[MI: Update 5] Doodles and Deadlines

Modest Industries Iconography
From watercolour sketches to beautifully rendered vector icons (if I don’t say so myself!)

It’s the final week of my self-appointed deadline to get the website live and everything else done. Working solo for the past month has been an experience. Good and bad. The good is that it gives me thinking time, I can get things done without needing to worry about processes or interdepartmental conflicts. The bad is that it can be hard to motivate yourself every single day and also it can get hella lonely. Everyone’s bloody working! It’s great not having to bump and grind on a daily commute to the office and having almost-empty roads whenever I drive somewhere during the day. Moral of the story – I need more some self-employed coffee shop friends. Maybe I’ll organise a working meet-up.

Now, what have I been up to this week?

Website:

The code is pretty much there. It works how I want and it scales well on different screen sizes. I’ve written the majority of the copy too which has helped a lot in visualising the end product.

After writing the copy I needed to make some changes to the layout. Lorum Ipsum is great but it’s also too easy to make look good so once I added copy there were inevitable tweaks that needed to be done. Mainly the sections where there’s alternating image and text side by side. I wanted to also have them align vertically to each other – which as other developers will know, vertical alignment can be a bitch – especially if the height needs to be dynamic and you’re also using nth-of-type and floats. Either way, it’s in a happy place right now.

All that’s left with the website is to finish making the accompanying icons and to take some photos.

Iconography:

I changed direction with the main style of my imagery from being borderless photos on white backgrounds to a flat, vector doodle style. The photography style will still be incorporated where people or physical products are involved, but for the majority of the site I’m now going with a bespoke set of icons I’ve been designing. You can check out some of them on the Modest Instagram. The more I make, the more ideas I have so the rest of this week will be making these and fitting them into the website.

Business Cards:

My first batch of business cards from Moo were terribly aligned so they gave me a reprint. The gold foiling on the original batch where I had the gold badge on the back bled into the detail too much so this time round I enlarged the gold badge and it looks kinda awesome. Think police badge mixed with American Psycho business cards. They’re badass. Aside from a few of the cards not having the gold foiling, I’d say about 90% of them were perfect.

Office Space:

I’m meeting a guy in London about office space this week. I’m not sure exactly what he’s thinking or what will come of it and I won’t know what the plan is until after meeting him, but it looks like a London office is a strong option on the table regardless of what happens here, the other option is Hertford as it has good connections to London and I’ll be moving in to a new flat there in March.

New Business:

It’s getting round to that time where I’m going to have to start scouting for new business. So far only some emails have been sent. Once the new website is live there’s going to be a big push for clients though even before the launch happens there’s currently potential for a couple of monthly retainers (design and development work), as well as website build and branding projects so it’s a good start. The feelers are also out for some employees. There will be a Vacancies page on the website when it goes live, chances are I’ll need one developer and one designer but these are dependent on the genre of clients that come through the door and the type work we’ll be delivering for them.

That’s all for now. Take care and don’t forget to follow Modest Industries on Instagram.

 

[MI: Update 4] Almost Business Time

Concept sketches of header image for Modest Industries
Concept sketches of header image for Modest Industries
Week 3 is almost over and things are starting to come together. Week 4 will probably be manic while I try and get all the loose ends tied up before the soft launch. Here’s a run down of the past week.

Business Cards:

They arrived and as excited as I was, they were printed off-centre. There’s usually a 2mm error threshold with printed jobs but this was so off-centre that it looked terrible so I requested a refund which was credited to my MOO.com account. I ordered another set.

The card stock is beautifully thick, the gold foiling is a really nice subtle touch, though for smaller details it bleeds a bit too much. I’m hoping my new ones are better aligned so I can give them out proudly. Credit where credit is due however, MOO does have some fantastic customer service.

Website:

This is the big one. It’s coming along nicely – I built all the pages as static HTML and then gave them a dynamic header and footer with PHP. Eventually I’ll build it out into a full on WordPress theme and use that as the CMS but for now I don’t need to as it works, is fast and I have control over every pixel. I’ve also built the contact form that people can use to send the company enquiry emails, which is nice. In case your’e wondering how I’m viewing the PHP files, I use MAMP for my local server (it’s how I develop WordPress themes locally too).

The website is being built ‘mobile-first’ so I’m making it to be displayed well on small screens as a priority. My main consideration initially was having a menu that works on smaller screens which is navigationally important user experience. It’s nothing fancy, a simple menu button that once clicked animates as it opens/drops down with a nice ‘x’ appearing under the original menu button. I built it to animate using JavaScript and made it dynamic by programming a simple algorithm that counts the menu items and adds some base numbers to determine the height to animate the menu’s container to. Simple. I needed to make this as dynamic as possible (i.e. the website knowing what to do when new menu items are added) because it will make things easier going forward as the website develops.

Office Space:

Office space, office space, office space. The bane of my life. Finding that right balance of cost vs. space vs. location vs. lease is a tricky one. Ideally I want a monthly contract to begin with in a place easy to get to by train or car, but the more I look the more I’m thinking I should get space in London or get a longer lease around here. I’m optimistically hoping by next week I’ll have something sorted.

Photography Studio:

I’ve ordered some photography studio gear which will arrive next week.  From past experience, having a clear area to take a few photos for whatever is a must. Sometimes we’ll need a photo of something simple that takes an age to find in the right style on stock photo websites, other times it’s getting those impromptu head shots or making on the fly professional videos. It’s useful to have and IMHO something every agency should have instant access to, even if it’s temporary and can be set up when needed. Modest has a borderless image style and we’re taking all of the photos for the website so the equipment will see good use from day one.

Reaching out:

I’ve started to reach out to friends and companies who I’ve previously spoken to about, and have shown interest in working with Modest Industries. I’m not going for the big push yet because good work at this stage is important to me so organically growing the client list and building solid relationships are key. Anyone that has shown early interest therefore has first dibs.

 

Pizza in the wild

pizza-icon-by-marcus-michaels

I love seeing the things I make and put out in the world get picked up and used by other people for their projects. That’s the reason I love making icons and contributing them to The Noun Project. I’ve seen my icons used in a number of projects but my favourite one (because I love the real thing so much) is my pizza icon. It was one of the first icons I ever uploaded to The Noun Project and to date it’s been my most popular at over 2800 downloads.

The only problem is that if people pay for the icon, they obviously don’t have to give attribution so I don’t get to see a lot of the work, but some do and today whilst browsing Uncrate I saw the book Where To Eat Pizza (by Daniel Young) staring me right in the face.

This is tremendously exciting!

I did a little vanity Googling and found a few other places it was being used – one of my favourites being this Pebble project on GitHub: A watchface for the Pebble watch that does nothing but display “Pizza Thursday”. It was created for the monthly Pizza Thursday at Catalyst IT http://catalyst.net.nz.

An honourable mention also goes out to this Late Night Slots game because it’s all about junk food and slot machines, and that’s awesome.

Love it.

[MI: Update 3] Making Progress

modest-industries-business-cards
Modest business cards with gold foil accents – phone number omitted, obviously.

Second week into the new business year and things are moving surprisingly fast. Faster than I had imagined anyway…

Website:

I’m sure there are thousands of designers and developers who’d agree that designing and building something for yourself is a completely different ballgame to doing something for a client. The main reason being is that the client gives you at least an outline of what they want, but we’re here thinking we can do anything and everything which is a helluva task to hone in.

I was thinking this would take the whole month but it’s started to shape up pretty quickly (it’s amazing what a couple of coffee overdoses can do). Saying that, I’ve got down the overall website style – clean, minimal and with an attempt at no information overload. I’m looking forward to starting the build of this one.

Business Cards:

With the website style defined, I was able to port that over to the business cards which are currently in the process of being printed. I’ve only requested a small run as they may change on the next versions. Some cheeky gold foiling on these too which will look amazing, though saying that – I kept it subtle because as tempting as it was to get my money’s worth, I think a little goes a long way.

Pitch Deck:

The pitch deck is something that I really need to get finished as soon as possible. At the moment it’s not as big a priority as the website, but it’s the next step once I’ve launched the website so I can start contacting potential clients and get a conversation going.

I’ve made more progress than I thought I would have at this stage having done the presentation design and most of the copy. It’s just a case of figuring out the platform I’m going to make it on like Powerpoint, Keynote, PDF – or something completely different like a new platform-agnostic idea I’ve had.

Office Space:

Steve and I viewed some offices last week. Originally we intended to get a small place that could hold at max 3 or 4 people, but after some negotiation we got a great deal on a much larger space, able to hold something like 10-15 people. I’m happy, he’s happy. Overall, we’re pretty happy! The plan is to move in next Monday which is great.

Having an office lined up is making all of this seem really real, really quick. I mean, it’s been real for the past year as I’ve had consistent freelance work, but moving from working in my client’s offices to now working from my own office – it’s a good feeling.

After literally finishing writing about our office space I had an email come through saying that someone sniped us by putting a deposit before us. First lesson in verbal agreements – if someone comes in with a better offer, you’re fucked.

Nevertheless, I’m still optimistic about getting a nice office space… just maybe not quite as big.

Until next time you sexy readers.

[MI: Update 2] Office Space

modest-officeIt’s the end of the first working day of 2016 and it has been productive. The day started off with some planning and brainstorming before I headed over to see Steve, a friend of mine who is in a similar situation to me. We look at some office spaces online and it’s not that exciting (our first choice was thrown out of the window when we realised its actually not that close to Liverpool Street Station as we originally thought) so we figure it’s probably best to see them in person.

Fortunately, we live near each other — just outside of London — so we arrange some local viewings to gauge what’s available and for what price.

We visited two main locations and on the whole I’d say we were impressed at what’s available for serviced offices around 300-500 a month (outside of London, of course). We need to decide if the premium is worth it to be in London or whether it’s more sensible to find a bigger and cheaper place with good train connections.

Either way, I’d say today was a good start to the year.

[MI: Update 1] Growing Modest Industries

modest-coffeeDay one of the new year for Modest Industries and it’s back to the drawing board (well, notebook).
This year my plan for the company is to grow it and transition away from a sole freelancer operation into a company with talented staff and a roster of quality, open-minded clients.

This won’t happen overnight.

It’s a process that many have done before and will continue to do, so for the sake of prosperity I’m going to post continuous updates here of the progress, successes, failures and whatever else is interesting.
Consider this my first update. I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my portable office, notebook in hand and with the whole of January booked out solely to focus on and develop Modest Industries.

We’ve got the logo and the brand ethos — the plan now is to grow this. I need to get a proposition and strategy together, make the marketing materials and ultimately build the holy grail that holds all of this together, the website.

Here’s to the New Year and the future of Modest.