Elmwood: Day Ten

Ok, so this post is two weeks later than it should have been, but my excuse is that ever since I finished my work experience I've been incredibly busy trying to catch up on all the university work that I didn't get done whilst I was at Elmwood.

With two weeks gone since my final day there, I've had some time to reflect on the experience, and the main thought I keep coming back to, is the amount of pressure I felt I was under to have an enjoyable time. Not pressure from Elmwood, pressure from everybody else. What I mean is, for some reason, whenever I've done work experience, not just at Elmwood but anywhere, I've always felt like there's this immense pressure to have a really great time. Whenever people ask me, "oh, how did your work experience go?", I feel compelled to answer "Brilliantly! It was so unbelievably awesome, I just love the world of work!". And I can't help but feel that if I answered "Well, it was ok, but I don't think I really fit in very well, and to be honest I was bored a lot of the time", people would consider this, consider me, some kind of failure. Maybe it's normal to think this, or maybe I have some kind of complex? Who knows.

To be honest, if you'd asked me on day one, I would have said "yeah, pretty good, I like it so far". Ask me on day five, and I'd have said "eugh, it's a bit shit, no one really acknowledges that I'm even there, and I would happily not go back for my second week". Ask me again on day ten, and I'd say "actually, I almost don't want to leave, I'm actually starting to feel quite happy here". So, for want of a better metaphor, it was a bit of a rollercoaster.

Day ten was a good one. It wasn't a full day as I had to pop into uni for an hour in the morning for my weekly session with my tutor to discuss the progress, or lack thereof, of my work. So by the time I got to Elmwood it was about 11am, which meant I'd missed the Friday morning TED talk and bacon butties. Very disappointed about that. From what I remember (it's not quite so clear in my mind now that two weeks have passed), when I arrived I just sat down opposite Mr. Grumpy and got on with my work, and it all felt quite routine. I think I was finally starting to feel comfortable and relaxed and generally accepted there, and it was all starting to seem rather normal. Even the commute didn't seem quite as bad as it had done at first. Typical then, that this feeling only properly arrived on my final day.

At lunchtime, some of the staff from Elmwood went out to the local pub for a drink, as I believe is customary on a Friday afternoon. Feeling very courageous, I actually went with them, and I bought Alex a drink as a way of saying thank you for putting up with me for the last fortnight. Surely all the great work I produced for them for free is thanks enough, and should negate the need for a free pint as well. However, I believe it is the polite thing to do, and as my father would say, it might just increase my chances of being offered a job.

Now there's an interesting thought: being offered a job (which I wasn't, just for the record). Before I even began my work experience, literally everybody I spoke to said "ooh, if it goes well, maybe they'll offer you a job", or something to that effect. Now there's some pressure. I must have heard it so many times, I felt like if came away from my work experience with anything less than a guaranteed job offer, I would be failing in some way.

After all, I will be finishing university in May, and after that I actually need to do something with my life. Something other than being in education, which is what I've done, in one form or another, since the age of four. Some of my friends from back home have already secured jobs for themselves upon finishing university. One is going to become an investment banker, with a starting salary of £40,000 per year. Yes, I said starting. One is going to work for a big accountancy firm (or something like that) that I can't quite remember the name of. Another is going to be a primary school teacher. And then there's me, who is becoming increasingly confused about what he wants to do with his life.

If I'd have been offered a job by Elmwood on day one, I almost certainly would have taken it. If they offered me one now though, well, I'm not so sure. I did like it there in the end, and I think I could be happy working in that kind of environment once I'd made a few good friends there. However, it's not really what I want to do; a lot of the work that they produce seems to me to be very generic looking, safe, and generally a bit dull. In the entire time that I was there, I didn't once see any design work that made me think "wow, that's great". If I want a career in design, is this the kind of thing I have to sign up for? Right now, I'm so confused about what I want to do post-uni, the thought of a month or two doing nothing at all sounds most appealing.

Anyway, I haven't told you how Friday afternoon went. After the pub, which went surprisingly well, and didn't consistent of any awkward silences, it was back to the office for my final few hours of work. The time was spent tweaking my animation yet again, and trying to make it more 'blue' wherever I could, to fit in with the client's new colour scheme. By the end of the afternoon, version 14 of my animation was complete, and looked like the most suitable version yet. I showed it to Alex for the final time and he said it was great, and mentioned that he'd shown an earlier version of the animation to his design director, and that he thought it was great too. He even said that if the client liked it, then they would commission me to make a series of similar films for the website. However, I've got a feeling the client won't like it, as it doesn't quite look corporate enough for them. And that was it really, I shook hands with Alex, thanked him for the "experience", and left Elmwood for the final time.

So, as feared, I did leave without a job offer. Although, Alex did say that I was welcome to go back any time and do some more (un-paid!) work experience with them, so I can't have been too bad if they're willing to have me back. I suppose then, in theory, I did get a job offer, just not for a job that would earn me any money.

I know I keep going on about the money aspect, but in total, with all the petrol money (and the parking fine), my 'prize' for being the most memorable student on my course, ended up costing me about £200, plus two weeks of my time, which should have been dedicated to doing my dissertation and my independent project. Was the 'experience' worth it? Well… I can't decide.

Elmwood: Day Nine

So, the penultimate day. And a pretty good one again.

Not a lot to talk about today. Alex was in London all day to present some work to the client, and so I just got on with my work as best I could. I said yesterday that I think they're not quite sure what to do with me now, as I've pretty much completed the animation I was making, and there's no point giving me anything new to do. So, admittedly, a portion of my morning was spent procrastinating, reading blogs, even catching up on a little bit of uni work, and so on.

One of the highlights of my day was at 12:06pm, when Mr. Grumpy, sat on the desk opposite me, muttered something under his breath, stood up quite violently, and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him. He clearly wasn't having a great day. Although he returned about 3 minutes later looking normal and calm again.

After lunch I had a bit of a breakthrough, and came up with a good way to link my animation with the potential new brand identity. So all afternoon was spent working on that, and 5pm seemed to come round rather quickly. It then took me about two and half hours to drive home, which means I had an average speed of about 17mph.

And that was it for day nine. Only one more to go!

Elmwood: Day Eight

Good day today. I'm starting to enjoy myself at Elmwood a lot more now.

Today was another day of tweaking my animation and trying to get it just right. I think one of the reasons I'm enjoying myself more is because I'm actually pleased with, and proud of, the work that I'm producing. Thank God for that. This morning I was working on Version 7 of the animation I'm making, and by lunchtime it was complete. When I showed it to Alex I got a really good response. He seemed to really like it, and said it was looking exactly how he had wanted it to. It's a bit of a departure from my usual style of animation, particularly as it deals with a serious issue rather than a lighthearted, whimsical one, but I'm really pleased with the results.

The only significant problem with my animation, is that it doesn't fit in with the client's new brand identity, which as of yet, is still being decided upon, from a choice of three different concepts. I mentioned this to Alex, who agreed, but said there's not a lot we can do about it until the identity has been finalised. Apparently he's having the same problems with his own work; he's going down to London tomorrow to present to the client and show them the work he's been doing on their new website, but without a clear identity to work with, he's said he's finding it difficult to come up with anything interesting or particularly relevant to do with the site.

It really surprised me that they're working like this. Surely you have to come up with the new brand identity first, and then create the website and other promotional materials to fit in with and support the new identity? Alex said that normally that would be the case, but this project is a bit of an exception, as they've got very little time available. Apparently this would normally be a six month job, but instead they've only got two months to do it.

I get the impression that they don't quite know what to do with me now that I've finished the animation. There's not much point in giving me a new project to start working on, because I'm only there for another three days (or two and a half actually, as I need to go into uni again on Friday morning). There are still some things I'd like to tweak on the animation, so I can get with that, and Alex suggested that I try exploring ways of making my animation work with the new identity, or at least what we know about the new identity so far. As I've already mentioned, they're still throwing around three different concepts at the moment, but there are certain things I can work with, like the fact that the colour for the new brand will definitely be blue for example (blue, that's original). And also, there's one identity which the guys from Elmwood in London seem to be favouring more than the other two (although whether the client will is a different story), so I can try and take some of the visual elements from that and attempt to work them into my animation. The guys at the London office have even come up with an animation of their own, to demonstrate to the client how this identity could be implemented, and I can safely say that it's one of the worst things I have ever seen. Now, I should mention, that the animation wasn't actually created by Elmwood London, instead they commissioned a specialist animation/illustration agency to produce it, so I don't know who's actually to blame for the terrible end result. I can't figure out if it's a terrible concept that's been well executed, or a strong concept that's been poorly executed. Either way, it's not the kind of thing I would expect a company such as Elmwood to present to a big client. Perhaps if they cut the first half, and used only the last half of the animation, it would be alright, but as it is, I personally would be embarrassed to show it to a client.

Anyway, I suppose I've criticised it enough now. I'd absolutely love to put a copy of it on here to prove just how atrocious it is, but I'm not allowed to of course.

God, I hope no one from Elmwood stumbles across this blog.

So, yes, my afternoon was spent trying to make my animation tie in a bit more with the potential brand identity, and by the end of the day I thought I'd done quite a good job actually. I showed it to Alex before I left, and he seemed to think so too, so that's all good. Christ knows what I'm going to do tomorrow though. Try and make my animation more 'blue' I guess.


P.S. I almost forgot to maintain my tradition of complaining about the commute. It took me two and a half hours to get home today! Bloody horrendous!

Elmwood: Day Seven

So, day number seven. Today was "one of those days", where nothing seems to go according to plan. Everything I did before work went completely wrong, and as soon as I left work, everything started going completely wrong again, but remarkably, everything at work went fairly well.

I arrived at Elmwood about 10 minutes late this morning, which wasn't quite as bad as I had expected, as I had left the house about 25 minutes late. When I arrived I sat down opposite Mr. Grumpy again (who wasn't quite as grumpy with everyone else today, but still wouldn't say a word to me), and just got on with my work. And there's not a huge amount else I can talk about, as that's pretty much what I did all day: just got on with my work. I've been making alterations to my animation, tweaking the timings, finding appropriate pictures for the background (which I'm now liking), and correcting other slight imperfections and so on, and I'm actually feeling quite pleased with how it's all coming together.

I'm also starting to feel a bit more comfortable at Elmwood now; the people aren't as scary or daunting as they seemed at first, and one or two more people are acknowledging the fact that I actually exist. Typical, that I start to feel properly at ease there when I've only got a few days left. I suppose that's another of the big problems with work experience; unless it's a long term work placement, for a period of several months say, there's never enough time to really get to know anyone, or to fit properly into your surroundings.

I left work just after 5pm, and it was then that it started feeling like "one of those days" again. I won't go into detail about all the little things which went wrong, but to give you some idea of how 'not quite with it' I was, I discovered that I'd spent a significant portion of my day with two pairs of boxers under my jeans, rather than the more customary one. Worrying. Perhaps all this work is affecting my ability to get dressed properly.

Elmwood: Day Six

Jesus Christ. That weekend disappeared quickly.

Monday did not get off to a good start. I woke up at half past five, did some work and jumped in the car at 7am. Only to find a funny looking thing stuck to my windscreen. Oh fantastic, a parking ticket! A parking ticket that was issued at 06:17 this morning. What kind of nocturnal parking attendant goes round at that time in the morning? The frustrating thing is, I was told when I moved into my apartment that I was allowed to use the car back at the back, as long as I didn't park there during office hours, which last I checked were usually 9-5. Even if the staff in the offices underneath our building work longer than 9-5 hours, my car is always gone by 7am, and doesn't return until about 7pm, and I'm almost always the only car there, so it's not like I'm taking up valuable parking spaces! Anyway, rant over. I'll have to ask my landlord about it, as it was them who told me I could park there.

So, feeling somewhat disgruntled, I made my way up the glorious M1 from junction 34 to junction 43. I'm so fed up of commuting now that it's gotten to that stage where I'm trying anything I can to make my journey more interesting. According to Wikipedia, there are seven 'notable sights' visible from the M1 on my way to work, so I thought I'd see how many of them I could spot:

  • Meadhowhall shopping centre - Yep, spotted that one, hard to miss really.

  • Former site of the Blackburn Meadows Power Station - Not too excited by that one personally, but I have indeed spotted it on my way out of Sheffield.

  • Wentworth Castle - Not found that one yet, will definitely be looking out for it tomorrow though.

  • Barnsley Town Hall - If the rest of Barnsley's architecture is anything to go by, they're really scrapping the bottom of the landmark barrel with that one.

  • Emley Moor mast - Yep, it's a big mast.

  • Ferrybridge Power Station - Can't say I've noticed that one, but then it's only visible Southbound apparently.

  • Bridgewater Place - Leeds tallest building, also known as 'The Dalek', definitely spotted that one.

  • So, I've spotted four out of the seven potentially 'interesting' sights on my way to work. I feel quite proud of myself. Anyway, enough of that. This is supposed to be a blog about my experiences at a big design company, not about how I keep myself amused on the M1.

    Today was ok at Elmwood. When I arrived I found that Alex wasn't in, and wouldn't be until lunchtime, so I'd have to wait to show him my animation. In the mean time I thought I'd have to keep myself busy by getting on with some work. However, I wasn't entirely sure what to do, so I tried to just use my initiative as much as possible, and keep developing the animation in the direction I thought was best. I was sat at my usual desk in the corner, where I've been since day three, and all was going well, until someone came up to me and said "Hello, I think I'm sharing your desk today". Well, that came as a surprise. Turns out the guy talking to me was a freelance designer / art director who has been brought in to help Elmwood with the packaging for a BIG client that I'm obviously not allowed to name. Even though I'd been there first, I felt a bit awkward, like I'd stolen his space. Apparently the desk I'd been using was the desk typically reserved for freelancers to work at. So, we did indeed share the desk for a while, which was a bit weird, but he seemed like a nice guy and actually made conversation with me. However, there were only two plug sockets available at the desk, and he needed both of them to power his machine, so when my MacBook ran out of battery, I had to find somewhere else to sit.

    Time for musical chairs again.

    In the end I was positioned opposite Mr. Grumpy, in the grumpy corner of the office. That's not his real name of course, that would be unfortunate, he just looked thoroughly miserable. He definitely didn't take the least bit of interest in me. Didn't even look up when I came to sit on the desk opposite him, and didn't speak a word to me the entire time I was there. Wow, what a way to make me feel welcome. However, I soon discovered that it wasn't just me who got this treatment. Almost everyone who came and talked to him (although I should say, "came to ask him something", as no one really came over just to talk to him and have a nice chat), got the grumpy treatment. Lots of one word answers and other non-pleasantries. One woman who works there even had the coat stand fall on her, right next to his desk, but despite making a joke about it, he still didn't grant her a response. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly a conversation filled afternoon. (Disclaimer: Maybe I'm being overly critical of this guy. I suppose he could have just been having a really bad day. We all get those sometimes. If I'm sat opposite him again tomorrow I'll be able to tell whether it was a one off or whether he's stuck in permanent grumpy mode).

    When Alex got in, I showed him the work I'd done so far, including the 1st draft of the animation that I'd thrown together on Friday. And, hurrah! He liked it! He said the animation was coming together nicely, and had some constructive criticism about some of the timings, saying it needed to be a bit faster, (but I was going to tweak that anyway). I also asked him about my concerns that the animation I'm making doesn't fit in with the new brand identity, for the primary reason that the new identity hasn't been decided on yet. However, Alex gave me a slightly reassuring answer, and made me feel a bit better about the whole thing. He basically pointed out that the work I'm doing is as much about creating a great concept as it is about a great execution, and so even if the typography or the style of illustration needs to be altered to fit in with the brand identity, it's not a major problem because they'll still be able to use the same concept, and the same narrative techniques that I've come up with.

    This afternoon was spent working on the animation, and not talking to Mr. Grumpy in front of me. I tried experimenting again with putting photographs in the background, and it turns out I'm actually liking the look of it a lot more today. And that was pretty much it. The afternoon went really quickly, and before I knew it, it was time to pop back down the M1 past all those exciting landmarks again.

    Elmwood: Day Five

    Friday today. That means I've survived my first week at Elmwood, and that I'm exactly half way through my work placement there.

    Today was a good day; for starters the traffic wasn't as bad as it usually is, and I actually got to work for half past eight, and, on Friday mornings, the staff at Elmwood watch a "TED Talk" rather than getting straight on with work. For anyone outside the design community, a TED Talk might sound a bit odd. I know when I first heard of it I thought of giant teddy bears giving lectures. In reality, it is a series of lectures, but given by inspirational speakers from the design world, not the stuffed toy world (although to be honest, I still have no idea what 'TED' actually stands for). This morning's talk was given by possibly the most famous product designer in the world: the fascinatingly irritating, pompous, French lunatic that is Philippe Starck. I've blogged about Starck before when he had his own Apprentice-with-a-design-twist-esque reality TV show, and in the talk we watched this morning he was on top form, starting with the evolution of man, and eventually linking it to why he designs toilet brushes. I believe that he was trying to make a point about how important it is to consider the end user and how they will interact with the product, but he certainly went about it in his own very unique way.

    I really like the idea of getting all the staff together every Friday morning to watch these talks. It's something a bit different, a nice break at the end of the week, and it gets everyone discussing it around the table afterwards. Apparently they usually have bacon sandwiches whilst watching too, but that didn't happen today for some reason. Very disappointing.

    After the TED Talk, it was time to get on with some work again. This morning I got to see some of the development work that's been done on the logo, for the mystery client that I'm not allowed to mention. I think it's the guys at Elmwood in London who've been working on the identity, and they've narrowed it down to three possible ideas. All of which are pretty much exactly how I thought they would be - very corporate, slick, and still quite cold and faceless looking. However, having said that, I do really like two out of the three designs they've come up with, and I can definitely see them being used by the client.

    The big problem however, is that the ideas that I've been working on for my animation now look a bit odd in comparison to the new identity that Elmwood are developing for the client. In my opinion, the animation ought to be in a similar style to the logo and the whole new identity, to give the brand some visual consistency, and so that the two are recognisable as different parts of the same whole. So why am I making an animation for a brand which hasn't even been decided on yet? In the real world, Elmwood would finish the logo and identity work first, and only then surely, would they start work on designing the new website, the animated content, and whatever else that goes with it. I'm guessing it's only because I'm in on work experience that they've even started considering the animation yet.

    Well, I'd already drawn out all the different elements to my (very twee looking, hand rendered) animation, so I thought I might as well scan them and put the animation together just to show what it would look like. I didn't have a lot else I could do, and I thought it would be a shame not to actually make the animation now that I'd drawn everything I needed for it. Also, I thought that if I had a proper animation to show, I could then make a stronger argument about the fact that it doesn't work with the new identity.

    So, I was shown how to use the scanner (it's very impressive actually, it scans up to A2 size paper, the scans only take about two seconds, and then it emails the scanned images straight to your inbox), and then spent the rest of the day putting my animation together in AfterEffects. By 5pm it was complete, and looking quite good in my opinion. I was eager to show Alex and get his thoughts on it, but for once Alex had left work on time (he usually stays quite late), and so I won't be able to get his opinion until Monday morning.

    At the end of the day, Abi came over and started talking to me. Thank God! It was nice to have someone come over and take an interest in what I was doing. She graduated from the graphics course at Leeds two or three years ago, and it was her and Ben from Elmwood that I had to present my work to in order to win this work experience in the first place. She was really nice actually; she asked me how I was getting on and if I was enjoying it and so on, and I showed her the animation that I'd thrown together, and explained my concerns about it not fitting with the new brand identity. She even invited me to the pub later this evening, but unfortunately I had to decline the offer, as it takes me two hours to get home and I have a ridiculous amount of university work to catch up on. I can just imagine what my father would be saying at this point: "You must go for a drink with them, it's essential". Well, I'm sure it would have been a good opportunity, but seriously, I do not have the time!

    I ended up staying until about 6pm talking to Abi and doing some extra bits of work, making sure I'm all prepared to show Alex my progress on Monday morning. As well as the animation, I've also made some examples in Photoshop of what the illustrations look like when layered over photographs, as that was an idea that he seemed to like a lot. I remember saying the other day that I thought it could either look great, or it could look horrendous, and having played around with it a bit, I now see it's swinging slightly towards the horrendous side unfortunately.

    For some reason, Friday's seem so much more special when you've been working a 9-5 job all week. Despite the fact that I've got nothing but more work to do when I get home, the thought of the weekend was still quite an exciting one. And today, the drive home only took me an hour, which was pretty awesome.

    Elmwood: Day Four

    Only a half day at Elmwood today, as I had to drop in to uni this morning for the first tutorial of my final semester, where I was supposed to show my tutor all the work I'd done over Christmas. Unsurprisingly, I hadn't really done any work over Christmas, but I managed to successfully blag my way through the session.

    Anyway, after leaving uni early, I had to make my way to Elmwood, which was a bit trickier than usual, as I know how to get there from the M1, but not from the centre of the city. After a short detour, I arrived at Elmwood and got straight on with work, drawing up yet another storyboard. I've now drawn up a ridiculous number of storyboards over the last few days, and I felt that this latest one was the best yet. However, I haven't shown it to Alex, so we'll wait and see.

    The animation that I'm making needs to work without any sound, which means no voiceover like usual, so I needed to find another way to tell the story. As a result, my proposed animation combines typography (hand rendered, of course) and simple illustrations to tell the story, and the idea is to place the type and line drawings over photographs in the background, similar to this image by Kyle Pierce. I'm still in two minds at the moment, I think overlaying photographs with my line drawings could either look great, or it could look absolutely horrendous. We'll just have to wait and see.

    After completing my 152nd storyboard of the week, I decided to start properly drawing out some of the individual elements for the animation, which I would then scan in and tinker with on the computer. I drew a couple of pieces, and experimented with different styles of hand drawn typography and whatnot, and then I was ready to scan them in. However, I still didn't know how to use the scanner, and everyone looked very busy, so instead of asking someone to show me, I decided I'd pass the time by drawing a couple more items. And then a couple more. And then just another few. By the end of the afternoon I'd gotten a little bit carried away, and had drawn out every single part of the animation, except for one. Before I knew it, it was about 6pm and the majority of the staff had gone home, so I decided I'd do the same.

    Elmwood: Day Three

    Definitely did not want to get out of bed this morning. The thought of driving for two hours just to sit at a desk all day was not appealing. I couldn't help thinking that if I stayed in Sheffield and worked at my own desk, I'd get a lot more work done, and maybe I could just email it to Elmwood? However, that would just be the 'work' without the 'experience', so it would defeat the whole point of the exercise really. So, reluctantly I got out of bed, and after a shower and some breakfast, I got in the car and set off on another exciting journey up the M1.

    When I arrived at Elmwood, things got a bit better. I was moved to a new desk when I arrived today, as the people whose desks I had been using actually needed them today. So, I was sat in a different place, and surrounded by a slightly different set of people, (only one of whom actually made conversation with me, but it was a good conversation, so it helped me feel a bit more comfortable in my new corner of the office).

    For most of the morning I worked on drawing up a proper, well illustrated (rather than roughly scribbled) storyboard for the animation that they've got me working on, and by lunchtime it was finished and I was semi-proud of it. However, I couldn't really go any further without Alex's feedback/approval, and Alex was busy, so whilst I waited for him I spent a good half hour procrastinating by reading blogs and writing this one.

    That seems to be the biggest problem with work experience; you're constantly reporting back to whoever's overseeing you, and to get anywhere really you need to keep nagging them every five minutes. I certainly don't want to be the annoying, nagging, work experience boy, so I've been fighting the urge to say "I've done what you asked me to do, what would you like me to do next?", which surely must be one of the most annoying questions utterable. Now, you might be thinking at this point that I could perhaps use my initiative, and impress them by just getting on with it without having to ask. Perhaps I should just start making the animation? Well, it's a lovely idea, but we haven't got any of the images from the client yet, and I don't have access to a scanner or printer here (they do have scanners and printers of course, but they're not set up to work with my computer, so yet again I'd need to ask someone to help), so that makes it a tad more difficult. If I actually worked here, and had four or five projects on the go, whilst waiting on one, I could be getting on with one of the others, but as I'm only working on one small part of one project, there's only so much I can do before I hit a dead end and have to ask for my next set of instructions. It's frustrating.

    This afternoon, I did eventually show my storyboard to Alex, and the feedback seems to be getting better each time, so it looks like I'm going in the right direction. He made a couple of suggestions, and the rest of the afternoon was spent ironing out some small problems with the design.

    And that was it for day three.

    Elmwood: Day Two

    So, two days down at Elmwood. How's it going? Well, the second day wasn't as interesting as the first to be honest, although at least I turned up on time (I left about 7am and got there just before 9am - I have a feeling I might be sick of commuting by the end of the two weeks).

    Today I've been working on storyboards for my animation, but haven't quite come up with one that I'm happy with yet. The big problem is that the animation I'm working on tells a story about a very serious issue, and not one which can be joked about or taken too lightheartedly, so I'm having to try and adopt a very different tone of voice for this piece of work compared to all my previous animations. To make matters worse, the client wants to seem less "faceless" and "cold", and instead more "warm" and "personal" (which is a good decision if you ask me), but trying to seem personal and friendly whilst also trying to talk about a very serious issue is a bit of a challenge. So this is what it's like to work for a real client!

    This morning I got my first taste of Jean the housekeeper's excellent home cooking. Midmorning there was an announcement which rang through the building: "Jean's cakes are now ready in the cafe", and suddenly everyone stood up from their desks, seemingly regardless of what they were doing, and gravitated towards the sponged-based baked goodness. And then at lunchtime, the same thing happened, but with pies instead of cakes! Jean had made individual pies for everyone, complete with mushy peas and/or baked beans. I'm not sure exactly why she does it, maybe she just really, really, likes Elmwood or something, but it certainly tasted good, and was very much appreciated. At lunch I was struck by that terrible "oh dear, I'm sat in a room full of people I don't know, but they all know each other" kind of moment, which made me feel very nervous and shy, and although I tried awkwardly to make conversation with a few of them, to be honest I didn't get very far.

    After lunch, everyone at Elmwood had a big meeting, which I was allowed to sit in on and observe, although I'm certainly not allowed to discuss any of the details of it. What amazed me about it though was I realised just how many different projects Elmwood have going on at one time (I think I'm allowed to say that, I'm not giving away the names of any of the clients, merely saying that there's lots of them).

    By the very end of the day I was finally feeling a bit happier with the work I was producing, as I had a decent chat with Alex, and he helped give me a bit more confidence. I'm thinking about using my typical hand drawn illustration style, but over the top of photographs or moving images, which is something I've never tried before. Could be interesting, or it might turn out to be rubbish, either way I'll no doubt ramble on about it on here.

    Elmwood: Day One

    So, today, I finally started my work experience with Elmwood! Despite leaving two hours in advance, I still ended up six minutes late unfortunately, as there was a traffic jam of the most ridiculous proportions on the M1 just before hitting Leeds. I guess that's just the normal rush hour traffic though, so I'll need to be even more prepared for that tomorrow, and I'll try leaving even earlier! Obviously turning up late doesn't make a great first impression, but thankfully the guys at Elmwood were completely cool about it.

    When I eventually did turn up, Alex Nelson came to greet me. He's Head of Digital, and the one who I'll be reporting to for the next fortnight. First of all he gave me a guided tour of the building, which I'm pleased to say is unbelievably nicer on the inside than the outside. And it feels a lot bigger on the inside than it looks outside too; the workforce is split across two floors, and there's a lot more of them than I expected. I'm not sure why, but I expected Elmwood to have around 15-20 staff, but it turns out they've probably got 40 plus. I was introduced to a lot of them, but I can count the names I actually remember on just one hand. Along with the guided tour, they were very quick to get me to sign a 'Confidentiality Agreement', which will sadly restrict the amount of interesting information I can put on this blog, as I'm not allowed to talk about any work in progress or clients and so on. However unlikely it is that the competition read my blog, Elmwood clearly don't want to take any chances. It was also made clear that whatever work I produce whilst I'm there, is officially theirs, although I might be able to include it in my portfolio if I get their permission first.

    Anyway, after the formalities of scrawling my signature on the Confidentiality Agreement, Alex showed me where to get beverages (very important), and pens (also important), and then briefed me on the work I'll be doing. Now, I had hoped to talk about the work I'll be doing at Elmwood, but as I signed that confidentially agreement, I'll have to treat this as an exercise in vagueness. Basically, the client is a big global corporation, and they've given Elmwood the task of rebranding and updating their identity, however, that's not what I'm working on, that's being done by Elmwood in London. As head of digital, Alex has the task of redesigning their corporate website to fit in with the new identity, and that's where I come in. They want some animations or illustrations to be featured on the website, to help explain a bit about what the company do, and as it was my animation work which got me this work experience in the first place, Alex thought this would be the ideal job for me. And he would be right! Last time I did work experience I spent a week working on a logo, and it got quite dull to be honest, so I was glad to be plonked straight on to a motion graphics job. And very glad that they threw me straight into a live brief, rather than have me making cups of tea, sorting paperwork, or something equally mundane.

    After briefing me, it was time for a video conference with the guys in London who've been working on the logo. However, someone else had booked the video conferencing facilities, and so it suddenly became a telephone conference instead. During the three way telephone conference, they basically talked through all their initial ideas for the logo development, and we were able to look at them as they'd sent over a pdf with all their examples in. Some of them looked questionable to be honest, but there were also some really good identity ideas amongst them too, and it helped give me a good idea of where they were going with the project, and got me thinking about what my animation could look like to fit in with the identity they're developing.

    After lunch I got to work researching this mysterious client that I'm not allowed to mention, and started scribbling some initial ideas. By the end of the afternoon I had about one and a half basic storyboards to show Alex, although his response suggested that my ideas were 'ok' but not 'great' (yet). Hopefully they'll look a bit more impressive tomorrow if I can mock up some visuals.

    And that was pretty much how my first day went. Elmwood seemed to have a very relaxed atmosphere, with music playing at all times, and decent music at that! They have a policy where they just put Spotify on, and anyone/everyone can choose what they want to listen to, so that everybody gets a chance to listen to something they like. They also have a library, full of design books and all sorts of other things, including a table football table, which I thought was a great idea. So overall it seems like a really nice place to work. The staff sitting on the desks opposite and surrounding mine were all quite friendly, and didn't just ignore me, which was nice of them. I even had several people saying that they were impressed with my animation which felt great. Little did I know, Alex had posted my animation on his blog, and it had garnered a little bit of attention online, with one girl even commenting: "I want to have his babies". Needless to say, she won't be getting my babies, but it was nice to get the praise anyway.

    The Road To Elmwood

    Tomorrow I begin my work experience with Elmwood, one of the best (statistically perhaps the best) branding and communication agencies in the UK. I've brought my car 'up north' from my humble hometown of Lichfield, where it normally resides, and I'll be commuting from my house in Sheffield to the Elmwood office in Leeds every day for the next two weeks.

    Following my mother's advice, I did a 'trial run' to Elmwood in the car this afternoon (with the girlfriend navigating), just to familiarise myself with the route, and to ensure I don't end up horrendously lost and turn up embarrassingly late on my first day. The journey to Elmwood took about an hour, although that was on a Sunday afternoon and the traffic was minimal, so I think I'll have to leave at least two hours in advance when I'm doing it in rush hour traffic. Elmwood's Leeds office doesn't actually seem to be in Leeds, rather it's in the small town of Guisley, just up a bit and to the left of Leeds, and once we got to Guisley it took us a while to figure out where abouts their office was hidden. Eventually it turned up down a little side lane, and we pulled up in the carpark and had a quick gander at the building. To be honest, it's a bit ugly on the outside. From what I can tell it's made almost entirely from concrete, and the main building looks a bit depressing, however, the entrance to the building did look quite nice as it had lots of greenery growing around it, and we peered through the windows, and what I could see of the inside looked a lot nicer.

    Before I begin tomorrow, I thought I would recap how I got given the work experience in the first place. At university we were given a brief, sponsored by Elmwood, entitled "Remember my name". The objective of the brief was exactly that, I had to try and get the folks over at Elmwood to remember my name, the only difficulty being that there were 80-odd other students on my course also trying to get Elmwood to remember their names. It was an exercise in branding, but not for a typical client, I had to brand and advertise myself. Now I like to think that I know myself fairly well, having lived with myself for the past 21 years, four months and three days. However, it's inevitable that my own perception of myself will be slightly different from everyone else's perception of me. I might think I'm great, but I know there are numerous people that might think I'm a complete twat. Whether I'm a twat or not, I am who I am and it's unlikely to change, so all I wanted to do was to try and get my personality across to Elmwood, and hope to God that they like it. Anyway, I won't bore you by rambling on any further with the details of the project, instead I'll just show the end result. For the final presentation to Elmwood, I made an animation, which looked a bit like this:

    Remember My Name from Matthew Young on Vimeo.

    And amazingly, they liked it! According to the feedback I got, it "blew their socks off", which I assume is a good thing, although personally I prefer it when my socks stay on. I found out a few days after the presentation that I had been selected as one of three people to be awarded a two week work placement with Elmwood. Good times!

    Then, last week, the week before I was due to commence my work experience, I realised there were a few things I ought to know before I turn up on Monday morning. I had questions like "what should I wear?" and I was really worried about "should I bring a packed lunch?" for some reason. Some of my concerns were more relevant than others. I was going to email Elmwood and ask them, but I wanted to send them something more exciting than a plain text email; they must receive loads of boring emails every day, and I wanted mine to stand out a little bit, to make an impression and perhaps get them talking about me again before I come in.

    So, I picked out the most relevant questions, and made another short animation, in the same style as the one which grabbed their attention in the first place. It took about a day to make, whereas writing an email would have taken a few minutes, so I was just creating unnecessary work for myself really, but it was a lot more satisfying than sending an email. This, is what the finished thing looked like:

    Questions for Elmwood from Matthew Young on Vimeo.

    I was a bit worried that perhaps it would be overkill on the twee animation front, but thankfully I got a really good response from Alex Nelson, who's head of digital at Elmwood, and seemingly the one who'll be dealing with me for the next two weeks:

    Dear Matthew,

    Thanks for the non-email, lovely stuff.

    In answer to your questions:

    We don't have a dress code per se, however most of our placements seem to have a self initiated uniform of ultraskinny jeans and big hair. I don't think trouser tightness affects tea-making ability, so it's unlikely anyone here will mind either way.

    I'd like to say that all you need to bring is your imagination, but that would be a lie. Please also bring your Mac and a memory stick. Oh, and your portfolio too. We have a WHSmiths-esque variety of pens and papers, so no need to worry there.

    We'll do some proper briefing with you when you start, so don't worry about researching anything first. Apart from perhaps some scone-based compliments now that our housekeeper Jean is back. Perhaps some belly-stretching exercises too, as she likes you to have seconds.

    See you next week,


    The friendly, slightly humorous and down to earth tone of voice definitely put me at ease, and I think I like this Alex already, despite never having met him. However, that could all change tomorrow of course.

    Long Time No See

    Spread the word, send forth the messengers! The MY MY MY Blog has been resurrected! Dormant since October, it will now be active and pumping out molten opinionated-ish lava for at least the next two weeks.

    Resurrection metaphors? Volcano metaphors? That's enough of that. So, what made me want to re-enter the oh so exciting world of blogging?

    I'd been meaning to start a blog for about the last four years, and it wasn't until this summer that I was eventually forced to do it as part of a university brief. And despite it being ridiculously time consuming (I would often spend my whole day writing, re-writing, tweaking and re-tweaking an article), it was hugely enjoyable. I used to write all the time when I was at school, but since coming to university I'd very much gotten out of the habit of doing so. Blogging throughout the summer, I found it really enjoyable to write on a regular basis again, and it was exciting to share my opinions on design with the rest of the internet world, and from what I can tell, I built up a regular audience of about four or five people. Impressive, I know.

    However, since returning to university at the beginning of October, I've barely had time to get all my uni work done, let alone maintain a blog as well. And nothing has changed; uni will officially start again next week, and I've still got the bulk of my dissertation to write, and the whole of my independent project to complete, never mind my half completed D&AD submission and the birthday present which I'm spending far too many hours hand crafting for my best friend's 21st birthday. Oh, and trying to get a job too. So I still don't have time to maintain a blog, but I'm going to do so anyway, at least for the next two weeks (maybe I'll have to cut out a non-essential part of my day, like showering perhaps). Why? Because for the next two weeks, I'm going to be doing my work experience with Elmwood, and I wanted to keep a record of my experiences there. So the blog will be a bit different to how it was before; instead of rambling on about good design, bad design and anything interesting in between, for the next fortnight the blog will essentially become a diary, a personal account of my time spent at Elmwood. I've somehow convinced myself that writing about it will be a worthwhile exercise, although I'm still not entirely sure why. If nothing else, it will probably serve as a very entertaining diary for me to look back on in five or ten years time when I'm a successful designer, and I can have a great laugh about how pathetic I must have been as the little work experience boy.