Designer, illustrator, art director and printed.com customer Mikey Carr is positively overflowing with energy. When you juggle a list of clients like Nike, Sony, Adidas and Ferrari, you have to be! We managed to collar this former Designer of the Year for long enough to ask some of the big questions: how does he organise his time? How does he find new clients? Most importantly…what does he do on his lunchbreak?
It’s a typical day in Studio Mikey–what time do you usually sit down at your desk and what’s the first task on the agenda?
I like to be at my desk at 7.30am. Those few hours before my clients start are pretty important. I like to get a lot of my invoicing, planning and admin stuff done before the phone rings and the emails start coming in. The first task is always to turn the music on, and do my 'to-do today' list. I like to see everything I want to achieve in that day written down. I've always been big on lists. I'm always boring people about how important to do lists are.
Are there any specific organisational methods you’ve developed to help manage your daily schedule?
Haha, see above. Lists. Also, I think it's important to be flexible with clients. Weighing up certain things when it comes to your schedule is crucial. One of my clients is Adidas. They're as you'd expect—extremely demanding. But they pay for that. They know that because I'm not a big agency, I can be more flexible with deadlines. I can react faster. Sometimes it's a juggling act with your schedule and client roster, but with good client management it's manageable. The same applies to my global clients. Scheduling in time zones can be tricky, but often an advantage. It can often lead to late nights and long hours, but the reward is worth it.
How do you keep the inspirational juices flowing on a slow day?
It's extremely rare for me to have a slow day. I'm what some might define as a workaholic, but I've never really seen it that way. I don't like taking breaks or slowing down. I'm an illustrator, designer and art director, so I'm jumping around a lot. One minute I'll be working on an illustration, the next I could be working on a rebrand or directing a photoshoot. Switching disciplines keeps me fresh and the creativity flowing. With the switching, I get to meet and work with a lot of other creative people. Collaborating is one of the best ways for me to find inspiration. Hearing different approaches and views on the same problem is always cool and very important.
You’ve got an impressive range of clients in your portfolio—do you set aside time each day to grow your client base and what do you find is the most effective way of doing it?
I feel like I should say yes to this question. But in truth, I do next to no marketing. My website works really well for me, as does LinkedIn. I'd say though, the vast majority of my work comes from word of mouth. Also, because some of my work is fairly high profile, more people get to see it. I get a lot of emails and calls, from people who've seen my work and want to collaborate. That's pretty cool. I'm not a big fan of selling myself. I get more satisfaction from word-of-mouth contacts and people who've seen my work. It means that things are healthy and relationships are working.
Taking regular breaks is good for the creative process—when do you like to take your downtime and how often do you step away from your desk?
I launched a side project at the beginning of the year. www.hittingthewall.co.uk was a way for me to mix my love of cycling and illustration. I've sold prints to people from Texas to Sydney, Tokyo to Toronto. It's really taking off. For me, this is my break time. I was brought up with the whole ‘change is as good as rest’ thing, so this project is my change. Printing them, packaging them up and going to the post office is a nice break from the day job.
What’s your favourite part of the working day?
The calm before the storm is great. Those few hours in the morning, I get so much done. I like this part of the day. Working for yourself, there's always something that can be done, so finishing time is flexible. I like that feeling when I think to myself, ‘let's finish for the day’. It's not time-based, it's intuition. I just get to a point where I can leave my desk and know I won't be thinking about it once the mac is turned off.
As the day comes to a close, what are you doing to wrap things up? When’s clocking-off time?
Clocking off is ridiculously varied. Sometimes, if there's a tight deadline or I've taken on a rush fee, then I'm not clocking off until the small hours. It works the other way though. If it's a hot, sunny day, I'll finish my day early to get out for a ride on my road bike. But generally, as a standard, I'll finish my working day around 6.30 -7.00pm. If a Guinness is on the cards, then that’s different. I’m out the door on time, without fail.