Autumn International Series

IMG_20181117_142431_BURST3This year the Autumn International series was a huge success for Welsh Rugby. The women’s teams won three out of four matches and the men’s team came away with a perfect 4/4 wins, the first time they have ever done so.

Both on and off the pitch it was a very excited and stressful period for everyone involved. This blog post is about the new challenges and experiences I faced in my role at the WRU.

In Game Media

Working in a stadium, it is inevitable that at some point we would be creating LED animations that were played on the screens that ring the stadium, as well as the big screens at either end. I’ve never worked on anything like an LED loop. The space you are given is just 48 pixels high and at the middle tier of LEDs 29,824 pixels across.

When I started working here I had only a very basic understanding of Animation, but I quickly had to learn. The screens are a vital part of every game and every event the stadium holds in fact. They are the main source of advertising revenue on a match day and they play a huge role in conveying the events of the game.

We play screens to signify penalties, tries, referee decisions as well as running flags of the Nations competing. I have also created adverts for stadium events such as Christmas Tours, Supporters Club events and in Particular the advertisements for the Doddie Weir Foundation, which is a sort in its own right.

Wales v Scotland - Under Armour Series

Doddie Weir was a special guest at the Wales v Scotland game. He was invited, in part, to promote his charity ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’. The foundation works to raise money for research to cure Motor Neuron Disease. As part of his appearance we had planned to circulate a screen that would advertise the Foundation with his signature tartan and a number that would allow people to donate £5 to the foundation by text.

With no attendance of over 63,000 this was a major opportunity, but at around two hours prior to kick off it was discovered that the Doddie Weir LED was missing and I was asked to build one from scratch in time. Our primary animator was watching the game as a punter and therefore not available. It wasn’t a major job, but I was quite overwhelmed by being given a job with such high stakes as an intern. We couldn’t even proof the work before it went out. I got to see it for the first time when it was used for real.

Another such example was the Wales v Tonga fixture where, again, hours before the game was due to commence. We create branded animations of each member of the starting team to play o the big screens before the players run out onto the field. We discovered one of the players in the starting lineup was given the wrong number. This was another case of me scrabbling around someone else’ desktop in order to find the correct files, create the required amendments to the number and then render and send off the artwork in time for kick off.

One of the most important realisations I’ve had working for such a large company is that things can sometimes come down to there wire. Just because everything looks polished and professional to the crowd, doesn’t mean the build up wasn’t a kind of semi-organised chaos. I’ve learned a great deal about meeting deadline at any cost.

 

Match Day

One of my responsibilities was to do a walk around of the stadium prior to the games as well as on the day to ensure the LED loops were all up to standard. Many of them are created and then altered slightly with the information for the next fixture. We had to ensure that they were not only up to date, but had no typos or other flaws.

Another experience that was very stressful but very rewarding, was sitting in the press box on match days and creating live artwork for social media use. I would sit next to a colleague, each of us on laptops, and I would build graphics for posting as the game progressed. This entire process was new to me. We had photographers around the edge of the pitch capturing every they could and then running back to laptops to upload them to our private network, I would then select the best (highlights of the game usually) before cropping them to size for various social media apps and when necessary, adding graphics. We did graphics for kick-off, half time and full time. All of these had to go out in a matter of moments. The picture on the left is a graphic I created at the half time point of the Wales v Tonga game.

The experience I have gained thus far in my internship has been invaluable for me to understand the demands placed upon you when entering the world of professional Graphic Design.

 

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Skills that I have developed during my internship

Working for the WRU has been a great education for me. It has required a huge shift in working style and actually in workload. Looking back, university work has always been a walk in the park in comparison.

Time management

The first and most immediate change for me has been the timescale of projects. Whereas in university a project is outlined and a deadline of say a week is given. In our department, an entire project, for example the signage for an upcoming fixture or other event, might need doing by “the end of the day” and it could be early afternoon.

The major change in attitude for me is simply not to take any downtime. What I tended to in the past was mull over a project in my mind for a few days, possibly write down some notes and ideas and then all of a sudden the deadline would approach and I’d have to put my head down and work like hell to get it in on time. The only difference here is that you skip the mulling stage and just work like hell start to finish to get things done and sent off in time.

This really makes sense to me. Most companies cannot afford to give a designer a while to just sit around and be contemplative. If you’re going to be paid a decent age you need to produce as much work as possible to make yourself an asset to the company.

Organisation – Write.It.Down

While design is a very dynamic process where you might have flashes of inspiration midway into a project or realise that another format would be more appropriate for a given project, you cannot only rely on your holding all the information in your mind.

Every single thing needs to go down on paper lest you forget it and have your work suffer as a result. Highlighting key requirements in emails, noting the file extension where your work is placed, where elements such as relevant logos are held or riding previous versions of your current project to use as templates. There is always more to retain than, at least I, can hold in my mind.

The aim of the game is efficiency and speed. Wasting time scoring the server for a document of a .png is tantamount t self sabotage when you’re on a tight deadline.

Back everything up

Every item of work our department produces is categorised and saved on our local network with it’s own job number. So each file will begin with for example:

‘WRU1234 Rugby Document’ 

We have a shared Excel spreadsheet where we record the job, the job number, the extension in which it can be found and our progress 0% – 100%. This allows us to easily pick up work if for example a colleague is unwell.

Although it is a rarity, our network has failed a couple of times since I arrived and that makes all of our assets unreachable and so backing up relevant work is essential. I have every single document I have so far created or participated in, backed up on my computer with its corresponding number. Each piece is held in a folder which also contains every asset that pertains to it. This includes not only imagery and logos, but supplied documents like word docs with the text for the project etc.

While I’ve learned a lot about the job of being a designer, I’ve also learned some of the traditional skill sets for an intern. Ive gotten really pretty good at carrying half a dozen coffees and bacon sarnies without spilling a drop.

Preparing for each day

As the weeks have so quickly passed me by at my placement, I feel I’ve grown and developed hugely. During my early induction I was slightly overwhelmed by the whole ordeal, but I’ve found my feet and have actually become a productive member of the team, pushing out work consistently. (albeit at a slower rate than everyone else)

Each morning I get to work at around 8:00 in order to get a good head start on the day’s work. I go through my emails and list my outstanding jobs. Often times there are amends for pieces I have already sent off. That is an aspect of the organisation that is initially a little frustrating. Spending several hours on a piece and then having the thing sent back for alterations. I’ve come to learn this is an inevitability in the professional world.

What I have come to understand is that this is not a matter of flaws in the produced work. It’s simply that after consideration, the format or wording of the document might be changed to suit needs that weren’t previously considered by the person or department which requested the piece be made in the first place. Or timetables may change, necessitating the alteration or even scrapping of some work.

An example of this is an entire poster campaign for an upcoming regional fixture. I created around a dozen banners and print ads, a web banner, a pop-up ad and two gifs before being told that the stock imagery contained players who had just been confirmed for the national team. As a result they would not be participating and so the entire job had to be altered and in some cases scrapped altogether.

A notebook is hugely important for this kind of work. Thankfully there are free office supplies all over the place and that’s a good thing. In two months I’m half way through my second notepad. Everything is potentially something that will need to be referred back to and so needs to be taken down. I have pages and pages of typefaces and their appropriate use and the same with swatch codes for various contexts. Notes from meetings and measurements of various spaces within the stadium and the area around the city centre where we want to advertise or set up and brand WRU branded events.   Even just within WRU work we have a unique design language for Standard WRU work, Hospitality related work and Stadium Tours.

One hugely important thing I have done to prepare for each workday is to write up a checklist for myself so that everything I produce is played out and formatted in exactly the right way and without any fundamental flaws. This includes bleed and slug for various design types, swatch codes for each context I design for as well as PDF presets and colour types. CMYK or RGB for print or digital work.

I’m happy to say I’ve got the hang of things in terms of procedure and process. I may have quite a way to go before I am capable of taking up any job that is thrown my way and completing it without asking a huge list of questions, but I’m happy to be making progress and developing as a graphic designer.

 

 

 

 

Collaboration and Outsourcing

Collaborating

One thing that comes up again and again, working in the WRU, is the need to collaborate and share workload and information. Deadlines may be very near on large projects that come up at short notice and everyone is required to pool their skills and capacity to get the job done in time.

I work in a close knit group and the office is open so communication between departments can be done by calling up the hallway. This makes coordinating between marketeers, promoters and us, the graphic designer,a seamless process. There may be a sudden change in direction, a player may be injured and a campaign revolving around them may require alterations or even to be scrapped altogether.

The experience is quite exhilarating in way. Messages of amends or suggestions or elements that need to be included fly back and forth as everyone works on their allotted tasks. Time flies by as pieces are created and alterations are made on the fly. And at the end of the day there is a large compilations of work that has been accumulated and may be sent off that day to be printed in time for a match, event or ad campaign.

Of course this is still early days for me. The Autumn Series still awaits. As I’ve been greeted by people from all over the multiple offices in the stadium, I’ve been warned that whatever it’s like now, it’ll get a whole lot more difficult come peak season.

Outsourcing

While out department is very capable. We’re small; just 4 members. As a result, there are some projects we simply can’t complete without some outside help. This process was entirely new to me and very eye opening. I can’t go into any real detail, but I’m very excited for bit of illustrated animation to become part of our workload for an upcoming campaign.

Talking over our ideas with the respresentatives of this visual arts company was great. We had our ideas all lined up and they, as the experts, offered advice and insight into the best way to proceed. We spent about three hours bouncing around ideas and crafting and honing the idea until we were all satisfied. It was a very productive meeting and we’re already getting proofs which offer a tantalising hint into what the final product may look like.

Working as part of a professional Team

So much filing!

Something that I’ve never really had to take into consideration up to this point is the intricate and thorough filing of documents that is required to create content as part of a closely involved design team.

In my time in University, group projects would be simple as we would divide the workload and only in the final stages would be join all our work together into one presentation or display piece before showing off our hard work. Little did I realise that this will not do in the real world.

There must be thousands if not tens of thousands of files on our networks that must all be categorised, numbered and filed away. Every completed project is given its number allowing it to be more easily located. Navigating all of this has been a huge learning curve for me, but I’m getting to grips with it.

Brand Consistency

In order to be able to create consistent content which carries all the hallmarks of the company brand, a huge proportion of the design language is played out with strict rules. There are specific swatches for almost every element in a designed piece. The typefaces of course must be the same, image treatments and screen overlay templates must always be utilised.

I have always been keen on fixing every little detail in my work, but few people can claim to have total mastery of the essential software of designers and I am not one of them. And so I have, from time to time, had to find workarounds for issues I have encountered. Although I go to great lengths to hide this fact in my final products, this is not allowable in professional design. Everything has to be spot on!

Good to know

These lessons have been hugely valuable to me and allowed me to produce numerous pieces thus far which have been published on behalf of the company. Either directly by the WRU or by its subsidiaries such as Dragons rugby, who they have owned since 2017.

Much of my work is creating pieces for campaigns that have not yet come to light, or creating visual mockups of rebranded elements around the stadium or for wider advertising purposes. In short, stuff I can’t post on social media until its all gone out and is no longer confidential.

I recently completed a banner for the Dragons which hangs in their official store in Rodney Parade. I know this piece has bee signed off.

 

 

Henson Kit Ad-min

Again, it is quite a simple design. I’m quite pleased with the textured background design which shows the vertically lifting Tees Newport Bridge.

It is quite an irritation knowing that I cannot display and reflect on the most challenging and engaging pieces I’ve created. But at the same time, I’m very excited to build my portfolio. The pace of work here is so much greater than I’d experienced up this point and so the finished, polished pieces are beginning to stack up.

Finding my Feet

I am really beginning to find my rhythm, working with the WRU graphic design team. I’ve been assigned primarily to the Newport Dragons rugby team.

Here are a couple of examples of the pieces I have created on their behalf.Dragons AGM Banner

Each year the regional teams have an Annual General Meeting. Each team is represented by a large banner adorned with their logo and website. These banners hang from the walls and are 3m x 3m. A keen eyed observer will notice that the image is not a true square. This is simply an issue with WordPress’ formatting of images. The real version will be taller.

Although this design is relatively simple, the first impressions of guests will be of these giant hangings and so the choice of placements of the logo and the text, large and centred was surprisingly one that required and lot of consultation. Nothing in the professional world of graphic design is simply done in one go and sent off. Dragons v NorthamptonHere is a fixture poster that appeared on the Dragons own website. In truth the majority of the template was already designed. I simply replaced some players as the team roster had altered since its last use as well as repositioning the background patterns and replacing the text more to my liking. I was still very proud to have contributed to something that will have been seen by potentially tens of thousands of people.

My Thoughts

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the work I have completed and contributed to. I will sprinkle them in periodically as I go. The biggest surprise for me working in a very junior position as an intern for the WRU is the amount of consultation I do. I am brought into every meeting where my department is relevant and asked my opinion on very important projects such as television adverts and advertising campaigns.

It really is an amazing experience and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to partake.

 

 

 

Internship Work

During my short time working in the Graphic Design department of the WRU I have learnt a great deal. My responsibilities are very wide ranging and the job changes from day to day.

At the moment, my focus has been on providing design services for the Newport Dragons. In early 2017 the WRU took control of the team as it was in financial difficulty, in the brief time since, they have completely overhauled the teams design language.

Due to this, our four man team is responsible for delivering all their branded media, kit design, graphics for their media, including printed media, web images and art in their stadium and store.

In at the deep end…

In the first major project assigned to me, I was asked to design an premium looking invitation on behalf of the Dragons club president to a number of ‘VVIPs’ who include CEOs of sponsor companies as well as wealthy patrons of Welsh rugby.

I have to admit, being left alone to do this was a daunting proposition. I decided to use the kit design as my template, I began by placing all the relevant branding and finding the ideal positioning for it.

For context, the new team kit design has three variants; The blue and amber is used primarily for hospitality related pieces. There is a red and black version which is for general use and is featured on the official kit as well as a red and amber pattern for community related projects.

Dragons VIP invite 1

This was my first, very basic layout. I worked to place the Dragons logo as centrally as possible while making it flow with the background.

VIP invite 7 (hospitality)-1

After several further edits I had made large scale changes to the design. I had received more information to work from and was receiving feedback as I sent rough copy PDFs to the client for review.

VIP invite 7 (general)-1

I decided to try out the other colour scheme and really liked the strong impact it gave the overall design. The colours are contrasted to one another and very punchy.

VIP invite 7 (a) (general)-1VIP invite 8 (b) (general)-1VIP invite 8 (c) (general)-1

These were the three finalised designs I sent off to the client. They may look quite simple, but everything has been proofed and refined.

  • I ensured that the shield of the Dragons logo was centred with the peak of the grey on which it sits.
  • The ‘RSVP’ sits horizontally to the left facing peak of the black wedge in which it sits.
  • The ‘VIP Invite’ had to be aligned with the boy text without the lettering secluding a small portion of the red.

In total the project went through around twenty iterations and it clearly benefitted from that process, It was a high priority project and high stakes and thus had to be perfect down to the smallest detail. Of course, the design is a subjective thing. The essential part was removing even the tiniest mistakes, misaligned text, typos, incorrect swatches. Any work I do here has a specific swatch set that must be adhered to to maintain consistent branding.

My thoughts

I am truly enjoying working to produce real world pieces of graphic design, I am coming to understand the role our small, four man department plays within the company. Jobs are forthcoming and we are required to jump to work getting them processed and sent off to strict and very short deadlines.