Why every designer needs a bit on the side

We have these things called Stretch Projects at Straight Forward, things that interest us, take us into new areas and stretch our experiences. So when Mike had an idea for a book and Lenka wanted a book to design, we couldn’t ignore it.

People join this industry because they have great ideas, strong creative talent and a desire to produce brilliant work. And agencies employ them for the very same reasons.

But then day-to-day client commissions take over and that verve isn’t always nurtured or allowed to develop. There’s too much to get through…You’re running an agency…You need to keep the money coming in…Someone’s got to pay the lecky bill!

Press pause and breathe and you’ll see that it’s in every agency’s interests to make time for designers to explore, to flex their creative muscles and learn. And agencies and their clients will reap the rewards in spades. Happy creatives produce better work. People who are given scope to grow produce better work. Designers given free rein to experiment without fear of ‘failure’ produce better work.

Everyone at Straight Forward Design wants to learn, so we set up a Stretch Projects programme that allows them to have a go at something new and see what happens. It doesn’t matter if it works and gets progressed or not. It’s just a chance to suck it and see.

If you’re still not persuaded, look at Google. It famously encourages its staff members to devote 20 per cent of their time to side projects, and it continues to be one of the most innovative companies around.

Recently, I had an idea for book, and it turned out that one of the other designers here, Lenka, had had a desire to illustrate one for years. We carved out the time to create The Inconvenience of Human Movement, a funny pocket read that charts all those bothersome scenarios involving people doing things like standing in doorways, or text-walking, or cycling in the wrong direction down a one-way street.

It soon became clear that it wasn’t just me and Lenka getting wound up over these annoying traits – everyone on the team had a ‘human’ pet hate too. So Lenka set to work illustrating a bunch of different scenes, each with characterful line drawings representing the contributing staff members, and we all got together to compile the accompanying sardonic write-ups.

It was great fun and we loved it so much we decided to publish it. You can buy a copy if you want.

We reckon everyone’s got a bug bear and will recognise themselves in it, perp or prey

Find out more and get your copy