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Creative Spotlight: Paul Shillabeer, Managing Senior Designer at the Intellectual Property Office

This month, we chatted with Paul Shillabeer, Managing Senior Designer at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), to talk about how he got started in design and what keeps him and his team inspired. Paul also tells us about the creative tech he couldn’t live without, and the projects he’s excited about in the future…


Becki Crossley
Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a designer?

I always had an interest in art and design, from wanting to design cars for Porsche when I was eight or nine to working on branding projects in my… slightly older days. I left school only being good at arty things and landed in art college for four years (yes, college not a uni back then!). Once I left college, finding a job in the South West was very difficult, so I worked within the print industry. After a few years, I worked my way back into design – though I did have to move to the East Midlands to achieve this!


Can you tell us a little about where you work now?

My current post is Managing Senior Designer at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in Newport, South Wales. I work within a team of designers producing a wide range of items from print to video and animation. We mostly serve internal customers, but occasionally get asked to help other departments. The IPO is a fascinating place to work.


What does your work involve day to day?

My day normally starts at 7.30am (I know, unusually for a designer – I’m an early riser). I’ll read and reply to emails or write documents while it’s quiet in the office. I manage a team of five designers with varying skills, so I check in with them throughout the day. I spend more time managing rather than doing hands on design at the moment, but that switches as the business requires. I spend time training, mentoring and advising the team, or as they might tell you “sticking my nose in”.

I try to get out with the DSLR at lunchtime, I have access to a National Trust park which offers some great photographic opportunities. A few of us will nip out, it’s nice to get out and focus on something other than work for 30 mins or so, and come back to the office refreshed.


How do you keep your team inspired?

The design team are great at keeping inspired. We have at least weekly stand-up meetings, and on larger projects we have additional meetings to discuss and share ideas. We have an inspiration email which we send around to the team once a week with the week’s most interesting articles.

We’re very lucky to have the opportunity to send the team on training sessions for Adobe software and skill-based training such as video and photography. We encourage the team to visit creative events like the Adobe events, Photography Show at the NEC, the D&AD festival, Jigsaw24 events held in Golden Square and local events around Cardiff.


What have you found to be the biggest challenge in your role?

As designers we offer new ways of doing or presenting things. One of the biggest challenges can be selling your ideas to customers who have already made their minds up about what they want. Sometimes customers can come to a designer just so they can make their ideas look ‘pretty’, but most designers have more value to add. Sometimes it’s fine just to make something look nice, but often there’s a new or better way to approach a piece of work.


What different skillsets are in your team?

We’re very lucky to have a wide range of skills across the team, and we’re able to nurture them. We have staff who can illustrate, animate, we’ve got photographers and videographers, and all can use the Adobe Creative Cloud apps. We have designers who are great at customer relations and others who can come up with really creative ideas, and those who are very grounded and business-focused, so it’s a great mix.


How does the technology you use enhance the different creative areas in your workflow?

Businesses are moving into more flexible ways of working. I’m using more mobile and portable devices, such as iPad, which enable me to work in other areas inside and outside of the business, and I can take our work to customers’ desks. They’re also very tactile – you can type with traditional keys or work directly onto a screen with touch or pen input. We’re using Wacom Intuos Pros and Cintiq devices to help teams animate and speed up processes, and Canon DSLRs are producing much higher quality images and video. I’ve used Extensis Portfolio for a numbers of years – taking control of assets is a massive time saver for me and teams I’ve worked in, with no more minutes lost searching for files.


Which creative products could you not live without?

It’s an obvious one, but Adobe Creative Cloud. Since the start of my career in design (post-handcrafted days), I’ve used the Adobe suite in one form or other. InDesign was refreshing when that came along, and in my opinion blew Quark out of the water. It’s hard to imagine graphic design without Adobe products, especially the core products like Photoshop and Illustrator. Other creative products I rely on are my iPhone and MacBook Pro – mobile, fast and combined with Adobe apps and other creative tools, a must for any designer. Also often overlooked, but OpenType fonts I couldn’t live without.


What Apple tools do you use in your work?

In the office we’re a Windows based team, but as mentioned I use a MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone for creative work outside of the office environment. In previous roles Mac Pro and iMac have featured; the iMac has really become a favourite piece of kit. It looks great on the outside and has enough clout to handle most design tasks I’ve thrown at it. Plus, they work seamlessly with Adobe CC and other creative tools such as Wacom tablets.


Do you have any productivity tips or tools that you’d recommend to other creatives?

In terms of tools, a Wacom Intuos Pro helps me be more productive. I find using the pen and tablet far more natural than a mouse or trackpad. To be honest, the simple stuff like Dropbox and iCloud Files are massive time savers for sharing work across platforms or with others.

If you work in a team, share your ideas and thoughts openly with your teammates, and do it early on in your process. This is great for the development of your ideas and can often open you up to new avenues to explore or avoid. Never skip the planning part of your work. I’ve seen it so often where designers read a brief and jump straight onto the computer. I encourage our teams to read the brief and whip out the pen and paper to start writing ideas and thoughts, then share these with other designers or the senior team.


Looking forward, are there any creative or technology trends you’re excited about in 2019?

I don’t really follow trends in terms of creativity, but with tech trends I love the developments towards more flexible working and portable technology – Surface Book, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro. As a keen photographer, the new Canon EOS R mirrorless DSLR caught my interest and I’m keen to see how mirrorless systems will develop over the next few years.


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