Between typography, graphic design and perseverance - #MemberSpotlight

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Iain Smith Dwight has a mind buzzing with energy and a creative spirit that never rests. From music to fashion, film and even more, Iain can easily find inspiration in any kind of creative industry that interests him, never afraid to take an extra step into the unknown.

Iain is a freelance Graphic Designer now based in Nottingham, where with time he was able to build a career and a reputation as a lecturer in marketing and communications. Though his creative background is strongly typographic, the decline of print is little concern to someone so adaptable and so keen to change his own approach at the right time.

For this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about the story of Iain and how he managed to keep up with the ever-changing world of design and creativity.


How did you get into the industry?

After graduating from the University of Northampton (UK) with a degree in Graphic Communication I was lucky enough to get a junior designers job (first rung on the ladder is sometimes always the hardest) at an events company. It was quite a ruthless company to work for looking back but my 2 years there with that first job were quite important ones.

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

I live in Nottingham and currently work for the Global Partnership for Education as a consultant graphic designer. I’m also a part-time lecturer at Nottingham Trent University on the Fashion Management, Marketing and Communication degree course by making a direct contribution from my own graphic design experience. I haven’t freelanced in over a decade so it’s a nice change to the 9-5 office life I’ve been used to and the flexible way of work really fits in with my life at the moment.


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

I always pondered on some kind career that involved creative writing as away from graphic design my brain is always fizzing with mad stuff. Either that or something music related I’d imagine as in my spare time I’m a DJ and club night promoter.

Can you explain your creative process?

It all depends on the particular job really, but the start of the process is always my favourite. It usually begins with lots of brainstorming and casting the net wide with ideas, however off-the-wall, and sketching them down quickly before honing them towards something a little more coherent that has legs so they can be developed. From there that always tends to be a good springboard to jump off.


How would you describe your style?

I wouldn’t say I have a style so to speak but I do come from a background of typography so a lot of my work leans more towards that.  I’m also really a frustrated illustrator (was never great at drawing) so tend to become drawn to general illustration that I can use in my work which when utilised with great graphic design can be a real winner.

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

There are too many to mention really but my first ‘hero’ will always be memorable. The American designer David Carson was someone who in the late nineties blew me away with his approach to magazine layout and general punk-style view of typography that opened the door to a lot of what could (and couldn’t be done).


If you had to pick one ideal client/employer, who would that be and why?

Leftlion in Nottingham have been great. Any opportunity where you get free reign to design what you want and be given creative free license is always welcome.

How has technology affected the way you work?

It can be quite a challenge to keep up with the ever-changing world that is moving so much quicker than when I entered the industry. The internet has obviously radically changed how we do things, print work is decreasing while online work is ever growing and I’m seeing more and more roles being sandwiched together (print/web/animation etc) but fortunately the basic skills all graphic designers possess are still very much needed regardless of your area of expertise.


What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Any creative industry really that sparks my interest keeps my brain buzzing. This could be music, fashion, film, food etc – sometimes stepping away from graphic design can be the most inspiring thing to do. Eventually you’ll see something that generates an exciting idea or concept from somewhere you wouldn’t have previously thought of.

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

The recent Leftlion magazine cover I’m particularly proud of as it was done in lockdown and won a competition to design a front cover for the magazine. The response was so overwhelming it eventually went on to be a poster run and now hangs in peoples lounges, kitchens, record rooms or toilets.


How do you recharge away from the office?

Family time is important although I’ve just had twins so not sure how recharged I’ll be when I eventually return to an office.

What is one tip for other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Stay at it and persevere. It’s not easy getting on the ladder for work, even almost 20 years in I struggle getting jobs at times but you’ll get there eventually. You’ll get a lot of knock backs but you’ll get used to it. If you’re just starting out, try to take on projects that might be good experience or look good in your portfolio but keep one eye on not being exploited. It’s very easy to get cajoled along with the ride before sometimes turning round and thinking “I should really be getting paid for this”. All experience is good experience though, even the set backs.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

Hard to pick just one but the ‘free pitch work’ has long been a bone of contention

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

Too many to mention, but these are good:


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