Meet the Team: George Hill, Creative Studio Manager

Posted by on Jun 11, 2019 in News

Our meet the team series aims to shine a light on the experienced employees that we have here at Brightsea. You’ll have the chance to read about life as an employee working for us, from print operators to accountants. In this article, we chat with George Hill, Creative Studio Manager, about his role at Brightsea.

Could you tell us a little more about yourself?

My name is George, and my role here at Brightsea is to manage and run our design studio, Brightsea Creative. I’ve been working at Brightsea for six years and three months, and before that I was self-employed and running my own design business, Homebaked Productions. I joined Brightsea after being made an offer to join the company and help build the design side of the main print business. I used Brightsea for all my printing needs, as they had a great reputation and really helped me to facilitate printing for my clients. Running a studio by yourself is tough and John Smith, Brightsea’s Sales and Marketing Director, noticed that I was working non-stop to keep a growing number of clients happy and needed help to manage things like print deliveries, pre-production and invoicing etc. At the time, I was wearing too many hats, including managing director, senior designer, salesman, pre-press operator, accounts administrator and delivery driver. When Brightsea offered me a full-time role, whilst still being able to service all the clients that I had built up (plus paid holiday and weekends off!), I jumped at the chance. I already knew 80% of the staff, so it was a perfect fit. Six years later, I am now the creative studio manager with a fantastic team in place.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I guess my primary role would consist of being a graphic designer. Everyone thinks that a designer’s job is fun, creative and exciting. Although it is sometimes, a lot of the time it means problem solving and conveying a message in a creative and informative way. It takes quite a bit of brain power to constantly think of new ideas and solutions without making every job look the same. On top of this, we also have to consider the printing, folding and finishing aspect of the job and how much the whole project is going to cost the customer. Over the years, I have gone from being a designer to being a studio manager, so my role these days involves much more organising and planning day to day. I deal with customers on the phone and via email, take design briefs, attend meetings, estimate projects and get quotations for printing and production. Once the job comes, in I need to ensure that the team are briefed on what is involved in the project, so that they do the best design job they can with the copy and images that we are supplied with. I then have to keep checking in with the team and monitor their progress to make sure that not only is the project looking stunning, it is also coming in on budget.

In the past, we have been guilty of letting some jobs spiral and take a lot longer than we have quoted the customer so we are not making a profit, if the customer refuses to pay more than we estimated. Sometimes you just get wrapped up in the work and lose track of the studio hours as you perfect things like images, layout and font spacing etc. These days, our estimates are much more realistic, to avoid any nasty surprises later for the customer. We have found that our customers appreciate our honesty and transparency and know that they are getting real value for money.
An average day for me starts around 8.30am and finishes around 5.30pm. During the day I will be answering questions, sorting out problems, quoting work, responding to emails, obtaining print quotes, booking projects in and updating our growing production list of design work. If I’m lucky I still get to design some nice stuff, but these days a lot of the design is taken care of by my trio of talented creatives, Heather, Rachel and Dani. They take a lot of the pressure off me to focus on keeping things ticking over.

What made you choose a career in design for print?

I have always loved print and paper since I was a little boy. My brother always said I would end up doing something creative and has what might well be my first ever piece of design work, a folded A4 sheet that opens out to reveal a little story of ‘Rob the Dog’ who is looking for his favourite ball. I was six years old when I did that, and he still has it to this day as proof that he was right about my future career! I remember buying and collecting magazines and loving all the various ways in which the pages were designed, the fonts they used and how different areas of the page would jump out at me and grab my attention. I think that is where it all started. It might have even been earlier than that actually, my dad had some great vinyl records which had some beautiful album artwork… Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, Jean Michelle Jarre’s Oxygen and Equinox and Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller album. I still remember the smell of the paper and the way it felt as I turned the pages or carefully pulled out the free poster. I guess I wanted to play some part in all this visual excitement and create something myself.

There is just something about print that you will never get from a computer or tablet screen. Listening to a customer’s plans and adding value by suggesting ways forward. Paper is tactile, and the different types of paper evoke a range of different feelings and emotions that your brain picks up as soon as you pick it up. I love how printing takes something from your computer and puts it in your hand, taking something digital and making it physical. It is always a deeply satisfying feeling seeing something you have created come to life and be able to physically share it with someone. So I guess really, print chose my career for me when you think about it. It had me hooked from those early record covers and copies of Smash Hits and the Beano. I guess when I was six I already had the bug without knowing. Although it took another 10 years to fully realise it when I was picking my college courses… until then I was going to be a Physiotherapist or Chef until I changed my mind on the day and signed up for Media Studies! It could have all been a very different story.

What do you enjoy most about working for Brightsea Print Group?

The thing I enjoy most about working at Brightsea is the people and the customers I interact with. We have a fantastic team here at Brightsea, not just in the creative studio, but also across the whole company. We have around 50+ staff in various departments and pretty much everyone you meet is welcoming, knowledgeable and generous with their time. I have learnt so much since joining, and it has enabled me to progress my career and my skill set considerably. We have some truly brilliant customers and work very closely with many organisations, most of which have been with us for many years. I would even go as far as to say that quite a few of them are friends that I have gotten to know outside of work. It really is a testament to how helpful and understanding we are as a company. We will do whatever we can to help our customers and I think that really shows when you read our Customer Testimonials.

What do you think makes the print industry different to other work environments?

The print industry is still a unique industry to work in. It is a shadow of what it used to be back in the days before the internet and email, but if you look closely you can still find the veterans with ink running through their veins; a rare breed that talk about being ‘on the stone’ and people called ‘button boys’. I love that I am working within an industry that has a real historical past and can be traced all the way back to 1440 with the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press. I think that the fact that it is a bit of a dark art makes it a unique place to work. Knowing how many people and departments it takes to put something as simple as a booklet together properly is certainly very appealing. I think most people think that it’s a big ink jet printer like they have at home! As well as the actual printing there is a lot of other elements associated with the industry like paper mills, vegetable inks, plates and various finishing techniques that all have their own set of unique qualities that feed into print. It’s a massive learning curve that never seems to stop changing shape.

When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my wife Claire and my two dogs, Tilly and Alfie. I love going to rock gigs and listening to amazing bands that hardly anybody has heard of (sadly), and I am also trying to teach myself guitar and drums when I get the time to practice properly. I am a keen ‘gamer’ and enjoy immersing myself into a digital world where I can drive like a lunatic, fire a gun and anything else that you wouldn’t do in real life. When the weather is bearable, I also get out on my bike and cycle around the Exe Estuary which is beautiful and full of nature. I am also a keen keeper of Koi carp. They are really calming to watch after a stressful day.

For people that may be interested in following a similar career path, what sort of advice could you offer?

A lot has changed since I started down this career path. I started off in Media Studies, which included Photography, Demographics, Desktop Publishing, Radio and Video production. This course gave me a broad understanding of the greater industry that would pull together all these elements on a grand scale, for instance, an advertising campaign that would utilise all these elements to sell a product like a car or aftershave at Christmas. I was attracted to the Desktop Publishing element of the course, which was all about magazine layouts, typesetting and printing. I then went on to do a further two year course in Electronic Graphic Design for Print, which would teach me a lot more about Typography, Printing and Pre Press, Illustration, Photography, Layout and exhibitions etc. From here, I managed to get a job in London at one of the leading financial printers in the UK. It wasn’t the job I had always dreamed of, but it taught me a hell of a lot more than university ever would have in a shorter time period. The world of financial print involves perfection and attention to detail; every figure counts when you are dealing with shareholders of multi-national corporations. I very quickly learnt that design and print was a serious business and not all pretty pictures and obscure fonts and effects. It really matters.

These days a lot of design is going digital, it’s all available online, via an app or downloadable on your tablet or phone. I can see the appeal of this, but I think that a lot of people still prefer print to a touch screen, even to this day.
So my advice to anyone who is looking for a career in the graphic design industry would be first to choose your college or university course very carefully. Look at the modules and topics you will be learning and think about how they might translate in the real world. When interviewing people for design jobs, I have noticed that there are a hell of a lot of people with university degrees and Bachelors awards but very few have any knowledge of basic printing techniques at all. They seem to know all about letterpress printing, which has not been used commercially for about 40-50 years. I would gain experience in modern printing techniques by asking your local printer for a factory tour or some work experience. Even just watching some YouTube videos would help to understand the fundamentals such as CMYK inks, rich blacks vs. single colour black and things like bleed and trim.

Having said all this, I would strongly advise looking into digital design as there is no denying that this is an emerging industry, which is growing fast. Learn how to build websites, e-newsletters, coding and motion graphics as well as UX and UI design (user experience and user interface) to understand how the new generation of consumers absorb information. You stand a much better chance of a great career with a broad set of skills, which overlap and complement each other so that you can offer the whole package. But whatever you decide you want to do, make sure you do it well, and have fun. Someone who is an expert in a few things is more appealing to an employer than someone who knows a little bit about many things.

As you can see from our chat with George, the print industry extends much further than printing booklets. If you need some high quality printed products, we are a family owner Devon printing company with tons of industry experience. Get in touch for more information, or for a quote by clicking here!