Sharks & Unicorns


I’m Freelancing again.

I dipped into a permanent job for a while there, I learned a great many things and did some interesting work in the confines of what was required. But it wasn’t enough.

Turns out, I need the buzz of the entire Production process. The discussion, the brainstorming, the concept, the refinement and then, finally, the magic and work involved in making something new. There’s an energy in all of that, watching all the strands come together and understanding the ‘why’ of it.

In the job I had, I was just a small part of a machine. An important part, sure, but knowing what the big picture was wasn’t really required. Just to focus on the part of production I was in charge of.

And that production could have continued for years to come within that well oiled machine.

But I happen to like the big picture. I’m not a designer who likes to be sequestered away somewhere. I need to be deep in the mix, talking and problem solving. I also enjoy getting out there and meeting potential new clients. New contacts. Listening for inklings of work and opportunities. Or just listening, sharing and learning. I also need the fear and danger in seeking work and interesting projects. I think my creativity thrives on it.

Know thyself, huh? It was time to go.

I also loved teaching my Game Art classes, and I had to give that up due to my ‘full time’ commitments. I’m now very happy to announce that I’ll be resuming my duties in Pulse College and looking forward to it immensely. Teaching in such a vibrant and changing field forces you to update and continue to advance your own skills. Teachers need to learn too. The tools and methods change so fast, while the core principles of good design remain relatively sound. And things HAVE changed out there in the short time I’ve been ‘away’.

You see, being a designer is a bit like being a shark. Cool metaphor, huh? No? A cuddly shark then? No, not because we’re at the top of the food chain (we’re not) or beautifully efficient pinnacles of evolution (No, we’re not that either.)


We’re like sharks because if we stop swimming, stop learning, then we’re dead in the water. Simple as that.

But recruiters aren’t looking for sharks these days… oh no, they want UNICORNS.

Yes, folks. The legendary Unicorn. A Designer who can not only ‘Art’, animate, create beautiful UI’s and be a master of Graphic Design…no, they can Code too. Oh and they’re also experts in UIX. The Unicorn.

(I recently stated in an office full of adult professionals that, “I’m not a Unicorn.” Nobody blinked. What a world we live in!)

There is a lot of potential work out there for a Designer now with a bewildering array of new titles and lists of ‘desired skills’ that only super powered humans could aspire to. I’ve seen lists as long as my arm mentioning ‘Rock Star Designer wanted’, coding skills including html5, CSS, Java & whatever, UI/UIX expertise and oh, wait a minute… did we mention ‘CREATIVITY’ anywhere in there?

They probably do mention it, but let’s face it, if you can do all those things AND make whatever it is you’re designing look great, you’re a rare beast and will probably be hunted down and your head pinned to a wall. You may as well run the company while you’re at it.

It seems like an accolade, but I wonder if it’s just an elaborate cost cutting exercise for HR?

These people do exist. There are some out there doing very well, I assume. But I have to question you as a company if you need ONE person to do all these things. I’m going to assume you can’t afford a team. I’m going to assume that this ONE person is going to be under tremendous pressure. I’m also going to assume they’re going to have problems focusing on ONE thing at a time.

I’m not a Unicorn. I do, however, have a great deal of experience with production, Art Direction and UI’s. That’s quite a lot for one person, in my humble opinion. I may not code, but I do know how to work with developers and what they need from me. Someone needs to concentrate on the vision and the visuals while someone is making sure the algorithms behind it are working. They’re two very different but symbiotic mindsets.
It’s an exciting time. I’m very glad to be back. It’s what I needed to do and I’m writing and making ‘things’ again. Please give me a shout if you want to work with me on something interesting.

And while I may not be a Unicorn (many apologies,) I think you’ll find I’m one hell of a good Designer.


A fun illustration for the @AnimalAlphabets Twitter collective. 

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