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Inspiring Package Design Book Box Bottle Bag from the Dieline

dieline package design

I have only seen very few package design books that I really like, but Box Bottle Bag is definitely one of them. You wouldn’t really expect any less when it’s brought to you by The Dieline a fantastic blog all about packaging.

This book is a feast of eye candy paired with a brief sentence or two about each piece along with who created it and the font they used. Quite surprisingly good old Helvetica seems to be a firm favourite throughout many pieces of packaging in the book.

This is not a book to learn the design process or real thinking behind projects but is is a book of beautiful  work great for flicking through for Inspiration.

I especially like the way the book is broken into unexpected sections. While you might expect this to be done by packaging area, ie. food and drink, you instead find sections labelled things like Bold, Casual and Nostalgic.

If you design packaging or have aspirations to do so, this is a book for you.

A Sneak Peak inside Box Bottle Bag

package design book from the Dieline

packaging design inspiration

Creative packaging book

What are your favourite books about packaging design?

Tips on Running a Web Design Business

rob cubbon freelance designerRob Cubbon is a graphic and web designer, a prominent design blogger and has also recently written a book all about running a web design business. I asked Rob to share a bit of his design background and offer his advice to anyone who wants to know how to start up a web design company.

Please could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background as a graphic and web designer?

Rob: I never went to a design school or college. I used to work for newspapers and magazines and witnessed the “desktop publishing” revolution. I taught myself Quark and Photoshop and gradually got more and more artworking and design roles within the print industry.

After years of freelancing punctuated with the odd spell abroad teaching English, I eventually got round to setting up my own website in 2005. After only a few months of blogging I had clients contacting me for work. I then set up my own company. For two years I spent half my time freelancing in design and marketing companies in central London and half my time working for my own clients at home. And for the last 3 to 4 years I’ve been solely working from home on my own business, increasingly supplying web design and related services.

You have recently written a book called “Running a Web Design Business” please could you explain what motivated you to write it?

book about running a web design businessRob: Looking around at the successful design blogs, I found there were great tutorials sites explaining how to create everything and anything technically and artistically. There are also a great number of blogs that provide fantastic inspiration for designers. But, where I don’t see a great deal of information is on the business side of graphic design – how to get clients, how to handle projects, what to charge, etc. And these are the questions my readers were also interested in.

What have you found has been the biggest factor to your success of running a web design business?

Rob: It’s not artistic talent. Although being able to produce graphic communication that works for the client and the market in an aesthetically pleasing manner is tremendously important and is something that I work hard on – it’s not my strongest point. However, I do think I’ve developed systems to attract the best sort of clients and then to evolve a long-term mutually beneficial partnership with them. I think that’s helped me grow the business over the years.

As part of your research for the book you reached out to a lot of well know web designers and bloggers. Were there any answers that surprised you from your research?

Rob: Virtually all the answers surprised me in some way, although it surprised me that their answers were similar to mine. The fact that none of us spend any more than 50% of our work time designing shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. And then only a narrow majority of the designers always use a contract surprised me a little but this showed the trust that exists after having created a good relationship.

If you were offering advice to someone just starting out what would be your two top tips?

Rob: The first thing I always say is to concentrate on your own site. Not only do you really have to get it looking great and present your work as well as you can, but also you have to be continually working on your blog as that will attract the visitors amongst which will be your potential customers.

Second to blogging will be relationships. Relationships with other designers online, with your existing clients and with other business people in your communities (both real local meetings and in online communities) – these are great for leads.

Where can people find out more about you and get a copy of your book ”Running a Web Design Business?”

The best place to find me is my website or Twitter @RobCubbon – I’m always happy to hear from people and answer any questions. The book is a available for download here: there is also a free version of 20% of the content which is given to you if you sign up for my newsletter.

Design Graduates Clever CV Campaign Wins him his Dream Design Job

Ryan Mcleod Design Graduate's clever cv gets him his first design jobIn this interview Ryan MCleod talks about how he got his first design job through a clever cv campaign

Tara: Please can you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you work and the type of work you do?

Ryan: I work for a full service digital agency called Equator in Glasgow, Scotland ( We do a whole host of digital media based work like websites, campaigns, social media stuff and apps. I’m part of the design team who work on all the concepts and visuals covering a few disciplines but mainly graphic and interaction design. We work with a whole range of companies across many sectors including hotels, energy, financial and consumer goods.

Tara: You got yourself noticed by creating a really clever promotion to  get yourself a job out of University, please could you explain what you did and  how you came up with the idea?

Ryan: After graduating from my undergraduate degree (Interactive Media Design) I decided that I wanted to stay in academia for another year and do a Masters in Design. It was early in my masters year that I decided my next step would be into the industry of digital design so I decided to craft myself a CV and associated campaign. Before I started coming up with ideas or creating designs, I sat down and wrote out all the elements I needed to consider in my application:

  • I wanted a job doing digital design
  • I wanted to stay in Scotland
  • I wanted to aim high and work for the best company possible
  • I needed something that would catch an employer’s attention
  • I needed to create something memorable
  • My campaign had to have the flexibility to be customised for each job
  • The job had to start in September after I had finished my Masters of Design

Taking all this into consideration I started to brainstorm some ideas. I wanted to create an application that was memorable and I felt the best way to do this would be through a physical object. So that even if I didn’t get the job, they would keep the object and I would be kept at the back of their minds until the future. So I decided to go with an object that every office has lots of and something people use multiple times a day, a mug but I couldn’t write my CV and qualifications on a mug. I decided to make my entire application digital as it would be easier to customise and I already had an online portfolio. I sent out the mug with a card inside that said ‘The countdown has begun’ with a URL and a password. The URL revealed a countdown timer, which counted down to the point at which I finished my masters and was available for employment. Once the password was entered it revealed my customised covering letter with the company logo and links to my portfolio, CV, twitter, blog and contact details. I had planned to roll this out across several agencies but in the end the campaign worked first time and landed me a job at Equator, the biggest digital agency in Scotland.

Tara: You have now created a guide for design students and graduates looking for work please could you tell me a bit about it and why you created it?

Ryan: It’s an aim of Equator to influence design education and help students be better prepared when graduating and as a graduate of Art College I feel I have a bit of a responsibility to share the knowledge I have gained working in industry. As part of this objective I have been guest lecturing and tutoring on the Digital Interaction Design course at Dundee University. As part of this I have tried to give the students an insight into agency life and an overview of the processes we use on a daily basis. During one of the Q&A sessions I had I noticed a lot questions about CVs and self promotion. So I decided the best way to help the students would be to create a simple guide to creating a creative CV. Initially the guide was only intended for the students I was working with but I soon saw the potential it had to help anyone looking for employment in the creative industries. After uploading the document to slideshare and emailing it out to all the design courses in the UK there has been
nearly 10,000 views, nearly 400 downloads, 220 facebook likes and 150 tweets about it.

Tara: Both you and the company you work for are trying to have an impact on design in education, please could tell me what sort of things you are doing?

Ryan: Equator have been working with a couple of other Universities, sending in members of the design team to talk to the students about industry life and tutoring the students through creative briefs as part of their course work. This work and the CV guide are starting points in having a positive impact on design education and something which Equator is aiming to build upon in the future. In terms of the guides, I have already created a second guide on inspiration that will be getting released shortly and I have been speaking to more students about what kinds of guides they would like to see next. The plan is to develop a site to showcase all these guides and create a useful resource for students, graduates and anyone else who might be interested.

Tara: Where can people find out more about you and connect with you?


Skitch more than just Screen Capture for Mac

Skitch is a great free piece of screen capture software for mac, but it does a lot more than just straight screen shots. Skitch will also allow you to just drag images straight off the web and annotate them with arrows text and shapes if you need to. You can send the files straight to Evernote, attach to an email or drag out to other apps. I made a quick video to show you how it works (plus I got to experiment with Screenflow at the same time too 🙂 )

Skitch is owned by the same people that make Evernote and is also available for iphone/ipad and android – find out more at

Interview with Childrens Illustrator and Toy Designer Claude Bonnaud

Claude Bonnaud is a toy designer and children’s illustrator who has also licensed his own children’s character brand. Claude kindly agreed to share some of his experiences of working on the sort of design projects many of us would dream of.

1. Please could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started as a designer and illustrator?

claude bonnaud toy designerI am originally from France (Paris) where I trained as a graphic designer in the marketing and advertising industry. Back then being a designer was very different from nowadays: most of the work was done by hand and the learning curve was much slower.

My first job as a designer in an advertising company consisted in making black and white photocopies for the art director’s projects. I gradually worked my way up until I was confident enough to become a creative consultant.

I came to England 22 years ago to work as a freelancer on a 3 months contract and never returned home.

2. You now specialise in design work for the children’s industry, what bought you to this niche and what do you like about it?

Since I left art school, I always wanted to work as a children’s book illustrator and when the licensing industry “exploded” in the 90’s it was really an opportunity for me to show what I could do. Disney and Warner Brother were continually looking for artists who could draw their characters and designers who could apply them to merchandising. The fact that I could do both was a very valuable bonus.

I opened my first design studio (Kid Cartoons & Design) in 1995 and we very quickly specialised in the licensing industry with a huge accent in children’s fashion and accessories (with occasional projects for novelty gifts and toys packaging).

In 2007 I left the company (and London) to relocate in Dorset and start a  “home based” graphic design and illustrations studio. I really wanted specialise in every aspect of the children’s merchandising. I find the toy and novelty gift industry very exciting; especially now with modern technology merging into it.

3. You work both on creating 2D designs and also designing more 3 dimensional products like toys. What tools and software do you use for each and do you have any tips for taking a designers skills and moving into 3 dimensional  products?

I work mainly on computer using Adobe illustrator in addition of Photoshop for projects involving photographic input. There are others software available to create 3D designs, but they are more time consuming and not always cost effective to include in a competitive pricing. Also I love working with a pen and pad (manually or digital), as the ability to draw is the key skill for expressing any idea on paper.

4. Please could you talk through the design process for one of your favourite projects that you have worked on?

I regularly contribute to develop new ideas for Vivid Imaginations range of toys. It usually starts with creating an illustration showing how the toy would look like. At that stage we spend lot of time modifying and tweaking each aspect of the original ideas. Then we move on to a coloured version which bring the concept into 3D.

Once the project is approved a real 3D model is produced and more amendments are added. I usually don’t get involve with this phase but I start contributing to any side artwork necessary to the final product like illustrations, graphic artwork, sticker or instruction sheets and sometime packaging. It’s always a fast moving and fun process, and I get to experience all aspects of creating new toys and games. The real kick for me, is usually a year later when I get to see the final product in shops, ready to be sold.

toy design for vivid imaginations

5. You have published several children’s books, please could you share a bit about your experience of that?

In 2008 in collabation with Sasha Felix from Sing and Sign ( we created a mini series of 3 “lift-the-flap” children’s books: “Where is Jessie?” which won the Practical Pre-School Award. I contacted Sasha earlier that year and she was looking for an illustrator to develop some children’s characters to accompany her teaching technique.

The books were so fun to work on as their format included lot of little details in each page to keep children interested. Each illustration focused on one world and one sign and in the process I learn a lot about babies’ language.

In addition to the illustrations I also produced the final layout of each book and I was able to give to this mini series a real identity. Sasha was such a pleasure to work with and gave me complete freedom of creativity.

childrens book illustration

6. You have licensed some of your work, how did you make contacts and did you use an agent?

licensed character designsYears ago I developed a children’s brand called “Big is Beautiful” (aimed at children with weight difficulties and had an educational “healthy eating” message). At the time, the license had a modest success, but triggered lot of support from some companies. The licensed aspect of the brand was fairly straightforward but it involves a tremendous amount of marketing and media exposure. The competition was also extremely fierce at the time and eventually “Big is Beautiful” was no more. The experience was interesting, but bank and nerves wracking…

7. What advice would you give anyone looking to license their design or illustration work?

First of all: Have a very tight marketing plan. There is no point in licensing your work if you don’t know where it will fit in the market ahead. We all hope that success would occur over night, but it usually takes 2 to 3 years to impose a new brand.

Secondly: Be very ‘hands-on” with your budget: Licensing, copyrighting and marketing your designs can be an expensive business if you choose to do it yourself.

Finally: Do your homework. Talk to licensing agencies and people who are currently going though this process. There is a lot to acknowledge and to think about to achieve a successful license.

8. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

I have a website, showing my portfolio, a Linked-in account for all my business contacts, and a Twitter account which I use to share tips and links related to freelancing, graphic designing and illustrating.


Graduate in Graphic Design versus the Mature Designer the Challenges

graduate designer anology climbing up a mountain

With the economy in the state its in, being a graduate in graphic design at the moment must be very difficult. At any financial time good or bad, getting that first elusive design job is always the hardest, it’s the chicken and egg thing, everyone wants design experience but how to you get it if you have only just graduated. In this blog an anonymous graduate graphic designer shares his/her problems of trying to get a Graphic Design Job in London.

So is it easier for the more mature designer than the graphic design graduate?

I think perhaps the problem can be almost as bad for the older designer. If you are a more mature designer who has lost your design job due to redundancy the issue may be that you are now considered too expensive, especially with so many others out of work. As a more mature designer with possible mortgage, family etc there are more rigid requirements of a certain level of wages and less time to put in those long hours to get jobs done or learn new software.

It’s the same with freelancing, the more mature designer must be able to differentiate themselves enough and show their experience and reliability in order to be able to challenge the cheaper quotes of younger designers and new graduates.

From my own personal perspective I used to worry that my design would not be as trendy as a younger designer, but then if you think about it in a lot of projects trendy is neither wanted or suitable for the job.

Can you be too old to be a designer?

I posted on Linked In recently to ask Can you be too old to be a Designer and got some interesting responses you can read here

Check out also an insightful post on the Creative Freelancer Blog called “Too old to be a designer” which the blogger Laurel Black states “I have been told that if you are over 40, no agency will hire you. If that’s true, what happens to all these people when they get laid off?”

So what is the answer for both graduate designers and mature designers alike?

I think it is case of standing out amongst the crowd, networking and finding your perfect design niche. It’s the sweet spot where there is demand and where you are considered the go to person in that field? Just off to look for my sweet spot (oops that sounds a bit rude!)

What do you think? How have you found your graphic design sweet spot?

Free Pitching for Design Jobs Don’t Make the Mistakes I Did

Warning Sign for Free PitchingLike anyone, in the course of my freelance graphic design career I have made some mistakes, one of those being that in my earlier freelancing days I did some free pitching (won a few lost a few). It’s something I haven’t done for a long time now and I wanted to explain why, so you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

5 Reasons Why Free Pitching for a Design Job is a Mistake

1. You need to increase your prices by 3 or 4 times

Let’s face it if you are free pitching you probably won’t know how many people you are pitching against, but at a guess it’s a minimum of 2 others. So the odds of you getting the job are 1 in 3, which means that in order to make as much as you would for doing normal paid work you need to charge at least three times more.

2. Winner doesn’t take all

Because winning one job doesn’t mean you will get all the rest of the work. I have pitched and won a job, but the majority of the rest of the companies’ work was done in house.

3. No one may win the work

Just because a company have asked designers to free pitch does not mean they will award it the work to anyone. In the past I have free pitched and then the client has decided not to go ahead with the job with anyone. Of course it was no skin of their nose as they hadn’t paid anything to any of the designers/design agencies who took part.

4. You can’t necessarily give your best work

If you are quiet a free pitch seems like it’s not a bad idea as you have plenty of time to spend on it. So what happens when you get a few paid jobs in? You then have a choice, put in a second rate effort with the time you have or pull out of the free pitch last minute (I have done the latter) neither of which look good on you.

5. Your work might be copied

Imagine you have done your free pitch, but unfortunately you didn’t win the job, there is still a chance elements of your work may appear in the final design. I don’t even mean through total plagiarism, but perhaps the client liked some of the elements you used in your design or the colours or fonts you used, chances are they will somehow incorporate them into the final design however innocently (or not).

I haven’t done a free pitch in a long time and if you are thinking about it BEWARE. The only way I can see when Free Pitching could be a viable option would be if it was to win all of a companies’ design work and not simply one job.

What do you think about free pitching? Have you done it yourself? Would you do it again? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Other articles from around the web on the topic of free pitching

Graphic Design Competition to Create a Typographic Poster about Sport

Take part in a graphic design competition from Conqueror which is inspired by sport (in line with the year of the Olympics in the UK).

The brief: to design a typographical poster about sports using the phrase “It’s not what you win, but how you conquer it.”

  • Gold Prize: An Olympic Weekend which includes 2 tickets to the 2012 Olympic Games in London
  • Silver Prize x 5: 1pair Bike ID Shoes, feature in Creative Review
  • Bronze Prize x 7: Artwork displayed in Creative Review

The design competition is free to enter (paid competitions are a bugbear of mine) and you can find more details at

Student Designer Profile Tom Hughes University College Falmouth

Tom Hughes student designerStudent designer Tom Hughes who is currently studying animation at University College Falmouth got in touch with me by email recently. Hi just said that he was getting in touch with different organisations to show them his work, sent me a link to his work and said “Not entirely sure where it’s going to go from there but hey, you got to start somewhere right?” I thought was quite funny 🙂 but also showed a lot of initiative. I liked some of Tom’s illustration work and so asked him if he would be interested in doing a mini interview and show off some of his work on my blog.

1. What is you name and Website/ Design Portfolio URL?

Name: Tom Hughes.

2. What you are studying and where?

I am studying BA Hons in Animation at University College Falmouth (UCF)

3. Please could you share a couple of your favourite pieces of your work and talk me through them?

Most of my work/drawings are self set projects, so I don’t usually have a brief. Of course I am always looking for commissioned projects as well. I guess this gives me the creative freedom to do what I want. I am very much into design, typography and Illustration.
Things that are different and clever definitely interest me. Usually, as soon as I think of something, I want to get on doing it straight away!

Some of my design work:

This is a set of 5 typography posters I did, showing what the typical mum says to their child. I came up with the idea when my mum called me one day telling to be careful about something silly (most probably) which got me thinking, as mums are notorious worriers they tend to make things up..which then tend to spread. That is where the posters come in. Pretty much anyone can relate to them!

student design work

This illustration is one of my favorites. I love ‘forgotten’ animals (animals in which people forget exist) like the manatee, or the giant ant eater. I do have a favorite and that’s the Narwhal. This print is quite simply a Narwhal doing what gentlemen do best. Complete with his mustache and monocle. He’s a friendly fella.

student illustration work

Along with design and the rest of it I am very much into puns and word play. It can be immensely clever I think. This illustration is of (the best) sitcom main character of all time. In my eyes anyway. But then using who he is and putting it into everyday life. I think it’s quite fun 🙂

For all my work I use Microsoft Paint which may come to a bit of a surprise.. I taught myself from an early age and can now manipulate it, I guess, to create designs and drawings of that done on a more advanced software. I am slowly learning to use others like illustrator etc… but for me nothing beats the old school. It’s just the way I work.

student designer portfolio piece

4. What are your favourite things about your course?

I have many favorite things about my course. All the people I work with are friendly which make it a nice environment. Over the years I have learned a lot I didn’t know about, theory and practical  based. However I now look at an animation for the way its made and not how pretty it looks and the story line. It’s become habit to me and my fellow classmates.

5. What are your ambitions for the future?

I would simply love to be a freelance Illustrator/Designer. Just to have people look at my work and say ‘wow’ would make me happy.

6. What other artists, designers or illustrators do you admire?

A man called Keaton Henson who is pretty well known is a big inspiration to me. I love all his illustrations and his music isn’t bad either. A designer that inspires me is a man called Olly Moss. He does a lot of typography and poster based stuff. All of which is very clever.

7. Do you read any design magazines or blogs that you would recommend to other student designers?

I don’t really read a lot of magazines. I love little local ‘zines’ around uni. I am hopefully going to have some of my work in one soon. But I do follow many different design/illustration blogs all over the internet. They are always giving me a lot of inspiration.

If you are a student or recent graduate designer with an interesting story you would like to share on this blog please get in touch.

Why Graphic Design is like Sex

Why graphic design is like sex

The virgin

The virgin…aka the blank white piece of paper you encounter at the beginning of every creative job. There is fear and uncertainty of the unknown (exciting though).

A bit of foreplay

Sketching, exploration of ideas and a bit of frustration when something does not quite have the desired result. Then when things seem to be going right and you know you have had a good idea you start thinking OMG OMG this could be it, but first…

The Kama Sutra

You need to take that great idea and work out the best positions for logos, images and typography. A lot of experimentation is required to make sure everything fits together perfectly.

The headache

If the Kama Sutra of design positioning does not go quite as planned you may find yourself feeling totally deflated with a major design headache that completely puts you off your stride.

The climax

When a great idea finally meets great style and layout ultimately that Harry Met Sally moment will arrive and you can barely contain yourself.

Showing off your babies

With any luck you will find your client cooing over your newly born babies, just hope they don’t start switching the new born babys’ outfits around so you end up with a mismatched monster. Worse still, you hope that they don’t like the ugly baby that just tagged along for the ride.