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Rejecting perfection with one of graphic design's leading lights | #MemberSpotlight

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A creative director and designer with 25+ years experience working in the creative industry, Patrick Corley-Jackson has been involved with design agencies in the UK and US and has worked with some of the world's largest (and smallest) brands.

A safe pair of hands with a keen eye for detail, he describes himself as “A visionary partner for those searching for creative ideas and inspiration.” 

Career highlights include everything from working to develop creative strategies for both national and global brands including to founding the Scottish Design Company of the Year - Pure Design.

We caught up with Patrick this week to shine the #MemberSpotlight on this unique and accomplished creative individual.

How did you get into the industry?

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From an early age I knew I wanted to do some something creative although I could not put a name to what that might be until I read about ‘graphic design’ aged about 14. I still wasn’t entirely sure what it was but I thought it looked exciting and might fulfil the creative need I knew was in me.

My route into the graphic design industry was a pretty classic one. After completing ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels I spent three years studying on a BA Hons Degree in Visual Communication Design and Film. I felt very fortunate to have Heiner Jacob as my tutor, a renowned graphic design who, amongst many other standout projects, worked on the branding for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Needless to say I learned a huge amount from him.

After my final show I was picked up by one of the largest and most well know design agencies in Scotland to become a junior graphic designer.

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

Over the years I have had some big creative roles with some excellent design agencies in Edinburgh, London and the United States – working with some of world’s biggest brands. But now I prefer to work for myself, using my experience and expertise to help small and medium size businesses to develop, grow and prosper. I do this from my own studio, Monomo & Co, based in the heart of the Scottish Borders.

I am well and truly ‘over’ living in big cities. I loved it for a long while and I can’t knock it, but I now prefer working remotely surrounded by a beautifully quiet rural landscape.

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

It’s more than likely I would be a fine artist of some kind, perhaps a painter or photographer. Or something less obviously ‘creative’ like a sports psychologist.

Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?

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1.  Understanding the client and their organisation is absolutely key. Who are they? What do they do? What do they stand for? What do they value the most? Who are the characters involved? What motivates them? What are their aspirations? Sounds pretty obvious but exploring these questions is always time well spend. If this deep understanding of the client and their business is lacking then any final creative solution will be weaker for it.

2. I always try and make my design solutions as sustainable as possible. Often this means working backwards. If I start at the end of a product’s lifecycle I can rethink how to approach the design brief by researching materials, processes and emerging technologies in order to manage each project’s environmental footprint.

3. Reduce, reduce, reduce! When I reach a good creative solution for a project I then try and reduce it down to its fundamental components, leaving only those elements that make the idea actually work. This is because I have always believed that the simpler the design the more powerful the message.

How would you describe your style?

I guess my style merges European tradition with modernist clarity and simplicity. Though I always like to think that I have no one particular style other than the use of strong typography perhaps. Instead I let the brief lead me to the appropriate creative idea, the style and execution of a project emerges from that. 

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

WOW, where to start. I find inspiration everywhere. But as far as individuals or design groups go I would say Heiner Jacob (mentioned earlier), Alan Fletcher and Pentagram, Why Not Associates, Peter Saville. Dutch designers/agencies Gert Dumbar and Hard Werken.  US designers Paul Rand and Tibor Kalman. 

Universal Everything create really interesting projects. Closer to home I have a great admiration for Scottish based design agency Freytag Anderson, I love their simplicity of style. The list could go on.

What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?

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My advice would be to have a great online portfolio but, crucially, don’t put anything online which you are not 100% proud of or you think is too ‘safe’. Don’t make it all about the images, include a description of what you actually did to achieve the final creative result. This gives both clients and creative directors an insight into your working methods and thinking process. 

Stay inspired and take all feedback as an opportunity to improve you your portfolio and the way in which you work. Stay positive.

What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?

Give as much time, energy and dedication to developing new business and nurturing client relationships as you do to the creative side of your business.

What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?

A notebook, a pen and the camera on my phone. Ideas can appear out of nowhere and Inspiration can be found everywhere. So take notes, write down your ideas, make sketches and take photos of anything and everything that interests you. Some of my best ideas have come when sitting in a waiting room or travelling on public transport. Some have come from a random image I took six years earlier.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

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I keep my mind as well as my eyes open. If you try to look at things afresh, even things that are familiar, then Inspiration is literally everywhere. Next time you walk down the high street, the same high street you have walked down a hundred times before, try and see it with fresh eyes or with a new mind set. I guarantee you will see something new.

Essentially, as design professionals, we do this all the time when we are asked to look at a rebranding project.  So, why not do this every day and keep your mind active and inspired. 

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

Funnily enough it’s not the awards I have won and not necessarily the work I have produced, although I do take great pride in producing beautifully crafted and purposeful design projects. 

I am most proud of having the opportunity and privilege in nurturing, encouraging and inspiring young talented designers that I have worked with over the years. Some of who have now gone on to set up their own award winning design consultancies. It’s a source of great satisfaction.

I am also very proud of the fact that, some years ago, I took the decision to make my work much more sustainably focused. Through a process of self-education, talking with others and a little trial and error I now have the expertise to advise clients on how to reduce the environmental impact of their design projects and make more efficient use (or reuse) of natural resources.

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

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The over reliance on technology. Don’t get me wrong, computers and creative software are excellent tools and I would not be without them. But I do think sitting down with pen and paper to explore your thoughts and ideas is quicker, more serendipitous, more organic and, for me, much more fun than sitting at a computer.

This helps me see all my thoughts at a glance and discern if there’s any emerging themes or threads between the different ideas. I find it’s more difficult doing this within the constraints of the computer screen. In this sense, using pen and paper is liberating and I would like to see more designers going ‘unplugged’, at least during the initial stages of the creative process. 

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

Design books:

The Art of Looking Sideways – Alan Fletcher

Branding: In Five and a Half Steps – Michael Johnson

A Designer's Art – Paul Rand

Pentagram: The Compendium – David Gibbs and David Hillman

As a designer, I also want to understand human culture, social history, psychology and so on. So other books I would recommend would be:

Ways of Seeing – John Berger

Quiet – Susan Cain (about the differences between introverts and extroverts)

Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari (an account of the extraordinary history of human beings). 

Utopia for Realists - Rutger Bregman (The Case for Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-hour Workweek).

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