Week 8: Critical Reflective Journal

This week’s resources took us back to our case study creatives, answering the questions:

  • What would you like to be doing that you are not doing in your work?
  • How important are side-projects and are you currently working on any?

As with previous weeks, there was a wonderful range of answers from the creatives. Manchipp from SomeOne said that he wouldn’t choose anything else, because he has worked very hard to create an agency to enable him to do the work he wants to do: a variety of projects that stretch him, that are radically different and strategic and forward-thinking. From there, the studio is inventing its own projects and software to allow it to further its working processes and techniques.

Sam Winston has found that he has designed his career so that he can’t imagine not doing what he is doing, and that he tends to create his side projects and bring them into reality as his main project.

Sarah Boris would like to work more with other materials such as rugs and textiles for homeware, and creating collaborations in order to do so.

Intro recommends getting outside more and that personal projects take the pressure off main hustles, maybe by allowing you to be more objective about them?

It feels like a range of answers approached in a different way: clearly, each individual is enormously satisfied with what they do, and it is nice to get behind their public image.

What would I like to be doing that I am not doing in my work?

COLOUR! I want to use all the colour. I typeset mono fiction books and sometimes I worry that my use of colour is not developing.

I want to be starting more of my own projects that mean something and push boundaries and are seen by more people. I want to collaborate with others in different fields to create projects that are really special.

What side projects am I working on?

Currently, I am finishing off a friends’ wedding stationery for their wedding on Friday, which is the first I’ve done. I offered to do it as I had never done a set before and was interested in creating a range of products with the same theme. It’s worked well: they are simple and are based on a piece of artwork the couple commissioned. I’ll have better photos when the wedding is here!

On top of that, I am doing maintainance work on my aunt’s non-alcoholic drink range. The drinks and brand are her creation, and I worked with her to develop the logo, branding, labels, photography and website, as well as point-of-sale materials. It’s been developing for the past eighteen months or so, and as her business grows, the needs of the labels change too. For example, I have recently added EAN barcodes to the labels so that they can be sold into distributors and larger shops. Sometimes this kind of work is frustrating and not creative, but it is very much necessary and part of the deal when taking on work like this. It’s a pleasure to see my aunt’s business build and flourish.

Other self-started work is … nil at the moment: I’ve chosen to focus on the course and work time-wise and do not want to split my attention further. I’ve turned down some commissions for this reason, and they wouldn’t further my skills enough to be worth it. Harsh, but true. However, I do have a few ideas percolating that I would like to bring into life when the time is right.

Brian Eno: Oblique Strategies

I had not heard of this before, but I can see how these cards have had an influence and the idea has been used by other people. The cards themselves seem difficult to get hold of, and so someone has created a webpage using the cards. Wikipedia also lists a few examples:

  • Use an old idea.
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.
  • Gardening not Architecture.

They are a useful intervention when you feel like a creative project has slowed to a halt and you can’t see a way around it. The cards do not necessarily introduce any new ideas, but the randomness of the selection of the card, and that they are written by a creative authority, gives your mind permission to step outside of itself and consider a different option.

A while back I bought the School of Life’s “Know Yourself” cards, and School of Life is on our reading lists quite a bit, so here I am, going to be a little vulnerable. These are questions designed to make you question yourself, rather than suggestions by Eno. (I’ve preselected cards because they aren’t all to do with careers and vocations, and there is a limited amount I want to put public on the internet):

Lift five things that are important to you in your life. How much of your time do you give to each of these?

Family, friends, creativity, food, running. These seem to be quite broad! I don’t spend enough time with family: although I  call my parents once a week, and text in between, I can go weeks without talking to my brother. That’s not always my fault, and we are always there for each other when needed. Friends: I don’t have a core group of friends as such, I feel like I flit between different groups, and always have. I have great friends through work and activities and then some I’ve picked up along the way. Sometimes I try to combine groups, which can go great or terribly. Creativity is my main occupation, and what I spend the most time thinking about. It might not be the type of creativity I am supposed to think about (for example, the course, or work) but my mind is usually creating. It has taken a long time to learn how to refine and focus my ideas. I’m not a foodie: I like eating food, preferably when I haven’t had to make it! I see it more as a fuel but do appreciate good food.

Rank in order of importance for you in your career: money, status, creativity, social impact, colleagues.

Creativity, colleagues, status, money, social impact.

What often impairs your decision-making process?

Perfectionism, or the idea of what it should be. I sometimes worry about the execution and the minor details so right that I stall because to carry on would create something imperfect. Sometimes I get so caught up in the planning and excitement of the idea that I find it challenging to see it through to the end. It’s almost the opposite of the other. Both of these things I am tempering with CBT-style techniques.

When do you cry or want to cry (as an adult)?

I’ve always been pretty tearful. Whenever I face a hard situation, my default physiological response is to cry. Upset? Tears. Sad? Tears. Anger? Tears. Frustrated? Tears. It would be more useful to express my negative emotions in other ways, for example, anger, by not crying as it can look infantile when in a professional setting. Why this response has developed has an interesting root (not for the internet). Sometimes, though, if I am alone, I have a massive cry, let it all out and then I find my bounceback is greater than it would be suppressing the emotion.

What things do you often buy that don’t – on reflection, much of the time – actually satisfy you that much?

Clothes and confectionary! Oh, the dresses look so lovely modelled by lithe models in bright studios! When I get them, I am reminded of how much the clothes are pinned for the photoshoot, and how by modelling the clothes to the average shape, they fit nobody quite right. Forget about trousers: they are designed for people without thighs. The newness quickly wears off. With sweets, the idea is always more satisfying than reality.

I Ching

I came across I Ching as it was mentioned as being used by Mary Malone in His Dark Materials as a way of helping her make a decision, much like the Brian Eno cards. It does involve, in the books, a certain otherworldly element, but it has been used as a system of divination the Chinese culture for over two millennia.

Short and long yarrow stalks are used to form long and broken lines of six (a hexagram), and there are sixty-four hexagrams arranged like so:


Through a process I don’t quite understand, the stalks go through the process of “dividing and counting, dividing and counting and setting aside … she soon found the ritual coming back … she came to the numbers which indicated the hexagram she was being given … and then she looked up the meaning. She read:
Turning to the summit
for provision of nourishment
brings good fortune.
Spying about with sharp eyes
Like a tiger with insatiable craving.” (Pullman, 2011).

The hexagram meanings given seem to be more like horoscopes: open to interpretation and how much can it really give you? However, it is a system that absorbs the diviner ritually and gives a new perspective that allows the diviner to make a decision.

Weird stuff I’ve been reading/watching/absorbing

Throughout the course we’ve been recommended to absorb as much “weird stuff as possible”. I’m not sure this week is weird, but it is a look at the world outside design!


what if? by Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd

A belated birthday present, a book that has been mentioned to me several times over the past few months, and a friend decided to buy it for me! He also bought me London Underground by Design, which I need to crack open.


Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition

I’ve been to this a few times over the years – sometimes I’ve loved it and sometimes not. They always display the images so small. I want to be able to feel as if I can fall into the photos! This year was great, and some amazing images.

Projection of the Saturn V and Apollo XI mission to the Moon on the Washington Memorial, Washington DC

A life-size video of Saturn V was projected onto the Washington Memorial (the giant obelisk) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo XI mission. Here’s a live feed.


NINE, from the book “KickAss Plays for Women” by Jane Shepard, directed by Coral Tarra

A friend’s flatmate starred in this play at a tiny pub theatre in South Kensington, and we went along. I’m always interested in going to see new and weird things, and to support friends. I had no idea or expectations of what to expect, and was quickly drawn into the room where the two nameless characters were kept captive by unseen people or things. The event overview describes it aptly: “NINE explores the need for connection, and the tender, brave and brutal search for the understanding of what it is to be human. A harrowing, funny and tender account of the psychological and sometimes painful cost of survival.”


Pullman, P. (2011). His Dark Materials. 1st ed. London: Everyman’s Library, pp.713-714.



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