7 things I worry about as a designer

I've been a professional designer for 8 years. I LOVE it, and I can't imagine doing anything else. But nothing comes without its challenges, and no matter how experienced you are, how old you get or how much positive validation you receive, creative professions can often lead you to doubt yourself, worry and stress about things.  It's almost a natural order and and inevitable result of constantly putting your inner thoughts and feelings down as interpretations to be judged.

Working in a subjective career is one of the most stressful and most gratifying things to do. The anticipation of showing a client a new concept brings a buzz, and when they love it it's the greatest feeling in the world. However, criticisms come hand in hand with design and having a tough skin, a diplomatic mind and an ability for empathy with the client under pressure can be very good personal qualities to have. 

On top of that, creative people can be some of the most self critical people I know! I am no exception. So today I thought I would share with you some of the worries I still have after 8 years as a designer, and how I cope/live with/quell them. Perhaps it will help some newbies to the career feel like they're doing OK, and older ones to know they're not alone. If you manage to keep a 100% positive outlook on your design career, please write about it and share how! haha 

So, here we go...

1. Not using my free time productively

I guilt myself a lot about this. Sometimes I get home from work, I make some food, I grab a cup of tea and... I watch whatever's on E4. For the rest of the evening. Why am I not sketching? Making? Planning? ALL of these things I enjoy more than a re-run of Big Bang Theory.

I think it's important to have downtime, and sometimes, a brainless hour in front of the TV is EXACTLY what you need. However, I also know that my downtime is often the time I'll be my most experimental! No-pressure, no-deadline, purely-for-fun art. I try and strike a balance. After work TV is fine, but then I'll always read/fill my head with something inspiring before bed and my weekends are where I want to be stretching my creative legs. Guilt managed.

2. Never finding "my style"

When I look at something and instantly go"that's [insert name]'s work!" I get insanely happy and insanely envious (in a positive way!) all at once. I often worry I may never find "my style". I would love for people to look at my work and know who created it without having to look for an attribution.

I'm currently working really hard to define my illustration style. During the search, I think it's important to create a style that comes naturally, that isn't forced and that feels very "me" so that I don't tire of it and so that it can grow with me as I change throughout life. I worry I might be 50 before I finally get there, but I'm going to keep pushing for it!

3. Getting left behind

This is a big one for me. New products, tools, skills, techniques, trends, expectations and variations for what I do are happening ALL THE TIME.  I try to keep up to date but I'm really aware that I can't do everything. I try to have specialisms. I try to be the best I can be in the areas I enjoy most. However, I'm always slightly worried that the next year's uni graduates will have some hidden knowledge I can't possess!

Here's the thing: if people ask me how to do something, I'll happily try to help them. And why wouldn't people do the same for me? I'll only get left behind if I stop trying to learn :)

4. Everyone else is "better" than me

Kind of following on from the last point...I can get easily disheartened when I have a bad day, and I scroll down Instagram/Twitter/The Internet In General and see all of the amazingness from all the amazing artists I follow and I often think I cannot ever compare, and why am I even calling myself a designer?! etc etc.

Fact is, this kind of thinking is probably very common, but we have to remember that comparison is never helpful, and art is subjective. No one is "better", they're just great at what they do. Love them, be inspired by them, let them lift your from your rut. We all become better through trial and error. A few stumbles along the way, a few paths in the wrong direction, a few styles that never really took off... they're happening. All the time, to everyone.

5. Money

I worry a lot that what I charge for my work is either too much or too little and I have no idea what the "average" is because designers are traditionally very cagey about what they charge! I've read all the guidance, all the advice. I still worry.

How do I get round this? Honestly, I picked a figure I was comfortable with. One I wouldn't cringe at when announcing to clients and one that wouldn't leave me feeling overworked with little reward. There's a lot of formulas out there, and a lot of "you're worth more" insta-quotes, but seriously, just be true to yourself. You know what you do, how much effort goes in, and how much your client will rely/benefit/gain joy from what you give them. Try a few figures, gauge reaction, gather feedback and settle on a good rate.

6. Is this a "job for life"?

I don't (personally) know a designer that isn't a celeb over the age of 40. Can I even be a 60 year old designer?! I feel a lot of pressure about this. Do I need to have options?

I don't know the answer to this one. It's a genuine concern of mine; one day I will be judged as "not modern", not "cutting edge". Kids with art-school shine will be brighter. I might just have to start a creative pensioners collective!

7. Should I go fully freelance?

Ah... The ever-present question!At the moment I'm freelance part time. Answers on a postcard ;)

I hope this has been helpful! Do you have worries in your career?

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2016 Goals for Mab is Mab

2015 was very quiet on the blog towards the end of the year. I took a break from it, read some (a lot) of books without giving myself the pressure of reviewing them, thought about the kind of content I wanted to share on the blog in future and, actually, whether I wanted to keep going at all.

I've decided there's a definite YES to the question of continuing, but I have to admit I was feeling a bit demotivated by the end of last year. There were a mixture of reasons behind this, many of them life-related: work, personal pressures, general "doing other things", deadlines etc etc. Reading once again became my "switch off and escape for an hour" and I didn't want it to be another thing to tick off the list. So, I haven't posted a review in a while, and I think it's done me a lot of good. It's also given me a lot of space to think properly about what I want to do here! Which leads me to my goals for 2016...

1. Diversify

Mab is Mab has been a book blog for about 4 years. However, for a while now I have been feeling the pull towards more of a "lifestyle" set-up. I'm not about to start sharing "tour my living room" posts, but I have interests, hobbies and passions that are JUST AS BIG as reading, and I'd love to share and connect in those areas too!

I'm coming up with a bit of a strategy that will allow me to do this without diluting any of my content, and I hope my readers will enjoy the new themes. If not, I'm going to make it easy to just tune into the book posts, so please don't leave! ha!

2. Get back to reviewing books, and review smarter

When I have the time to do write reviews, I really enjoy it. Last year I was tweeting things like "I have too many reviews to write - ARGH" and I don't want to end up there again, dreading the work! So this year, I am going to review selectively, and I'm going to update my review template. My reviews for 2016 are going to be snappy! I'm creating some formats I will trial, because I want them to still be very informative for people deciding whether to invest time/money into a book - but I also want them to take less that 15mins to write and be FUN to read. I also still want them to open up discussion for those who have already read the book. I think that's possible with good planning. Stay tuned!

3. Share creativity

I started this last year but didn't get very far before taking the break. I am a designer, and creativity is in everything I do. I want to extend the themes of Mab is Mab to share more artwork, stationery reviews, creative series' and feature more artists, makers and designers!

4. Redesign/rebrand

I do a cosmetic design update to my site almost every year, but this year I'm going big. I want to completely rebrand in order to support the change in theme, and I'm debating a name change... THIS IS SO HARD. I've had Mab for YEARS. I'm not sure what the next incarnation will be yet. Any ideas on this much welcomed!

5. Get my business started - for real this time!

This has been a goal of mine for more New Years than I'd like to admit. I change my mind about what it's actually going to be all the time. This year I'm going to commit: design services and stationery. So there you go - quote me on it ;) Launching 2016.

So that's it! What are your blogging goals for 2016?

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Glasses Direct review

A less explored tangent of books and reading is reading health - I'm talking specifically about eye health. There are so many people I know who wear glasses permanently - or even specifically to read - and it's a huge part of being able to enjoy a book. I mean, you don't want to be straining to see the words and end up with a headache 10 pages in?!

I am a wearer of both glasses and contact lenses, and I find glasses much more comfortable to read in. I have more than one pair because I tend to leave them scattered around (at the office, on the bedside table, by the TV...) but, as you can imagine, that doesn't come cheap. With that in mind, when I recently got a new prescription I decided to try out online glasses store, Glasses Direct.

Glasses Direct offer complete glasses (frames and lenses) from £25. My decision was also spurred on by a voucher code from Money Saving Expert (great email for saving/cash management, by the way!) which would get me two pairs, delivered, for £23! Bargain!

Glasses Direct offer a brill "Home Trial" service where you can order five frames to see if they'll suit you before purchasing. As my voucher code had a time limit, I wasn't able to try this out, but it's definitely something I think is a great idea! Instead, I uploaded a mugshot to their virtual "trying on" system, Ditto, and started browsing.

There are a huge range of styles available to pick from. I like my glasses quite dark and chunky so I went looking towards the "geek chic" end of the glasses-spectrum! I ended up choosing Billie and BellaDonna frames, which seemed to look good on my virtual face! I added them to my basket, filled in my prescription details and skipped over the extras (there are options to add coatings, tints and thinning to the lenses at extra cost.) Within THREE DAYS my new glasses were in my hands! I'm amazed the service was that quick.

I tried them on straight away and both pairs look a little different on me than on my virtual self, but I expected that. Still they looked quite good and I was able to take the glasses to my local Specsavers who were happy to fit them to my face for £5.

I do however have two small negatives about the experience. First of all, I wish I had paid extra for the anti-reflective coating. When I read on my Kindle Paperwhite I do notice the glare which can be distracting.

Secondly, when filling in my prescription I didn't know my pupil measurements, and so I put in the "standard/don't know" option as advised in the form with the caveat that someone might call me to advise. I didn't receive a call, and one of my glasses feels a little weird to look through. I don't know if the two things are related, but it's just on one pair and sending them back seemed like more effort than it was worth! I do put this fault down to me though, as I should have found out my pupil measurements!

Overall I am extremely happy with the service and glasses Glasses Direct provide. I would definitely use them again, and make use of the Home Trial option :)

NOTE: I am reviewing Glasses Direct because I was a customer who was personally impressed with the service. I did not receive anything for this review and it is not in collaboration with Glasses Direct in any way. All views expressed are my own

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Twitter followers may have noticed me using the #OTSPSecretSister hashtag a lot recently - and that is because I recently signed up to be a Secret Sister!  The activity is a mail-based cheer group among the book loving community, organised by three wonderful bloggers; Brittany (@bookaddictguide), Amy (@TrippingBooks) and Alyssa (@WithTheBanned).

For six months, sisters send gifts, letters, books, and happy mail to their partner - all the while keeping their identity a closely guarded secret - and use the hashtag prolifically to get to know each other (and maybe figure out who the person behind their own happy mail is!) It's such a fun, supportive, positive group and it feels really nice to be part of something like that.

This is the first time that OTSPSecretSister has been opened up to UK and Europe residents, and I am so happy to be part of it. I have gotten to know and discover some wonderful new people already, and I have really enjoyed making my own sister's days a little brighter with mail-able treats. Unfortunately I can't share any of that with you, as I might give myself away! ;)

I can, however, share a little of what I have received from my own (amazing) secret sister. If she is reading this - THANK YOU, you are so kind and generous :)

This Northern Lights card was so thoughtful - it's my favourite book series and the artwork is amazing :) I'm hoping that my sis and I can write to each other throughout the OTSP round.

I loved the use of scrapbook cards on the packages!

And here's what was inside! I can't wait to read, watch and devour my way through all of this - HOME MADE BROWNIES?! YES!

In January, I hope my sister is still none-the-wiser as to who has been her Secret Sister, and I hope even more so that when the reveal is made, she is happy! Are you part of OTSPSecretSister? How are you finding it?!

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The Harry Potter Studio Tour - Round II

I recently had a weekend in London with my mum, in which we took a trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford. It was my mums first visit, and my second; she read all of the books along with my brother and me when they were released (after we finished with them, of course! Ha!) and I thought the studio tour would be a great thing to do together. Plus I was desperate to see the new Hogwarts Express and Death Eater mansion, which weren't there the last time I went!

So was it as good the second time around? YES! The new exhibits were worth going again for but the parts I had already seen were just as interesting again. On my first visit I didn't take time to read all of the trivia and hunt out the hidden snitches, which I did this time, and my second trip included a bit of sunbathing outside Privet Drive ;)

Here are a few photos from my visit. You can read all about my first trip to the studios in a lot more detail here!

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