Blog

The online journal of Colin Grist; contains information about new and upcoming projects, events he has attended, development rants and a rather large sum of posts about cool things he wants but cant have. Last blog post was on Tuesday, July 12, 2016.


Looking after yourself (and others) in the workplace

Sad cat

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Along with colleagues, I recently attended the 3rd annual DotYork digital conference; a conference for designers and developers with a format that’s more aimed at discussion and interaction than the usual slide-based presentations. While some of the talks weren’t of the most interest to me personally, there was one discussion that really did stick with me, and made me want to write this post you’re reading right now.

Amongst the presentations and discussions that happened on the day, there were quite a few references to looking after your staff’s wellbeing, office morale, and even mental illness.

At the conference, I was too shy to put my hand up and join in the debates around mental health and how to run your business better – but despite this, it remains as something I’m extremely passionate about. These small conversations around mental health in the agency sector were the highlight of the day for me, and made me think back to when I was diagnosed with depression.

At the time, when the doctor told me, I couldn’t believe it – I couldn’t believe him.

Sure, I’d felt funny for a while. I’d been upset at home for no reason, telling my wife I was ‘tired’, I’d woke up in the night feeling breathless, I’d not been sleeping much, my body ached. But depression? “That isn’t me,” I told myself.

This was two years ago, while I was working as a Designer. I had big projects on the go, I was integral to the design team and I was an important part of the agency. My home life was good. Me and my wife had been married just over a year, we were happily living in our own home for four years, and the projects at work were good. Big projects, but good ones. Despite all of this, my health didn’t seem to be that great.

It seemed that emotion was starting to rear its head in my day job. Design jobs seemed to be taking me an age to do. Client amends were becoming more than just that. I was getting stressed. Timings were getting tight on a few projects, and the pressure to deliver never seemed so great.

The amazing team around me always supported me – so why was I so bothered about everything all of a sudden, and why was it upsetting me now?

I’d notice at home that my arm had been aching for a few days, and then it was my leg – why am I aching? I started getting headaches and then struggled to sleep. One evening I didn’t sleep at all, as I couldn’t get my breathing under control. I’d been worrying that my aching arm was linked to the chest pain I’d recently started getting, and I started to panic. Unable to breathe, I woke my wife up and she calmed me down.

I burst into tears that night, and my wife told me I needed to see a doctor about my chest straight away. There was nothing wrong with my chest as the doctor found out, but other things we discussed read like a checklist of how I’d been feeling for the past 3 months. Sleeplessness, check. Aches and pains, check. Breathlessness, check. Emotional, check. I was told I was depressed. It was hard to listen to, but it was also nice to know what was wrong with me (and that I wasn’t having a heart attack).

The agency I was working for was really good about the news I had to give them the next morning; I told my line manager and was immediately signed off sick for two weeks. I took time away from my day job and didn’t touch a keyboard the whole time. I went to the park, ate out, went away for the weekend, and caught up on some of my favourite TV shows.

It might sound like a holiday, but it was probably the most important two weeks I’ve ever taken in my career.

The doctor booked me in with sessions to see a counsellor, and I was disappointed that things had come to this – that I had to go and speak to someone about my feelings. “This isn’t me,” I told myself again.

When I arrived back at work, I felt like a different person – that time off and the sessions I had with my counsellor made all the difference. I felt like the old me again.

I’d like to think that I’m a positive person, a fun guy to be around, someone who keeps the morale up, and makes a tiny contribution to making an office environment somewhere good to work. A week or so after I went back to work, I was due to have my annual review. This opened my eyes even more so than the news my doctor had given me a few weeks before.

We did ‘360 reviews’ in this studio, where the rest of the team give their feedback on your performance to get a clearer picture of how you’ve been doing. It rang true for how I’d been feeling for months: “Col hasn’t quite been the same recently” it began. “Been unhelpful at times”, another stated.

“Annoyed all the time”, “seems quite negative to his normal happy self”, “worried about him, seems quite stressed” were all mentioned, too.

I was upset, upset with myself, upset that everyone had noticed and I’d not had a clue, but also upset that nobody had said anything to me earlier. The feedback showed they clearly cared about me, but nobody had asked me what was wrong. I realised from the feedback that I’d probably not been the most approachable person at the time, and I hadn’t asked to speak to anyone about my problems either – but someone taking me to one side could have made a difference.

Nothing in this story is anyone’s fault. My place of work did everything they could to be supportive in my time of need, and the talks at the conference showed there was an understanding that depression is something the agency workplace needs to be able to handle and prevent as best it can.

The web industry is a tough place. Tough for agencies to compete in, and tough for any employee to work in. I’ve worked in it for 12 years now, and with design and development moving at the rate that it does, it’s sometimes hard to keep up – but that’s also what makes this industry so exciting to be a part of.

The pressures in this industry, from pitches, to delivery dates, to clients and the pressures that you put on yourself can be great at times, and that burden isn’t yours to take on alone. That’s what the team around you is for, that’s what project managers are for, your line manager, colleagues, everybody.

You need good people around you in this industry – working in silo gets you nowhere. That’s why I feel so passionately about how a team works together. I was never alone when I had my problems, but I felt alone and should have spoken up – after all, my team did care about my wellbeing.

I made myself poorly, doing a job that I love dearly. It affected my home life and the team around me in ways I didn’t like. Depression is something that people think will never happen to them, but it happened to me and I was just as shocked to find that out as I’m sure anyone who has suffered from it did too.

Look after yourself and look after your team, take holidays when you should, and make sure your colleagues do the same. Your body is telling you to take a break probably more than you realise.


The Witness

24684697671_55a5bff98a_h

Thursday, March 31, 2016

For the past six or seven weeks I’ve been playing Jonathan Blow’s latest video game ‘The Witness’; a beautiful, cel-shaded island full of puzzles and interesting secrets to discover. I’m pleased to say I’ve now completed The Witness and I think even though its only March, it might be the best video game I play this year. Hell, it might be one of the best games I’ve ever played.

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Epson SC-P600 Printer Review

printer

Thursday, January 28, 2016

So after quite a few years of wanting a decent printer, I went and did it, I ordered the £500 Epson Surecolor-P600 A3+ Printer which I purchased from Wex Photographic; sadly it was out of stock when I initially ordered it but Wex were quick to rectify and I’ve had and been using the printer solidly for over a week now and feel ready to share my thoughts on this monster of a printer.

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Inventory Tees

Inventory Tee

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

For anyone interested in my Zelda ‘Inventory’ print from a while back, it’s now available as a tee courtesy of GeekGamr. It’s available in one colour currently which is near to the colour of my original print, it includes a newly designed clothes tag with some cool little nods to A Link To The Past. Check it out here.


Changing Agencies

Epiphany

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

After three and a half years working at Leeds-based digital agency Numiko as a Senior Designer I’ve now moved jobs and started working for Epiphany; another Leeds-based digital agency… but bigger.

Ok, so no, their size isn’t the only difference of course, and I’ve decided to change agencies for quite a large number of reasons and their size wasn’t actually a plus point for me going in initially, or so I thought.

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New Portfolio

Thursday, October 22, 2015

As you may have noticed my website has been updated. My previous site was put online on the 22nd October 2012 and has done me just fine until now even receiving some nice comments along the way from some pretty respected names; however I was really starting to feel like a lack of work being showcased on my site was becoming a bit of an issue and with not keeping my blog up to date as much as I’d like it started to make the site feel a little bit barren.

So today is the 22nd October 2015, three years to the day of my last site launch – I hope you all like it; I’ve been working on it and on off between work and freelance for a long time now, but I’m finally happy with it and am glad I have somewhere to finally show my work off.

The site is now much easier for me to maintain, whether thats through adding new portfolio work or blog posts, I moved hosts after being with eleven2 for over two years to the awesome guys at Media Temple and so I’m hoping my site will no longer get hacked and not constantly go offline!

I’d like to thank Mark Dolby for the photo shoot used on the new profile page and for making me look half respectable for once and a final thank you to all of my friends and work colleagues who’ve given me feedback on this project over the last few months.


Drew Millward – Leeds Beer Fest

Friday, September 25, 2015

In my previous post about the great evening I had at the Leeds Beer Fest I forgot to mention the stunning poster that had been created for the event by artist Drew Millward.

The poster had been cropping up around bars in Leeds for a few weeks and it really stood out with its beautiful illustration style and vibrant colours and after the great (and fairly drunken) night at the festival I thought it would have been cool to get a hold of one of Drews prints as a little memento from this years fest.

After getting in touch with him via Twitter and him stating they’d be ‘up at some point for sale but he didn’t know when’ I was initially disappointed as I was hoping to get one fairly sharpish, however two weeks later Drew announced that his store was now open and the prints were up for sale. Even though I’d like to think it was, I’m guessing it was nothing to do with me hassling him that it finally went live as I can imagine I wasn’t the only one pestering him to sell his prints!

Drews store can be located here and has so much beautifully designed work on there it’s pretty hazardous to my wallet. The Leeds print which I purchased comes in an A2 size and is a steal at only £25, all of his prints are of limited quantity so get them while you can!


Leeds Beer Fest

leeds

Saturday, September 5, 2015

This past weekend marked the fourth annual Leeds Beer Festival, I went along on the Friday evening session with my wife and some of our good friends and it was a brilliant night! Incredible atmosphere, food and beer!

The whole of Leeds’ Town Hall had been taken over by live bands, DJs, food vans and some well known and some not so well known breweries all showcasing their latest and greatest brews. Some of the breweries making an appearance this year included The Kernel, Beavertown, Roosters, Cromarty and Siren and each beer I tried that evening (definitely over 12…) were all excellent.

The atmosphere at the venue was really, really good with hundreds of beer enthusiasts all being overly enthusiastic about that sweet, sweet ale. The town hall got really full at some points through out the evening but was never at a point where you could not get served with plenty of very pleasant staff (including some of the actual brewers) serving constantly at the different taps throughout the night.

Exploring the town hall meant for some cool finds including a cocktail bar that was setup within an old jail cell and a silent disco that was happening down stairs, pretty surreal but very funny to watch.

I’d highly recommend the beer festival to anyone, not just craft ale enthusiasts but to anyone who just enjoys a great night out with friends as the venue is excellent, the various food vans offered great options for all and the live music topped it off.

Next year I’m getting a weekend ticket! To see some of my beer ratings from the weekend checkout my Untapped checkins.


Bloodborne

Bloodborne

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Never have I played a game so punishing and yet so rewarding at the same time; a game both beautiful and grotesque in its design. Bloodborne by Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and FROMSoftware is the true definition of ‘next-gen’.
I’m sure for any gaming fan out there, you’ll already be aware of Bloodborne; the hype for this game is unreal, unashamedly pushed by Sony as a Playstation 4 Exclusive, it really is the first game to warrant the praise of being a ‘system seller’.

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iOS to Android

z3

Thursday, March 12, 2015

So I made the switch. I’ve used iPhones since the iPhone 3 and loved them for the longest time, I never saw me wanting to switch to another device or needing to, But after getting an iPhone 3 in 2009 to now in 2015 they really, really haven’t moved on much. So little in fact that Windows and Android are starting to catch up.

My most recent phone, an iPhone 5 started playing up too, the home button became so pressed in that all I ever listened to was Siri speaking to me from inside my coat pocket all day long, and the cost of having that fixed just made it pointless. The battery too, the battery was awful, I was charging it every night otherwise it was switching off at 3pm in the afternoon even though it told me it had 10% battery remaining. I only had the phone 18 months and just never really loved the phone. From my iPhone 4 to iPhone 5 upgrade the choice was simple – get the next iPhone, I don’t need anything else but now, well I wanted a change – a big change.

The Sony Xperia Z3 was the phone I was looking for. It looks great with its large, crisp screen, the Ui is really clean and simple yet really customisable, it has a beyond excellent 20.7mb camera, is 4G ready(!), has an amazing battery and it even doubles up as Playstation Vita of sorts with Sonys brilliant implementation of the Remote Play app for the Playstation 4.

I’ve had the phone two weeks now, and I love it, I haven’t had one single app crash, any sign of lag, never worry about battery levels and I no longer feel locked in to my relationship with Apple. Sure, I still have a Macbook Pro, an iPad and even an iPod, but I don’t need a phone too. Of course, I had to spend an hour adding my contacts into my new phone instead of the seamless sync we’re all used to these days, but I remember having to do this chore annually back in the day whenever you bought a new phone.

I’d really recommend the Z3 to anyone, don’t be put off by the thought of it being Android. Its fun here, all your apps are here and its all quite refreshing.


It’s been a while

awhile

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I know, I know. My last attempt at posting a blog on here was in January of 2014. I’m pretty disappointed in myself for that, but then I’ve had a lot on my plate, things going on outside of the world wide web, life altering occurrences that just meant I didn’t have time to login to WordPress and write down my thoughts – I got married! I’m in the midst of a very stressful house move, my car died, we bought another car, that one died, I got promoted at work and have enjoyed added responsibility as Senior Designer at Numiko, I grew a beard, I’m freelancing, playing lots and lots and lots of Destiny…

When I look around now, one thing is certainly clear to me: My website looks old. At the time it got lots of press, a bit of fan fare, features on design blogs, even Chris Coyier tweeted about it at the time, I was very proud, I remember screenshotting the shit out of his tweet at the time. This design is the one I’ve kept for probably the longest ever time on my personal website.

Designing your own website is probably the hardest possible site to design, you have no time limits, no clients, you are the client and you change your mind every five seconds, so I’m pleased this one has lasted as long as it has, but its starting to feel a little… rusty.

It’s been hacked over the last month or so, taken offline, its having memory leaks to do with the WordPress database, hell, for long enough its said I’m a ’20-something designer’ on the homepage, I hit 30 last July (now updated)!

I’ve been working on something new, something ideally that doesn’t require WordPress to run. I want to showcase my work, both my agency work and my freelance work, I’ve got some really good projects that are now done and in the pipeline but currently have no way of showing those off, which, to be honest, was the whole point of my site originally – it’s ended up as a hub for my Etsy store (BUY MY PRINTS!) and these blogs, which as you know, haven’t happened for a year.

So stuff happens, life goes on and years seem to fly by in an instant. I’ll be back, with a new site, a more lightweight site, a site with actual work on it, and maybe some new products to sell too. Thanks to everyone who still visit my website, it means the world to me, I know you’re out there, thats what Google Analytics is for.

See you around. Soon. Hopefully.


Etsy

Etsy

Friday, January 31, 2014

Hey all, Happy 2014!

Yes – It’s been a while since I posted last, July 2013 intact, that post was related to a summer sale I had on my Big Cartel shop, that shop as of today is no more!

I decided to move my store over to Etsy instead, this is for a few reasons, the biggest one being that Etsy is a great website with a huge community, I’m hoping my prints will get found a bit easier now, the other one is that I have a new design coming in the foreseeable for this website and feel that Etsy is probably going to work better with what I want to do with that.

My new store is located at the same URL: http://store.colingrist.com or at the Etsy url of: http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/colingrist

See you all real soon.


Summer Sale

20% Off

Saturday, July 13, 2013

From today through the end of July, products in my store are now 20% off when you use the discount code: SUMMERSALE at the checkout.

Products in my store currently consist of my Zelda and Twin peaks inspired A3 prints, get them while they’re cheap!


Time has flown!

Time!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hey all, Nearly April already? Madness.

My blog still gets many visitors and I appreciate that massively, but feel bad as I aren’t keeping up with my end of the bargain – actually posting anything! So when there isn’t really anything else to say right now, what do you do, you do an ‘update post’ of course 😀

I’ve been exceptionally busy in my day job, first of all I am now moving over into doing design full-time. For those that know me, I got in to this industry as a designer about 7/8 years ago, and over that time, I became more and more recognised for doing front-end build, and when it got to the big leagues (the larger agencies) you are obviously hired more often than not for one set of skills and one set only – something I don’t personally agree with.

After working as a front-end developer at this agency for two years (which I loved), I moved to where I am now, which was still as a front-end developer, but with the opportunity to do more design whenever I could, Now after nearly a year of this role, I have been offered the chance to go full on with just design!

I have to say that, after doing the 50/50 role of design and development for nearly a year, it does take its toll, if you find it hard jumping between projects at your agency as it is, think of that, plus jumping between Photoshop/Illustrator and Coda for a better understanding!

I feel like I’ve come full circle, but I’m better now than I ever was then, at both skills. I feel like I am at a good level of front-end to bring some of that knowledge to the design side, and am excited to see how my design can improve over the next couple of years, especially with the talented designers I’ll be working with.

So that’s my day job. On a evening, I’ve been sketching, wireframing, branding and designing a new site that is a personal project with some of my dearest friends. I can’t say much more than that right now, but it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a few years between us and it’s finally happening. I’ll make sure to post about it when there’s more I can share!

Sales on my store have wound down significantly, which is a shame, if anyone knows of a good way to promote my prints, please leave a comment! Oh, and I just finished the new Tomb Raider on the 360 – go and buy it, brilliant game.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading.


Store

Store

Monday, January 14, 2013

After months of having up a store that wasn’t a store at all and with a live date for a real store that kept getting pushed back I’m finally glad to say that my store is now live!

I’ve spent months working on the two prints that are for sale currently on there but have enjoyed every minute of doing them, from the original concepts, to finally falling in love with Adobe Illustrator, to seeing proofs of the prints and finally getting them for sale.

The prints are based on two of my favourite things: Zelda and Twin Peaks and so if you don’t like that kind of thing there’s nothing on my store for you! But if you do like those kind of things, hopefully you like what you see and appreciate the work that’s gone in to them – they won’t be to everyones taste and this is the first real print work I’ve ever done but I’m still proud and I hope people like them.

The store is powered by Big Cartel which I have found a dream to use. It is hosted separately from this website and so if things change ever so slightly from site-to-site that’s why, I just couldn’t bug fix any longer whilst 100 prints laid around in my office!

Check out the store.


The Antler Boy and Other Stories

Jake Parker

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kickstarter, you got me again, I find myself constantly browsing it and constantly backing excellent ideas on there. It really is a great site and it’s brilliant that it’s allowing some very talented people out there to get their idea backed by fans with the fans in return getting a great product from the people creating the items.

This is what Jake Parker is doing with his new book The Antler Boy and Other Stores, a collection of short stories written and drawn by him over the last eight years.

This specific Kickstarter has been a massive success, Jake only required $6,000 to get the ball rolling on his plan to create and publish the book however 30 days laster the total was almost $80,000 more than he’d originally asked for!

I backed this project back in the middle of May and in this time Jake has done what all good Kickstarters should do and is keep their backers informed, what’s been going on? How far along is it from completion?, when it’s shipping? etc, All of Jakes updates (we’re now on update #30) have been very good with pictures to match including the one above of him signing lots of copies!

I’m hoping the book will be with me very soon after a long but worthwhile wait and will try and have a proper in-depth review of the book up shortly after that. I’m now going back to Kickstarter to see what other treasures I can find…


Cat Print

Cats

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For Christmas this year I wanted to get my fiancé something special, she loves all of our pets (we really do have enough for a zoo) but our cats are the pets that make our house a home, they are who keep her company when I’m away and they are the ones who get all the attention from her, so I decided that I would make her a print of the three of our cats: Daffney, Trogdor and Tango and wrap it up for her for Christmas.

The whole process was fairly straight forward, I did a rough sketch of the left cat (Daffney) for the shape and then took that in to Illustrator where I then added the additional details, All three cats were then the same but only distinguishable by their hair colours, however I felt that as all three cats are varying in size it’d make the cats more ‘obvious’ to my fiancé who they were. I then tweaked the colours, made a few adjustments here and there and saved it as a PDF.

Once the print was finished, I took it to my local printer, I had it printed within 20 minutes and then purchased a frame and inlay from a local hardware store, done, wrapped and under the tree!

I did forget to put the clips back in the back of the frame though, I hope it won’t have all gone wonky!


Mark Dolby

mark-dolby

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I was recently asked to do a redesign of a local photographers website named Mark Dolby who got in touch with me via my site’s contact form, it turned out we had mutual friends and I’d kindly been recommended to him by an old colleague of mine.

Markdolby.co.uk was designed, built and pushed live within two weeks. Mark already had his logo and images ready to go and I essentially had free reign over the design of the site – much to my pleasure.

This site was a good bit of fun and Mark is more than happy with the results.


Twin Peaks

twin-peaks

Thursday, October 18, 2012

If you ever watched Twin Peaks, the short lived Mark Frost and David Lynch series from 1990-1991, you either hated it, or you became practically obsessed with it (like I did), it seemed to garner such an emotional response from viewers and still does to this day – 22 years later.

It was either too ‘out there’ for viewers and didn’t make sense or you fell in love with the town, its residents and everything that revolved around the investigation of FBI agent Dale Cooper into the murder of local high school student Laura Palmer; a classic ‘Who Dunnit?’ that sadly was answered too early in the second series, something that Twin Peaks never recovered from and essentially affected it ever coming back for another series.

I was recommended Twin Peaks about 18 months ago and actually got it for Christmas last year, I couldn’t wait to watch it, I even persuaded my Fiancé to watch it too (an achievement in it’s own right), we instantly fell in love with it; the eerie town, pet logs, eye patches, super-human strength, red rooms, secret gangs and seedy clubs.

Twin Peaks was an excellent town with a great set of characters that surrounded the main story arch – the murder of Laura Palmer; something that at the time had TV audiences gripped.

So what happened to Twin Peaks?

Well apparently due to pressure to answer the question of who killed Laura Palmer from the network and fans, the answer was given to us midway through the second series, sadly it went from people dying to know, to wishing they didn’t and even though the reveal was excellent (no spoilers here) the fact that the game was up was almost too much for people to handle and effectively grounded Twin Peaks to a halt – story lines after this for the next 10+ episodes got more than silly, Lynch and Frost spent less and less time on set and overall the series became difficult to watch.

Director David Lynch did return for the final episode of the second series and it’s one of the best episodes of the entire show, but sadly too little, too late – Dwindling viewers, constant schedule move arounds from the network and crazier than normal story lines helped to bury Twin Peaks for it to never return for a third time and leave us with some unanswered story lines.

However, Twin Peaks is still a fantastic show, especially if you watch the entirety of the brilliant first series right up until the huge reveal of who killed Laura Palmer, it is one of the best things I could ever recommend for anyone to watch.

I found Twin Peaks so memorable that I have been working on a print based on the show, which includes certain memorable scenes and items from the world, you can actually see one small shot from one scene of the print currently on my store page which gives you an idea of the style of the print.

I will be putting up the finished print (including photographs of the printed article) and taking orders for it before 2012 is out – so stay tuned and thanks for reading!


Gallery Of Mo 2012

mo

Monday, October 8, 2012

I’m delighted to be an artist for this years Gallery Of Mo campaign!

For those of you who don’t know what it’s all about: During November each year thousands of men sprout facial hair to raise money to support prostate and testicular cancer initiatives in the name of Movember. The Gallery of Mo is a way for anyone to contribute to Movember by getting a portrait from one of our many talented artists, with each artist adding a splendid moustache to the finished design.

I donated to the cause last year, but this year I’m going one step further and contributing as an artist! So you could have an illustration of yourself done by me. The style of the illustrations I will be doing will be quite minimal and my own portrait above is a good representation of what you could get.

The current Mo site is online now, however artist pages and donations will start real soon so stay posted!

Edit (8th Oct): The current Mo site is online now, and my own profile page can be viewed here.