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Balancing distinction with familiarity - #MemberSpotlight

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Have you ever heard of a no-waste designer? Creative Director of Misfit Creative Pete Brady might be a first.

Pete believes that everything in design must have a purpose. There is no room for wasted space, no way that any part of a design may be left to chance. After being able to design touchpoints and collateral for the 2012 London Olympics, Pete brought his "distinct, yet familiar" style with him to Misfit Creative, a small agency that aims to "do things differently" rather than resort to the copy-paste job that is much seen in the design industry.

For this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about Pete as a creative, his life, his style and his most exciting dreams and applications – as well as the figures that inspired him the most throughout his professional life.

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How did you get into the industry?

I think like most designers it goes back to when I was a kid. Frantically scribbling patterns and then precisely colouring them in or constantly questioning everything and coming up with (what I now know to be) pointless ‘inventions’! 

I wasn’t a huge lover of school but I quickly realised the subjects that I liked and ploughed myself into those, Graphics, Art, Design Tech and Music and these are where I excelled. Before, after and during any class or free time, I would be drawing, I was always considered a Misfit by those around me. 

I left school at 16 and went straight into graphic design college to learn more about what I loved and that’s also where my freelance career started. I would take small projects from local companies for logo design which not only gave me a head start in creating a portfolio but taught me some valuable real word lessons early on. 

From there I went on to University to study BA Industrial Design where I was free to design anything from Cars to packaging. I was always questioning everything from annoying lecturers on why it ‘had to be this way’ to teaching myself new software in down time. At this moment in time I didn’t really know what I wanted to specialise in, so this gave me the freedom to explore all sides of the industry, whilst still freelancing on the side. 

When I finished university were deep into the recession where jobs were sparse, and design was still considered a mystery and didn’t have the platform it has today. Fortunately I still had a few freelance contracts so was able to ‘survive’ whilst job hunting designing for new companies that I found on Behance.

My first design agency job was in 2010 where I really landed on my feet and found myself designing packaging, advertising and products for the London 2012 Olympics and high-street jewellery brands. 

After the Olympics in 2012 was when I took the plunge. While I was at the agency I continued to freelance on the side and found that I was working all day for an agency and then freelancing all night and one had to give, so I took the decision to enter into the freelance world, which was bold given my age but I felt I had learnt a lot and made my mistakes early. 

My freelancing went from strength to strength and I saw an opening for the ‘smaller agency’ that would do things differently rather than the traditional copy paste in the design world, so I founded my first company, Misfit Creative. 

Since then, Misfit has grown to a worldwide client base and I often consult on the side for a lot of brands around the world. 

I consider myself to be very fortunate, but I would definitely say I have put in the graft and learnt from some harsh lessons. 

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I’m based in North London and for the past 12 years I have been running my own small digital studio Misfit Creative as well as consulting as a Senior UX/UI Designer for brands and companies as a such as Paris Saint-Germain, Leeds United, American Express and Cleave Court Jewellers, as well some incredible start-ups in Fintech, Crypto, Sports and Wellness. My particular focus is on UX/UI & branding and working collaboratively with clients to take their digital presence, apps or brand to the next level and trying to implement intelligent yet friendly solutions to a problem.

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

I have a few passions in my life, including photography, music and food. I think without a doubt I would be a Chef! I think cooking and design have a lot in common and I find it fascinating that a taste, smell or experience can transport you back to a memory or a moment in time anywhere in the world, as can a piece of artwork or immersive experience or photograph. 

I’m also a keen beer brewer with the hopes of starting a small micro-brewery soon. 

Can you explain your creative process?

My creative process differs somewhat project by project, but a common theme is research. 

Whether designing a new app or a new brand, benchmarking what is currently out there is a necessity and finding the pain points or areas of improvement really help come up with new ideas and interactions. 

If I’m branding, I delve into books and my Phaidon annual of Graphic Design, if I’m designing apps my go to place would be dribbble for styles and current trends. If it's advertising, I get out of the studio and digest the city to see what really speaks to me. Sometimes there is no better inspiration than immersing yourself in the daily life of a city.
To this day I still always sketch first, different shapes for logos or screen layouts for Apps before I move to the mac and start building the style and layering up high fidelity designs. 

Naturally there is always several rounds of feedback no matter what you are designing, but I always try to give a few variations on the design, one that is very close to the client request and others to challenge the client into thinking more deeply about their brand or product. I think challenging a client, in a productive and respectful way is a great way to take the design to the next level and create something they may have not thought of. Designers are hired for their creativity and passion, simply following a brief blindly is lazy.

I also think on a larger scale about my client’s projects. For me they are not just design projects but opportunities for positive change.  Thinking entrepreneurially about someone’s brand or product not only elevates the goals of the project but gets you thinking on a much higher level in terms of what’s possible. You can really influence the cognitive process of your audience through design and that to me is fascinating.

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How would you describe your style?

Overall, I would describe my style as clean and contemporary with some nods to the classics. My work balances distinction with familiarity.

I hate wasted space or design. Everything has to have a purpose. If it’s not instantly recognisable or easily understood, then it’s just noise and the users won’t interact.
How you use colour can really impact a design and how it is interpreted so I’m not one for throwing the whole colour palette at a project, I’d rather select a few complimentary colours to create a visual language. 

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Paula Scher, the way she thinks is so fascinating and all her work has a purpose. 

Aaron James Draplin, I think if all designers had the spirit and talent of this guy the world would be a better place! 

Philip Stark, not sure I really need to explain this one, just a legend.

Saul Bass, timeless!

Alex Atala (A Brasilian Chef) – Everything he makes is with passion and has a story of the people, and every ingredient has a purpose, something which I think strongly relates to design.

How has technology affected the way you work?

Technology has changed design in millions of ways for both the good and the bad. 
Now more than ever you are bombarded with design, I think it’s much more widely considered and recognised and the veil of mystery has been lifted somewhat, however tech has also somewhat of a negative effect on the design industry as a career where we see a lot of template sites or ‘get your logo designed for £5’ which means everyone and their cousin now thinks they are a ‘designer’. 

However it’s also had a huge positive impact on the industry and my career. Promoting my work now versus when I was first starting is so much easier, to be able to post a project and it instantly reaches the world is insane! 

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Also technology has allowed me to venture into different areas of design, particularly into my passion area of UX/UI. Apps didn’t exist when I first started out but with the advancement of tech I was able to delve into the world of apps, web and AR and really create meaningful and exciting experiences for users all around the world. 

The main challenge with tech, is staying ahead of the curve and using it with respect.
I’m really excited to see how future tech, in particular AR and AI will revolutionise a lot of industries and how we can leverage it in the design world.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Interesting question in this particular moment in time. Right now it’s harder than ever to keep motivated as we have all had projects disappear or put on hold during this pandemic. Freelancing or running your own business is stressful at the best of times but now we all have an extra burden and fear of the uncontrollable. 

A positive mindset is essential, things don’t last forever and that goes for the tough times, work will return, businesses will grow, new opportunities will come, so you need to be ready for when they do. Keeping your mind active is essential. If I find myself with free time, I will make up my own project and design something that I want to create, recently in lockdown I started to brand and design my own craft beer brewery as a passion project and designed a few apps that I’ve had scribbled down for a few months. I also check in on what’s going on in tech , what could I possibly be learning about now to use in future projects?

Pre-corona, I get out… I travel, I go to museums, even watching people use apps on the tube is inspiring for me, you can see where they get frustrated or which engagements put a smile on their face, its consumer behaviour in its simplest form. 

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

Designing for the London 2012 Olympics was definitely a highlight literally watching my city host the world and seeing my designs play a part of that was exciting and inspiring, especially at that early stage of my career. More recently, I have just completed the 
re-design of the Paris Saint-Germain App which is really a step forward in tech and design for football teams and how they engage with their fans in an ever changing fast paced industry. Freelancing in itself is an achievement for anybody especially for a long period of time and I’m proud to be able to do it.  

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How do you recharge away from the office?

The wife and I pack a suitcase and skip the country. Travel is important for me as it opens my eyes to other cultures, styles and colours and uses of tech. I’m super lucky to be able to travel to Brasil frequently and I often take home a lot of inspiration from there. 
I cook daily. If I’m stressed I cook, if I’m happy I cook… I’m no Michelin Chef but it really relaxes me and is an alternative form of creativity and expression that doesn’t have me sitting in front of a screen for hours. 

What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Stick to your values, don’t be afraid to push back if needed, charge what you are worth, diversify where you look for work / projects. 

If you want to go freelance, make sure you have some agency or ‘real world’ experience first as you will absorb and learn so much from those around you and don’t think the ‘system’ is the only way It can be done, anything is possible.

Also, self-promotion, this is advice I need to take myself as I am useless as promoting my own work but I have seen other creatives really flourish by putting out content daily, whether it be just inspiration or a finished piece of work. 

Lastly, keep your head up… you are not going to win every contract, land every job or get the most exciting projects every time but realise it’s all part of the big picture and will make you into the creative you want to be. I’ve seen so many truly gifted creatives throw in the towel because they aren’t doing what they love all the time or it’s just too much of an uphill struggle, obviously everyone is different but I hate to see wasted talent left on the table. 

What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

My biggest hope for the industry is that designers, artists and all creatives are seen and respected as a necessity and not an afterthought. I don’t think people realise every single thing in life has been designed, from the toothbrush to the app on your phone, it’s all had a designer's touch.  I’d also like to see quality prioritised over quantity. Bad design is everywhere…. Just because someone can use photoshop or design a brand for £5, doesn’t mean they should! 

I’d also love to see creativity nurtured from a younger age. There is so much emphasis put on ‘traditional careers’ in schools and careers in the arts are often smirked at or thought to be not real professions. I wonder how much more advanced, culturally diverse and beautiful the world would be if people could use the creativity inside them or embrace other people’s talents. As kids we are the most free we will ever be…. Nurture their talents and let them decide their path, as long as they can sustain a future from it and are happy… what’s wrong with that?

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If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?

There are still a lot of clients, big and small that seem to think designers and artists live, pay their bills and support families on thin air! We have all been asked to design for a miniscule budget or for free or the classic…. For exposure! This needs to change… you don’t engage with any other profession and ask for their work for free, so why are the creative industries like this? Unfortunately, I think we are partly to blame, as we have all, including myself, taken ‘that’ project for free or for exposure. The only real way for this to change is for it to change from the inside out and for us to stand up for our work and charge fairly for what we do and also educate potential clients on just how much work goes into a project. 

Again, I’d also love to see creative talent nurtured from a young age, now more than ever the world needs creative thinkers, doers, artists, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs etc. We need to be moving with the times. I think it’s really important that kids learn about AR, VR, Coding, Video creation, UX. These are just some examples, but this technology is the future, we should be teaching the next generation not only how to use it, but build it, respect it, create a culture around it, the possibilities are literally endless.

Universities also need to do more to prepare students for working in the big wide world. When I left university, I knew how to design for grades but in the industry you don’t get a mark, you get a very hard slap in the face from the Creative Director or the client. I often found myself designing two versions of the same project at university, one for the grades and one to put in my portfolio to attract clients. I think briefs in colleges and universities need to be more realistic and more open to interpretation, design isn’t something you can grade with a checklist it’s emotional, cognitive and most of all its subjective. 

More attention needs to be placed on what kind of work you should have in your portfolio based on the type of job you want to apply for and also entrepreneurship should also be encouraged. Starting your own business was not even a consideration for a ‘real job’ when I left Uni, it was all focussed on working for the big boys and not a single thing about setting up a company, taxes, self promotion. Why do we not encourage more people to pursue self employment or manufacture their products or go freelance? I think this culture is shifting
but only because of the creatives themselves are seeing a greater value in themselves not the institutions they have attended.

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

I’m a complete geek for brand guideline books! The NASA brand guidelines, the New York subway brand guide are complete brand porn and of course anything Bauhaus. These provide me with my inspiration and a sense of order when building a brand from a simple icon to a full scale brand.

I also love my Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design, Trademarks and Symbols by Yasaburo Kuwayama and Aaron James Draplin’s design book. 

Digitally outside of the usual sites Dribbble, Behance, Awwwwards and of course Creative Pool, as an industry I think we should really be looking more into podcasts, webinars, I personally find a lot of inspiration here as you get to know the though process behind things. Another great site I love to Savee.it just absolute design heaven.
Also check out Abstract – The Art of Design on Netflix, but ultimately who can resist going down the rabbit hole on Dribbble really?! 

Also don’t forget the traditional magazine. I have pages ripped out from 100’s of cult creative magazines, photography annuals etc, plus the paper smells great! 

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