I think this week is not just looking at WHY we do Self Initiated projects, but what they bring to our own identities, our lives and our bank accounts!!! Interestingly, the professionals interviewed all mentioned money at one stage or another – because at the crux of all this, we are designers because we want to make a living out of it. We want to become financially stable within our careers and still do the work we love. It was very evident that the Self initiated – client led divide was predominantely money based…
On reflection, how have self initiated projects helped shape your studio identity?
For Miller, their self initiated projects gave them a name for themselves – suddenly, after creating the Migrant Journals, they had clients who had seen their work, who loved their values and respected the work they did. It’s evident they got a lot more client work after publishing the journals and that is one of the main benefits of self initiated projects. They created a studio identity without realising what they were doing – they just liked a topic and researched it. As Miller states, self initiated projects are a filter – you utilise them to find out what you do or don’t like, what your values are, what you’re interested in. There are few boundaries so you can go as in depth as you want, you can spend as much time as you want and as much money as you want. It’s a matter of combining what you love doing with areas of interest – and these projects attract clients with the same interests, values and views. These projects act as a business card, showing not only what you’re capable of, but what you love. It’s a chance to meet others you otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance of meeting. Collaborate with someone who not only loves what you do, but NEEDS the work you do. It’s invaluable!
Fuerte had the same thoughts on self initiated projects, it’s not just for commercial reasons, they’re a way to “wake creativity” (what a beautiful way of putting it!). The projects attract clients but they help you to really go all out into something you are interested in – it’s how you identify yourself. And from that, how the Studio’s identity is presented.
This was very much reflected in Bompas’ thoughts too – he spoke more in terms of money but its not the client’s identity at the end of the day. You’re not tied into working with their identity and their brand, you can work within your own parameters and your own identity. Stringer also echoed this a lot and discussed more about developing their skills and how this gives their Studio identity – whilst they were just working with music videos, this was their studio brand, but when they experimented into VR, suddenly their studio identity developed with their skills. I think this is absolutely vital – there’s nothing worse than looking at a studio with just years and years of “samey” projects that show no progression or learning.
What are the main differences between self initiated work and collaborative, client led projects?
Again, Miller was so eloquent with his interview – I guess this time he really recognised the differences between the projects. For him and Isobel, their Migrant Journals were a huge expenditure of time and money but they 100% paid off in the end. I guess he’s saying that at the beginning they didn’t know this but still followed through with their plans – because although self initiated projects are WAY more of a risk, you can use them to learn and grow and develop. Something you can’t always do with client led briefs. You have more flexibility in terms of framework, budget, timescale, materials… You are the top of the hierarchy, this project isn’t for anyone else, its for YOU. You are the decision maker, the author, the identity. They reflect your personality in a way that client briefs can’t. They show your likes, identity and skills in an intimate and open way.
Fuerte reflected this in her interview too, throughout she’s been so open about the difference between client led and self initiated projects – I think she really gets a lot out of self initiated projects in terms of the lack of pressure and the increase in flexibility. Bompas also was similar to this in that they can use ideas they’ve had for years, they can then utilise these ideas to be more picky with clients and choose clients that would work for them. They also have a chance to experiement creatively and just go way outside the box!
Frost, for me, has been the one designer I feel doesn’t value self initiated projects as much as the rest – his focus is on big budget clients, large branding and money. Something I can’t really understand as much as the others – he evidently doesn’t do many self initiated projects, but when he does they’re on a huge scale and predominantely for someone else rather than just a small experiment for himself. Perhaps because he’s well established but I hope when I’m years down the line as a designer I still get enjoyment from the little things. He uses the client briefs as his studio’s identity which goes against everything I’ve learnt or thought about design.
Stringer put it perfectly – the self initiated projects attract clients when work is quiet or you need to develop your identity. But working for a client, you tone down the amount of creativity used because you’re working to their schedules and budgets. Self initiated projects give designers the freedom to express.
This week is quite a big week for me, I’ve been on MAJOR catch up and am still in the developing and prototyping stage of my work. However, since changing the direction so much recently, I have SO much more focus and excitement to get this project off the ground. I do think this project will end up being more long term – I know it wouldn’t be possible for me to complete and finalise something within 4 weeks because I get so in depth with my research and my work that it’s hard to let go. But the topic and focus of the work helps with this and means I can continue to develop and add to my project as time goes on….