I remember not being allowed email, as that was for the IT department. We had a rack with seven columns, one for each day of the week. Tasks for the day were stacked up in the rack and we worked our way through. That was in 1994. At my next job the expectation was that of course I would use email – and I was left to get on and work out how to use it. Everyone else was busy ICQing, but I never caught onto that.
I also remember my first mobile phone – and how self conscious I was about using it. It was a brick of a thing from a deeply uncool manufacturer. I replaced it with a Nokia like the one Keanu had in the Matrix. I loved that phone. It had a slide and a ‘navi-roller’ input thingy. Iain split tea on it.
It took me a long time to work out what I wanted to do. I did a sculpture degree that didn’t really prepare me for the world of work. I had a series of lame jobs that financed a studio, but eventually I realised that the studio was really only social, so I started working for a local paper, the Evening Argus, as a scanner and mac operator. The production side of printing was cool but the company was a nightmare. They’d completely restructured following the print workers industrial displutes and also to cater for the seismic shift caused by computerisation. I read Ricardo Semmler’s ‘Maverick’ but talk of industrial democracy didn’t go down well.
I realised I could achieve alot of my artistic goals using photoshop and for a while tried to break into illustration. It didn’t happen though so I started applying for any job that had Photoshop in the description. I ended up having an interview with a Multimedia company in Chichester. I had no idea what multimedia was but the interviewers were really kind and ended up walking me through their work. I loved what I saw – and knew that’s what I wanted to get involved with.
I did some courses at the Lighthouse to get up to speed with Director (although I never was too hot designing for time based media) and ended up freelancing for Brighton-based Cogapp. I wanted desperately to work for them full time, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I ended up moving to London to work for the Multimedia Corporation. Initially I was producing screen layouts in quark for the Oxford Children’s Encyclopedia on CD Rom. Also in production was a CD Rom version of Sophie’s World – that was truly gorgeous, and was the first time I saw what really great designers could do with video and after effects. I worked with programmers directly for the first time at MMC too, although they were slightly aloof and I never got past thinking that it was some sort of magic that transformed the photoshop flats into feature rich interactive experiences. Some of the people that worked there were the most inspiring I ever worked with – particularly the designers Nikki Barton and Sophie Greenfield.
The business model for CDRoms never was too well thunk out so in a state of panic the company started to try out web work. Trouble was the programmers said that HTML wasn’t a programming language so they didn’t need to get involved. I taught myself HTML (badly). My first job was to produce Unilever’s Annual Report & Accounts. It worked fine locally, so I confidently copied it to disk (floppy!) and took it to present to the client. That was when I learnt the difference between relative and absolute links. Doh.
By that time I’d got involved with interactive TV though so as soon as I could (6 weeks after getting back from maternity leave) I left beeb.com to join Agency.com as an art director in their interactive TV team. My head was turned by the job title, I thought I was climbing that ladder but I soon learnt that everyone at Agency had the word director in their title – unless they were a VP instead. This was in the heady atmosphere of the bubble. It seemed I could get any job I wanted for as much money as I asked for. But then it all went pop. I was on maternity leave (again) when I was made redundant for the second time. At least this time round I got three months cash.
I retired back to Brighton to lick my wounds. I freelanced for a while at National Geographic Channel – my last iTV project. I got involved with a couple of conferences and I did a bit of lecturing at Brighton University. They were lean times though so I ended up on the other side of the fence – no longer a designer but an account manager, for a Brighton advertising agency. Man, creatives don’t treat account managers well.
Luckily I managed to cross the fence back again, becoming a producer and eventually even being allowed to sit in the studio too. It wasn’t a happy company, but the spirit of the blitz prevailed, pushing out some great work and fueling legendary nights. It’s still a great place to go for some gossip – there’s always someone doing something (or more likely someone) they shouldn’t.
It wasn’t enough for me though. I wanted to be more in control of my working environment, to have more say in the direction of the work and generally to be treated like a grown up. So that’s where I am now.