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In Conversation with Cas Magee, Designer at Daisie

This piece originally appeared in the Strand Magazine's February 2020 "Young Creatives" Issue here

Tell me a bit about yourself and your art

I’m Cas and I’m 24 years old. I’ve always been a creative person and before this whole graphic design thing started I was really interested in Music or Acting, I’ve always performed in plays, sung and played instruments before I even knew what a graphic designer was or that I could do it as a career. I’ve never been good at anything other than being creative so I felt like it was the natural path for me.

I first got an interest when I was 14 in an Art/Design class. Our teacher started introducing us to Typography and different Graphic Designers that are more experimental and artistic like David Carson or Neville Brody. We started cutting up letter forms and re-arranging them into different compositions. I asked her what this was and she said it was a form of Visual Communication, and from then on I was hooked. I used a really old version of photoshop that was probably pirated (sorry Adobe!) and started making really bad album covers. I felt it was a great way of experimenting and getting to grips with the software, which I still use the most.

From then I took Art/Design for GCSE and A Level and went to Southampton Solent to study Graphic Design at University. It was similar to my school as it was more artistic and focused on developing your personal skillset and was really open to different disciplines intertwining with Graphic Design. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without going to University and really using it as a platform to progress my skills and my network. I know there’s the whole debate about whether University is necessary for an Artist or Designer but for me it helped me gain an understanding about design history and why things are the way they are.

For me, my design/art style is a mixture of both functional and expressive typography and clean and minimalistic imagery, with pops of colour. I jump from really clean and really messy from time to time but I think that’s ok as you definitely need a change of visual style every so often. I also really like digital art and collage so I try to mix inspirations I’ve gained from Surrealism, Dada and other art movements into as much of my work as possible.

What are your goals as a creative, what would you like to achieve?

Sometime in the future I’d like to move into Art Direction and Creative Direction. There are so many visual ideas that I’d like to explore that can’t really be achieved through being a Graphic Designer. When asked to do work there’s preconceived idea of what Graphic Designers provide whether it be basic stuff like Logos or business cards or something typographic, which isn’t the case and it sometimes pigeonholes you into a certain area. First and foremost we’re creative thinkers, and just like Artists our ideas can be translated into many different mediums - so maybe I’d like to direct films or music videos or even curate galleries while leading a team of creatives.

An example of what I’d love to do is an album campaign. Everything from the design choices on the album cover (typography, layout, photography etc) to the out of home advertising and music videos are all linked by the major themes explored in the record. It’s essentially a cohesive visual experience from the sound of the record to the the visuals and it’s exciting to think about a project that’s so in depth and that’s open to experimentation. My favourite example of this type of project is the campaign for The 1975’s record "I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It”. The direction of the campaign is beautifully done and the neon pink against landscapes create a real visceral experience.

How do you personally showcase your work and build a portfolio?

Right now I have a really basic website where I showcase the majority of my work. I’m working on and off to update it as I don’t have any of University projects on there yet. Most of last year I used Instagram to post updated work which were just experiments. I’m now starting to move away from that as a platform to display work. This is because Instagram is becoming less of a platform about artists and more for large scale influencers. I may still use it to post my work under a different @name but I just want to use Instagram to have fun and post updates about my life/friends/family without the pressure of posting work there all the time.

In addition to my website (I use Cargo) I’m thinking about moving more towards portfolio sites like Behance, The Dots and I still update work on Daisie as well. This means I can connect straight to other creatives without having to use hashtags that may or may not be seen by Instagram’s algorithm changes.

For job applications etc I have a separate PDF portfolio which include shortened versions of the projects I will show on my website (once it’s updated). It’s ok for the time being though as I tailor my PDF one for the different jobs I apply for. I still have University projects in there but they’ll get filtered out while I do more commercial work.

Also my advice for building a portfolio is do self-initiated projects to show the work you’re interested in. Use a free portfolio site to showcase your work like Daisie or Adobe Portfolio which is free with an Adobe Subscription. And keep it simple. Let your work do the talking - make the website as easy to navigate as possible for the user. You never know if the next person visiting your site is going to offer you a job.

So, you started posting your projects on Daisie a while back, and since you have inspiringly landed a job at Daisie, can you tell me a little bit about your journey?

I started using Daisie when it was in Beta version (the orange branding) quite a while later I heard from my friends doing a Masters Degree at Solent University that Maisie had given them a talk about Daisie and told me to join up for the new Beta release. When the beta released I started posting my work like the Dystopian brand identity called IDGAF CO*. This was featured on their main page and I gained quite a few followers from it. So I started posting more work like some album cover concepts and some posters which I was doing daily at the time.

A few months passed and I was invited to the launch party as my work was well received and popular within the current community. They showed my album cover concepts and I met some other Daisie creatives there who I was really inspired by. After the launch party I started using Daisie more and then I was contacted by Utku, who is the Head of Product, to send him my portfolio if I was still looking for work. I sent it over and after a video call with him and Jamie Syke, Head of Design, I agreed to Freelance at Daisie for two days a week. It’s been a really cool experience working with the Daisie team and I was really lucky to land an opportunity like this. It’s been pretty surreal especially when I was posting my work on here a few months prior, never underestimate posting your work on social media - you never know where it might take you.

How do you usually get into the creative process for a project?

I think it’s different for everyone but I like to stay away from creative work and design as much as possible. I’ve found that if you surround yourself with too much creative work or just look at creative work in general like on Instagram, it’s very easy to burn out and start comparing yourself to others. This can lead to problems like imposter syndrome too and your work looking very similar. I felt a lot this way during my final year at University and after I left, because I was constantly working and looking at other designers without much rest. Also, I think when you stop looking at others you start to pull from your own experiences and background to create outcomes, which is the best way towards originality as our own experiences are specific to us.

The best way for me to get into the zone is to relax and not overwork yourself. You need to find time for you and do whatever relaxes you or whatever you enjoy. For me it’s going for a hike, running, watching Netflix or playing video games. I know it’s very cliche but for me when my mind is relaxed I get inspired by everything, and when you’re not thinking about creative work the whole time you enable different connections between subjects and that really helps the creative process.

How have you gone about finding internships in the creative world? It’s a lot about “who you know” have you managed to combat this?

I’ve been in two Internships before, but they were the result of Uni project competitions so gaining those was really lucky as I was against some amazing designers. The aim of the game to get an internship (or even a job!) is to just keep trying. I’d say in terms of Internships it’s less of who you know and more about persistence. I have reached out to different studios or companies for Internships but I didn’t have much luck or didn’t get a reply.

A person just starting won’t have many contacts in the creative industries so it’s understandable that companies won’t know of them or their presence in the real world. When it comes to new hires for full time jobs I’d say it’s down to portfolio to get your foot in the door but you as a person gets the job. For full time hires it’s more common for them to wait to find the right person as hiring an employee is an investment and they need to find the right fit for their individual workplace culture, this is why there is normally a probation period.

There are exceptions to this though. The best companies or creative studios either don’t advertise that they’re hiring or very rarely hire. They either have a small team that work full time and just hire freelance for specific projects; in that context it is down to who they know and who can do the job well.

If you’re straight out of uni, self-learning or just starting out it can be fairly daunting. I’d say research places you would like to work at and call them to see if they’re taking any interns or if you can just to ‘help out’ around the studio for a few days a week. If that fails, send them an email explaining that you’re looking for work experience, but tailor each email to the workplace you’re contacting. Research goes a long way! I’d say if you have a favourite project they’ve done, tell them and say why you like it! It shows you aren’t sending bulk emails. One thing I’ve had trouble with is when my email goes straight to Junk. A way to stop this is to have a personal email, I got mine from Godaddy and it’s fairly cheap per year! One thing though, make sure you are paid for your time, even as an intern your time is worth something. Unpaid Internships are illegal now but they are still prevalent in every industry.

Don’t let them take advantage just because it was like that when they were starting out.

What motivates you? What makes you get up in the morning and create?

My friends and family. They support me in everything I set out to do and it allows me to try new and different things. Even if my ideas fail, their support makes it ok for different small failures to be learning experiences and to keep trying. Without them I wouldn’t be the same person and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today creatively.

What’s your favourite part about being a creative?

I think it’s the flexibility and difference each day that makes it. I could be working in a normal job doing spreadsheets all day. It's great if that’s what you enjoy to do, but it’s not me. With a creative job I may be doing artworks one day, or a magazine, but could be helping out on a shoot for the next. The possibilities in a creative career is endless and I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to have this as a career path.

You can find Cas on Daisie here

All Graphics by Cas

Strand Design Credits to Morgan Bakinowski

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