Featured Studio

M. Giesser — Communication, Design & Strategy

February 2019

We caught up with Director and namesake of M.Giesser, M and get an almost hour-by-hour rundown of his typical working day, which includes 'making something delicious from scratch while watching an episode of Charmed'. Plus M prepares you for the 'real world' post grad with 10 industry insights, and we discuss current & potential design trends and the future for traditional graphic design amidst constant technological development.

Did you have a plan for graduation and what actually happened?

Yeah, no, not really crazy, big or even any plans as such, but I did have every intention to simply graduate, which btw, I didn't.

There was a bit of a mix up in one of my classes (marker rendering from memory), and I had failed the first semester due to the teacher missing a heap of my assignments, and it was meant to be amended, but apparently it wasn't. I found all this out after school had already wrapped for the year and while I did make a few attempts to resolve the issue, it seemed like more effort than what it was worth. Truthfully I've never put much stock in design education and knew it wouldn’t be the piece of paper that got me a job.

I often think about the irony of receiving the "Go To Los Angeles Award” which was given to the student who displayed the most outstanding creativity in their final year, yet I never actually graduated. To me it succinctly captures the ridiculousness of the education system. Not to mention it’s just a terrible name for an award. LA was by no means a notable design city 20 years ago. Anyway, it did manifest itself into a fairly deep–seated loathe for Toronto after 10 years, so I did move, but to Amsterdam instead of LA.

Talk us through a typical working day include for you right now.

My days really are surprisingly typical, much moreso than in my former studio/agency days. Definitely still a bit on the fence around how I feel about this repetitive typicalness or typical repetitiveness, but yeah, there are days where I literally stand in my kitchen, staring out the window in my pyjamas, wondering what day it is and what separates this day from the previous day (usually deadlines). Thinking about how my life isn't that dissimilar to a hamster on a wheel. Which, I have no problem with, I’m 42, I’ve lived already, I’m pretty much just coasting to the finish line.

An exciting blow–by–blow account can be found below —

5 – 10am:

Wake up

Roll out of bed most days at 5am, occasionally earlier :| and stumble into the kitchen to make a pot of plunger coffee (my partner finds this disgusting but I actually put enough milk and sugar for 4 cups of coffee in the pot all at once just so I can take the whole thing down the hallway with me and save myself the hassle of going back to kitchen in order to top up).

Get to work.

Over the years I've really grown into being a morning person, mostly out of necessity, but I've also found that it's just the most productive time of day for me. If I can, I ignore the emails that have trickled in overnight and just get stuck into whatever I'm working on. 90% of the creative work I do happens in these 5 hours. By "creative" I mean concept development work and writing.

10am — 2pm:

Studio or stay home?

Make the decision on whether I'll keep working from home or head into the studio. I work really well from home so most of the time I stay put and tend to only go into the studio on days I have meetings or need human interaction (frankly not that often).

Catch up on emails/admin.

Being a one–man band, I have a lot of admin, both project and production management so I try and take an hour to fire off as many replies and requests as I can. Admittedly this part of the day could easily be titled "Opening the floodgates".

Turn mobile off.

I try and keep my phone off during the day and encourage my clients to arrange (via email) a time to chat if we need to. I know it's easier to resolve things on the phone, but the quickest/easiest way to communicate often doesn't translate into the best way to communicate. I also never take verbal feedback, it's super important to have a digital paper trail.

Quest for approval(s) Pt. 1

My creative day has generally devolved by now into a series of fits and spurts, making amends and attempting to get approval on things. Any given day has anywhere from 3 – 10 projects (if there's more than 10 then I stop counting) on the go so it does get a bit "Lord of the Flies" with projects/clients in here at times.

Lunch.

If I'm at the studio I'll grab something small like soup or a slice of pizza and just be quick about it. If I'm at home it can range from leftover curry to taking a full hour and making something delicious from scratch while watching an episode of Charmed (the original not the new series).

3 — 6pm: Quest for approval(s) Pt. 2

See "Quest for approval(s) Pt. 1"

6 – 8pm: Free time

If I've got any beans left, I'll pick up what I was working on earlier to try and get a bit further ahead but I'm often so mangled mentally, physically and emotionally by this stage of the day that nothing good will come out of this time.

8 — 11pm: Cooking and relaxing

I love to cook and have found it's the best way to unclench from the day. I can happily spend a couple hours making dinner with the television on, catch up with my partner, have a drink and just forget about the day. Then I like to undo the above by laying in bed for an hour, unable to sleep, busy worrying about the next day.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

It's not really advice but it's something that Jeff Lewis (American interior designer / television personality) said that I think about all the time, weekly if not daily. It's something to the degree of — "If I always did what my clients asked me to do then I wouldn't be doing my job."

"

Our role as designers will surely just continue to become more all–encompassing

"

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

Be prepared to —

\1. Make presentations for the rest of your life (both your own creative presentations and presentation templates for your clients).

\2. Get rejected often. This is one of the hardest things to mitigate as a designer. To be great, you have to throw yourself and put everything into the good projects, while attempting to keep enough distance from your work to avoid the soul–destroying, emotional bodyslam of having your work rejected. You can’t take it personally, I mean, it’s extremely hard not to, but you just can’t.

\3. Work very, very long hours for a disproportionate amount of pay. Unless you're in advertising.

\4. Execute ideas that you do not support or believe in. Whether they come from the client, your creative director or your colleagues, this is inevitable. The best you can do is always put forward alternative ideas that you do believe in, alongside the ones you don't and then see point 5.

\5. Sell, sell, sell your ideas (you can adapt the lyrics of "Row, Row, Row your boat..." if easier to remember).

\6. Understand that design is delivery. It's not the idea, the sketch or the Instagram tile, it's being able to see an idea through to the end, delivering what you agreed to, on time and on budget. (I’ve lifted this from one of my architectural clients but it’s completely relevant for all designers).

\7. Change everything.

\8. Learn to write. Most designers can’t, at least not very well. This will not only make you look competent, it will help differentiate you from the others, who can’t write very well.

\9. Spend a majority of your waking life thinking about your work, because your work shouldn’t be work, your work is your practice. You must be invested. It’s like KRS–One said — rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.

\10. Have fun. Work hard. Be nice to people. (Credit to Anthony Burrill there, but it’s so true. It’s pretty hard to solely compete on the uniqueness of your output but being a pleasure to work with, is what will keep clients coming back to you).

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

Page numbers will become so big there will be no room for anything else on the page. An aesthetically–pleasing outcome and a comment on the lack of meaningful content these days. We’re already in the midst of the grafixxx free–for–all, the age of “anything goes” design, an orgy of drop shadows and bad typography so I think we’ll continue to see this get pushed further and further until everyone gets bored of it and then goes back to making type really small again. Remember the 90’s, everything in 6pt type? Technology will also continue to play a bigger role in traditional graphic and type design with more integration of cinema 4D, AR, kinetic type and variable fonts.

Aesthetics aside, our role as designers will surely just continue to become more all–encompassing, where even small practices like myself need to master a good working knowledge of technology, strategy, business, communication and craft. There’s not really much future for the traditional graphic designers who like to sit on their island, behind the screen, tapping out logo variation after logo variation.

I'm not sure I will adapt? I think (or at least hope) that while design trends, technology and the goal posts around our roles continue to change, there are some fundamentals that will never go out of style or fashion, like thinking. Timothy Leary said it best — “I'd just like to see thinking come back in style.”

Instagram: @mgiesser

Website: mgiesser.com

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