Christian Tait, Creative Cadence
Christian is a designer whose work I’ve admired for a while now. I met him via the Being Freelance facebook group, and Christian’s always happy offer advice from his wealth of experience, and answer questions that others have.
I really love reading the case studies on Christian’s website. The case studies, along with his work, are always really well presented. And his work is always inspiring!
And even though he doesn’t like coffee, I wanted to pick his brains with these interview questions.
What coffee do you like to drink?
Actually I don’t like coffee! Can we make this ‘Tea with Bhavini’? (Preferably Yorkshire Tea)I
Tell me about the work you do
I worked full time for 18 years in Bristol-based design and advertising agencies before setting up my own graphic design business in 2013. I’m from Lancashire originally, but ended up in Bristol after doing my Graphic Design Degree here. I also met my wife on the course and she’s a freelance illustrator – we both work from home.
My business (Creative Cadence Ltd) started with a brand identity and print focus – as that’s where my expertise was. Now, however, I also do a lot of website design for my clients and I work with a freelance WordPress developer to build those sites. My clients are either individual small business owners or medium businesses who lack in-house design capability. I also work with lone marketing managers within larger businesses who need to outsource design work.
I help businesses transform their brand and marketing collateral; from brand redesign to creating the on-going design assets a business needs as it grows. This can be anything from a brand identity and website, through leaflets, brochures and e-books and as far as event and exhibition design. Any of that can often involve quite complex infographics to help them communicate complex problems more easily.
I don’t specialise in terms of sector – I’ve worked with tech companies, content agencies, florists, animation businesses, energy companies and charities. This is what keeps it interesting. Part of the reason I set up my own business is that I was tired of working in agencies that specialised in one sector. Years of working on the same financial services clients could get very dull!
Finish this sentence. Great design should be...
… eye-catching, clever, memorable and have a rationale behind it … not just look nice for the sake of looking nice. If appropriate (depending on the subject matter and client) it’s good if it makes people smile … makes them think, ‘oh … that’s really clever’.
Finish this sentence. Great design elevates your brand by...
… making you and your business stand out against the competition by making you and your business memorable. Great design also makes you look professional and communicates the fact that you know what you’re doing. So many people are potentially turned off businesses because their marketing looks terrible (even if that business might be really good at what they do!) You need to look like you know what you do too!
When lockdown eases, the first project I would like to design would be... because…
I’d like to work with a client in the environmental / leisure sector. So many people over lockdown have come to realise how important the outdoor environment around them is. We’ve been restricted to local walks, not travelling too far and people have discovered the outdoors and nature on their doorstep. I’ve always had a huge interest in nature and the outdoors but never really got to work with a client in that sector.
I think the local Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, English Heritage – organisations like that will have a resurgence if things ever get back to normal and it would be great to work with them.
What piece of design do you wish you’d created?
I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here (!) but the most memorable, iconic pieces of design for me are more physical things / products like the Volkswagen Beetle or Concorde.
I’m a bit of an aerospace nerd on the quiet, and slightly obsessed with Concorde (and very saddened I never got to fly on it before it was retired). What amazes me about this piece of design is that it was designed in the 1960’s, on drawing boards with pen/pencil and paper and today it still looks so beautiful and futuristic.
There’s also the whole ‘form follows function’ thing with it. No-one ever set out to design a beautiful aircraft. It’s finished form only looks the way it does, because of what the aircraft needed to do. It needed to carry 120 people, at twice the speed of sound, in comfort and fly a certain distance without stopping to be refuelled. And yet the finished object (in my eyes) is one of the most beautiful things ever.
Wow … I could go on …! Concorde was built in Bristol and we have an aerospace museum here where a British Airways Concorde is a star exhibit.
On a more practical note
I’ve never had the opportunity to design any album covers. I love the work of Peter Saville who designed many covers for Joy Division, then New Order and many other bands. His cover for Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album is one I’m very jealous of.
So simple. It features whie, graph-like lines on a pure black background. Saville found the graphic in a science book – it’s the radio readout from a rotating pulsing star out in space and it spoke to him about the band’s music.
I wish I could design something so simple and iconic – or have the opportunity to do so.
What do you think makes someone a great designer?
Someone simply with a good intuition for what looks right or wrong and someone who is not afraid to ask the right questions of a client.
Lots of ‘why?’ questions. A designer needs to understand why a client has come to them, what their problem is, why they need a designer’s help, why their current marketing communications aren’t working and above all – how they might use their design skills to fix those problems.
All that is above and beyond the ‘expected skills’ of Adobe software, drawing skills, using a computer etc.
If you weren't doing design, what would you be doing?
I’d definitely be working in nature or the outdoors in some way – maybe a Countryside Ranger, something like that?
In fact, over the past two years I’ve been doing some training to potentially head in that direction, if I ever decide that design isn’t for me any more. In 2018/19 I did a Level 2 Environment and Countryside Practical Skills course and I’m currently in the midst of a Level 2 RHS Horticulture course at Bristol Botanical Gardens.
Lockdown-pending, I also volunteer once a week at a local wetland nature reserve – Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. I work with their horticulture team maintaining the plants and trees in the grounds … ooh … and I also get to drive tractors around (possibly the main reason I do it!)
And finally, can you tell me about 3 other freelance designers or small biz owners whose work you admire
My life would be hell if I didn’t mention my wife here! Carys Tait works as a freelance illustrator and does some beautiful work. Always very colourful with a sense of humour, but for a wide variety of subject matter, but always around the theme of working with businesses that ‘do good things’.
Another designer who I admire is Karen Arnott. I can’t remember where we connected – I thought it was in the Being Freelance Group, but I can’t find her there. Anyway, she specialises in branding, digital and print work and always comes across as very professional whilst working with a wide variety of clients from fun packaging to serious reports.
Slightly coming away from the design side, I’ve worked with a lady called Sharon Tanton a lot over the past seven years. This was originally as a content / copywriter, but now she works as a Strategic Storyteller and Content Coach, helping businesses uncover, articulate and communicate their message.
I’m currently building a website for her and her business partner Sonja Nisson – The School of Valuable Content – where they will be running content coaching courses for individual business owners and small businesses. I guess I’m really championing two people here … !