Meet Mark Hirons, Shillington Graduate and Creative Waffle Podcast Founder

We’re always thrilled to see our graduates realise independent projects and grab the design world with both hands. So when we heard about Shillington London graduate Mark Hirons starting up his own creative podcast series we had to find out more. 

Read more to learn about why Mark chose Shillington over University, how he’s set up his own studio Blue Deer Design since graduating and his new-found habit of rubbing shoulders with the design elite in his podcast series, Creative Waffle

You studied on the part-time course, graduating in July 2017. How did your time at Shillington benefit your growth as a designer and would you recommend the course to others?

Shillington was my alternative to University, it felt like I had hacked the system in some way. Learning everything that I needed in just 9 months, rather than spending 3-4 years on it.

One of the main benefits of Shillington was being able to have a conversation each week with real-life graphic design professionals (the teachers).

Feeling comfortable to ask anything and not feeling silly if I didn’t understand anything. Getting valuable feedback about the process and my own design work was also extremely useful allowing me to constantly improve week on week. As I mentioned it felt like Shillington had allowed my design skills to jump to the next level. I would definitely recommend Shillington to anyone starting out in graphic design or as an alternative to University as it has allowed me to jump into the industry faster than if I had chosen the Uni route.

Blue Deer Design is your own studio, when did you first launch Blue Deer and can you share any of your recent work with us?

Blue Deer was set up just before New Years’ back in 2014 but more as a hobby until March 2017 when more time went into it. I knew that one day I wanted to be my own boss, so I thought why not get started. Currently, it’s my full-time job with the aim to keep growing it. I would love to share a project that I recently completed where I took 52 buildings from 52 cities around the world and illustrated them in a mono-line style, the project started off as a self-initiated one, but I reached out to a few playing card sites and now they are potentially buying the idea and design work. A few of my favourite illustrations are Wembley Stadium, Florence Cathedral and The White House.

It is really exciting seeing a company interested in a passion project, this is a first for me and makes me think if more designers could sell the work they passionate about or their side projects.

Alongside working as a designer you’re very immersed in topical discussions surrounding design. Following a series of Vlogs regarding your own thoughts on design you’ve turned the mic over to others as part of your ‘Creative Waffle’ podcast. Tell us a bit about this podcast and how it’s evolved.

The podcast originally started off as a way to get more reach but as I became more confident speaking to strangers over Skype it transitioned into a way of learning. Now the podcast is a weekly show where I chat to interesting designers and creatives about their works and background. A few more recent guests include Aaron Draplin, Anthony Burrill, and Gavin Strange.

We are now 53 episodes in. Meaning that it has just been a year since it started. Time flies. It has become a great way of speaking to people that I look up to, and it that helps other designers out there then that is fantastic. I would definitely encourage anyone to start their own podcast and get themselves out there.

You’ve had some huge design names like Anthony Burrill and Aaron Draplin on Creative Waffle. What was it like interviewing such design giants and do you have any future guests you can share with us?

Talking to your heroes is a make or break moment. You want them to remember you. The biggest one was probably Draplin, but I had met him previously in London about a year before and already Skyped him before that, so it was sort of like chatting to a long-distance friend.

However, with Anthony Burrill I was much more nervous, he was the biggest name and most experienced designer I had interviewed. After a while, it became a bit smoother but I stumbled quite a lot. Looking back on those podcasts, I think that for some weird reason I didn’t see them as regular people. Perhaps I put them on a pedestal, making me more worried.

After doing 2 or 3 podcasts like this it has made me realise that I can chat with anyone, and has definitely made me a more confident speaker.

I am really looking forward to releasing the episode with Miles Newlyn. The man behind the Unilever logo, 3 and EE mobile logo. He also worked with Wolff Olins on the 2012 branding. We chat about this on the show. This was my first in-person interview, it went much better than expected. That will be episode 54. Other than that it’s hush hush, still working on a few bigger names.

Within Blue Deer’s YouTube channel you have a with a series on ‘documenting the process’—with weekly diary updates. What inspired you to create such a series and how important do you view process within graphic design?

So, I have always wanted to keep some form of diary to look back on when I am old, but I have never been too good with writing as I find it quite boring. But video came naturally. It’s sort of a little science experiment at the moment, just a bit of fun to look back on for when I get old and hopefully when I have completed all of the things I talk about in the videos.

This series is more about my week and the process of building Blue Deer rather than the graphic design process of creating a logo or piece of work.

There is a great quote from a designer called Radim Malinic ‘Everything is a work in progress’—this sort of inspired the name of the series.

I think everything is a development/process, each project, each relationship, each year, each life. Constantly trying to progress to the next level in everything. So in terms of design following a process for each project, over time this will become really efficient and a lot quicker as you get more experienced. This will allow you to get to where you want to be.

You’re tremendously prolific jugging all these various outputs. What are your key pieces of advice for staying focused?

Procrastination is a huge battle for me. Xbox, YouTube and the gym are my biggest distractions. This year I am making myself plan my day the night before. So far it is working really well, giving myself a list and something to tick off allows me to stay focused at the moment. Sticking to the plan makes me feel like I am winning on a small scale each day. Also being on my own/not working at an agency, I know that I won’t bring any money in unless I start doing things, this is also a pretty big incentive.

What advice would you give to others hoping to go down the entrepreneurial route, whether it be to launch their own design business or launch a design blog or podcast?

  • Just try it and don’t give up.
  • It’s as easy as making the jump. If you give it a go, you know what it’s like, don’t get to the end and wish you’d done it. So for it, if it doesn’t work out you can always go back to where you came from and then you haven’t lost anything.
  • Also, give it time, these things take a lot of time to build up and get recognised. Don’t give up on the first attempt.
  • Finally, find your own unique way of doing it that makes you different from other people. This will help you stand out from the crowd. Good luck!

Massive thanks to Mark for answering our questions. Be sure to keep up to date with Creative Waffle Podcast which after just hitting its 53rd episode, airs every Tuesday. 

Are you considering Shillington rather than University? Come to one of our Info Sessions to find out more about life at Shillington.