Let me introduce you to my pal, Ben. Ben is the brawn and the brains behind Angel & Anchor, a design company based here in Northern Ireland. If I had a pound for every mega-talented friend that I had, I would be able to afford to install one of those laundry shoots in my house that goes straight from my bedroom to my laundry room, so I want to showcase some of that brilliance here.
I got to know Ben and his gorgeous wife, Nicole doing various activism volunteering with No More Traffik/Stop the Traffik and it's been really great watching his company start and develop. It's definitely true that if you work hard, and are nice to people that good things will happen - I believe this is what's happening for Ben with Angel & Anchor. It's also been great to work with Ben on a couple of different projects for work - he's reliable, and his eye for clean, attractive design is spot on.
Ben took some time to answer some of my nosey questions about Angel & Anchor - I love finding out a bit more about creative people, how they work and what inspires them so I thought I'd share Ben's insight with you:
1 // Angel & Anchor - Is there a story behind the name?
Nope. Although I wish there was! I loved the idea of having an ampersand in my logo so I began putting random words together with my friends to see what we came up with (dangerous). In the end Angel & Anchor was the winner! The ironic thing about it all was that I didn’t even use the ampersand in my logo in the end.
2 // How did you get into design? Where did you learn what you know now?
I have always been creative from a very young age. A lot of my primary school books were full of colourful drawings, and in secondary school I studied art at GCSE and A-Level. I suppose it feels like I’ve always painted or sketched. It was when I was 14, however where I can remember first getting into design. I got a free copy of Paint Shop Pro 7 with a pack of blank CD’s, and ever since then I self-taught myself everything I know to date. If I wanted to do something in my work but didn’t know how, I would search for the solution and pick things up that way. I’m excited to learn more and see what my work will look like in the next ten years!
3 // You dabble in many forms of creative design (show off!), what aspect makes you ‘tick’ the most? What kind of work makes you excited about your job?
I love that I’ve had the opportunity to be work with clients on different projects with really different needs. One day I could be making some pretty wedding stationery and the next I am drawing a badass skull for a band in Belfast.
As a lover of music, I really enjoy doing gig posters, EP/Album covers and other promo for musicians. There is a lot of freedom to be creative and use many different creative methods - painting, photography, illustration, digital art. It’s even better when you get a band or musicians who fully ‘gets it’ when it comes to their visuals and trust you to represent them. I’ve got a great relationship with The Emerald Armada boys, and I always get excited about working with them.
I also love the classic branding and identity work. I tend to build a really good relationship with the client over this stuff as we work together on the challenge of developing a visual representation of that thing they do.
4 // Where do you get inspiration for design from? How do you keep motivated to be continually creative?
It can be hard! Sometimes I find myself compulsively watching US Office so I don’t have to face the project that I have no ideas for! Other times I’m inspired by other creatives. There’s a great community of designers and letterers on Instagram (I'd like to say I am part of that!), and other renown designers who I follow regularly (Jessica Hische & Jon Contino).
A lot of the time I’ll get inspired by really random things from my day-to-day. It might be a conversation with my wife and friends, or letting my mind wander when I’m driving or going to sleep (not at the same time), or noticing cool packaging during our 'Friday big shop’. I guess I take in a lot of visual noise, and my mind organises that into an actual idea at some point.
I try to stay connected to some incredible local creatives. I love that for how divided Northern Ireland can be, it can also be really easy to connect with people. These could be photographers, writers, dreamers, designers, activists and makers - these guys inspire me.
5 // What would be your dream design job? What’s the big picture for Angel & Anchor?
A dream job would be doing limited edition screen printed posters for someone like James Vincent McMorrow, Haim or another well-known artist (Bey, give me a call). Another might be designing for an independent magazine, or clothing company.
The big picture for Angel & Anchor is to continue saying yes to projects, weird and wonderful, and see where it takes me. I would love for Angel & Anchor to be known for producing quality work, and maybe more so for music and branding.
( ^^ Remember Connor Scott from The Voice?! ^^ )
6 // What are your biggest design pet-peeves?
Where do I start?! Unrealistic expectations of how much it costs to hire a designer, overuse of Bebas Neue, hipster ‘X’ logos, when my teacher wife used Comic Sans for her class, generic stock photos and website landing pages. I think my biggest pet-peeve of working as a creative is a micro-managing client. I think projects work best when the designer and client have a good relationship and work together to find the perfect visual solution. To my despair, a lot of clients expect you to simply replicate other’s work or want to tell you how to do your job.
When I go to my favourite restaurant and ask for the special I don’t go into the kitchen and tell the chef how to cook it. I trust he knows better than I would because of his experience. I find design isn’t treated the same way, and it should be… rant over.
7 // What advice would you give other design/creative start-ups?
Be strategic about what work you do and the clients you work with… don’t just chase jobs because of money, but also because of what it will do for your development and your reputation. And if you do need to do those crappy flyer jobs (like we all do sometimes), don’t tell or show anyone!
Even if you don’t have work on, keep delivering good quality content online. Remind people you exist!
Lastly, don’t pretend to be something you are not. It frustrates me the amount of creative start-ups that say ‘we’ in their online content, when it’s obviously just one person, exaggerating the size of the operation. If it’s just you working from a laptop at Starbucks that’s great (and this was once me)! Be personal and allow people in on the journey you are embarking on. We all start somewhere.
I'm excited about the future of Angel & Anchor because Ben is the real deal.