It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer. Like a lot of people, I think the job found me, rather than me finding the job.

But there were certainly a few early signs that designing graphics was something I might be good at.

Let’s see…


Age five or six:
Entered a poster competition on the back of a packet of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and won a huge art set full of paint, crayons, brushes etc. Pretty exciting.

Age seven or eight:
A Christmas card I designed (ok… I painted it, but I think it still counts) was exhibited in London. Considering I lived in the countryside on the opposite side of England at the time, this was a Big Deal. Especially as my Mum took me on a trip to see the exhibition.

Age eleven or twelve:
My IT teacher accuses me of copying a logo. (I think we’d been asked to design an advert in a desktop publishing package… on a Mac… and my logo was a V that was also a tick)

Win a prize for technical drawing at school that usually went to kids several years old than me.

Around this time I also started working with my first and longest standing client: my mum. She was exhibiting paintings, and I took charge of designing posters, invitations and tickets. Tricky as our early 90s PC didn’t have any software for graphic design. I got around this by running the paper through our printer multiple times to add text at 90 or 270 degrees to the layout. Kind of fiddly to get right, but it worked.

Age thirteen/fourteen:
Trying to figure what subjects I wanted to study for GCSE.

‘Design technology’ seems like it will fit the bill in theory, but actually I’m not that great at making things with my hands.

If only there was another kind of design that’s less about making in 3D, and more about making in 2D. Hmmm….

Age fourteen/fifteen:
A computerised career analysis suggestions that I am indeed creative, and might be suited to a career as a hairdresser. (This result was delivered on that old school printer paper with alternating white and green rows, and holes punched down the side).

Age sixteen:
Develop a mild obsession with the original VW Beetle and start designing an exhibition about the car during art classes.

Age seventeen:
Start making websites. Notice the word ‘making’ here, not ‘designing’ or ‘developing’. I still think that blurring the lines between the two disciplines is the surest way to creating a good website.

At this point I think the only graphic designers I was really aware of were David Carson and The Designers Republic. The latter from playing Wipeout, of course. Those graphics… so good…

Age eighteen:
Apply to study Visual Communication (graphic design, illustration, photography) at Glasgow School of Art. Got in. Not sure if having a pint beforehand helped calm my nerves or not but he, I got in.

Win the Photography and English prizes in my last year at school. Just scrape a B for A Level Maths which is my only “career” regret… if I could, I’d go back I’d swap it for Philosophy or History.

Take on my first commercial client (found by emailing businesses at random in the phone book and offering to build a website for £100). He had a fleet of wedding cars on the outskirts of Glasgow. Also start building a website for my landlord’s portfolio of student flats, but never finished the job. Think we might have been too ahead of the curve on that one.

Age nineteen:
My newly launched ‘Shoestringdesign’ studio website prophetically predicts that in ten years time, every business in the UK will have a website. Ha!


Posted to: Graphic Design