As a graphic designer, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that the more outside inspiration that goes into the creative process – the better the creative output. 

This means the more collaboration, teamwork, and communication I have with my clients and colleagues, the better the final design will be. Being curious, open to what’s going on in the world and being on the lookout for inspiration and insights also helps me come up with better ideas.

After a weekend of enjoying and performing at the Cuba Dupa festival in Wellington, I’m struck by how dancing makes me a better designer for my clients.

How does being a member of the Brazillian samba band – Wellington Batucada help me design better?

Fundamentally, it puts my values of teamwork, bringing a positive attitude, creativity and building a community into action. All this positivity, noise, colour and energy feeds the brain and gets me into a creative state of mind.

Collaboration – the  key to success

With around 100 members, Wellington Batucada must work together as a team to achieve our director’s vision while accommodating individual requirements and the practical restrictions of the festival venue. Each player and dancer work together to create a memorable performance that is greater than anything we could achieve by ourselves.

When working on a design project, it’s essential to work closely with the client to understand their vision and goals. Working with their limitations of time, scope or budget and being open to feedback, suggestions and ideas helps create a product that everyone is proud of.

Bringing the bounce

A positive attitude goes a long way. As a designer, it’s important to approach every project with a positive and upbeat attitude. This means being friendly, responsive and reliable throughout the entire process. It means being pragmatic and realistic in the face of challenges and injecting some fun along the way. By bringing positive energy to the design process, we can create something great and enjoy the process.

The infectious energy created by a successful samba performance doesn’t happen by accident. It’s created by consistent rehearsals, being reliable and turning up consistently and a commitment by everyone involved to enjoy themselves and share that joy with our audiences.

Loving bright ideas

A big part of my enjoyment of being in Wellington Batucada is getting creative with our costumes. I love the chance to visualise what I’d like to create in my head, think through the practicalities, source the materials and then produce something tangible with my own hands. Energetic testing at full-speed-samba ensures that costumes won’t break, fall off or smack you in the face. If they do, changes are made. It’s the design process in action!

By taking a break from my usual digital working environment I get to experience new places, people, sights and ideas. This space gives me new perspectives that feed into my work. By being curious and creative, I can push the boundaries of what is possible and come up with better ideas for my clients.

Building community

I enjoyed Wellington Batucada long before I was brave enough to join and I’m so pleased I did. My favourite part of dancing in a community band, where everyone is welcome, is the sense of connection and community it creates. Particularly in parades, the energy we bring creates a feedback loop of engagement and enjoyment with our audiences.

As a designer, my job is to connect and communicate. I strongly believe in the value of building communities and that stronger connections help us all thrive. This is also why the networking group Chrysalis for Women is important to me, as it provides an environment where I can seek support and grow with other like-minded business owners. For me it means sharing knowledge and expertise as well as working together with others to create something that will make a positive difference.

I’m convinced that the more effort I put into having new and interesting experiences the better the designs I create for the people I work with. By engaging positively and actively with the world and those around me I generate more inspiration and ideas for my work. Let’s work together to create simple, thoughtful, effective designs that make a difference.

 

Photo credits: Cover image Satya Priyomarsono, PauloPicsNZ and Chris Mckeown

 

 

Where to find authentic New Zealand stock photography

As it’s Te Rā o Waitangi – Waitangi Day this week (6 February) I thought I’d highlight five local stock libraries that might be useful.

We’ve all seen it. The generic stock photo of smiling professionals or the “general public” looks decidedly staged or from somewhere other than New Zealand. While It’s usually better to hire a professional photographer to capture bespoke images (especially specific subjects, places or people) the timeframe or budget often doesn’t stretch that far.

If you’re looking for something with a truly New Zealand flavour what are the options?

 

1) Truestock

“Exclusive, royalty-free local stock images capturing an authentic, diverse and multicultural Aotearoa.”

Starting at $40 for an XS image to $450 for an XL image, there are various discounts and alternative licenses available.*

Truestock offers a good range of authentic-looking meeting, school, shopping and farming images with a diverse range of kiwis.

 

 

2) Picky

“This is Picky – a growing collection of New Zealand stock and mockup images from top local photographers. Royalty-free & easy to use.”

Starting from $125+GST for online only use Picky offers a 12-month market freeze on an image as well as images that would only be used for internal presentations rather than commercial applications.*

Picky has a range of great range of mock-ups including posters, billboards, food and drink products, phones and apparel that you can add your designs to. Mock ups start from $80 +GST. These mock ups are intended for use in pitches, portfolio presentations and award applications so please check the restrictions.

 

 

3) My Chillybin

Want images showing a slice of NZ life? The most comprehensive range of NZ people and other images is right here at mychillybin.”

This library has been for around many years and most recently helped me find images of older people for a social housing brochure. Lots to look at here including some cultural images of marae, carvings, flax and kete.

Images are from $25 for small to $100 for large photographs. You can also buy credits, get a subscription or purchase an image exclusively.*

 

4) Excio

“New Zealand Image Library providing affordable access to fresh, authentic photographs based on Excio unique PhotoToken concept.”

Excio is a community-driven image library that works on a different model. They have a big membership of photographers and work with PhotoTokens for image buyers. It’s not a subscription but for $500 you can access 500 images in the first year, with ongoing access with an annual renewal fee.* This could be a great option to check out if you have a big project or an ongoing requirement for kiwi images. I know for definite they are real people because I spotted myself performing with my dancing group in Wellington!

 

5) NZ stock images.co.nz 

Royalty Free Stock Images and Videos from around New Zealand”

This is exclusively landscapes featuring photos and videos from a drones-eye-view. Locations include Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Tāupo, New Plymouth along with Bay of Plenty and Marlborough. So, a more specialized stock library, but a photo of Oriental Bay, Wellington or an atmospheric fly-by video of the Northland coast could be just what you were looking for (from $175 and $400 respectively).*

*Note: Prices mentioned are to give you a general idea of the options offered. Please check websites for exact prices and licensing options.    

I’d love to hear if you’ve found any other useful stock libraries out there.

Check out my other blog about other stock library options here.

 

Ka Kite, see you again

 

The Pukerua Bay Bookshed just had its 7th birthday. I’m delighted it’s been successful and (as you can tell from the picture on the right) is popular and packed with books.

While it was created as a fun family project and a community experiment, it also demonstrates something relevant to business.

A) Something simple can be a great success.

We got the basics right:

  • it’s visually appealing
  • it’s functional and the location works
  • it’s well-used and there is an engaged audience
  • it pretty much looks after itself

B) You can’t always rest on your laurels.

Out in the real world things change and updates are needed:

  • the window broke
  • the wind pulled the door apart
  • wet weather and rotten boards led to leaks
  •  the catch got stiff

C) Work out what needs to be done to keep providing a service.

Then deciding:

  • which jobs fit into your skill set (for me painting, roof maintenance and trading skills with others)
  • which jobs you need to outsource (in this case the carpentry)
  • who to ask (luckily for me friends and fellow community volunteers)

D) There may be the odd hiccup.

I could mention the painted bench seat that got stolen… but I’ll save that story for another day!

 

Painting practice.

This year I’m EXPLORING (more about that here). As a result, this weekend I’m selling some of my paintings at the local Market.

 

Pogo Bird Paintings

 

Painting is something I’ve come back to in the last couple of years (thank you Covid!). It’s a long time since art college and I’ve found approaching it as a fun “experiment” takes the pressure off. It’s great to get away from the computer screen and to literally get my hands dirty.

 

Unfortunately, like any creative endeavour, you need to be prepared to ride the creative wave. Sometimes it’s hard to start. Sometimes it goes really well and you feel awesome. Then nothing goes right, whatever you try looks rubbish and the only thing to do is scrub what you’ve done in a fit of frustration and stomp off for a break! It’s also quite exposing to put personal work out into the world.

 

Close up painting of Tui with red background

 

Luckily, this upcoming market day isn’t just about selling paintings. It ticks off some of my business/life values.

Especially

  • BRIGHTER IDEAS – powered by curiosity and creativity. Listening and asking questions feed focus and insight. Being creative outside of my 9-5 helps me consider new ideas – which is a bonus for my clients.
  • BUILD COMMUNITY – stronger connections help us all thrive. I believe no act of kindness is ever wasted and it’s good to share what I know. We’re all in this together and there’s space for everyone. We’re unique so why compete?

Pukerua Bay Market Day Logo Design

 

I’m all for supporting local initiatives which is why I helped make the Pukerua Bay Market Day logo for my friend and local business owner at Good Wool. It will also be an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends, and network with other creatives, small businesses and community groups.

I can’t wait!

(Cover photo credit: Debby Hudson, Unsplash)

Silhouette of person looking out to sea from a clifftop at dawn

EXPLORE: my ‘word of the year’ for 2022.

The concept of having a ‘word of the year’ is something I’ve played with for many years. Sometimes I’ve picked one and promptly forgotten all about it, but more recently I’ve been more intentional. For example:

 

2020 was ACCEPT…

which turned out to be prophectic. Covid-19 smashed the international plans I had and gave most small businesses a thorough shake-up. Working to accept the ongoing uncertainty definitely helped.

2021 was YES…

which led me to accept the opportunity to tramp the South Island section of ‘Te Araroa – the long pathway’, which I set out on in December.

Woman hiking through grasslands with backpack and walking poles

This segued seamlessly into 2022 being EXPLORE…

The first two months of 2022 were spent continuing to explore Aotearoa’s beautiful back country and completing my 75 day Te Araroa journey.

A footpath through beech trees covered in lichen with an orange triangle on one of the trees

 

“Exploration is curiosity put into action.” DON WALSH

 

Milestone year

2022 is also a milestone year for Pogo. This month I’m celebrating 15 years in business.
I’m very proud of reaching this point and appreciate the flexibility working for myself has afforded me and my family. I also have a wonderful support network of friends and fellow businesses that has brought opportunities and helped me grow and develop over the years (such as co-authoring a book). Chrysalis for Women has been a big part of that support.

But, I have missed the “creative soup” of working with other designers. With less demands on my time on the homefront, it’s been a perfect time to get out and explore what other creatives are up to in Wellington.

 

black poster frame on a white wall with black words on orange that say I like it what is it?

Exploring creative events in Wellington

Here are some of the events I’ve discovered in Wellington. I started with a free Creative HQ evening talk, which in turn has led to other events, meeting more people and finding out about other workshops, ideas and resources. It has required investing some time and a willingness to accept the potential awkwardness of a roomful of strangers. So far it’s been well worth the effort.

 

I’m excited to see where else these events will lead me how they will help shape Pogo.

A hand holding a community garden fundraiser on a dark background.

In business, and in life, you’re often encouraged to consider your “Why”. This is the concept of having a purpose, belief or cause that is a driving force in what you do and how you do it. Simon Sinek describes the concept in this TED talk.

Like many simple ideas I found it easy to understand but much harder to define an answer for myself.

Over the years I’ve realised I get a sense of personal satisfaction and purpose from contributing to my local community and that I value community building. I’ve already talked about the benefits of this in a previous post.

 

Open calendar showing a photo of a bee on yellow flowers

Last year my local community garden group created a  community garden fundraiser and I contributed my design skills – on the understanding I would not need to be involved in the selling!

The project included photos, content and artwork from other collaborators (indio Anne) and support from our local Palmers Garden Centre and The Print Room.

 

Back of a calendar with a grid of photos showing the month images

It was a successful fundraiser and I enjoyed a creative project, the chance to play around with collage and experiment with making a promotional video in Canva.

 

A group of smiling people positioned around a hand painted sign that reads Pukerua Bay Community Garden and Food forest

But, what does a sense of community look like in the way I do business?
A lot of what I do professionally is about connecting and building relationships. Things like:

  • Working with organisations and businesses that want to build and connect with communities and make a positive difference.
  • Contributing to many clients teams, often over years.
  • Collaborating with other complementary businesses (and co-authoring a book).
  • Supporting business groups such Chrysalis for Women (sharing my knowledge through presentations and as an Advisory Board Member).
  • Attending workshops and presentations such as the Creative HQ series.
  • Donating my time and skills to initiatives that resonate with me.

I’d love to hear what motivates you.

This month I celebrate 14 years working for myself as Pogo Design.

 

While it doesn’t seem that long, in many ways a lot has changed.

  • My driving motivation to start a business – wanting to find a way my son could attend the local school and manage school holidays – is no longer relevant as he’s left school and become a fully-fledged adult.
  • Covid means working from home is now fairly common. Rather than a rare privilege for workers in the right industries with a good level of discipline.
  • People starting businesses today really do need a website and a social media presence. While they don’t need a printed letterhead to help them look professional.

 

The basics still remain the same though. Finding and building relationships with clients. Providing value which in my case means coming up with good ideas and being creative. And service. Being easy to work with, responsive and reliable.

As with anything there have been challenges and rewards. For me, working for myself has involved working out the 3 B’s.

  • Balance – working out the balance between work and homelife. Especially if the studio is just there and that thing needs doing, now!
  • Being the Boss – you get to call the shots, make the decisions, fix the problems and deal with what needs to be dealt with. This is where having a support network of friends, colleagues and helpful suppliers comes into its own. People to give advice and hold your hand when you have to make a difficult call. Or be your cheerleaders when things aren’t going your way.
  • Boom and bust – dealing with the really busy times and not freaking out when it’s quiet. Remember, unlike a job you don’t get paid to pee!

alarm clock on a red background

It’s not for everyone, but being brave and taking the leap of confidence have rewarded me with:

  • Time – flexibility to spend time with the people, and doing the things, I care about.
  • Relationships – I’ve built some great working relationships. Some of my clients have worked with me for over a decade. Also, great friendships have come from my business networks. I get to work with fantastic people and enjoy what I do.
  • Growth – I couldn’t have started Pogo without the help and support of many people. Constant change means I’m always learning and evolving.

Have I been successful? And here’s the nub of it, what does success look like?

  • Have I won a design award lately? No
  • Have I got a flashy studio and a business I can sell in the future? No
  • Does my car scream POGO from eye-catching livery? No

But by my measures of success, I’m more than nailing it.

  • Did I walk my son through the school gate on his first day of school? Hell Yes!
  • Have I made great friends, had the time to visit family overseas, not work school holidays and contribute to my local community? Yes
  • Does work support my lifestyle? Yes
  • Am I still in business and have I achieved something I didn’t think I could? Yep!

Hand holding business cards

On a final note, and an answer to that burning question, “How many business cards should a new business print?”

Not sure, I’ll let you know when I finally run out!

 

3 smiling women sat at a white table. The middle woman is holding a book.

It’s a cliché but I believe we do business with people we know and like. As a small business I focus on building relationships with others that have complimentary skills and I enjoy working with. But I never imagined I’d be co-authoring “The perfect recipe for creating awesome web content” book this year!

I’ve worked with Angela Bensemann from Halo Communications for over a decade and have been involved in several projects that also included website strategist Iona Elwood-Smith from Grow My Business. So, when Ange and Iona asked if I’d like to contribute to a project they were working on I was keen (even before I heard the details). What started out as just designing a cover for a book they were creating turned into something much more.

2 women sat at a white table lworking together

During the web projects Ange and Iona worked on together, they noticed that people find providing content a real sticking point during the website building process for their businesses. By pooling their respective expertise they could create a valuable “how to” guide ideal for small businesses and start-ups.

They had the writing, strategic and technical aspects covered, and some branding information would be good… as would a nicely designed book cover. Cue Pogo Design.

As the book developed we decided there might be more joint projects on the horizon as we often worked together anyway and that Collaboration Station would be a good home for our collaboration. As with any good team, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Or as Iona says “How cool is collaboration? Someone else does the bits I don’t like!”  We know it’s more fun working together, throwing around ideas and coming up with something new.

“How cool is collaboration? Someone else does the bits I don’t like!”

So, I’ve brought my graphic design and brand expertise to the party. It’s also been a chance for me to get creative and experiment with collage illustrations, art direct an enjoyable photo shoot and develop social media marketing resources. As well as building on my experience of document design and learning some of the conventions of book design. I share some tips I picked up in this blog.

Open laptop showing a home page on the screen

You can pre-order our book and check us out at www.collaborationstation.co.nz or follow our journey on Facebookand Instagram . Who knows what we’ll come up with next?

Jane smiling standing at a gate with a hand painted sign that says Pukerua Bay Community Garden and Food Forest

As the Covid-19 virus re-emerges in our communities and we are back into the restrictions of Level 2 and 2.5, our need for inter-connectedness is highlighted. I believe strongly in building relationships between people and strengthening communities, this is really important both professionally and in life in general.

3 RSA posters against a plain grey wall
Image: Three promotional poster designs for my local RSA club.

In practice in my professional life this means I have regular clients, some of who I’ve worked with for over a decade. I also enjoy strong collaborative relationships with other complementary businesses (communication professionals, website strategists, photographers etc). And I appreciate the ongoing support and friendships of networking groups like Chrysalis for Women.

Three tea towels hanging on a clothes line. Each with a typographic design.

Image: Fundraising tea towel design for my local school. 

As a creative, my support often looks like a poster here, a sign there and a tea towel design that pops up everywhere. My volunteer work often has the added bonus of being fun creatively or is a project that’s a bit different and offers an opportunity to learn new skills or information. A win/win!

Brazilian Drum on a yellow background with the words Wellington Batucada Gala Event.

Image: Invite design for Brazillian drumming group, Wellington Batucada. 

Sometimes my interest is more about creating a special community space – my ‘Book shed in the Bay’ free book exchange has proved very popular.

Small wooden book shed attached to a fence

Image: One of the growing number of local free book exchanges.

And if you are stopping to browse for a book and you want to stop and flick through it, or just enjoy the sunshine, it’s nice to have a place to sit and contemplate.

White painted bench seat in a grassed area. The words "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted".

So, in the face of uncertainty let’s spread a little kindness where we can.