In the short time since starting out in 2009, Gordon Reid, aka Middle Boop, has built up an impressive list of international clients, been on the cover of both Digital Arts and Computer Arts at the same time, and developed a magazine that fuzes his passion for design and music.
Have a read of his interview with Ape on the Moon to find out about getting started as an illustrator and designer, and incorporating the things you love into the work you do.
Can you tell us a little about the kind of work you do?
I’m a freelance illustrator/ designer, I’ve been working in the industry since 2009, starting off working a lot in the music industry for bands such as Deerhunter and Yo La Tengo. I got these early commissions as I also run the Middle Boop mag which is a music and design site (in 2009 it was still a blog) so got a lot of contacts through the site. I now work for a whole range of international clients with projects including movie posters and DVD covers, editorial illustration, large scale illustrations and even a customised bottle of Malibu!
The work I do is pretty colourful. I’ve always had an eye for colour so that’s the first factor. A lot of my work has an old school look and used to contain a lot of found imagery from old sci fi comics and ‘How To’ books but as my work has evolved, I’ve found myself leaning towards stock imagery and using my own photography. On top of that I mix in a load of vectors, effects and filters to create a modern twist on organic collages … or something like that.
Would you consider yourself to be a purely digital designer?
I wouldn’t like to say I was totally digital, I mean, I still start off everything by hand, sketching things out and still consider a lot of my imagery by consulting old school magazines and books but I would say by the time the finished product is out there, the main bulk of that was done on the computer so … maybe I’m 70% digital designer, 30% hand rendered?
What kind of software/hardware do you use?
Most of my work is done in Photoshop but I do integrate a number of tools from Illustrator, such as the Blend tool which is really useful. Also, if it’s for print, I always finish the artwork off in In Design. Apart from that, I’ve been known to use Cinema 4D and After Effects. Apart from that, I’ve got my Canon A3 scanner, Canon Sx200 digital camera, a Wacom tablet and believe it or not, I’m still a PC man despite having used Macs for as long as I can remember.
What would you advise someone was an essential piece of equipment if they were interested in getting into digital design?
Well, essential equipment for me involves my camera and scanner. Without those two things I would have a real hard time trying to create the type of work I want to create. So, a bit of investment in a good scanner and a half decent camera is a must! On top of that, depending on what type of work you do, a Wacom tablet is a pretty vital piece of kit. It’s a tough one to get used to at first but once you’ve got there, it can be a real help too.
You’ve worked with a lot of great clients since starting out in 2009. Have you been busy from the start or is self promotion something you’ve worked hard at?
I’m not sure any designer (successful or otherwise) can hand on heart, honestly say things have always been great and they’ve always been busy (even though I’m sure most would lead you to believe they were) 2009 was just where I was starting out, so I was busy but it wasn’t always busy with glamorous work, it was more, getting used to myself and my style and learning the hard way all of the rest of the guff that goes into freelance. 2010 was when things started to get commercially busy, for instance, amongst other projects out, I had a Digital Arts cover and Computer Arts tutorial out the same month.
This year has been generally tougher as budgets have been cut even more so but I’ve literally always got something on the go. Whether I’m busy or not though, the key to getting your name out there is definitely self promotion. If you can’t face the idea of picking up the phone and hounding prospective clients in a polite and memorable way than, quite frankly, you’re in the wrong job. Good self promotion and marketing is just as valuable as the work, if you can get the attention of the right people then you’re sorted!
I spend probably more time than I should self promoting my work and have certainly invested a fair bit of money in various promotional materials, such as my Middle Boop fold out promo packs which I brought out earlier in the year. This has won me numerous commissions and gained a lot of attention in magazines so was well worth it.
Middle Boop magazine seems to be going from strength to strength. How did it come about?
Why thank you! Well, this was one of the first things I did when I started out. I formed a blog, which was basically used to promote my work and write a little about albums that I had bought. Somewhere down the line people started reading it and the blog quickly became a popular starting point for new bands and some of the major independent labels. This was all down to developing trust that with labels and promoters that we would deliver great copy on time. As it grew, my role for the site changed greatly and we took on more writers.
Now I oversee everything that goes onto the site and concentrate on the design side, interviewing illustrators etc. and the music side is run by my deputy editor Freddy, who in the year or so he has been working with me, has been the crucial part in helping the site get really popular in a fairly short space of time. At the moment, we’ve just taken on a few new writers so have about 30 people reviewing for us. The Mag is a lot of work to keep running but the benefits totally out weigh the work. For one, I’ve met most of my favourite bands and subsequently ended up working for a lot of them. The idea from here is to re-develop the site over the next six months incorporating a whole load of new features and hopefully it will continue to grow in popularity.
Do you find it difficult to balance being a graphic designer and an illustrator or are they easily interchangeable?
I don’t find it too hard balancing them. I mean, it’s a bit of a different train of thought between the two, say for instance doing a full scale illustration or a full branding guidelines is completely different but in terms of balancing the two, they’re pretty easy to work with.
I think the hardest part of doing both is actually getting across to prospective clients the fact that I can do both. That’s why with my new website I’ve got that handy little bar on the right hand side so that you can filter the different types of work I do.
“A view of Epsom Downs which is about 10 minutes from my house. A very relaxing place (when the Derby’s not on!) a great place to chill out and think. Maybe even get inspiration.”
© Middle Boop, 2011.