We’ve got a Bank Holiday treat for you in the form of this fantastic read from Founding Member, Keir. Despite a degree in fine art, Keir pursued a career in graphic design that has seen him work with a whole host of exciting clients. Today, he has a flourishing freelance business with ethics at its heart. Read on to enjoy Keir’s thoughtful musings on; design as a tool for shaping culture, the challenge of discriminatory cultures within the creative industries, and work/life balance.
Keir, what’s your creative occupation?
I’m a freelance graphic designer, working in Sheffield, spending my time on projects for good organisations that try to make a positive impact on the world.
Where have you been?
I originally studied Fine Art: Sculpture & Time-Based Media at University but, after graduating, I realised I didn’t want to pursue a career in modern art (the life of a full-time artist is hard, underpaid and not very accessible). After a few years of working for the University in admin and support roles, I knew I had to refocus my career on graphic design if I wanted to be spending my time being creative, and exploring my interest in typography, branding and illustration.
I retrained at Shillington College in 2015, working full-time and studying in the evenings for almost a year. After graduating, I interned at some Manchester design studios, which helped me build my skills to design impactful, relevant and quality work to a deadline – this experience also prepared me for working with my own clients and to develop a personal and thoughtful approach to design and communication.
Where are you now?
I recently moved to Sheffield with my partner after being in Manchester for over 10 years. We wanted to spend some time in a new city that was close to the Peak District and that enabled us to have a healthy work/life balance. Half of my time is spent working at an ethical design studio, Jory&Co, who are based in London but have designers working all over the world, such as Manchester and New Zealand. The other half is spent working with personal clients that range from digital artists, filmmakers, technologists, co-operatives and charities.
I love that every week is different; whether working on a rebrand for a campaign that shares stories of women working in Science and Engineering, collaborating on a video for the Trades Union Conference, or designing a publication for an immersive film. The one thread that connects all my clients is their ethics and how they conduct business. It’s taken a while to build up relationships with these organisations, but when you are able to design for a range of mediums and outcomes whilst also enabling good causes to promote their work, or let their visuals reflect the work they do, it is hugely rewarding. Graphic design definitely cannot save the world, but it is one tool at our disposal to help shape culture and conversations around where we should be collectively heading as people.
Another reason I work for myself, as opposed to a fixed role within a studio, is that it can be really hard to find a culture that is welcoming, non-discriminatory and open to challenging the damaging aspects of the creative industry. The creative culture can be a toxic environment that reinforces the idea that unless you look or act like them – you are not welcome. This is changing slowly, and there’s some amazing groups like The Creative Occupation, as well as Fuse, Blacks Who Design, Women Who Design and LWD, who are doing some great work.
Where are you going?
At the moment, I’m changing gears a little to build up my practice. I’ve not figured out all the details but I’m looking forward to seeing where it’ll take me.
Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?
Thoughts for today are; stay hydrated, take time away from your screen (outside if possible), and remember your value comes from yourself, not from what other people think. They’re simple things that you’ll hear said a lot, but I do find they work… at least some of the time.
Helpful advice, for sure! Thanks for sharing your journey, Keir! Got any questions for Keir, or just want to say ‘hi’? Reach out to him via our ‘Members’ page. Not a member yet? Join us today for networking, mentoring, resources & more!
Make sure you check out Keir on Insta – @keir.mb