Learning the Power of Switching Off with Ryan Brown

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You're reading this sentence on a screen. No matter how big or small, that screen is with you for most of your day and keeps you connected at all times.

Technology has changed the way we all create and experience creativity, but it is also important to detach from it every once in a while. This is a lesson we're happy to have learned from head of design Ryan Brown, a creative with a burning passion for his craft who could have been many things in life – including a detective – but was lucky enough to fall in love with graphic design at a young age.

For this Member Spotlight, we discuss the importance of a healthy work-life balance, the impact of technology on creativity and how to enter the industry as a young professional.


How did you get into the industry?

Halfway through sixth form, I had no idea of what I wanted to do after completing my A-Levels, so it was with a chance encounter at a football match that I met the Head of Marketing for Warner Music, who offered me a month’s work experience in the media team. This was next door to the design department where I was studying A-Level art. I was drawn to the two guys working on album covers and ads, and asked to be transferred to work with them. I returned to school then knowing I wanted to be a graphic designer, and fortunately my art teacher pointed me toward Central St Martins for my Foundation, which started the journey of where I got to today.


If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I have no idea! My family all work in finance and insurance, so I guess I could have followed that path - although I’ve always loved the idea of being a detective!


Can you explain your creative process?

It varies from project to project - depending on deadlines and deliverables - but in an ideal situation, I’ll be able to research the subject, then create mood boards before starting with a series of (often indecipherable) sketches, before hitting the Mac. 

I’m a strong believer in collaboration and try to engage the client or stakeholder as early as possible and throughout the process to have their input and help bring their visions and ambitions to life.


How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

I’ve used Macs throughout my career, but like most people the introduction of the smart phone changed everything. We used to design logos with fax as the lowest common denominator, but now everything is mobile-first - colours, typefaces, logo-size.

Not only that, but the temptation to be ‘always-on’ is almost second nature now. We are all guilty of losing massive chunks of time to Instagram or emails, whether it be purposeful or otherwise. I’ve started to socially distance myself from my phone a couple of times a week, to be more present and let my mind do its thing and sort through all the visual information consumed in between. It’s been an uncomfortable, but liberating experience.


What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Try your hand at anything that vaguely interests you. Maybe you’ll find a new passion, maybe you’ll find out it’s not for you, but at least you understand what needs to go into the process. Follow your passions, but always try to make a difference - even a small one - in everything you can.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I’ve been fortunate to work on so many projects that when I chose this career I’d never have dreamed of. But I’m most proud of founding the Aaron Lewis Foundation back in 2008 following the death of my best friend, Lt Aaron Lewis. The work we do as a collective of volunteers continues to have a significant impact on the lives of so many back home in Essex, and on ex-military personnel nationally.

On a personal level, the design work that I’ve produced along the way is almost a visual evolution of my styles, passions and skills, culminating most recently in the 10-year anniversary rebrand - something I’m really proud of (featured on CP).


How do you recharge away from the office?

Terribly! I have two small children, so ‘recharging’ isn’t really a thing right now! Does watching Frozen on repeat count? I’ve seen the entire Hey Duggee! back-catalogue around 35 times. The temptation to fit work or personal projects into the end of every day, seven days a week is often too great, so I have to be quite disciplined to ensure I switch off for at least one evening and watch a movie, read a book or do anything away from the Mac.


What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Don’t give up. Even before Covid, it was a tough often disparaging pursuit just to get a foot in the industry door. But have confidence and faith that if you really want it you will get there.

Hustle hard - try and get an audience with as many creative directors or working designers as you can, ask for feedback on your portfolio, sign up for internships, network at events and lectures… this early in your career you want to people to know you’re hungry and passionate. You’ll be surprised how many established professionals will want to help - we’ve all been there!

Finally, find a mentor; ask for help and critiques, try and understand your passions and strengths. Having someone that you can reach out to for advice, support - and sometimes just encouragement - is invaluable.


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