Want to know what its like here?

Want to know what its like here?

The day begins with a strong coffee, I switch on my computer and watch the messages stream into my inbox. I know I have one and a half hours? to go to officially start my day as a graphic designer for a London graphic design agency.

The graphic design agency is called a fish in sea ltd. It has been around for 7 years now and has grown exponentially in the last few years. I work as lead graphic designer. This week I am in London but I'm usually based in Beirut heading up our Beirut office we call 'a fish in sea middle east'.

So while supping my coffee I fill in the previous days time sheet, (something that has been recently introduced in the office) and reacquaint myself with my pending workload. Graphic design agencies work in different ways. At a fish in sea we each have responsibility to our clients, which means that every job has 100% of our attention, always. It also means that we have to stay on the ball as we each have around 10 clients on the go at any one time.

I've made sure I'm up to date, there's been no midnight rushes or print issues, its time to shower, dress, shave and eventually leave with enough time to spend the next hour rushing through Londons packed stuffy underground and probably still arrive 10 minutes late.

As a young designer, working for a graphic design agency is ideal, every job is different, every job is challenging, every job makes me nervous and nearly every job satisfies my quest for life long improvement. Traveling through London every morning is like visiting an advertising exhibition every morning before work, I spend all my time analysing, mentally criticising - admiring and scorning various pieces of advertising and artwork that I come across. Its great - its mental stimulation without trying!

So I arrive at work and it seems everyone is in... I'm 10 minutes late so extend my apologies... but know that Ill probably be in the office till around 7pm tonight so I'm satisfied that all is OK.

My colleague is working on a logo design for a marketing company, another is researching the in's and outs of a management consultancy for a brochure design concept and I will work on a large illustration for a another management consultancy. Thats the way of a graphic design agency, hectic, varied fulfilling and never boring!

A Rich Picture illustration is a way to visualise complex ideas in an easily presentable but visually stimulating illustration. They are often A0 in size and contain many different scenes all under a single concept, ethos or theme which the company needs to illustrate to get across to their audience (often investors) This particular illustration will contain around 300 characters, 30 different scenes and hundreds of separately drawn items. Our MD is directing this project and I have already seen that some of the interactive team are already plugging away illustrating on some items for the piece. This is one of the many benefits of working for a design agency, becuase .. well.. we are like a cult, a sect, a commune, a family, we all help each other - when one is stuck, the other chips in, when one has a brainstorm he shares it with the others to improve the overall design, with a project as large as this one we need the resources to complete in time.

I have been given the task of digitally drawing all the characters, a task I've looked forward to since receiving the brief as I love drawing on the mac. The positions, movements, actions, weights, genders, even ages have been specified so all thats left is to draw. It takes me around an hour to really finalise my style, I quickly send them on and wait for a response. Overall the client is happy with them but they need to be more androgynous... this is the hard part - how do I draw a stylised, simple character that is neither male or female... there are many attributes which will give the game away. For example the size of their hips, their posture, the size of their legs in relation to their body, the size of there hands, heads, thighs, these are all features that have to be reconsidered... I'm suddenly no longer enjoying the freedom and the climb begins.

An hour later I have found my way again, we have a quick critique session where another designer presents her initial logo designs to the team. Critiques happen a few times a day they are customary in logo design but often occur with different design projects too.

So we gather round a computer as she presents her selection of six designs for this logo. The brief is to present three designs to the client but as usual she has produced a few more, it shows that she's been inspired by this project. We discuss for around half an hour the ins and outs of her designs, discard a few, and suggest evolving another few, out of the 6 logo concepts, 2 are bang on and we have collectively agreed that they should be put forward without any changes.

So back to my characters, I've only produced 10 by this stage, it's coming on to 1pm, so I grab some bread - whack on some toast and put on the kettle for a cup of coffee... no time for a full on lunch - I guess not many graphic design agencies have time for a communal lunch hour - everyone is running at their own pace... some are busier than others and this time its me that has to click while devouring some buttered toast.

Whilst making my coffee I see the chance to playfully annoy my interactive counterparts sitting across the other side of the room, I've been so busy today that I haven't had any time to mess with their precious CSS and pixelated web flats .... they seem busy as well, filling in their codes, and messing around with flash. Our web manager is as usual talking to a client, this time talking about our great content management system which we developed in house. It's hard to find him off the phone as he runs the interactive department and they normally have around 20 jobs on at a time too!

A few hours pass and its time to take a look at the brochure covers and spreads that have been produced. We gather round the produced mood boards to go with each brochure design concept, they are great as they quickly illustrate the idea and how each may work in different guises using comping images sourced from the web. The client will see these designs and will be blown away with the idea that has deleoped from the original brief.

Right its around 4 pm now - I've produced around 30 characters and decide that to relieve my RSI I should present to the team and between us decide whats left to do.

So once again .. after a coffee and a brief tweak of a few of the characters, we decide that we need more - a set of jugglers, a set of people putting out a fire, a set of gymnasts and finally a set of people climbing up ladders... wow... so I'm left to produce another 20 before the day is out... I start to regret not having asked for any help... but thats one of my many faults I guess. So I pretend that there's only a few kilometers left of the marathon, put my head down, and produce...

At around 6.30 , I have finished.. a few people have already left for the day, but as usual many haven't. I remember that I have to design a letter template for an insurance company for the morning. I've been thinking about this for a few hours now and feel a little risqué...! So I set out to wow! - I know its just a simple letter template.. all the while I'm thinking - they wont go for it.. they will go for it ... they wont... - but continue down my path anyway... Im happy with the result after half an hour I decide to send over... before I click send I reconsider the design... have i just gone design overboard - I mean it's just a letter head?? .. fuck it.. I say .. and briefly remember something I read once by Paul Ardens the ex saatchi and saatchi executive art director..."Making the safe decision is dull, predictable and leads nowhere new. The unsafe decision causes you to think and respond in a way you hadn't thought of. And that thought will lead to other thoughts which will help you achieve what you want. Start taking bad decisions and it will take you to a place where others only dream of being."... so I think ... I make loads of bad decisions every day does that mean I'm on my way to a conceptual end??... probably not yet... I click send.

At this time the office is quieter with everyone trying to get everything out before the end of the day, sending emails, following up enquiries.... the boss comes over and lets us know what's on tomorrow by way of work we have on, a brief chat about his day and the fountain of work that will be pouring in over the next few weeks and the less positive subject of late payers that put a strain on the everyday workings of a graphic design agency !

At around 7.30 my work is done, there are still people in the office plugging away... so I say my goodbyes, pack up my stuff and re-visit the exhibition ground of London town!

Geoffrey Arias
Head of Graphic Design, Middle East