Learning to take constructive feedback with Sinelab

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Every work of art is like a child to its author. If you're creating a game, writing a book or spending time on an illustration, it is natural to feel attached to it. But how are you going to learn if you don't stay detached from your works?

Digital designer and illustrator at Sinelab Graham Hutchings has a few stories to tell about that. Graham believes you can never stop learning in the creative industry and you should always be open to new inputs and ideas. But if you get too attached to your works, you will not be able to take on board all the constructive criticism that can help you grow.

For this Company Spotlight we've learned more about the story of Sinelab, a company based in Wales which can boast clients from all over the world.


How was your company born and where are you based?

Sinelab is based outside of Cardiff in South Wales. I developed an interest in art at an early age with sketching and painting, and studied general art and design with a specialty in product design as an undergrad. I honed those skills at Bournemouth & Poole using traditional hands-on methods as computers where just starting out in the late 90's.

Upon leaving College I began work as a Product Designer at a local medical company. It's here I first got introduced to digital creativity. I saw an early flash experimental website using flash and 3D. It blew my mind and really wanted to learn more so I decided to go back to University to get a degree in Graphic Design.

In my final year I won a fellowship from the Royal Society of Arts RSA in London, which enabled me to travel to the US. There, in 2002, I was exposed to very cool work being created in 3D, while visiting various design agencies. I was really impressed by what I saw. After returning home I was extremely motivated and energised, I purchased a student version of Lightwave 3D and started playing with the software experimenting with photography, grids and 3D. Some magazines printed some of my work, my website got featured on a design portal and I picked up a book cover and magazine work and it grew from there.


Can you explain your team’s creative process?

Each illustration can start with a sketch or a new idea from the Art Director. Sometimes they just ask you to come up with the concept. It's important to research and understand the subject and not just create a pretty picture. If it's conceptual or a very dry subject or article then it can be nice to experiment graphically and play with colors and styles.

If it's very conceptual I will sketch it first and try to get some feedback but I might jump straight into 3D and mock up a rough illustration if time is short. Working in 3D can be quick and a great way to develop an idea. Once I have the idea I like to get all the elements built and stay away from lighting and rendering at the early stages as I find it easy to waste time at the beginning of a project. I personally find it better to have all the parts ready before looking at lighting and texturing.


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

The Internet is amazing for exposure and for the simple fact that you can be based in South Wales and be working for a magazine or agency anywhere in the world. Technology is always evolving and changing, I love learning new tools and software and I think in this industry you can never stop learning.

I think in this industry you can never stop learning.

When I was starting out, my first computer struggled with very large images and as more work came in I invested in software and more powerful hardware. I currently have a powerful computer with 4 Graphics cards and a powerful CPU which allows me to get images and animations done really quickly, but also allows me to work on the computer whilst rendering out images which can be a great time saver.


What’s your team’s secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Working and talking to creative people really helps ideas fuel other ideas. There's so much great art out there and it's more accessible than ever. I love looking at other people's work and try to spend a little time at the end of the day looking at creativity. I think it's a nice way to end the day which is why sites like Creativepool are great to see what other people have been working on.

When I see a great piece of work it ignites my creativity. It's always really good to have personal projects to develop your skills and try out ideas and styles. It's a great way to keep learning and to try out ideas and concepts.


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

There have been so many great projects but The Royal Mint 2020 Annual sets was the biggest project I have ever worked on and went on most of 2019 getting it ready for the 2020 launch. Once all the illustrations were created I had just a few weeks to get the animation completed. It was completely different to most magazine work which normally has a very short timescale from start to completion. I had time to add a lot of detail into each coin which can be seen if you get in close, and I really enjoyed the project.

The Magazine illustration that jumps to mind is the US Fortune 500 cover I got to work on. The Fortune 500 is such a famous issue and when I started doing illustration I always thought it would be really great to work on. The art directors at the time asked a few illustrators to produce illustrations for the issue and mine was chosen for the cover. It was a lot of work in a short space of time but great seeing it on the news channels and in print. I recently got to work on China's 500 cover with art director Rio Tang which was a fun one to work on.


How do you recharge away from the office?

I love cinema and films, they are always a great way to unwind, but when I feel like getting away from technology there's nothing like going for a walk close to nature or a quiet beach to feel refreshed.

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

Creatively, just create what you enjoy doing or you won't have the passion to develop it. Set yourself projects of the type of work you want to do and post it. I feel I still have so much to learn and I think you'll never feel 100% happy with anything you create. I suppose that is how you move forward.

After every project you do you see things you would have done differently but that's how you move forward and learn. I remember when I first started in 3D I only had a few weeks of software use and I posted an image of a aeroplane on a forum. It got some really harsh comments, a bit over the top when I think about it, but there were some great tips on how to make it better which really helped me learn faster at the time and pointed me in the right direction.

Learn to take criticism and don't get too attached to the work. Learn the business side of things, like how to deal with clients and keep them in the loop throughout the project. Learn how to manage your time efficiently, be conscious of how long tasks take to do so when you get a project you have a rough idea of how long you need to spend on the project. If you need to work late do it at the start to get on top of the workload.


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

I think the creative industry is in a great place right now and there has never been a better time to learn with all the open source programs out there for designers. A single person can create a short film on their computer or phone these days, and as technology advances so will creative opportunity. VR and AR have been interesting technologies in the last few years.

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

I think when working with smaller companies a designer's role can be undervalued. I've spent time creating concepts in the past and created ideas when the project didn't take off, but I was expected to spend time creating ideas for free. It's the same for pitching for projects. You wouldn't ask an electrician to spend time working for nothing. I've lost pitch work in the past only for the company to use part of the idea, or even the colours we selected.


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