should be approached is always a challenging part of the design process, yet, it is the most rewarding. This aspect of being a graphic designer is where I get to apply my working knowledge and develop other skills including project management and client liaison. (Which is a good excuse for grabbing a coffee and getting to know a bit more about the people I'm working with).
espresso / americano / long black / mocha / macchiato / mochaccino / flat white / cappuccino / latte / vienna
Print design tends to be the mainstay of my day-to-day design work as well as the most varied. Working across four brands there is always a requirement for adverts, diagrams and graphics, all of which can take differing format and sizes; from the small everyday items such as business cards and letter headers up to larger artworks including trade show stands and large format graphics, there is always something different ob the to-do list. Below are a few examples which were either briefs I enjoyed working on, compiled with people I enjoyed working with or were compiled using a variety of processes.
These are the Powerplay Cards which were created as a collectable item for the younger fans of cricket, and not necessarily the Gray-Nicolls brand. One card was is received each product purchase from within the Powerplay range, with the aim of the cards being to engage a younger audience with the sport of cricket and help to grow it from a grass-roots level. As with other major sports, a youth audience will tend to follow particular players, brands and teams in accordance with those encouraged or influenced by social and peer groups, such as friends and family. Because of this, one of the main aims of the collection was to be a part of a child's first cricketing memory, and by including the cards with the first potential purchase made on behalf of a child by a friend or relative, the Powerplay cards sought to resonate with a younger audience and captivate their imagination, enthusing them about cricket and building their first bonds with the Gray-Nicolls brand.
Consisting of three genres; Power Players, Future Stars and Icons, the cards depict who the brand believes are the best of their ambassadors whether current, upcoming or retired. The cards themselves are unified by the Powerplay branding, but comprise three slightly differing aesthetics and finishes to set each genre apart. Power Players cards are predominately four process prints in brand red, whilst Future Stars comprise a futuristic Neon Blue with a Spot UV finish. The Icons feature a gold player image with gold trim and a Foiled finish. This selection of finishes not only denotes each players standing and category, but offers each a point of difference which increases their desirability as collectors attempt to complete the set.
Created for Gray-Nicolls and Grays Hockey, these Exploded Diagrams were generated to showcase the new technology and features across a selection of products from the available existing ranges.
As the brands I work with are sport specific, the products they produce are invariably tailored to their intended application. For this reason, I wanted to create graphics which conveyed this sport specificity across to retailers, stockists and end-users in a sharp and concise format, containing enough information to elaborate on the products design and construction, yet retaining a visually impact full style inline with that years brand aesthetic.
In order to produce these graphics each piece of equipment had to be photographed in its entirety with the removable elements such as thimbles, shock absorbers and vents adhered to the outside of the product. Adhering these elements to the outside of the product would ensure consistent lighting during the photography process and allow for a more accomplished image once the products were reassembled in Photoshop. The RAW photographic files were then light adjusted, to allow for consistency across all three images, cut out and cleaned up, with dust and blemishes removed in order to polish the product. And then edited, with gaps from the cut out process bridged and invisible elements such as the inner padding, textures and colours added in disguising the fact that the image had been edited and making the exploded diagram look as realistic as possible.
SOCIAL MEDIA & WEB BANNERS
With an ever increasing amount of content going digital, social media and web graphics are a large part of what I do. Whether creating collection banners for the company's internal websites, Instagram stories and Facebook posts or web content for third parties, there is a huge demand for promotional material which will either drive traffic to a particular website or celebrate a sporting achievement or occasion. Below are a few examples of the online content I have compiled for Gray-Nicolls, Gilbert Netball and Gilbert Rugby.
Very occasionally, whether part of my work at Grays, a freelance project or something to do in my down time, I get to go back to pencil and paper. Illustration was the medium which started my creative pathway and something which I always enjoy revisiting, developing and experimenting with. Yet since having left university, it has not only become the one creative process I seem to use least, but the one which has changed the most in terms of how I approach it. With the advancements in technology and varied applications for a finished illustration, many of my drawings and pattern designs now need to be vectorised in order to factor in product or garment application, differing printing methods and multiple resizes across varying medias.
Print adverts are frequently requested in order to push new products and ranges, and working for a company which has a high number of third party ties also means that many of the adverts I create appear in match day programmes, sporting magazines or are supporting material for global sporting events.
Often the adverts I compile will be for our internal brands, but there are many which will need to be more closely aligned with an event or sporting board, and these advertising opportunities are often the one's which are the most satisfying to work on. Often they will encompass and third party look and feel, and this has to be interpreted and applied within the perimeters of the given brand guidelines. However, they can allow you to experiment with a proven aesthetic and, as a creative who is approaching the subject matter for the first time, interpret the design elements provided with a fresh approach in order to create something entirely new, yet identifiable.