HOW Interactive Design’s Expert Corner: Paul Wyatt

There’s no question that Paul Wyatt is a “creative’s creative.” His rich experience as an author, filmmaker, and award-winning creative director make him well-suited to share his advice and expertise with the interactive community here at HOW. And we want to soak it in.

Paul WyattPaul’s recent book The Digital Creative’s Survival Guide works as a creative guidebook of sorts, with best practices for dealing with nightmare clients and how to find your niche in this ever-evolving industry. With a client list spanning the BBC, Adobe and the ever-popular musicians Daft Punk, The Survival Guide works to harness and share Paul’s professional tips, tricks and business secrets with other creatives.

We caught up with Paul in-between book signings and film projects to find out what continues to inspire him in his daily life–and how he busts out of a creative rut.

Okay, Paul… So when did you you know you wanted to be a graphic designer?
I always wanted to be a storyteller and use the mediums of graphic design, moving image and text to tell those stories. One of the most exciting aspects of the convergence of skillsets and multi-disciplinary work is that digital creatives can use all the tools in their multi-disciplinary toolbox to tell those stories–instead of being just one cog in a bigger machine.

Hmmm… Sounds like it’s a good time to be diversifying the design craft! How have you evolved as a designer? What was your first job in the field?
I did design and web work for quite a few agencies for awhile during the evenings and weekends while holding down a job in a book shop after University. It seems madness now, but I always had an interest in design, art and movie making so that gave me the energy to keep at it. I was lucky that I could borrow the books from the bookshop I worked in, so I taught myself graphic design, non linear editing and 3-D packages, HTML and anything else I could find an instructional book on.

Wow, that’s pretty impressive. What career advice would you give young creatives aspiring for a similar path?
Throw yourself in. The mind has a capacity to learn very quickly when confronted with a real world challenge. I’d periodically accept a challenge for a job and then figure out how to do it. It’s amazing how a pressing deadline will accelerate the learning process.

What project has really stood out to you as a favorite?
I had the good fortune to work with Studio Canal and Chichester University on The Avengers TV series 50th Anniversary. A fantastic event which reunited cast and crew and delighted fans of this classic British TV show. I got to work with amazingly talented media studies students and lecturers at the University and worked on everything from logo design, video promos, 3-D animations, interviews and sound design. I’m also quite a geek and love the show… so obviously that helped as well!

What’s the strangest thing that has happened to you in your design career?
Being asked to include the smell of percolating coffee for a website campaign. At this point, I realised that sometimes the client knows considerably less than you do about what is possible technically. And sometimes, they can just be quite bonkers.

How about best practices to promote yourself to clients? 
Word of mouth and being pleasant to people. That advice sounds completely trite, but it works. Do a fantastic job and people will talk you up. Do a good job and be a pleasant person and people will still talk you up. People will work with pleasant people. Sit in an ivory tower and talk in business gobbledegook to your boss or clients and people will become wary of you because they won’t be able to relate.

Sounds like good advice to me! Do you have any pet projects – like a side business or passion project you’re involved in?
I enjoy promoting local theatre using my graphic design, motion and film skills. I’m currently producing my third season trailer for the Lazarus Theatre Company. They produce updated classics for the London fringe. It’s great to diversity into different areas, and these are more often than not big, loud, dramatic and terrific fun to produce.
Here’s an example. The Lazarus 2013 Spring season trailer.

It’s hard to believe you get into ruts, but all creatives do from time-to-time. How do you break free?
I do the ironing, go for a walk or sit on a bus. The monotony of boring tasks or being able to switch off when sitting on public transport is great for freeing up the mind. That’s why it’s essential to get out of the studio every so often and have a bit of a wander around. Sitting at a desk trying to eek out an idea is a short cut to disaster. Get out of the studio or go and do a bit of ironing.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
Absolutely nothing else. It’s what I enjoy and wanted to be. I don’t think I’d make a great doctor or estate agent or anything like that.

What advice or tips would you give designers transitioning from print to digital?
We are so liberated now with technology. All the wonderful aspects of typography can be reproduced on the web and in motion. The power of the print layout can easily be transferred to the web and include motion and video. It’s all about creating a compelling layout which entices the website visitor or reader and these will be sought after in any medium, print, tablet or web.

Digital Creative's Survival GuideIf you want more sage advice from Paul, check out The Digital Creative’s Survival Guide.