Living in the Limelight - Matt Davies Interview


Our Creative Director, Matt Davies, has been featured in a question and answer session on www.livinginthelimelight.com.

Why not give it a read below or follow the link to find out how Matt became a self made graphic designer and to get some design tips and advice!

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Where are you currently working?

I am currently the Creative Director and Owner of Creative digital agency Attitude Design in Nottingham, UK.

When did you realise you wanted to work within the Creative Design industry?
I knew from an early age that I would end up in the creative industry. I was always very good at being able to draw realistically and wanted to use this talent God had blessed me with. I thought I might end up being an illustrator or artist but my Father always used to say that you’d only make money being an artist after you had died – which didn’t seem like a great prospect! When I entered my teenage users I discovered the discipline of graphic design, typography and the Adobe Create Suite. I also began to understand that design was all about purpose. It’s focus is on a set of objectives and is not simply an expression of self. This appealed to me and so from my early teens I pursued a career in Graphic Design.

Did anyone in particular who inspired you to pursue this career?

Not really. There are obviously graphic designers like Paul Avery, Neville Broad and Paul Rand who inspired me but I was always keen to start making money for myself. I had a crazy drive to prove my worth in the “real world” and so at the age of 16 I had started freelancing under the “Attitude Design” brand. I entered the workplace working for a design agency in London and also other agencies when I moved to Nottingham. Later in life my wife Ruth was very supportive of me and so after a career spent working for others I decided to go for it in 2008 and make Attitude Design a limited company and work for myself. My team now consists of 7 people five years later.

When did you get your first big break in the industry?

I didn’t! My career is not one which had any huge breaks within it. I simply got my head down and with hard graft and God’s blessing my business is able to carve out a living. Recently though we have had some fantastic clients come on board which I suppose you could say were “big breaks”.

What has been your most memorable moment in your career and why?

After a year of working for myself at Attitude Design Ltd from my bedroom, I was fortunate enough to be commissioned with re-branding a local tourist attraction in Nottingham called “the Galleries of Justice Museum”. The re-brand was challenging consisted of a complete new overhaul from a very minimalist style which did not reflect the attractions experience at all to a more hand on and gritty style which reflected much more the experience a customer has when visiting the attraction for a day. One small aspect of this project was to produce massive banners which were printed and displayed outside of the museum’s building. These banners were the last thing to go up of the new branding.  I can remember seeing those designs for the first time and realising I had made it. That my designs were worth people paying for and having been involved all the way through from the initial pitch meetings, through concept meetings, to producing marketing materials and a website now to see the last piece of work presented to the public was an exciting and memorable moment. To see your work being used effectively is definitely the best reward for any graphic designer.
Another great memory I have is appearing as an “expert” for the Guardian whilst on a caravan holiday in Yorkshire. I was sat in a field with cows all around answering career questions live online. Quite a bizarre experience but I was really pleased to be involved. Finally I think it’s always amazing to see your name in print and I’ve been fortunate enough over the years that my work and the work of my team has been published in fantastic magazines like .new and computer arts and by amazing publishers like Tashan and Cambridge University Press.

If you had to go back, what would you do differently in your career?

Absolutely nothing! I have had a very steady career and been very fortunate and look forward to continuing to grow my business and make it more competitive in the new technological era we are in.

Where there any obstacles that you faced getting started in your chosen career? How did you overcome them?

I always had 2 things which could be seen as being against me during my early career:?One was my age. Having not gone to university but going straight into work I had 2 years agency experience before the age of 19. I remember working for various agencies between the ages of 19-22 and always having to “prove” myself to older team members who had being doing their jobs for years. At the same time I also had skills they did not – either in graphic design or in web development and online marketing. This was always tricky as sometimes I knew best but was felt like I was perceived as a little know it all squirt. To be fair I probably was a bit arrogant but never the less I was conscious of not being too aggressive with my ideas and tread on others toes. How did I get over such a hurdles? I got my head down. I worked hard. I expressed my views passionately but not aggressively and eventually people began to listen – the only problem for them was that I was board of the struggle and so in two companies I worked for I moved on just as they began to see my true worth.
I think in any team no matter how old or young it’s members are it’s important to cultivate a culture of mutual respect for the views of it’s members. At Attitude Design everyone on our team has an opportunity to chip in with an opinion and not feel threatened or bullied. This has been very important for our growth as many creative concepts have been born by ideas initially generated by discussions of junior members of the team.
Another obstacle I faced was not having a degree. To be fair this was not actually a real issue but it felt like a problem. The way I found around this was to demonstrate my value using real life examples and having a cracking portfolio. When going into interviews I used to really focus on the portfolio and made sure I talked passionately about each piece. If the subject of a degree ever came up I always found the best answer would be something like: “well I think this gives me the edge. I have not been moulded by the degree system and can often times find I think outside of the box instead of down the usual creative channels”. This, slightly arrogant response normally did the trick!
What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting off in the industry??Whilst completing a Graphic Design Course at college I worked for a small design agency called Re-activ, My boss at the time was a master at typography. His advise to focus on growing in typographic skills was probably the best advice any graphic designer can have as generally all aspects of graphic design consist of sending a written message to your audience. Knowing how to set text so that it is easy to read and beautiful is essential to any great graphic design.
At the same agency a French designer also gave me some cracking advice. He was keen on something we called the “concept” behind the design. He told me that finding the right creative idea behind anything you design is always something which gives your design the edge as it engages with a audiences emotions. A design shouldn’t just look lovely – it should connect. Sometimes clients do not allow you much freedom but that’s okay. They pay the bills. However every now and again you get a client who values creative ideas and they benefit by increased sales and brand exposure.
I have found in my career that these pieces of advice have been very useful.

What piece of advice would you give to emerging talent starting off today?

You need to be multi-disciplined and always learning. It’s no good to just know how to design for print. You need to be able to design for web, code, animate and understand a variety of marketing principles to be competitive. Do not box yourself into one discipline. Also make sure you keep an online portfolio of your work up to date. This worked very well for me in my career.

What is the one thing you couldn’t live without?

For me it’s my Bible. I’m not sure that’s the answer you were looking for but it’s true! I am an avid Bible student and am fascinated by Bible prophecy which for me proves the Bible is not just an ordinary book but a book written by a much higher power than man. It confirms my faith in a creator God. A God who is, ultimately, the greatest designer of all. Purpose flows through each of his creations but perhaps the most amazing thing is the message of the gospel found in the Bible which reveals his purpose with mankind and the future of the earth.