“One small problem,” she replied. “Who’s going to hire you? You’ve worked for yourself for almost 20 years.”
That was true, but there was a bigger problem; I’d reached the end of the line. The pressure of running a small business had taken me past the point where I was barely functioning. I’d maintained a positive public persona, but the reality was different because I was a mess.
“I’m staying in Sydney for a few weeks and looking for design consulting work.” I tweeted at the end of 2016, between speaking at Mixin and Web Directions. My old friend Ben called me. “Would you like to come into Ansarada for a week to help with our design system?”
I’ve got an idea
I hadn’t heard of Ansarada. I’d no interest in financial software. I’d often said—only half joking—that bankers should be sent to labour camps. Still, Ansarada sounded interesting and I went there to work with Ben on his design system. Ansarada had lost their CDO a few months earlier and were looking for a replacement. I knew I wasn’t the right person for that job, but when I met their CEO I said:
“I’ve got an idea. Why don’t I come to Australia for six or twelve months and fill in while you find another design leader? One big problem,” I added. “I’m not a product guy.”
“No problem.” he replied. Four months later, we were in Sydney and what was planned would be six months at Ansarada turned into fifteen.
During that time I worked on a new brand, messaging, style guide and visual language. I learned about how product companies work, how and where art direction and editorial design can fit into a product design environment, what the problems are and how to solve them. I discovered new ways to maintain a branded experience across product design and marketing and how designers in both areas can work better together. I also rekindled my energy and enthusiasm for design and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. (I’ve written a case study about some of my work for Ansarada.)
I’m feeling positive
When Ansarada found a new CDO to help them grow their design team in Sydney and around the world, it was time to come back to the (sunny) funny farm. I have mixed feelings because I will miss Australia, but I’m happy because I’m not the same wreck who went there fifteen months ago. I’ve learned a lot. The stress has gone. My energy is back. I’m feeling positive.
New design projects
Over the next few months I’ll be talking with potential clients about art direction and design and how I can help them to improve products and websites. If you have a project you’d like to discuss, no matter how big or small, I’d love to hear about it.
My next book, video courses and workshops
My next book, Art Direction for The Web, is almost finished and I’m excited about that being published in September. I plan to record some video courses on art direction for the web Skillshare for release around the same time, plus I have a few more ideas for short ebooks and videos. I’ll be developing new workshop materials too, so if you organise a conference and would like me to teach art direction for the web, get in touch.
Coaching and consultancy
I now coach and mentor a small group of designers and I plan to do more of that. I also want to do more consulting, sharing the experience I’ve gained this past year on designing and maintaining design systems, as well as how to bring more art direction and creative design to products and websites at a larger scale.
Most of all, I plan to enjoy life more. I’m happy to be back on the funny farm.