Friday, 27 January 2012

He’s published 1000s of illustrations for clients such as Wallpaper*, the New York Times, GQ and the Economist and is in the running for a Design of the Year 2012 award for his installation Cut it Out – a giant dog-shaped art-making machine. Here, innovative graphic designer Noma Bar tells us how he works...

When did you know you wanted to be a graphic designer?
As a kid I didn’t know that graphic design was a profession. Kids have this idea of professions as being carpenter or fireman or painter. So for me, painter or artist was the thing. I think I did graphic design as a child – I liked symbols and icons – but I didn’t know this was graphic design until the age of 16 or 17. Probably today, with the internet, it’s all very obvious for kids. I see the new generation and they know exactly what is what.

How did you get your first commission?
I studied graphic design in Israel – mainly illustration and Hebrew type design. I paid for my studies by working at Channel News – it’s like the BBC – doing graphics. Because of the army you do everything later in Israel so I started studying when I was 24 or 23 and graduated when I was 27. I moved to the UK when I was 28 and sent some postcards [of my work] to different places: the Guardian, Time Out. Time Out came back after a few weeks, offering me my first paid commission – a portrait of Shakespeare.

What’s your work routine?
For the last five or six years I’ve lived in Highgate in London. I live opposite the woods, which is my escape for ideas. I go there every day from 9am to 2pm. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining; I just sit with my sketchbook, no computer or anything, and have a proper pure brainstorm. I spend more time thinking than executing so when I go to the computer I already know what I’m doing. I would never sit down at a computer and say, “What am I doing now?”

When you’re given a brief, how do you come up with ideas? 
Yesterday I had a brief about safety. I looked at my bag and took out my pen and saw I had a safety pin that was attached to the side of my bag. Suddenly I saw if you look on the head of the safety pin, you see the head of a person there. So I did it as a safety pin. Things that surround me inspire me but everything I do is about ideas. If you asked me to do an illustration of a pencil or a mobile phone it wouldn’t be a straightforward object – it starts with ideas.

What advice do you have for young graphic designers just starting out?
Be open to everything – to a degree. I was educated to open my eyes all the time when I started – we’re talking 11 years ago – but I think these days [young graphic designers’] eyes are already so open because of the internet. It’s easy to be exposed to a million styles in one click and I see a lot of students struggling because of [too much] knowledge. The fact that I’m not at a computer most of the time is to avoid it and focus on myself, on where I’m going and what’s good for me.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

It’s not all people falling over and dogs chasing deer. With the instant access to a worldwide audience that it brings, internet video can also be a nifty route into film and TV. But what’s the secret to viral success? We ask people who’ve broken into television after making it online for their thoughts…

Keep it light
“Unless it’s a cute animal, it has to be funny,” says MJ Delaney, the director behind 2010’s hit YouTube spoof Newport State of Mind, who has since made films for Big Brother, Comic Relief and the Guardian. She goes on: “When you send someone a video, unless it’s something informative or useful, it’s there to make them smile. Darker comedy, which works better in film and TV, doesn’t do as well in virals because the place they have in our lives is a happy distraction in the middle of a working day.”

Just shoot it
An online video doesn’t need high production values to make an impact. In fact, being a bit rough around the edges can add to the charm. Tom Palmer, one half of comedy duo Totally Tom, says of their viral mockumentary High Renaissance Man: “There are lots of shots where you can see the boom creeping in from the top of the screen but I think people enjoyed the fact [that] it’s so obviously homemade.”

Don’t Panic’s Heydon Prowse who – since the 2009 viral Pound Force, a satirical dig at MPs’ expenses – has made videos for the English National Opera and W Hotels, agrees: “The beauty of filmmaking for the internet is that you don't have to piss about with all the commissioners, lawyers, producers and editorial policy types of TV. You can just go out and shoot whatever the hell you want. Just experiment and if it looks a bit shit to begin with, don't worry – viewers online will watch your vid and rate you for the content and the effort.”

Spreading the word
It helps if your video taps into relevant online communities. Tom Palmer attributes the popularity of High Renaissance Man to the fact that, being about university life, it had an obvious appeal for fellow students. He says: “Our friend who uploaded it could see where all the clicks were coming from and you could chart it spreading from Bristol, then Exeter and as soon as it got a certain number of clicks in Exeter it moved on and gradually spread through the Facebook university networks.” In a week they had 100,000 hits and counting.

With a little bit of luck
The internet moves in mysterious ways and, however funny or clever a video is, there’s always an element of luck. As Heydon Prowse says, “There isn't really a formula you can follow. It’s more of a vibe.” But instead of seeing this as a hindrance, MJ Delaney embraces it. “There’s something quite romantic about the fact that you can’t plan for it or engineer it,” she says. “Big multinational brands can spend millions and millions and millions of pounds on their virals and then someone can make a film for 100 quid or a home movie and the whole world will see it.”

Credit where credit’s due
MJ Delaney, Totally Tom and Heydon Prowse are all proof that web video success can beget TV opportunities. MJ Delaney is currently making a film starring Thomas Turgoose for Channel 4’s Coming Up scheme; Totally Tom have recently had a pilot on Channel 4’s Comedy Lab; and, along with collaborators Joe Wade and Jolyon Rubinstein, Heydon Prowse has just had a series commissioned by BBC3. But the TV types need to know where to come knocking. “Always make sure you stick your name on the video at the end of the credit sequence,” says MJ Delaney, “because if it goes mental you’ll have a million people reposting it on their YouTube channels and the people who want to speak to you to get you to do other stuff won’t be able to find you.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 19 January 2012

It’s hard graft and rarely glamorous, but pretty much everyone working in film and TV has done it at some point in their career. We’re talking, of course, about running. We asked three producers to share their top tips on making the most of the experience…

On your marks, get set…
Runners are everywhere. There are production runners, floor runners, rushes runners and office runners. But how do you actually go about becoming one? When approaching companies directly by email or phone, the key is to be persistent. Mish Mayer, a Development Producer at Maverick TV, says: “Keep bugging people because they’re busy and can forget.” Alternatively, many companies, such as all3media and Optomen, have online talent databases where people looking for work as a runner can upload their CVs.

Keep your eyes on the prize
“Never say no to anything regardless of the subject matter,” says Mish Mayer. “The show might not be exactly what you’ve always dreamed of working on but it could be a way into the company.” And while you may not start out in the department you want to work in long-term, it’s all good experience. Andy Laas was initially an office runner before moving into production. He recalls: “All I wanted to do was be on set so I bided my time in the office, making teas and coffees and printing scripts.” It paid off – he’s now a Digital Content Producer at Big Talk Productions.

Work hard, be nice to people, and leave your ego at the door
You’ll face mundane tasks and gruellingly long working hours, but if you want to make a good impression as a runner, don’t slack off and never, ever stop smiling. According to Natasha Zinni, an Assistant Producer in documentaries at the BBC, to be a good runner you need to be “endlessly enthusiastic.” She adds: “Even if people don’t ask you directly, pick up on things. Be confident and friendly and don’t ever look at your watch.” Andy Laas stresses that, in such a small industry, reputation is everything. “Your next job always depends on how good you were in the last one so having a good work ethic will stand you in good stead. The people who we like most are not too forward, they’re nice to get on with but aren’t too in your face.”

Make running work for you
“No one’s a career runner,” Andy Laas points out, and to move up to the next rung of the ladder you must prove yourself – it was after showing his producer a short film he’d made with another runner that he got his current role at Big Talk. Natasha Zinni recommends grabbing any opportunity you can to learn. She says, “If you’re in an office and you know that someone’s going into an edit to do something, ask if you could go in for an hour, just to see how it works – not only is it good for you in terms of your experience, but it shows you’re interested.” And when you’ve finished a running job, always stay in touch with people you’ve met. Mish Mayer, again: “Because everyone in this industry is freelance, everyone will be moving onto a different job, so the more you keep in contact with them the more likely they are to take you with them or recommend you to their colleagues.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Set up in 2010 by five mates peeved with hearing out-of-date careers advice, journalism blog Wannabe Hacks has featured in the Guardian and the New Statesman, and all five founders have now bagged paid work in the industry. We spoke to Matthew Caines, one of the original Wannabe Hacks, about blogging your way into journalism…

Why did you decide to set up Wannabe Hacks?
Four of us were at Birmingham University working on the student paper, Redbrick - Alice, our fifth founding Wannabe Hack, was at Newcastle. We all wanted to go into journalism but were fed up with people in jobs or who’d been in the industry for 30 or 40 years, and didn’t know what social media was, giving us advice. When we graduated we wanted to hear from people on the ground, actually trying to get into these jobs, and there was no one doing that.

How did you get started?
We got a free WordPress blog, paid about £12 for a domain name and a bit of hosting, and were up and going. We didn’t have jobs but some of us were doing work experience or freelancing so it was as and when we could do it. Often I’d be there from 11pm until 1am in the morning uploading articles. The beauty of it was that we were all on different routes into journalism: I was “the freelancer”; somebody else was “the intern”. We were guinea pigs in our own experiment – if we’d go to a job interview we’d put on the blog what went right and wrong.

Looking back at the different routes you took, do you now think one of them is preferable to the others?
It depends on who you are. From a personal point of view, freelancing was extremely hard, you have to slog away silly hours, it’s quite thankless and you have to be very upfront, but the one thing all of us took out of it, which I think was great, was the entrepreneurship side of things. We had our own blog, we had our own brand, we secured advertising and were making money, and I think that’s what made people take note more than anything else.

What are you doing now?
I work in communities and content at the Guardian, doing anything from promoting an article and making sure it gets a decent comment uptake, to exploring new social media channels and new tech, production, writing blurbs and content, commissioning, editing, sub-editing. I think the main thing I took from Wannabe Hacks was that we were catering for a niche community and that’s carried over.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of journalism?
We can debate ’til the cows come home whether print is dead and if digital-first strategies are the way to go, but what wannabe journos need to understand is that this industry is constantly evolving, for the better in my opinion. If you make it your duty to evolve with it – from learning to blog all the way to mocking up interactive data research – then there's no reason why you can't stand up and be noticed. Keep plugging and, most importantly, keep learning and writing.

What would you say to someone thinking of starting their own blog or website?
Try to make it as specific as possible, so that you’ve got an engaged community. Our unique selling point was that we were a journalism blog by wannabe journalists for wannabe journalists. Find something niche, interesting, new and market yourself right – get on social media, talk to people, go to networking events, and you’ll start sticking in people’s memories. People think journalism’s quite closed, that you have to know people, but there’s no reason why you can’t be that person everybody wants to know.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Monday, 9 January 2012

Laura Noble is a photography polymath – a collector, writer, lecturer, curator and co-director of London’s Diemar/Noble gallery. She talks to IdeasTap about choosing work to show in the gallery and why photography is a bit like food…

How did you get into photography?
My father’s a very good photographer, and a regular buyer of National Geographic, so there was always photography around the house when I was growing up. I studied painting at university and when I finished my degree I got a job at Borders: working in a bookstore made sense as having access to books is important to any creative profession. I was in charge of all the arts subjects, including photography. I worked there for a while before getting a job at the Photographer’s Gallery bookshop. I’d have people from agencies coming in, artists, photographers and suddenly the whole genre opened out. I started to write photography book reviews for magazines and buying photography and it all grew from there.

You co-founded Diemar/Noble (with photographic consultant Michael Diemar) in 2009. How did the idea for that come about?
I was at Paris Photo in 2007. Through my freelance work – I’d become an avid collector and had written a book on collecting, I was doing lectures, giving talks in Barcelona, doing portfolio reviews at the Arles Photography Festival – I had a lot of connections. People were saying, “Why don’t you open a gallery?” I thought: well as an idea that sounds wonderful but how the hell would I do it? The seed was planted.
What aspect of running a gallery do you enjoy most?
Seeing someone’s eyes open to something they didn’t know about – whether that’s discovering a new photographer or learning about a specific thing that’s been done within a photography genre that they didn’t know existed. Being able to give people something new and keep them engaged in the medium.

How do you select photographers to show in the gallery?
It varies. Sometimes I’m looking for something specific and come across something else. For example I met Christian Tagliavini, who we’re showing at the moment, at Arles when I was doing portfolio reviews there. That was exciting because I saw his work and thought wow that’s amazing. Maeve Berry had entered a photographic competition at Westminster University and I was one of the judges. Her work just blew me away.

When an image strikes you like that – is it an intuitive thing or something you can quantify?
It’s a bit like food; you know when something’s good, and you certainly know when something’s bad because it tastes wrong. Photography is similar. Knowing when it’s good comes with knowing a lot of work because you need those comparisons – you need to have a broad knowledge of what has come before. The old adage that everything’s been done is true to a certain degree but it hasn’t all been done in every way. So with someone like Christian Tagliavini, yes there have been Renaissance portraits in painting, and to a certain extent in photography, but the way he’s combined those elements hasn’t been done in quite that way before or to that standard.

What advice do you have for would-be photography gallerists?
Be clear about what you want to do and whereabouts you’re going to fit in the market. It’s not something you’re going to make lots of money from straight away so there has to be a passion there – without that passion for the work you’ll last five minutes. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Get advice from people. You don’t have to take it all but you have to find the best way. We’re back to cooking again: there are different recipes for the same dish a hundred times over but you prefer some to others. There are different ways of doing the same thing – find a way that’s right for you.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 5 January 2012

You’ve got a website. You’ve got a printed portfolio. Now you need a photoblog. Why? To maintain a steady output of fresh work, build your profile as a photographer and reach a wider audience, of course. Here’s how to get started…

Set up your photoblog
If you’ve already forked out for a domain name, you might want to incorporate a photoblog into your website – or you could use a free blogging platform. There are plenty out there: from Wordpress to Pixelpost, Blogger to Tumblr. Emily Webber, who runs the photoblog London Shop Fronts, favours the latter. “Tumblr's not just a blogging platform, it’s a network of creative people,” she says. “Tumblr also allows for easy re-blogging while keeping a link back to the original photo, which is a great way to get your images out there.”

Know what you’re about
Some photographers, such as Mike Massaro, use a photoblog as a more frequently updated addition to their online portfolio. He says: “I try to put as much content as possible up there, anything I think is interesting enough.” But often the most memorable photoblogs have a theme, the quirkier the better. Whether it’s snaps of cats or graffiti, once you’ve picked your theme, don’t deviate. And remember to include an “about” section detailing what your photoblog is about.

Build a following
Tag your images with descriptive search words. Get Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, accounts for your photoblog and each time you post a new image, make sure the world knows. Interact with other relevant bloggers. Make sure there’s an obvious way for your followers to contact you directly. You never know – you might end up with a book deal.

Update regularly
If there’s nothing new up there, no one’s going to come back for seconds. As Alex Pink, author of the photoblogs Snapshot London and Hackney Revisited, says: “People like repetition. I post five days a week all year round, with the odd exception – holidays and what not. However often you decide to post, stick to it – don't be flakey.”

Fight for your rights
If you don’t want your images to be used, write “all rights reserved” on the photoblog, embed a watermark with “© your name” or metadata into your images and limit their size. However, as Emily Webber points out, “We’re in the age of social web; you want people to share your photos through social media platforms and their own blogs, as this will put your work in front of more people.” To select an open-license – which vary depending on whether you are happy for people to share, alter, or profit from your images – go to the Creative Commons website.

And finally, some inspiration…

The Daily Nice – every day, Jason Evans posts an image of something that has made him smile.

My Parents were Awesome – curated photoblog where users send in photos of their parents as young ’uns.

Palm 2 – Emily Webber, of London Shop Front fame, pays homage to her local corner shop.

Dear Photographz – our very own Nell Frizzell gives your old pics a facelift.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Monday, 2 January 2012 seen in Littlehampton, West Sussex. Banksy eat your heart out. 

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