Why meeting your design heroes 
can be
the best thing to happen to your work
(part 1)

Ok, put your hands up if you've ever heard the phrase 'Never meet your heroes'.

Good. Ok, you can put your hands down now.

There is of course a very good reason for why this phrase exists- If we meet our heroes and they don't turn out to be the people we have built them up to be, we can be left feeling disappointed or disillusioned. Yep. I get it.

If your hero is an A list actor who has spent their career in a cape, performing  heroic deeds  on screen and achieving impossibly brilliant things like saving the universe with a wink and a smile, then of course meeting them in real life is going to be a slightly tough act to follow.

But a design hero I feel is slightly different. I have spent most my life inspired by stories, films, visual and practical effects, film music, design and illustration. It's the work that I have experienced, had an emotional connection with that has transformed my outlook on contemporary visual culture and driven me to want to find my own place in it. It's shaped my ambitions and my ideals.  And it's the people behind this work who have inspired me to be a better and more creative version of myself.

So I think meeting your design heroes is something worth pursuing, because if you are drawn to their work, there is a strong probability that their values, interests and ambitions are closely aligned with your own, as good design and creativity is often seen as an extension of the creator's personality. Your design hero is most probably striving to achieve the very things that you are concerned with in your own career. 

When you are not expecting to meet your design heroes

 I want to share with you the story of how I met my design heroes by complete accident and a day that would lead me on a journey, changing my creative pursuits forever.

The 26th October 2014 was a day that changed the direction of my life. It was a day I'd been looking forward to for some time. Something new. Unsure what to expect. A little nervous. Very excited.

I went to my first Comicon at the London Excel centre. If you have ever been to a comicon, you will have most likely experienced a relentless bombardment of toys, movies, video games, posters, celebrities, panels, costumes, art and everything else that slides inbetween the brackets of entertainment pop culture. It was overwhelming, dazzling and exhausting to say the least. From the moment you step inside the vast exhibition halls, your senses are given a complete workout with all that competes for your attention. 

These exhibition halls are so big, they can tak all day to navigate, so it wasn't until after lunch that I discovered that Minalima, the graphic design partnership of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima were exhibiting their collection of prints, containing  graphic prop designs from all seven of the Harry Potter films. 

I'd been a massive fan of their graphic design for film work a long time before I knew who was behind it so it was a little overwhelming to discover their booth.

I am going to be honest here. I was starstruck. I had butterflies in my stomach. I know, ridiculous. I've spent a large part of my career lecturing to rooms of 300+ students and there I was, wobbling like a jelly at the thought of speaking to two people who had gone to so much trouble to set up a wonderful booth for the purpose of.... speaking to people.

These people are my heroes I thought to myself. I'm gong to be crushed if they are not interested in talking to me.

I decided that if I didn't pull myself together and say hello, I'd regret it. So I waited. And waited. And waited. And when it was quiet I went over and said hello. The best decision I made that day.

I talked with Miraphora and Eduardo about all things design, their process and inspirations, how graphic design can help to shape the storytelling in a film. References that span from Russian Constructivism to Victoriana. We only talked for around twenty minutes but it felt like the entire afternoon. It was one of the most motivating and inspirational moments I have ever spent with anyone.

I learnt about their research process, the broad strokes of influence that underpin their work, but perhaps most importantly of all, I felt their passion for what they do.  Not only was that passion hanging on the walls around us, it was in their voices. 

I lingered at Minalima's booth for what felt like hours and I didn't want to leave. But when I eventually did, I experienced a feeling I had never felt before. And the feeling was so instant. I'd just discovered something that put the fire back in my eyes. I knew from that moment I'd just had a true life changing moment. This was the work I wanted to do.  The most powerful thing I have ever experienced in terms of creative ambition. 

It's so hard to explain the feeling. If you've have had that realisation in your life then you are so lucky. If you are still looking for that thing you are meant to do, then don't give up. You will know when you find it.

Miraphora and Eduardo's ambition to create something that was meaningful and interesting resonated with me on a grand scale. It was the chance to hear them talk about what they did and why that left me so empowered. My meeting with them three years ago this weekend is the reason that continues to drive me to do my best work to this day. 

What's the worst best than can happen when you meet your design heroes?

Well, this:

1. It puts you another step closer to your ambitions and makes you realise you can achieve what you thought may of been previously impossible.

2. You can learn a ton of valuable things by just opening  your mind to the experiences they can share.

3. Other like minded individuals are likely to be drawn to the same place too, so there is potential to make valuable contacts and even friends.

4. Seeing work up close or having a simple conversation can affirm the direction you want to go in.

5. Things that might have seemed previously out of reach before can be demystified.

6. It can remind you of why you were attracted to doing what you do in the first place and renew your own passion and vigor for your work.

7. You might experience a complete u-turn in your work you didn't see coming. In my case it was nothing short of an awakening which opened up a completely new direction.

8. You can discover the best parts of yourself (I'll be going into more detail about this in part 2).

9. You realise that your heroes are people too. They have lives beyond the work they are well known for and that they still face challenges. This is good for perspective and can remind you that everybody has to start somewhere.

10. It will simply feed your creative soul.

So the lesson here is to get out there and talk to the people you admire. Reach out to them and let them know how they enrich your life. I just don't think we do this enough. Write them a letter, send a tweet, get tickets for one of their talks or workshops, go to their book signing, support them by buying their stuff. Learn from them and thank them in return.

You might be surprised what comes back to you.

To be creative means that sometimes we get be at our best when we connect with others. We need inspiration, influence and reference. We all need a creative compass to help us in our journey and the very people who have come before you on the path you are trying to walk are very important. If you do not yet have any design heroes, then my advice is achingly simple:

Get some 🙂

In part 2 I am going to share with you the full  impact of meeting my design heroes had on me and what that can mean for pursuing your own creative passions.

Hint: It was pretty epic.

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