Life behind the screens – meet Dan!

by Charlotte Harding

Wednesday 06 April 2022

Introducing some more of the faces at Beyond. We spoke to Dan, our Creative Director, and talked about what inspires him and all things creative. Here’s the full conversation:

 

 

So, what’s your story and how did you get into design?

Art was always my favourite subject at school and I remember a couple of projects that involved designing logos and experimenting with typography design, so I knew quite early on that that was the industry that I wanted to get into.

I left school and went on to do a 2-year HND in Graphic Design and after that I did a 3 year BA Honours Degree in Graphic Communication at Northampton University.

University was where I really developed a huge passion for typography and brand and they were the areas focus for most of my work. After University I traveled the world for a few months but once I was back in the UK I needed to find a job!

Luckily a friend of mine was working at a web design agency and they were looking for a Junior Designer so I joined them for a year and that’s where it all started.

Fast-forward to today – I’m not going to reveal how long I’ve been in the industry, because it’s horrifying – I’m the Creative Director here at Beyond which I suppose leads nicely onto your next question.

 

“Our role is to use design to help fix problems, so it’s really important we know what we’re trying to solve beforehand”.

 

Who are you and what do you do?

My role is to manage every aspect of the content, so before any of the design process begins, I understand what a clients objectives are, what their strategy looks like, and develop strategies and content plans for them. This ensures that we’re all on the same page when it comes to understanding what the role of the content is going to be, so that they achieve their objectives.

This is where we start with all of our clients – understanding what problems they’re asking us to fix for them. Our role is to use design to help fix those problems, so it’s really important we know what we’re trying to solve beforehand.

All this stuff is what I spent time understanding before any work is carried out – design is just part of the process, a halfway point between the initial client discussions through to the final implementation of a project.

Then my role is to oversee the design, and because I’m a designer myself I’ll often get stuck into the work alongside the creative team.

I remember my first job as a Junior Designer after finishing University, the first 6 months for me were quite difficult – transitioning from designing for yourself to designing for a client was a steep learning curve. It’s really important that you quickly understand that the client is paying for the work and it’s not something you’re automatically designing for to go into your portfolio.

So that’s basically my role here, making sure the client gets what they asked for – matching the words with the pictures would be the simplest way of describing it. Also, making sure that it’s not just a one way process, we involve clients in every step of the process, from that initial discussion, to developing a content plan, all the way through to the concepts and the final design – making sure the client is a fundamental part of the process.

 

 

How has the creative industry changed?

The creative industry is a really an exciting place right now, with brands having to constantly evolve it’s brought about completely new ways of thinking – especially as there are so many platforms and tools at our disposal in which to communicate. Each one brings an opportunity and a challenge, with each channel having a different purpose – whereas when I first started out in the industry most of my work was designing for offline materials, brochures, direct mail etc. These days, because the audience attention span is a lot shorter, we have to think about how they consumes content, ensuring we deliver engaging, and relevant content and taking into account what their behaviour might be like at the time you display content.

So there’s been a huge shift, certainly in the last five or six years, with the ability to push new ideas and technologies into our work – for example we’re starting to get requests from clients to integrate social media and data on their digital screens. It’s not just understanding what the client wants, and then delivering the work, we’re constantly exploring what technologies are out there to help them to do stuff they didn’t even consider.

Also, Covid has also made us and our clients think differently because with lots of people still working from home we’ve had to think about how their content can be utilised in a completely different way.

 

What issues do you see in the creative industry?

When I started out I was called a ‘Graphic Designer’, and that was what all designers were back then, however I read an interesting article recently by an agency called Stock Taylor Benson called “Has the Graphic Designer died out?”.

Graphic design for me was traditionally a very hand and pen process initially – scamping out ideas on paper – and this article was really interesting because it talked about how this is becoming more and more lost. Nowadays I see adverts for Graphic Designers that often include words like motion, social media, website, marketing, brand, content etc.

One of the biggest issues I have with this, is that companies and agencies are looking for designers with 2 or 3 years experience but requesting ridiculously broad job requirements and experience. Marketing is a completely different discipline to design, as is designing for web vs social media. It’s completely wrong to ask this much of a designer.

It’s like asking an athlete to run the 100m and then the 10,000m, then do a bit of swimming, some showjumping and then finishing off with some sailing. It’s complete bollocks asking for designers to have experience in so many areas, and it’s extremely unfair. And don’t get me started on the salaries they sometimes propose when they asked for all this experience!

There’s no way I can confidently say I’m an expert at motion design for example – I have a good understanding of it, because I have to in my role, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. I’m still very much about content but I’ve had to adapt because I still consider myself a designer at heart, yet content is such an important part of what I do.

As we grow the agency, there’s different areas of design we want to continue to develop, so we’ll be looking to bring in some new faces over the coming months but I’ll be looking to get people in that are specialists in the disciplines we provide to clients, and we’ll be very clear about what we need when start looking.

 

Part 2 of our catch up with Dan can be found here!

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