After Six Nations

Over the last week, the six nations finally came to a close, bringing an end to easily the busiest I’ve ever been in any job ever, bringing on a period of relative calm since the final whistle.

Wales played the last two of their matches at home, one of which I worked. This was much the same as the matches I worked back in the Autumn, although on a much greater scale. We have learnt to use whatsapp web as an app to send completed graphics to the social media team now, as it was often difficult to use airdrop in the crowded stadium. This lead to a more streamlined matchday experience. I found out from our digital marketer that we get about 15/16,000 views on a match day story post. Actual instagram posts get about 158,000 views on a good day.

IMG_4643

 

In the run up to the last few live matches at home I had to update a few of the previous matches’ LEDs, as well as producing a few new ones. Most interesting of the new ones was to promote the Rolling Stones’ live show thats happening at the stadium. It was a treat to work with someone else’s brand guidelines and do something that had a very different feel to it than what the WRU produces.

Outside of the six nations, Ive been working a lot for the Dragons regional club recently. This has included making lots of their day-to-day paraphernalia such posters for each of their fixtures and all their digital assets. Whist this meant there was always plenty to get on with, it allowed me a huge amount of independence as it was something I coudl get on with myself; something that the Dragons’ marketing manager came to me directly for. This allowed me to experience once again being able to communicate directly with a client professionally on a very regular basis, helping me develop my communication skills.

The next big thing coming up for me now is Finals Day, a day in which the three national rugby tournaments in wales culminate, all together in the stadium on the same day. This is my project however, and am leading on the design for it. Its an absolutely massive job, that I’ve already had to generate heaps of assets for. Once more of said assets have gone live, Ill make a blog about the concept and design.

Advertisements

Year in Review

About yourself

What have you learnt while out on placement in terms of skills, knowledge and about yourself?

I think these last few months there has been a massive increase in my technical proficiency, be that in my overall digital technique, and the speed at which I can size, compose, colour and export artwork. A part of this is my creative process itself has evolved into something that more resembles professional practice. Whilst I’ve followed the design process of research, development, output and feedback for a long time now, I used to map each process over days and weeks. In line with the speed required for me to output design, the pace I move through the cycle has increased. In university, meetings with tutors represented the feedback portion of the cycle, around once a week. In work, the quicker turnaround means I’m often adjusting and resending work off sometimes as much as several times an hour. This is giving me a lot of experience communicating and responding to clients. I think I’m starting to become more sensitive to the needs that are being communicated as I work.

What has been most enjoyable or beneficial to you over this time?

Most beneficial to me was learning the pace I would be expected to work at in a professional environment. Dealing with upwards of 5 different projects with their own deadlines has a very different feel to working on a single university project. I’ve had to learn to give work exactly as much time as its allowed and no more; If something needs doing in the next hour, I will design it in a way that it can be ready in that time. If I have a week, Ill be able to put a greater deal of design work into it. I’ve started to learn exactly what I’m capable of in different time frames and managing expectations to match.

Linking in to that somewhat is the greater confidence I have within a workspace such as the WRU. I think now I am much less terrified at the prospect of walking into a design studio for an interview, now I have a better idea of what would be expected of me at such a place. Its going to make going for my first junior position at an agency a lot less daunting. It might even make the difference as to whether I get the job or not.

As for enjoyment, it is very nice to see my work shown in public spaces; this is something I’ve almost never experienced before, aside from some very small things done for friends that seldom were ever printed. I can’t help but get a kick out of seeing posters I’ve had a part in on display at the bus stop I wait at in the morning, and even more so seeing my LEDs up at the games. It isn’t the reason I went into graphic design, but it is a bonus.

What has been least enjoyable and again, why do you think this might be?

I think coming to the WRU from art school was a massive culture shock. Working in- house is a very different experience to what I would expect a design studio to be like; it has a very different ethos. Often I’ll be working for someone who doesn’t have quite the same respect for design as I’m used to (And I’m used to a design tutor, so the bar is pretty high anyway), who maybe doesn’t quite understand the knowledge someone in a design role might have, and who may think design is just a periphery element to whatever they want to do. It was a learning curve working with those people, not to say they weren’t polite, or unprofessional. I think it just required a shift in gears to deal with them. 

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had to learn to have thick skin when it comes to having my work appraised by members of the marketing department. I cannot be precious about what I output because I know often it wont be good enough, that sometimes my own design instincts will be overridden by that of a superior who knows better. 

Not to say I am complaining about either of these circumstances, each challenge is an opportunity to expand my skills, and I don’t think either matter needs changing.

Are there any areas in your performance where you could improve your input and, if so, how?

I think it would do me good to really try and insert myself more into creative meetings where all of marketing gather to discuss new campaigns, etc. I admit I often find myself in the role of a “design monkey” and just artwork out concepts prepared by others, and more often then that just updating previously done work. In order to get as much out of this placement as I can, I need to make sure I take part in brainstorming and ideation sessions with the team, as its a big a part of the job as anything else I do.

I am working on this however. With the appointment of a new marketing manager, we are now having weekly marketing meetings with updates and discussions about the next week’s work, and our progress on long term goals. I also ensured I could sit in on the  meeting where concepts were decided on how we were going to promote the Six Nations championship. I admit I haven’t had much to say in these meetings; I am surrounded by very experienced designers and marketers who are all much better at this then I am. I will work my way towards feeling able to actively contribute to these meetings, which I am sure I eventually will. Until then, I do believe listening in on those discussions and being more plugged in on creative direction has value.

Can you identify areas where you would like to improve your skills, and how do you hope to do this during the coming placement months?

In regards to being more involved in the creative side, I have a good opportunity to improve my skills coming up in august;- I’ve been given complete control of the art direction for the National Cup Finals day at the stadium ( An event day where all finals for the national league competitions take place in the stadium.) I will be able to approach this task a little bit more like an extended brief I would complete at university, with a lot, lot more time dedicated to research and concept. I will also have to pitch my ideas to marketing in general which gives me the opportunity to hone my presentation and verbal communication skills (which I need to do.).

Working for the organisation

After 5 months on placement, in what ways are you now better prepared for each day in work?

Principally my technical skills are greatly improved in the last 5 months. This, coupled with a properly established design process means I’m much more properly equipped to function within the required workflow of the WRU. In the first few weeks I did feel a little bit useless. Not because I wasn’t being given enough responsibility or enough to do, but because I just wasn’t quite up to speed and I was a little bit sloppy. My supervisor Adam said that this was to be expected, and he was going to keep throwing work at me to get my speed and technical abilities up; which he did, and now I’m much better.

Have you been able to develop any job role skills since the beginning of your placement?

A big one for this would be my new explorations into animation; I detailed this a lot more in previous blog posts, but I’m now pretty competent at motion design. This feels quite significant because I had attempted to learn animation skills myself during university but never quite managed to hack it. I know for a fact this is going to make an absolutely huge difference to my job prospects leaving university, because I can now apply confidently to digital design jobs, and motion design jobs. Before, I would have been much more suited to principally print jobs; a much more narrow job spectrum. This is likely going to make a huge difference in the long run as digital becomes increasingly the default.

List and explain three positives about the WRU Design Dept. How have these positives impacted on your practice?

  1. I enjoy the casual work environment in the design team; we are all sat around a table facing one another and asking one another to come look at some completed work is common. This means I get plenty of time to talk to my experienced colleagues about my work and as a consequence I’m learning a lot.
  2. Working in-house lends a certain familiarity with the brand, and the people who tend to come to you with work. Everyone at work knows the system and this means theres a certain ease of operation that I appreciate. Everyone has the same goals, theres very little combativeness or difference in ideas.
  3. The challenging work environment has been a necessary pressure thats prepared me better for work in industry as well as making me learn new skills (such as animation). I very much was leaving my comfort zone and doing so has done me good.

List and explain three negatives about the WRU Design Dept. How could they/it/you improve?

  1. Working in an office rather than a design studio means I am rather detached from the design world at large. I don’t feel like Im part of the design community in Cardiff so much. I am allowed to take mornings off to attend Creative Mornings once a month which I enjoy but this is about the extent of it. I want the opportunity to work in a studio after the WRU, so I can experience being a bit more plugged in to it all. Networking opportunities are limited to those who already work at WRU. We have had a little work done for us by Cardiff local agency Smorgasbord in the past, and I am patiently awaiting the next time we do so I can get myself in the meeting with them (and perhaps somehow lay the groundwork for my next placement or employment!)
  2. Working with an in- house brand can often lead to little thought being directed to the design concepts. More often than not I’m making a poster or instagram post that just fits the style of the WRU or Dragons brands. Whilst this gives me a fairly safe space to practice technical skills, I do miss working up new concepts and entire new looks, and working with fonts that aren’t Choplin and Frutiger, and colours other than Campaign Red and Campaign Gold.
  3. Either my own lack of confidence, or the expertise of my co-workers means that I’m often not contributing much to discussions of the concepts of marketing campaigns in the future. Ie. They’re very good at coming up with brand new concepts and ad campaign ideas very quickly and are able to speak up in meetings to voice their ideas. I am not quite at this point yet. I don’t know if being in a smaller organisation would make this easier for me or not. This is just something I need to work on, and will come with experience I expect.

All in all, a very informative few months. I can’t believe I’m almost half way through my time here. I’ve continued to learn a lot everyday and I look forward to the opportunities & experiences that my work here will lead to.

The Autumn Series

Here I will catalogue my experiences working on the Autumn Series of match days at the WRU.

After preparing several LEDs, it was part of my job the day before each match day to run up the files physically on hard disk to the external team that handled LEDs, who then had to format the files we created further to work on the large scale LEDs. After this, myself and another member of the team had to conduct a run though of all the ones the team created to look for any possible mistakes. The first time I did this, for my LEDs, there were many mistakes. One thing thats hard to judge on a computer screen is the speed at which text can scroll and still be readable; something that looks like a slow speed on screen when scaled up will make text dizzying and impossible to read. This also went for my Santa Tours LED, which had a sleigh whipping around the stadium to reveal text. At its original speed, the sleigh didn’t even manage to animate on screen. These kinds of fixes required running back to the office (the other side of the stadium) fixing the LED as quickly as possible, reexporting and running all the way back with a completed file. I think over the autumn series this (literal) exercise alone has made me more attentive to detail. Its drilled into me practices I should already be taking part in, for instance running a spell check, even with supplied copy, and doing a total review of absolutely everything made from top to bottom.

My first match day was Wales v Australia, in which I took a slightly more auxiliary role, to be shown the ropes of how match days work; this was more of a day of shadowing the senior members of the team.

For every match day, someone from the team completed a “branding walk”  around the entire stadium. I assisted with this on both the match days I worked. This meant a lap of the entire inside fan zones, and outside, at the edge of the pitch, just before . The purpose of the walk was to review all printed ephemera, and screen graphics produced by us in the past week, partly to check again for any of our own errors, and partially to check for print faults. It was also a good opportunity to seek out my own work on display:

I took a much more involved part in the Wales v Georgia game; this time, I was in charge of live graphics. This was extremely daunting. Here, I was added into a whatsapp group with the whole of the match day media team; communications executives, marketing people, camera operators as well as some national team staff, in which I was able to follow the entire coordinated media output of the WRU. This started at about seven in the morning when coverage began, and the “Its Match Day” graphic was posted to the WRU Instagram (I made all four of these over the series).

At kick off I was posted in the media box with someone from marketing, and the social media manager for the national team. From here, we watched the match whilst maintaining a link to the on- pitch photographers. It was my job to pull images from the server, treated the images and formatting them into live graphics to be posted onto WRU social media. This made for a very intense 80 minutes; attention had to be constantly shared between on- pitch developments, and scouring incoming photographs for absolutely anything to put online. Because of the way this particular match ended, we ended up making 3 different Full Time graphics for 3 different win/loss/draw outcomes that were possible in the last few minutes.

IMG_4739

My experience over the autumn series was an intense period of time, contrasted wildly against the lull in work I find myself in now. In many ways it marked my training wheels coming off; before, deadlines were softer, and usually internal. With match days, the deadline for all work was never more than a week away, and nothing could be forgotten. This has all helped me improve my speed, continue to perfect my workflow practices, and taught me new skills in the process. For Instance, before the autumn series, I did not really know how to animate or use after effects. Now, a month on, Ive created around 8-10 distinct LED animations, used in front of a live audiences. The first one I created, for the Santa Tours promotion, took me around two days to create the first rough edit. By the last week, I was able to turn an LED around in about an hour. So, a pretty solid example of me learning new skills in the workplace!

Next are the six nations, which I understand is far far larger an event than the Autumn Series. So bring it on.

 

More News From the Front

I have been working on this single blog post for weeks now, on and off, and im finally going to post it, in time for a blog specifically about my time working on the match days of the autumn season.

The last few weeks have been interesting! a lot of it has been business as usual, with the gradual ramping up to the autumn series. Everyone at work is telling me its going to get really, really manic when the big international games start but so far I’m feeling cautiously confident and (so far) still on top of my list of things to do, but I’ll write about that as it happens over the next month.  For now, here are a few specific moments of note from the last couple weeks on placement

Trip to the National Centre of Excellence 

Very soon after writing my last blog, I visited the WRU’s National Centre of Excellence in Newport, where the national team does its training in preparation for international competitions. The reason for our visit was two fold; for one, there were plans to redecorate the training gym and atmosphere room there ready for the senior men’s team to train for the six nations games. This was kind of amazing to see. The visit involved going into the gym and atmosphere room itself with the senior designer and a sign printer, measuring it all up, and then liaising with the folks in charge of the NCE (some very very large, ex rugby player types). It was a very valuable experience because it taught me some of the more practical levels of the job; like the physicality of a design and how differences in design translate to cost and man hours to construct in person. I also witnessed how to deal with a real life client, and a client that was especially not interested in any grand designs at that. Unfortunately, after hearing about the amount of work and the price tag involved in the idea we had put together ready to pitch to them, the decision was made to just paint the walls black. Theres valuable lessons to be learned there about the realities of design and how factors such as money and physical can impact artistic direction.

The other reason for our visit was that there was a photoshoot of a few of the players using the indoor sports arena on site. I unfortunately was not allowed to take any photographs of this myself, but I did get to see first hand how professional photoshoots operate. There was actually two rugby photo shoots in operation at the same time; ours, and that of a partner sports wear producer, and as it turns out, one set of rugby players with one set of rugby wear. so there was a lot of swapping of resources, with lots of runners moving products back and forth. It was very interesting to learn about. There was also a lot of dominos pizza ordered and left on a table for everyone. Yum.

Continuing to write this blog now, I can reveal that I was at the shoot for the new kit that was as then unreleased. pretty cool, huh?

Staff Conference

I attended the company wide staff conference last week. Whilst it was a day away from practicing design, it was insightful in just learning more about the nature of office work, something I have actually been on a steep learning curve for so far.

The day consisted of a couple team building activities followed by a few talks. Admittedly I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of one of the team building activities; but only because it was singing, and only because it was singing the welsh national anthem (which I had somehow never heard before).  More importantly, I sat in for conference talks on how the macro operations of the company. Whilst this wasn’t all directly relevant to my design practice, it was useful for some insight into how such a large company like the WRU works on a macro scale.

Santa Tours

wru740_web_header_rdax_1197x700_80

I was put in charge of my own project over the last couple months! Since around October I’ve been put in charge of creating all assets for the Santa Tours scheme ( a tour of the stadium accompanied with an experience for kids with Santa). This whole project required me to liaise with the marketing department as well as the person running the whole operation from the tours department as a single cog in a much larger machine. Ill do an overview of the whole project at its termination.

Coming next… my experiences working on match days this month. 

 

Month One

The first month of my internship at the Welsh Rugby Union has gone by in a flash.

In my first couple weeks I felt totally out of my depth; I always thought I was fairly technically proficient before I started, and what I already knew certainly helped, but just the speed that projects are turned around in the design dept; as a guideline my mentor advised me to aim for at least 5 projects output a day; I think in the first week i was getting through about one or two; partly because of my lack of experience doing things quickly, and partly because of my lack of knowledge on the house styles. I got speedy quick, though. Im not as quick as I should be quite yet, but I’m improving every day and pumping out projects with increased hustle whilst retaining some of the meticulousness you need (although don’t be holding me to that quite yet.)

So far I have undertaken a wide range of projects; lots of internal stuff like email save-the-dates and conference leaflets, as well as larger projects such as a 40 page media guide for the welsh premiership. More recently, Ive been somewhat taking the lead with a project to promote the tour department’s Christmas Santa’s Grotto; its mainly replacing elements in last year’s artwork and updating some of the copy but I am dealing with the tours dept. myself. Its a small thing; it just means I deal with amends and direction personally, and have the odd small meeting with the head of the tour dept; its helping me learn how to communicate best with a client in other words.

I’ve also learned a lot about working as part of a design team on a larger project when putting things together for some versus images involving cut- outs from members of the welsh national team vs other teams playing us in the autumn series. I’ve included an image from this series. I didn’t make the artwork itself on this; that was handled by another designer, but I imaged searched, cut out and composed players into the artwork, and assembled all of them into a InDesign master document, before handing that off to someone else to input stats. In uni, I hated working in teams for things; there was never a good distribution of tasks so things always ended up falling on a small group of people to get done, and there was never clear leadership, which always seems to translate to poor artistic direction in design. This isn’t a problem working in the more well oiled WRU design team; its a joy to take things in and hand them off again; things can actually get done quite quickly.

Either way its been a fantastic month, I have gone from feeling (and being) almost completely useless to the point of literally being a liability in the work place to someone who can actually get things done. Ive learned loads so far, and theres still so much time. I may even come out of this a competent graphic designer yet.

I did a quick search for things I’d personally done that have gone up on the internet (Theres not loads; I do a lot of internal things at the moment, and a lot of stuff that isn’t internal is yet to be released to the public yet anyway), its a couple odd jobs for the women’s leagues, as well as an example of one of the head to head artworks done earlier. All pulled from online sources so Im definitely not spilling the beans on anything!!

21199830_10155065224558722_4980801630393265383_oWRU694

Summer, and going forward.

Towards the end of last year, I applied for a internship position at the Welsh Rugby Union, in their marketing team working at the Millennium stadium. I thought “hey; it sounds pretty cool; it would be nice to make some money that way, and it would likely make getting a job post graduation much easier.” But I think if I had known I would actually get it, I would have been too scared to apply! Thankfully, I didn’t know I would get it, so I did apply, and I did get it.

Consequently, this year I will be doing updates upon my time working for the WRU, lets say every couple weeks(?) on what I’m learning, how I messed up that last fortnight and how I’m finding it. I hope you will join me on what will hopefully be me going on a journey from incredibly nervous and out of my depth to a confident genuine design boy.


 

In other news: I snagged some freelance work to do over the last couple weeks. A friend of a friend wanted some branding work done for a small denim customisation business they had started up of which I gladly helped: introducing “That Baby Got Back” . I spent a couple weeks on this, and after seeing some of the customised denim that would be being sold I started.

TBGB

After thinking about it for a while I felt that using motifs from “American Traditional” tattoos, which look a bit like this: Traditional_old_school_eagle_keeping_american_flag_and_banner_tattoo_design

In the end, what I came out with was this:

I like to think its exactly what was asked for. I am actually not particularly happy with the logo being on the back of the babies jacket the way it is; but the client was pretty adamant that that was exactly what they wanted. I did experiment with several different approaches, including bending the type over the back to conform it to the bend, and even putting the type in a ring around the whole thing, but no thats what my client wanted. Either way, it will be pretty cool to see my logo on some real clothes and all that! I was glad for this project, because going into it I didn’t expect to be able to do it; more illustration style design has never really been my thing and I was about to turn around and tell the client that I wasn’t the best person for the job but I worked through it and it turned out quite well!

I’ll write again in a week or so about my first impressions at the placement.