Many people outside of the graphic design industry don’t fully appreciate what’s involved in a typical workday for a busy graphic designer. In this blog post, we try to dispel the myth that the computer does most of the work, not the designer. To help, Quentin James Design founder and lead graphic designer Quentin, takes us through a day in the life of a freelance graphic designer.
6:30am: The alarm on my watch bleeps and dings loudly, so I’m soon out of bed. One of our dogs, Dora, is keen to go out for a morning walk but our other dog, Tilly, remains curled up in a tight ball. I dress, scoop up Tilly and the three of us are off. It’s a pleasant summer morning so we walk for a couple of miles whilst it’s quiet and relatively cool. I listen to the current episode of the UnMarketing podcast while we enjoy one of our favourite routes.
7:15am: We return from our morning walk and the dogs go back to bed. I jump in the shower, get dressed then have some breakfast and a coffee before heading over to the studio.
8:00am: I like to be in the office as early as possible as it gives me chance to catch up on emails and general office admin tasks before the phone starts to ring, usually at 9:00am on the dot. I spend some time replying to client emails, collating some estimates from suppliers and putting together some graphic design proposals and print quotations for a couple of prospective new clients.
9:30am: The first phone call of the day is with a client who’s spent the weekend proof reading a technical brochure which we have designed for their Civil Engineering company. There are a few minor amendments, which I complete whilst on the phone with the client. I send over an amended PDF proof and the job is approved. The print supplier we’ve chosen for the job is expecting the final, high-resolution artwork, which we duly send over so they can set to work producing the printed brochures. That’s one job ticked off the to-do list.
10:15am: I have a Skype call scheduled to discuss a website design project with a long-time client. We recently designed, developed and deployed a new WordPress based website design for the Environmental Cleaning Services client in question and there are a few final tweaks they’d like to make. We discuss the changes and again, I complete the minor alts whilst on the Skype call. We then discuss their SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy and the ‘next steps’ with regard to their digital marketing plan.
11:00am: Time for a brew. Tea this time, Lancashire Tea this time and a digestive biscuit (or three). An email from a relatively new client drops in my inbox and it’s time to start a fresh piece of graphic design. Mondays are typically the busiest day of the week for us with several clients, in different industries, all having press advertising deadlines at the start of each week. A half page advertising design is required for a series of local and regional newspapers. The client has given us a comprehensive brief and has included all of the copy and photos needed to complete the job. I draft out a couple of rough design layouts and email the client with my initial draft design ideas. A quick exchange of emails follows and we have a consensus on which design works best. I bury my head in Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop for the next 90mins and voila – we have a half page advert ready for the client to consider.
1:00pm: It’s still fine and dry outside and not too hot, so I decide to take the office dogs for a quick walk around the block. Dora is keen to go on an adventure, Tilly less so. I corral the two Tibetan Terriers and off we go again, in search of fresh inspiration. We stick to a shady, wooded route to stay cool and swing by the local snack van for a bacon sandwich. Dora and Tilly get a cooked sausage to share so everyone is happy. Even though my Apple Watch reminds me to ‘get off my backside’ every hour, getting outside and getting some fresh air, away from telephones, computers and technology really helps clear your mind and resets the creative graphic design process.
1:45pm: We work with a number of PR Agencies (Public Relations), providing graphic design support on an ad-hoc basis. One of our PR Agency clients telephones the studio with a quick query on a graphic design proposal, which we submitted to them a few weeks ago. After answering their questions and having a quick catch up, we’re back designing things.
2:00pm: Our next graphic design job is a brand new white label website design for an existing client who is partnering with a major high street brand. I sift through the brand guidelines and corporate identity manuals for their partner, then peruse the technical specification for the e-commerce website design. We’ve been tasked with designing a responsive, Bootstrap based e-commerce website design, whilst the client’s own in-house development team create and build the site itself. We work closely and collaboratively with the development team in order to create a website design that not only looks great but meets all the technical requirements and helps to increase conversion rates.
4:30pm: A client based on a business park just a short walk from our studio calls and asks if I’ve any free time tomorrow morning for an urgent meeting. I offer to walk down to their office straight away as the graphic design job they need sounds like it has to be delivered at extremely short notice. I grab my laptop and a notebook, leaving Dora in charge of the phones and Tilly in charge of receiving any deliveries. I meet with the client who is grateful for my prompt response and we discuss their urgent graphic design project over coffee.
5:30pm: I get back to the studio following the unexpected, last-minute meeting and immediately make a call to a trusted, reliable print supplier. Fortunately the person I want to speak to is still in the office working late. I fill them in on the deadline for the urgent graphic design and print job and they promise me print quotations no later than 10am tomorrow. I spend the next half hour working out the remainder of the project’s costs so I can simply add in the print prices in the morning.
6:00pm: I check my emails again and the half page advert design that we created earlier in the day has been approved with no changes necessary. I prepare the final, high resolution PDF artwork, exactly to the technical specifications provided by the national newspaper group, before emailing it to the advertising booking agent, with placement instructions from the client.
6:30pm: Time to get some more fresh air with Dora and Tilly. We enjoy the cool evening breeze on a short walk close to our home studio. Upon returning home I feed the hungry duo and prepare an evening meal for myself and my wife. The day-to-day work hours can vary wildly but today is a good example of a typically busy day in the life of graphic designer.
7:30pm: After dinner, we all sit down to watch some TV and relax. There’s not much on the goggle box that interests me, so I break out my MacBook and do some initial research for a couple of blog posts that I’ll be writing tomorrow, on behalf of a client. Whilst this isn’t strictly a graphic design job, I’m always happy to help clients in any way I can and working on a variety of different types of jobs helps keep my graphic design skills fresh. Once I’ve got my research completed, we look for something to watch on Netflix, to wind down before bed.
10:00pm: After a busy day, it’s time for bed. My alarm is set for 6:30am tomorrow morning so a good night’s sleep is essential to recharge, ahead of another busy day in the life of a graphic designer.
"Quentin is quick to understand a brief and always delivers outstanding work on time and on budget."
"His right-first-time approach saves valuable time on every project and he backs his design work with excellent advice."
"A pleasure to work with and we will be using Quentin James Design again."
"The finished article was excellent and perfectly balanced for the audience involved."
"He interpreted my rather vague brief with speed, quality and an intuitive sense about what I needed."
"Having had the initial discussion Q came back with various options and from there on in through regular discussions he produced a website design that I'm proud of."
"I would highly recommend Quentin James Design if you are looking for a partner for your business."