How to avoid a turbulent relationship with your graphic or web designer

Many business owners have confessed to me how difficult it can be to work with commercial creatives. ‘Stroppy’ and ‘moody’ are words that come to mind. Some designers drop projects abruptly while others disappear into silence.

There is a lot of rage in that professional community, with sites such as Clients from Hell used as a venting platform. The levels of arrogance and lack of empathy shock me as clients by definition aren’t designers, so can’t know about the process.

To that end, I have 4 tips for anyone who would like to cultivate such a tumultuous relationship. Life will never be dull for you if you follow these tips. Alternatively, follow my antidotes and checklist at the end to land on a zen and calm runway. ...

1 – Fatal last words for anyone in the modern office world are " it will only take 5 mins" or, "just a few changes..."
Antidote: Never assume the time it takes someone to do their work
Context switching, file opening, information gathering, file management and file exporting to PDF and web sizes all take the same amount of time regardless of how many edits there are.

2 – Send a multitude of files and amendments at different times and locations.
Antidote: Gather your feedback promptly from all stakeholders at one time.
Strike while the iron is hot. Don't let it drag on as situations change, people go on holidays, get sick, work on other matters.

3 – Make a series of revisions over a long amount of time
Antidote: Be aware that each revision stage costs: whether in money or in relationship goodwill
Be clear on how many revisions are included in the contract or agreement. If unstated, assume more than 2 needs to be flagged. Give a heads up. If in doubt, use the phone or meet personally. Acknowledge the situation.

4 – Ambiguous instructions
Antidote: List all changes methodically
Check and agree with designer which notation method works best for them ( over phone, PDF, printed proof, in person ). Don't assume they know what you are talking about.

Orlagh's flight checklist for landing a design project to destination calm and published
  • Nominate one person on the team to co-ordinate changes.
  • Setup a shared folder to co-ordinate communication, dropbox for example. Send file links in an email to ensure receipt.
  • Establish the terms of the project: the amount of revisions included, cost per extra changes, and expected delivery times.
  • Agree a system to gather edits and changes
  • List file formats needed (e.g various social media, for email, for print )
  • When in doubt, do not email: tone of voice and humanness is lost and people mis-interpret easily. Pick up the phone or schedule a skype.
May the creative forces be with you!


Lina Selander & Emma Hartman – Limited edition exhibition book

Limited edition book for exhibition of Swedish artists Lina Selander and Emma Hartman, curator Dobz O'Brien. Conceived and produced in response to Rory Prout's essay on the occasion of Speculative Fictions Exhibition at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Ireland. Designed in Skibbereen, edition of 80 hand-crafted in Cork City by a team of many.


Hand crafted Wine Menu for Glebe Gardens

Glebe Gardens Wine Bar, BaltimoreGlebe Gardens Café and Restaurant is a fabulous place, with organic food from the garden coming straight into the kitchen every day for lunch and dinner. Its also the best cafe in Ireland. Officially. On the 9th of June, they opened a wine bar in the shop. I had a cheesegasm when the Cashel Sheep's cheese, their smashed broad bean pesto and the Valpolicella had a party in my mouth. 

Anyhows, it was a pleasure to hand-make their wine menus for the night. I wanted arriving customers to get a hint of the care and thought that goes into everything at the Glebe. We kept it simple, with the swallow symbol taking a humble but proud place on the cover. Inside pages are A4 folded vertically ( no cutting!) on cream papers encased by black card and wrapped up in a folded A3 cover page (again, no cutting). Red cotton thread secures the cover to the booklet and conceals the staples. Its a warm hello to a wonderful hang out. Roll on the summer evenings. 


Service Design Cork Meetup - Inaugural Session

Wednesday April 15th at CIT James Barry gallery. Facilitated by Heather Madden and Catherine Murphy. www.cit.ie/servicedesigncork #servicedesigncork

What is service design?
The ongoing issue is understanding what this is all about! User involvement is the central element to improving existing services and creating new ones at various levels of complexity. These can range from relatively simple ones like entertainment and professional services right up to the mammoths of education, public service and healthcare. Example methods are service blueprints and personas.

A light bulb moment

Heather then told the story of how as a business analyst looking for ways to improve the admissions process, coming across a project at the University of Derby project it was her "light bulb moment". Here was a solution to the challenge.


2015 Ireland's Marriage Referendum Campaign Posters

The referendum on same-sex marriage is being held on May 22nd, 2015. Voters will be asked whether to add to the Constitution that "marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex". 

To contribute to the YES campaign I made these posters. The concept is “love bombing Ireland”. As a 21st century nation we have re-identified our identity away from IRA republicanism on the whole. Now we can take one step further to embracing egalitarian love and regard. 

The aesthetic inspiration came from Ireland’s 1916 proclamation of independence, "diddly-eye" patriotism and the 1968 Hippy Summer of Love.

Thanks to all the amazing people on Facebook who gave valuable feedback on the design and words. You are definitely part of the creation process.

Printable PDF ( A4 – 8.4MB ) There are 4 options to choose from. Use them freely. It would be nice to mention my website www.orlaghobrien.com or twitter @orlaghob.

Thanks to all the amazing people on Facebook who gave valuable feedback on the design and words. You are definitely part of the creation process.

With Love, 


A Book of Poetry about Love, God, Madness and Sexuality – Mairead Meade

I'm happy to have helped poet Mairead Meade to publish her collected work on Blurb. Here's her introduciton to the book.
"I started writing poetry to handle my feelings of love as an adolescent teenager. At 17, an event happened in my life that would forever shape me. I began to question my sexuality. Soon after, I fell for a boy and was convinced he was my soulmate. I wrote much poetry through this period of unrequited love. At 18, I fell in love again, this time with a girl, and I became convinced not only was I gay but that she was my true love. This was the beginning of my journey into Paranoia and Schizophrenia as this love grew. In 1995, I found God through various metaphysical experiences. I travelled to Sunderland in the U.K. in 1996 to study B.A. Communications Studies at the University of Sunderland. By early 1997, I had a nervous breakdown and was in hospital in St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London. "Blossoms" is a collection of poems from that period. My poetry is about Love, God, Madness and Sexuality. To me, every poem is a blossom of feeling and thought through words.

 I'd like to share my poetry with the world as I believe there is a lot in my writing that can help heal people. By reading my words, I am sure many others can relate to me. "

 Mairéad Meade


A Bookmaking Workshop with the Sherkin Island Poets

In the winter of 2013, a group of Sherkin Islanders, along with artist Tess Leak (centre front), undertook an adventure together: to create a collection of haiku poems inspired by life on the Island in all its forms and complexities. Traditional Japanese Haiku are three line poems with seventeen syllables and are, according to a member of the group, “like little islands” themselves. 

A limited edition of 50 books containing a small part of the collection and was made at a day-long workshop by the hands of the Haiku-Island Poets in their community centre, November 2014. I helped with the setup and layout aspects but was highly impressed at their steady hands on the production line, cover Haiga and beautiful marbled end papers the poets brought to the edition.

The project was kindly supported by the Sherkin Island Development Society and the Cork Education and Training Board. Many thanks to Aisling Moran (Development Officer for Sherkin) and to all the Haiku Island Poets.


Trailblaze – "We Need to Talk about Ireland" Event St. Paddy's Day 2014

Just sent this brochure to print and very excited about tuning into RTE player on Paddy's Day to watch the event live. Cover image by Brendan Canty at Feel Good Lost.


What I learnt from a Panel Discussion on Creative Entrepreneurship – Quarter @ TDC – Makeshift Ensemble at the Triskel, Cork.

Saturday afternoon Makeshift Ensemble and Theatre Development Centre (TDC) held "Quarter@TDC 1214" a day of creative events at the the Triskel Cork. It kicked off with a panel discussion on creative entrepreneurship. 

Lovely tea and cakes were laid on and a hanging installation by Pauline Gibbons definitely warmed the tone of the space. Eszter Nemethi, hostess of Makeshift Ensemble began by introducing the panel:

Colm O'Herlihy – Starter of the Mountain Dew festival Macroom (Coming to Cork this year)
Pat Kiernan – Artistic Director and founder of theatre company Corca Dorca
Emer Ní Chíobháin Sample Studios, Cork
Dave Calnan founder of the all-ages venue, The Kino
Rhona Flynn – Founder Cork Community Printshop

I was happy to feel a sense of a excitement about stuff happening in Cork. Spaces around city have become available to use. "Cork is amazing right now." (Colm). 

Question "What was the initial motivation for what you have done?" 
It seemed to be a general case of necessity after leaving college ... Colm spoke of organically starting off the Mountain Dew festival with his friends... Pat and Aoife needed a way to keep doing what they wanted to do by setting up collaborative resources ... Dave saw a lack of a venue for under-age music fans. Rhona is thinking strategically to maintain the long term sustainability of her own livelihood and practice. 

Much of the debate centred around making a living, the choices and issues around that.  The current options for practising artists are:

#1. Go on the the dole
PRO: no compromise to your work.
CON: you can't be seen to be in business or do commercial work without getting cut-off. Your long hours are not valued. 

#2. Get Funding :
PRO: an income.
CON:  you are vulnerable to changes in funding structures reactions of funding bodies and politicians to the work, you may have to change the work to maintain funding eligibility.

#3. Commercialise your work : PRO sell the work to get an income.
CON: adaptation or compromise of work.

#4. Teach / work a regular job : PRO: an income,
CON: some qualification requirements. Job scarcity. Current embargo in public sector. 

Funding is a generally accepted option but as Pat Kiernan said there is always only a certain amount and a far greater demand. 

Rhona asserted her support for funding but asked about long term sustainability – if someone is planning a family, house, school runs (a life)… how can you plan or depend on funding for that? 

Working for free – 14 to 16 hrs a day, there is no value on your time. You have to get paid. Self subsidisation is a false economy... People can't maintain that. There is a belief that the dole is an alternative arts council. A wage for artists? – Get to work!!!

How can you maintain an independent practice without compromising the work and making a living?

Option #5 – Be a creative entrepreneur :
PRO: long-term financial sustainability and producing work on your own terms.
CON: no guide book to hand, new terrain, requires diversifying your skills requires taking responsibility and risks. Hard work. 

Question: "So what is creative entrepreneurship?"

Dave Calnan's succinct response was: "Making stuff happen"

The panel agreed that we all need to move away from preconceptions of what an entrepreneur is (business suits briefcases, wheeling and dealing)…. It's more about sharing resources and setting up businesses using our artistic creative skills and ideas. Colm mentioned that this requires "diversification" of work and skills. 

Collaboration is the new way to work rather than competition of old. By building a network of mutual support we can create opportunities for each other. There is benefit of being in a group. The word "ecology" was mentioned which seemed to sum that up nicely.

The result is a cultivation of independence of your own work and empowering others to do the same. Rhona called for a responsibility for our ourselves, our futures and the sustainability of our practices.

Some advice:

Get off the dole:
Apply for the Back to work scheme and do a FÁS start your own business course. Check out the Workspace scheme from the arts council. 

Change the system
Petition politicians for legislative change. Check out the National Campaign for the Arts - the dole and artists practice.

Be clear about your aim
Rhona urged the room: paraphrasing her: "You have to be so so clear about what you want - to get things done especially through the hard times. Have a clear focus for what you want to get out of it. One of the things that stops people from taking action is that their aims are too general and not specific enough."

See the bigger picture
Create things to give back - provide things to make the things. Different kinds of audiences can have different finding streams. Question and brainstorm the potential and possibilities of your project.

I asked the crowd to define the value and worth of their work. Communicate to those outside of your knowledge circle. Widen the demand for the work by selling and persuading people on the value for them. 

Aoife from Artlink had the final word: Go beyond your own concerns and ask what you can do for others by listening to what is needed. 

Question "What stops people from doing this?" 
I didn't take notes for that … if you were there too maybe you could help fill in the rest? 

So afterwards a few of us camped at the roundy table in Gulp'd, talked art inspiration and invented ideas for schemes and dreams.

(Quarter is a tri-monthly mini arts festival by Makeshift Ensemble. The next event is on 03/05/14 @TDCcork  facebook.com/quartercork)

Leave a comment on what / how you heard this! It would be great to add further links to resources mentioned. 


The dominant story of our time: FS Michaels and Monoculture

I've often wondered what people will see of our time when they look back through the lens of history. Like how we view the madness of religious orthodoxy pre enlightenment, or the conservatism of the 1950s etc etc. I haven't really been able to get to an essence of the zeitgeist of this time, until now. This book has blown me away. It exposes the values that dominate our assumptions and world-view in vividly direct and informed language.


Irish Folk Furniture

Loving this piece directed and filmed by Tony Donoghue with a camera bought on eBay for €150. It's so sweet that I felt all glowy and warm watching it.


Lonely and The Moose: Co-creation of a limited edition CD package

Well I heard Lonely and The Moose at one of their 'Beatroot' sessions and just thought they rocked. We started chatting over–yes–roasted beatroot another day. Tessa and Liz had an idea for their dream CD which would be a precious box holding a bunch of their transatlantic letters to each other. I really liked that and thought of a plan to make a mini-box package as a limited edition run. It would be cheap and cheerful, full of photos, lyrics, memories and teasers for the long run CD. We would all make it together in a 'production frenzy' on the grounds of the stunning Glebe Gardens where Tessa cooks. I think a bonus is that it's flat-packable too: so the girls took a bunch over to the States and assembled them on the road. IKEA-packaging.
Lonely and the Moose
Glebe Gardens and Cafe

Snail trail: the track of a journey

How long did this snail (or slug, let's not presume anything here) take to travel across the step, make the ingenious loop and somehow manage to leave the building? Answers in a tweet please! @orlaghob

Binding visual research: a book art workshop in Cork Printmakers

I often wonder what to do with random bits of research and sketchbook bits when finished a set of prints. These are a couple of pamphlets I made playing with different scales and folds, and a Dosados book using a sailing map for the cover. (Part of a workshop with the book artist Andrew Kelly at Cork Printmakers)

Swell Surf School Website

The team at Swell Surf School asked me to redesign their site this year. Collaborating with them was a demonstration of how actually great surf people are; so laid back and lovely. Inch beach in East Cork is the perfect place for learners as it has no mad crazy danger zones. It's beautiful as well. Petra Stone helped with thoroughly customising the Wordpress theme. I had fun creating a surfy vibe.


"Leak" - HardbackHenid's tribute to Cornelius and John Cage

The rain doesn't end this week! "Now how can I get some different sounds from this unexpected drop intruding into my room?" It's a rainy June day and cabin fever demands a little play."Totally arty like!"

ANd this is just the rain falling on the roof; lovely!


Farewell to the Julia – Cork's lost passenger ferry

Running along the docks this morning I was caught up in the City Marathon to my own bemusement, and glanced across at the empty stretch of water where Julia used to sit. She had been a friendly presence in the port of Cork for the last couple of years. High and unmissable, you would catch glimpses of her from various parts of town. Initially she was busy between here and France and back again. But economics intervened and she was left redundant to sit indefinitely in the port until the sad day she turned round and left altogether: April 28th, 2012. Apparently she's servicing the Dutch oil rigs off the North Sea now.
Below is a riston print I did in the printmakers' on Wandesford Quay in 2010, and the next is sunset over the port and train station taken from my house only days before the departure. You can see the empty Elysium building just to her left, monument to the heydaze of the Celtic tiger, and the old R&H Hall building a little left of that again.

A City in Macro – Petra Stone

These were are all taken a few years ago by Petra Stone on her analogue camera – around Cork city.

Letters Found in the Old House

Some drawings I did of letters found from the 1950s and 1970s.