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.

MarcusFont2

Remember my hand-drawn typeface – MarcusFont? Probably not… but I won’t hold it against you because I’m happy to announce it’s been upgraded.

I’ve just added a load of new glyphs (including the much ñéêdëd åccented characters!)

I didn’t realise how much it needed an upgrade until I started using it on here as a webfont, but now it’s got all the extra characters it’s a much more complete font and guess what – because I’m so super duper excited, you can download MarcusFont2 here for free!

(personal use only please – drop me a line if you want to use it for any commercial projects)

MarcusFont2

Freelancing: Is the risk worth the reward?

I love being my own boss. I love controlling every aspect of my life, from managing my finances and choosing my clients to taking time off whenever I want.There’s no one to tell me that with the 365 days we’re graced with in a year I can only have 25 of those working days off. It doesn’t make sense to me.

The way we work as a society is broken. All evolutionary aspects aside let’s look at something simple like daylight, especially when it gets dark early. You see, we as a species need sunlight, the human body absorbs vitamins from it, it affects our mood, sets our body clocks and so much more, yet we’re actively avoiding it.

A typical Winter’s working day:

Wake up, it’s still dark > commute, while it’s dark > get to work, it’s getting lighter > hopefully spend an hour outside for lunch in the daylight > leave work and, what’s this… oh, it’s dark again. Boom. Day over, rinse and repeat.

But hey, what can you do about it?

Well actually, you can change it.

There’s a lot of hype around freelancing at the moment. Breaking the shackles of a permanent workplace to sit on a beach in some foreign land, laptop by your side, sipping on cocktails.

That’s the dream, right?

However, is the risk of leaving a financially secure job worth it, and is it actually possible?

For a lot of people being away from the office just wouldn’t work because your job may involve specialist or cumbersome equipment or your role requires your physical presence.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I sit at a single desk all day?
  • Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?
  • Is my work computer based?
  • Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?
  • Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

Do I sit at a single desk all day?

Being desk-bound can be a key giveaway that you can probably work from anywhere in the world. Being at a desk means you’re getting stuff done on a table. If stationery and a computer is all you use – you’re golden.

Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?

If you need a lot of specialist equipment, e.g – high-powered microscopes, centrifuges, studio equipment – basically anything hard to carry, then your options are more limited. Stay employed or invest in your own equipment and start your own company.

Is my work computer-based?

Computers are so portable and so powerful today that if all your work is based in pixels then you’re already free. Well, trapped within the confines of your hard drive (hello cloud computing!) but essentially you can pick up that foldable chunk of circuit boards and crack on anywhere with an internet connection and electricity. That’s most of the world.

Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?

A lot of jobs involve real life meetings with real life people. 90% of meetings are bullshit and a waste of time. Saying that, however, it’s always best to meet people in person if you’re demonstrating a product, giving a pitch or presentation, etc. but with services like Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and whatnot – you can attend meetings from anywhere (just make sure your backdrop is appropriate… #NoToiletMeetings).

Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

A lot of larger companies store their files on a local server. It’s a good idea for security and always having the most up-to-date files at any given time. Being away from the office means you won’t have access to these files. There are ways around this by having files sent to you, though one issue here comes with large files. Maybe you’re a designer needed to access a 4GB photoshop file, or a video editor with hundreds of gigabytes of footage to download. In these situations you either need to drop by in person or have some nut busting internet speeds.

Is it worth it for me?

Still reading? Good. Maybe you’ve thought about it and yeah, you can do this. If not, there’s still plenty of options – not for this article though.

From the outside looking in, this seems like a no-brainer, but actually ask yourself “Is this lifestyle worth it for me”. Everyone has their own battles and everyone has a different situation. Can you up and leave without any responsibility to family, friends, pets or plants? The beach life isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, I prefer the coffee shop scene in a city (#peoplewatching).

What I’m getting at is that only you can figure out if it’s worth it.

This is what makes it the hardest part for most people. Everyone can give you advice but only you can choose to take it. Having a steady job with financial security takes a lot of worry out of life, and if the worst should happen you usually get at least a month or so to figure out your next step. On the flip side, you could argue that there’s no ‘jobs-for-life’ anymore so why should you trust someone to feed you their work to do when you can go and get your own work?

Freelancing is a double-edged sword and what you put into it, you get out of it. You can make as much or as little as you want. Don’t feel like working for a couple of months? That’s great, but you won’t make a penny. Want to work solid for a couple of months? Even better – you could make more in those two months than four in your old job.

Let’s weigh up some pros and cons.

Cons Pros
No steady monthly paycheck Ability to earn more in a month than before
No one to guide you You’re your own boss
Pressure to acquire your own clients Build your perfect client list
Clients can stop giving you work You can refuse work for asshole clients
Harder to plan for the future Able to save more money, faster
It can be lonely Live and work where you want
Harder to meet new people The people you meet are usually likeminded
No routine 🙁 NO ROUTINE! 😀
You have to wear every hat in the business You have full control over your finances
You have to market yourself properly You can brand yourself however you want
People may give you a hard time as it’s not a ‘real job’ It’s way better than a ‘real job’
No pay on bank holidays or sick days

Anymore for anymore? Leave ‘em in the comments below.

I’m not here to tell you what to do with yourself, how to live your life or what’s in your best interests. Freelancing isn’t for everyone and unless you try it you’ll never know the control and freedom (good and bad!) you can have over your life.

For me, I’m enjoying the freelance lifestyle which may or may not end up being long-term, though by taking this risk I know exactly what I do like and what I don’t.

Looking for a way to get started?

Design, Photography, Copywriting and Coding are all great examples of things you can do on the move. If you want to go down the coding route because you want to build websites, apps and/or useful tools for specific problems I’d highly recommend Treehouse. It’s an online learning resource (the best one I’ve used) that teaches how to code, design principles and even how to start a business. Give it a go with my free trial.

Why I stripped the style from my blog

Good morning! Today sees my new WordPress theme launch.

marcusblog-wordpress-theme-2015

When I say “new WordPress theme” I really mean “basic stripped down version of a WordPress theme requiring only the minimum functionality and styles for it to work”.

I’ve always been an on-and-off blogger mainly due to not wanting to blog when I don’t like my theme, so my clever idea was to make this blog just about the content.

All you UX people out there will argue that I’m not maximising clickthroughs, that there’s no real thought-out user journey and maybe some aspects are clunky. I’m not going to disagree, I also don’t care. The important thing for me is that I start writing again. The styles I’ve built make posts easy to read on various devices and that’s all that really matters to me right now.

The design was a tricky one for me, as it’s a big part of my profession I strive to make everything I do look as good as it can. To some degree I’ve done that with this theme considering the restrictions I’ve put on it. It’s still early days and I’m still tweaking little bits that bug me but on the whole I can live with it.

I’d ask for feedback, but as I said above – I don’t really care right now, but obviously you can leave a comment telling me how awesome I am.

Back and busy… here’s my Twitter.

I was going to write a post, but I read it back to myself and it was terrible so I deleted it. Here’s my Twitter feed instead. It’ll be more up to date than my blog while I’m busy (and my Instagram… boy, has that gone downhill since I’ve been back in the UK!).


More Travelling Summaries…

I’m a terrible blogger. I have to come to terms with this. Here I am, galavanting around the world and one of the things I wanted to do was blog it all. Everything. All the little details, what I had for lunch, the people I met, where I stayed, awesome local knowledge.

I need to (and plan to) write more detailed individual posts about each country, experience, activity, whatever.

Forget about it.

The last time I blogged I was in Krabi. From Krabi we flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and stayed there for ten days, then dropped down to Singapore on a luxury bus (and unlike the ‘Luxurious VIP’ bus that came off the road in Cambodia, this one was really really nice).

After ten days in what I believe is the safest city in the world we flew (Singapore airport it awesome) to Australia. Spent a week in Brisbane (AirBnB), then got a JUCY campervan. I won’t go into details about us having to change campers because of a cockroach infestation, dead batteries and a sunroof that wouldn’t close right before a heavy heavy thunderstorm; but it was really fun and Australia is an amazingly chilled place with amazing coffee. Like, seriously – they know their coffee.

A month done in Oz and we fly out of Sydney and into to Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s relatively small but still with a load of untouched landscape. We stayed in Auckland for a month (another AirBnB) but rented a car and drove all around the north island (even did a few days in Wellington). We also checked out the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo which was a highlight of the trip that I’ll never forget.

Yet again, another month passes and from New Zealand we head to the states. We land in Los Angeles, stay in Hollywood for a week, visit a few key places – checked out Santa Monica, rented a car and road tripped through Santa Barbara, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Yosemite (jaw droppingly large trees), Las Vegas (gambled on Red… landed on Black), down to Palm Springs (#cougartown) coming full circle and dropping the car off back in Hollywood.

From Los Angeles we get the Amtrak from Union Station – 43 hours sitting on a sleeper train with no horizontal laying space – we travel through California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico (picked up a traditional Navajo blanket in Albuquerque), Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and finally Illinois where we get off in Chicago. It was an intense couple of days but with the stunning views and enthusiastic new Guatemalan friend sitting on the seat next to us (whose goal it was to teach us Spanish in its entirety in that one trip), it was fun.

Now I’m writing this in another AirBnB in Lakeview, Chicago and so far we’ve walked along the lake, checked out Navy Pier, visited The Loop and tasted far too much of the amazing food here. Oh, and we saw someone order a ‘chocolate milkshake’ at this burger joint that doesn’t actually sell milkshakes…

…they sell burgers, hot dogs, a whole lot of abuse and a black chick who gets her tits out and shakes them at you if you order a chocolate milkshake. Chicago is pretty cool.

Next stop: New York.

(or obesity, whatever comes first.)

10 little big things I’ve learned in South East Asia

Travelling through south East Asia has already taught me so much about the world, life and myself (cringe!). I could go on about the pursuit of happiness, how important family is, the kindness of strangers, blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very valid and life changing stuff.

Everyone wants to tell you how to change your life with big, bold, life changing advice. I probably will too, but for now here are 10 little things that blew my mind.

10. The Bum Gun is amazing.

Holy crap, why have I never seen this in the UK. I’ve seen the Bidet in a lot of homes but man, that’s a lot of work. Using a Bum Gun on the other hand, means not even having to get up and you’ll save a ton of money on toilet paper.

Imagine a garden hose next to the toilet that instead of using to spray on your on your flowers, you spray on your flower… *wink wink, nudge nudge*. Next level cleanliness.

9. Thai Chili Paste is the shit.

It comes in a tiny jar and starts with a consistency similar to strawberry jam – mix this with anything and turn your boring, lifeless, good-for-nothing food into a gourmet treat. Rice, soup, pasta, even spread on bread. A little goes a very long way and sits firmly in the “Why did I not know about this as a student?!” category.

8. Planning is okay but not essential.

With a plan you’re unstoppable, without one you’re unpredictable. Throughout this trip the only things we planned were accommodation over Christmas and New Years near the start of our journey, and even that changed. It’s good to have to have a roadmap but don’t be scared of the dirt track.

7. You’re going to worry, even if it’s about not worrying.

What makes us human is the constant questioning of every possible variable in our lives, all the damn time. Are we fed? Thirsty? Safe? Is that mouse coming back when I’m asleep? Are those guys gonna steal my kidneys? If it happens it happens, don’t worry,  – or worry that you need to not worry.

6. Plane wings can flap.

They shouldn’t, but the way I’ve seen a plane (from the inside!) bounce across the clouds is kind of reassuring. Those things are resilient.

5. I’m a tourist.

Calling yourself a nomad, traveller, explorer, wanderer doesn’t change the fact that you’re a tourist. You’re touring the world. It sure makes us feel superior and cultured to try and avoid the ‘touristy’ places, and perhaps we’re not the stereotype of a tourist but the fact is – if you’re not a local, the only people you’ll be kidding are other tourists. And yourself.

4. Money can buy happiness.

Not in a sense of a literal exchange of money for happiness, but in the sense that if you know you’ve got enough to eat, get from A to B (and worst case scenario C) and a bed for the night, then there’s a less worry and more happy… just remember number 7 and don’t get too bogged down.

3. Bugs are everywhere.

Embrace them. The majority of them won’t kill you especially in the UK – there’s nothing to worry about – and they’re an affordable source of protein (there was an ant colony in my Pineapple).

2. Home comforts are awesome.

I can’t wait to get back and play Playstation, order a Domino’s pizza and get a Pick ‘n’ Mix and that’s okay. The things we miss fill the mind with happy nostalgia.

1. Face value means nothing.

You may think the fancy (and relatively expensive) beachfront restaurant will have better tasting food than that of the guy standing outside his home serving food from a stand in unmatched plastic bowls onto rusty tables with questionable hygiene standards, and, well, you’d be wrong.

Also, just because something looks artificially colourful, doesn’t make it sweet.