Adapting your skills and working better with Dylan Tucker

Designer Dylan Tucker — Interview by Femke

Dylan Tucker is a multi-disciplined digital creative with 11 years of industry experience. When he’s not combining his skills in web and video, he’s consuming either cricket, antipasti or possibly both.

You previously moved from Australia to Wales — what affect did this have on your work?

My story is a bit of unique one; after studying television production in Australia I moved to the UK at the age of just 21 to work for a production company and marry my wife (she’s British).

Unfortunately due to bureaucratic citizenship issues the job fell through and I was left on the other side of the world, without a job and about to be married!

I came across an animation gig that I managed to win and created Colour Mafia as the umbrella company. My wife is an illustrator so we did our first couple of projects together. Over time I’ve diversified and gone into web and ecommerce due to demand.

I really had to work with what I had available in my hands, and would encourage every one else to do the same.

I ended up living in a small village in Wales which on paper is not an ideal place to start a digital creative career. However, because there was a lack of an industry in my area I became the go-to person. Over the course of a few years I built up a huge amount of diversified experience.

Thoughout that time I ended up building websites, shooting videos, branding and marketing so many companies in the region I live in — it’s pretty hard to go anywhere far without spotting my work. Doing this of course has given me a platform to seek bigger clients and has done my CV no harm.

We never have the perfect situation, but we never have nothing, so all we can do is work with what we have and make the most of it.

From branding to video, e-commerce and marketing — you offer a lot of services. What do you love most about being an interdisciplinary designer?

I never set out to be an interdisciplinary designer. Again I was just working with what I had in my hands. My background is video and multimedia, but I was asked if I could add some of what I’d done to a website. Over time this evolved to building a new website and eventually become something I specialise in, along with some other areas.

There’s a tendency to believe we have to specialise in one thing only or we’re a ‘jack of all trades’, but it’s possible to spealise in several things — it just takes time.

For me it’s a good way of keeping things fresh and different, and it also means that I have clients who like to stick with me as I can provide all of what they need and have a good overall understanding of all areas of their business.

What was the decision making behind branding yourself as small studio Colour Mafia than as an independent freelancer?

When I was working a part time job pumping fuel in the Australian heat as a schoolkid I remember imagining how cool it’d be to run a design studio. I thought up the name ‘Colour Mafia’ and told myself if I ever started one that’s what I’d call it.

The ‘studio name’ vs your personal name debate can be a tough one, but I think it’s much easier now to explain who you are if you’re a creative freelancer. Ten years ago it was much easier to sit behind a company name.

Things would’ve worked out either way but it’s important to stick with what you’ve started for the sake of reputation. A company name does help provide a barrier between your work and personal life, and it can be easier to take on larger contracts and employ others.

But equally a business name can get in the way for clients who just like the simplicity of dealing with you as a one-on-one relationship.

Either way it’s a personal choice — I just wish I chose a better name!

What do you do when a client comes to you with a project that’s out of your depth?

I’ve learned this one the hard way; I have to admit that when starting out I took on a few projects that were out of my depth. For some this was due to lack of foresight or research, while for others I assumed I could adapt whilst on the job.

Thankfully those experiences have made me stronger and wiser and I’m finding it easier to say no when appropriate and understand my limitations. If we have no limitations then we have no strengths either.

I have found however that there’s often a simple solution to most problems. We tend to over engineer things as creatives instead of just starting with the small and obvious.

You’ve been working behind the camera for quite some time and for multiple projects. What’s a common misconception about video work?

I think a huge misconception is the skill level of creativity required for commercial video work. A lot of broadcast/film professionals I know turn their nose up at commercial work thinking it’s a cop-out or dull, but I’ve found it to be the opposite.

There’s always a story to tell if you’re willing, and the restraints of time and budget mean you have to be super resourceful. If you can make it in commercial video you can make it anywhere.

You once tweeted “Being productive isn’t about working longer, but working better.” What advice do you have for someone who wants to work better?

I think I was referencing the whole hustle mindset and what happens when it’s left unchecked. It‘s easy to believe that more hours equals more efficiency but it’s just not the case.

As an industry we’re now starting to see the value of working smarter and having a healthier work-life balance.

Different things will work for different people, and top priority for all of us should be finding that out for ourselves. For me it’s splitting my time between a home office and a co-working space to get a mix of deep focused work and social interaction with like minded people.

I’m also addicted to lists, and working task-based rather than time-based helps me know where I’m up to and not feel overwhelmed. If I earn ‘free time’ I can then choose to sow it back into my work or go and enjoy life knowing I’ve earned it.

Follow Dylan on Twitter or check out his studio website.

What is The Creative Series?

The Creative Series is a publication run by Femke that highlights the under-deserved creatives of our industry. If you’re interested in being featured or want to submit someone, please reach out to Femke on Twitter.

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About the interviewer

Hi I’m Femke — a designer, writer and podcaster who overlaps between a day job, freelancing and side projects. I love to help other creatives be the best version of themselves. I’d love to get to know you more, say hi on Twitter 👋