Why Client-Killed Design Projects Are A Blessing in Disguise

Designer/illustrator Felix Sockwell is known for his illustrative, fluid line work. When looking at his pieces it appears that his pen never left the page, as each idea and object is interconnected into a larger narrative. This quick wit and ability to translate seemingly complex ideas into simple, iconographic solutions have gained Sockwell many fans and clients. But it’s not all fun and games. Occasionally, even he hits a wall with a client.

Below, Sockwell walks us through three design projects that were killed, and explains why he believes in reincarnation.

Weedhire

My soccer pal Vlad called and asked me for a “favor,” one in which I did not take to mean as “free” (which would come back to haunt me). He is one of my best friends and most of us on the soccer team consider him wealthy (he wouldn’t). Regardless, he’s a great guy—smart in business and a family man.

He tells me he has a new business called Weedhire, an employment agency for the cannabis industry. He said, “You’re the expert. You tell me what works. Just do something fast.”

What Vlad probably didn’t realize is that designing an identity is kind of intimate, like sex. It takes time. You have to talk. And talk some more. And be honest with one another.

I showed Vlad a few things and his response was to take all the creativity out of it. He said, “Make it look like a bank.” So as I began researching bank logos, I started feeling like a conversation was needed. I picked up the phone and asked if this was intended to be more than a conservative place to find a job in the cannabis industry. I never got a clear response on what the strategy is or was, but by the third day (when I realized I had just wasted a lot of energy doing logos for free), he said he would just have his web designer pop a pot leaf in a box in five minutes. Which is exactly what he did.

I hold no grudge (OK maybe a little, I’m showing the work here), but what struck me about the experience was that some people—good, smart people—care absolutely nothing about how a logo looks or speaks. Design is a HUGE part of your business plan if you’re in the “people” industry. The “lady leaferty” in the center, which I believe to be a smart, conservatively drawn, creative idea, is an idea that I hope someone sees and actually wants to pay for. See the other two projects here.

Five Exercises That Will Turn Anyone Into an Artist

Whitney Sherman is an award-winning illustrator and director of the MFA in Illustration Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also author of Playing with Sketches, 50 creative exercises for designers and artists (Rockport Publishers).

We asked Sherman for advice on how to get over the drawing hurdle many of us are afraid to jump. She also offers up five drawing exercises from her book to help anyone get started.

Why do you think it’s so hard for people to get started drawing?

For non-artists, I think that the culture of drawing is not extended or continued with or for them beyond early childhood. Grade schools and high schools, for the most part, value math and science over the arts, which gets cut out when budgetary pressures arise. What is then neglected is the haptic qualities of “making,” which can contribute to retention of learning as well as foster communication. If a non-artist is only shown an example of classical or academic drawing, they will be thwarted by not having those skills. If encouraged to make native marks [draw in their own way] and be respected for that, most people would grow up with less doubt on their ability to draw and would enjoy the process, which is a very important part of drawing!

For creative people who are working in artforms that do not regularly encourage drawing, some of the reasons are the same – recognizing and celebrating native marks, but I think it goes a bit farther to include practice. Creatively leaning people continue drawing beyond childhood for longer than most, yet their particular area of creative focus as an adult may have not required the use of drawing, and so it is left behind, unpracticed. In both cases, having permission [from a teacher, from ones self] to draw as one does, to appreciate that and practice it will foster comfort and confidence with drawing. Read the rest of the interview here.

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