17th October 2017 - Comments Off on Getting involved

Getting involved


For the last two years I have been involved with the running and organisation of the Nether Edge Festival. I work as part of a committee with my role being all things design - this includes banners, posters, flyers, the website and a Programme. I also run the festival Facebook and Twitter accounts – yeah that’s me occasionally praising myself… well someone has to!

My involvement in the festival came about as a result of getting swept up in the ‘Millifandom’ phenomenon of two general elections ago. I joined the Nether Edge Neighbourhood Group so I could get more involved in, and engaged with, the area where I lived. Not long after joining I was invited by David, the very persuasive Chair of the Neighbourhood Group, to use my skills as a designer to help the festival.

For anyone that doesn’t know Nether Edge it is a lovely, leafy part of Sheffield with a thriving creative and community feel. It also has a reputation for being very middle class and very white. With the aim of trying to make Nether Edge more inclusive and celebrate its diversity the Neighbourhood Group, along with volunteers, set about creating the Nether Edge Festival.

You’d be surprised how much time and effort and goes into planning the festival. We start in January for a September festival. Working as part of a committee involves, as you’d expect, meetings, discussions and A LOT of emails. None of us are professional festival organisers, so we’re all learning as we go.

The Festival had already been going for a year when I was asked to get involved. I was a little reticent at first as I had not been freelancing for long and was still trying to build up my client list. I knew from the outset that if I got involved with the Festival I would not be getting paid, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to dedicate the time required. I know working for free is a very contentious issue within the design community due to the negative impact it can have and obviously I would prefer to be paid but the Neighbourhood Group is a charity and we organise the festival on a shoestring. Everyone on the committee is expected to donate their time so it is only fair that I do too. After mulling it over I chose to take the opportunity to work on something that would benefit the community I had lived in for a number of years – to help bring it together at a time when attitudes are often quite divisive. To be clear this is also the only unpaid work I do – I have a mortgage to pay!

I was asked to replace the original identity with something bright, eye catching and appropriate for a family-friendly community festival. The committee gave me quite a bit of creative freedom, which is a rare thing and one of the reasons I got involved. This freedom gave me the opportunity to create an identity flooded with colour and even try my hand at some illustrations of local animals.

Although I have plans to develop the identity further I have already created something that stands out from the rest of my portfolio and hopefully grabs people’s attention. See some of the work I designed here.

Obviously as this is unpaid work I have to balance it alongside paid work rather than prioritise it. Even though I don’t have the responsibility of any particular event it can be a challenge, as sometimes I’d like to be able to dedicate more time to it and use the festival as a vehicle to learn new skills such as animation, and who knows maybe even build the website myself one year! But the reality of life means I can’t do that and if designing the Programme coincides with covering in design studios during the summer holidays then I just have to spin those plates!

Now in its third year the festival continues to grow in popularity, as does awareness of it. More and more people see the benefit to the community and want to take part. Being part of a committee was not something I had experience with but I guess it’s not too dissimilar to working on a job with multiple stakeholders. During the run up to the festival there were definitely occasions when I thought I’m not going to have the time to help next year but when I stop and look around me during a bustling event with all the smiling faces and children laughing and I think to myself – I helped with this, I am part of this – it really does make me feel I am doing something worthwhile.

17th August 2017 - Comments Off on Hello. Is this thing on?!

Hello. Is this thing on?!

Probably a bit of a heavy subject for my second blog post and a topic that has already been covered before by other creatives but here it goes – the lonely life of freelancer.

My move into freelancing came rather suddenly – after the company I worked for went bust (right before Christmas as well! I know, right?). I didn’t have time to prepare or ease myself into it. I didn’t even have a website ready! I had been thinking about going freelance for a while but lacked the confidence to make the leap. When fate intervened I thought ‘Sod it! In for a penny, in for a pound!’. So armed with nothing more than some contacts a friend had given me and a makeshift holding page I set about trying and drum up some work… aka ‘hustling’.

Ah hustling. Along with quoting it’s probably my least favourite task when it comes to freelancing. I’ve never found it easy to put myself out there and sing my praises, instead finding self-deprecation much easier. I’m the one at industry events nervously stood in the corner or acting like I’m REALLY interested in the work is on show.* The idea of going up to someone and simply saying ‘I’m Leanne, I’m a freelance designer. What do you do?’ brings me out in a cold sweat.

The best thing about being a freelancer is being my own boss. It is something I have really taken too. I’m really lucky to have a great little set-up at home (yes I work from home for the most part), which saves on outgoings but I find it is during those lulls in work where I miss having colleagues the most. Not just because the walls can sometimes feel like they’re closing in but having people to bounce ideas off or give their opinion on what I’m working on. I find, if I’m struggling to resolve a design, left to my own devices I can really be my own worst enemy – I overthink work, constantly tweak it and can lose confidence. Having another (trusted) pair of eyes look at your work can be invaluable.

There are days when I’m contacting people, trying to get my name out there, make connections and… nothing… It feels like I’m shouting into a cave sometimes. Those are the harder days.

I’m very aware that more often then not people portray a skewed version of themselves online – they only win pitches, never lose; they are constantly busy; each job is exciting and creative; and they never burn (or in my case grill) their cakes. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help comparing myself to others and I usually end up feeling like I’m failing. That’s on top of the day-to-day insecurities of hair, weight, clothes. Sometimes I think I could make worrying an Olympic sport.

Comparing yourself to others is natural though. Everyone does it. I try and force myself to try and do it positively though, as a means to help me improve and definitely not as a means to drag me into a depression spiral where I find myself sat on the sofa crying through Jeremy Kyle while comfort eating slabs of cheese. For the record I have not done this, I’d never watch Jeremy Kyle and neither should you.

So to conclude… yeah sorry I don’t really have the answers I’m still learning as I go, still trying to plug away at it and find the courage to one day walk into a room and announce to everyone ‘Hi, I’m Leanne and I’m a freelance designer’ whilst showering them with business cards. Ok that will probably never happen but I’d settled for finding the confidence to go up to someone I don’t know and introduce myself.

If you have the answers feel free to share them with me or even if you’d like to meet up for a chat. We’re all very small fish in a incredibly large pond.

*If you ever do see me at an event staring at something for a few minutes and not blinking then feel free to come over and say hello, I’m not as intense as I’d be coming across!

29th March 2017 - Comments Off on Challenging myself to 36 Days of Type

Challenging myself to 36 Days of Type

Last month, on a whim, I decided to take part in 36 Days of Type – an event where creatives from anywhere in the world undertake to design a letter/number everyday for 36 days. There are no restrictions as to how these can be created.

I was hugely impressed with many of the submissions – a great deal of time, thought and effort had gone into their work. I was especially blown away by some of the 3D work, which looked so realistic I was nearly fooled into believing a few of them were real! Due to only deciding to take part on the day the challenge started (see I wasn't joking about the whim!) I chose to see the project as a personal challenge – to try and be a bit more creative everyday, do work other than what I am paid to do and who knows even learn something.

You can see some of my alphabet below. Admittedly it is a random collection of vector illustrations, papercutting, photography and some (beginners) animation.

For the numbers stage of the challenge I stuck to illustration (again on a whim) and created a small series of vector illustrations based on the theme Things You'll Find On Or Around My Desk. Catchy I know.

I'd never got involved in something like this before because I felt I couldn't justify the time, seeing it as a luxury that should be spent trying to bring paid work in. Some days my submissions were done in a rush, fitting them in around work, but I stuck to it and didn't miss a day. I enjoyed pushing myself to come up with something new everyday and I appreciated the daily engagement I was having with the other participants. It has definitely helped me re-engage with my creativity and enthusiasm for design.

All of my letters and numbers are available to view on my Instagram and Behance pages.