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Nine Years Since Shillington London: Christopher J Porter

It’s always exciting hearing what out graduates are up to—especially when they’ve been out in the design world for almost a decade. We thought it was about time we spoke to Christopher J Porter, a London graduate from 2009 who’s been killing it on all fronts since graduating from out full-time course in London.

We speak to Chris about setting up his own studio I See Sea in Falmouth and working as a freelancer at branding and packaging studio Kingdom & Sparrow. We also touch base about his latest exciting project ‘The Collection‘, in which he tackles topical mental health issues with a slick collection of pins and patches—currently live on Crowdfunder.

You studied way back in 2009 on our full-time course at Shillington London. What originally made you enrol at Shillington and can you tell us a bit about your experience on the course?

After school I had been working as a professional musician, during which time I had been doing a lot of ‘amateur’ design work for the band. When the music came to an end I decided that it would be good to train in design, however at 23 I was reluctant to sign up for 3 years of study. Shillington seemed like the perfect place to totally immerse myself in design and learn the ropes and it totally was! The studio environment and fantastic support from the teachers was the perfect foundation for my future in design.

I made some great friends on the course, and went into the industry with a strong body of work which helped me get straight into work.

I See Sea is the name of your own studio, how did you go about setting up this creative venture and do you have any tips for graduates hoping to do the same?

After working my way up to Head of Design in a small publishing house in Kent, an opportunity arose for me to move to the seaside… I had started doing some freelance work outside of my office hours before I left Kent so decided to take the plunge when moving to Falmouth and go fully freelance working from home in my little house by the sea. I always say that luck had a large part of me being able to get a solid start for I See Sea. I had regular work from one client that kept me going for the first couple of months which enabled me to get involved locally and make connections with the small business owners in Falmouth. From that point on I started offering small bits of work to these businesses (loyalty cards for cafes, pub flyers etc) and built up good enough relationships to get steady work from there. Then people start to talk, words spread and within the first year I was getting enquiries from lots of new Cornish businesses for identity design.

In the past 9 years you’ve been extremely prolific, working for a number of clients and even having one of your logos published in a counter print logo book! Tell us a bit about one your favourite projects from over the years.

That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child..! I’m going to group a few into a category. I have worked on design and branding for a number of great cafes down here and as a big coffee lover I always enjoy this work..! As someone who works with mainly small businesses, opportunities to see your work on printed materials can be few and far between, but when working with cafes you get to see your identity spread across cups, loyalty cards, signage, it’s a satisfying feeling!

You’ve recently turned some of your designs into pins and patches into some ‘Little Badges of Honour’ and released ‘The Collection’ by I See Sea. Has design-inspired apparel always been something that interested you and can you tell us a bit more about this collection?

It’s actually badges that have always fascinated me. I started collecting pin badges when I was a kid and still have them all in a box in my mums loft! I launched ‘The Collection’ in October 2017, a range of enamel pins and embroidered patches that aim to raise awareness and support for mental health issues.

These can become little badges of honour that help people feel less alone in dealing with their problems through unity with other sufferers.

I began designing the collection simply as a way to take my mind off of my own anxiety, however through showing them to friends and family alike, I realised that they could be of interest to many other people. I love the idea that a passerby might see someone wearing an Anxious pin for example and think, ‘Oh, someone else who feels a bit like me’ and then be able to take a little extra strength from that. I love having total creative freedom when I am designing them, it’s a nice break from my client work.

Alongside working as a freelancer you’re part of the team at Kingdom and Sparrow who have produced some seriously beautiful packaging—what’s it like working for an agency like this and can you share any projects you’re worked on specifically?

My favourite project that I have worked on with K&S has been creating the branding and can artwork for a brand new range of Beer blended with natural Fruit Juice for Uproot Brewing Co. After my route was chosen for development at concept phase I have then spent 18 months working on the expansion of the brand and am excited for it to be unleashed to the world in the near future!

You’re based in Falmouth, an area known for creativity despite being in a fairly remote location of England. What would you say to other creatives worried about finding work outside of London and other major cities?

It’s hard, but it’s possible. It certainly keeps you on your toes as you can’t rely on having the work month on month. Communication is key; making connections with business and building solid relationships will hopefully create more and more opportunities over time. The benefits of not being based in one of the major cities are what make it worth it for me though, slower pace of life, lower cost of living and it has been amazing to work with so many small independent business right from their conception and then watch them grow!

Is there anything else exciting in the pipeline for I See Sea that you can share with us?

I am actually in the middle of a campaign with Crowdfunder to help me to raise money to spread the word further about The Collection and allow me to produce round three of designs. I have put together some exclusive deals and brand new products as rewards so check it out before the campaign ends on March 28th!

As part of our global Shillumni network and as someone who’s been working in the design field for nearly a decade can you share your top five tips for embarking on a career in the graphic design industry?

  1. Believe: The hardest one to follow, but believing in your work is my most important tip. As designers we have a habit of over thinking and overworking things. If it feels right, it probably is.
  2. Collaborate: Not necessarily on the work itself, but I always get in touch with fellow designers and get them to look at my progress. The amount of times these conversations have sparked new ideas are numerous.
  3. Connect: Network and make connections with other designers, agencies, businesses, anyone really. Build that contact base and create strong relationships and word will travel.
  4. Learn: Don’t stop learning and don’t stop pushing yourself. I have recently challenged myself to up my game in the lettering department and am using tutorials and videos to learn new skills to broaden my offering.
  5. Promote: Spread the word far and wide and then people will start spreading it for you!

Massive thanks to Chris for sharing his story with us. Be sure to keep up with Chris by following him on Instagram on both @iseesea and @iseeseastudio, Twitter on @iseeseadesign and I See Sea on Facebook. 

Keep up with all of our amazing graduate stories by scrolling through the ‘Interview‘ category. Or come along to one of our Info Sessions to meet a few in person!  Head to our website to find out more

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