Assignment 5: Self directed project

The purpose of this project was to put into practice the exercises, research points and assignments completed throughout the course by working on a client led brief.

Key words from the brief:

  • Establish a client-led brief and respond to it
  • Write up the brief yourself and identify through a rationale how you propose to answer it
  • Send your tutor a copy of your brief and a summary of how you propose to respond to it
  • Reflect on this assignment
  • How do you think your voice has developed over the course as a whole?


A client brief opportunity came up for me that was out of sync with my other OCA coursework but was something I decided to prioritise. It represented an excellent opportunity to put what I’ve learned into practice and test my ability to take a sizeable brief from research through to delivery of final artwork.

The illustrations and design supported the launch of a start-up business that had identified a gap in the craft cider market in London.

The brief seemed to be a good balance: an interesting challenge, doable within four to five weeks, time limited (working to a hard deadline), with scope that touched on branding, digital and product packaging.

The work was conducted over five weeks and took 176-hours.

About the client

Against the Grain are a London based start-up business brewing and selling craft cider.

The business offers an alternative to the ’big brand’ ciders in craft/ London-centric establishments as well as an upgrade from the sweet ‘fake fruit’ ciders (Kopparberg, Old Mout etc.), which are current market leaders.

As a sub-aim, it encourages non-beer drinkers into the world of ‘craft’: take up where gin left off.

The key words that describe the business are: Cider, craft, London.

The Creative Brief

In order to help the client understand what they needed and to get a clearly defined scope and set of requirements I worked with them to create a brief. It took a couple of iterations to get right but was a good way to engage them in thinking through what it was that they needed. It also helped to avoid doubt or confusion later.

Information for the brief came from a couple of sources:

  • A initial client meeting where we discussed their aims and ambitions for the business and what they needed from me; and
  • their Business Case that I used to make sure the approach and objectives in the brief matched and supported the business strategy.

I liked the way the business intended to launch; start with a low cost minimum viable product to test the market and learn lessons before launching more formally with a broader set of products after 6-months.

This pragmatic test-and-learn approach was reflected in the brief. Focus on designing a brand that is flexible enough to expand with the business, but only complete enough detailed design to support the launch and the first 6-months.

A copy of the Brief is here: Against the Grain – Brief v0.2

In summary, the scope included:

  • Design of a simple 2-page website
  • Brand imagery for the website and social media
  • Product labelling for three ciders
  • Point of sale collateral

I planned the work in four phases:

  • Week 1 – Research
  • Week 2 – Ideas generation
  • Week 3 – Design
  • Week 4 – Artwork and build
  • Week 5 – Contingency


My research needed to be short, sharp and focused. I mind-mapped the research rationale and approach and organised the first client playback session that took the form of a 2-hour workshop.


The research was mostly carried out at a desk using the internet and a sketchbook for taking notes and capturing thoughts.

I created this mind-map during the research week that maps out initial thoughts related to themes and possible subjects. I returned to and updated this picture frequently during the week with new ideas.

A5 sketchbook 01.jpg
Research mind map that starts to identify themes and subjects

Given that the client was unclear about how they wanted to talk about themselves, or at least hadn’t articulated what they wanted, I saw the competitor analysis as a key input into the workshop. It would not only help them position themselves in the sector but also help shape the more detailed requirements for the website, social media and product packaging.

The competitor research consisted of reviewing the websites and product ranges of 15 x London based craft breweries and 2 x London based craft cideries. For each competitor I used screenshots to capture anything of interest that I felt was relevant, and compiled this together into a PowerPoint presentation.

The result was a 41-page PowerPoint deck that formed the basis for the workshop.

I’ve pulled out the key slides below because they best articulate how the session was structured and the rationale I was using to drive the conversation forward. I’ve only included one example of the competitor analysis and removed some of the content because of copyright concerns.


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The workshop

The workshop took place over 2-hours and was structured to make sure I got all of the outputs and decisions that I needed.

The PowerPoint slides were printed in colour at A3 so there was no use of screens.

Customers workshop output
Validation of the customer profiles and customer needs analysis

Spreading the pages across a long table made the experience more interactive and engaging.

Workshop table 04
Table top showing the inputs and outputs of the playback session



The conversation was free flowing, positive and enjoyable. It gave me a great insight into how they wanted the business to sit amongst the competition, the common traits present across all craft breweries/cideries and how they wanted to distinguish themselves from the rest.

The discussion around customer and consumer needs was particularly insightful and fed directly into the digital requirements for the website.

Client feedback and lessons learned

The day after the workshop I received the following feedback with changes/additions to the themes written directly onto the printed slide.

Themes client feedback cycle 01
Printed copy of themes diagram with client feedback.

This was excellent feedback and I gave me additional clarity. One of the central areas (Local London) I’d been working with had been replaced and this represented quite a change in direction.

I updated the themes with this new insight and issued the diagram back to the client.

Themes 0.4

I reflected on what I’d learned in my skecthbook:


One of the things that came out of the workshop was to think about a possible logo for the business. At that time they seemed to be struggling to land on a logo – this was resolved. I did spend some time during the ideas phase working up a couple of options that were rejected.

All this knowledge and insight gave me a good platform to go into the next phase.

Ideas generation

Ideas generation lasted for one week and ended in a further client playback session. The purpose of this phase was to build on the research and develop ideas to narrow down on the subjects and visual style to take forward into the final designs.

This was very free flowing and creative and involved experimentation.

My starting point was to stick everything I’d created to date on my studio wall.


I then followed a very fluid iterative process of mind-mapping and image making. The following set of images show the outputs.

I used my A5 sketchbook to reflect on and clarify my thinking.


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I experimented with different visual styles. I particularly enjoyed creating hipster characters using collage. I think it’s a great technique that I’ll use again to create new characters.


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I experimented with different visual styles and techniques and mocked-up what these might look like on cans.


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The outputs were consolidated into a series of slides that I got printed at A3 and used to drive the client playback meeting.


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Feedback from the playback session was extremely positive and there was was a sense of excitement as the different elements started to become real and fall into place.

The direction was set and I now moved into the design phase.

Design development

Design development logically split into three parts, although in reality there was a lot of overlap.

  1. Website design
  2. Brand imagery
  3. Product illustrations

Website design

The website requirements and rough wireframes started during the client workshop and naturally came about through the competitor analysis.

This showed that all competitor websites shared the same core content:

  1. A home page with hero image and strapline
  2. Our story – information how the business started, the owners etc.
  3. Product information – a visual list of beers or ciders in attractive packaging
  4. Events – where to see us/buy/drink our products
  5. Taproom
  6. Merchandise

Given that the approach to launching the business was a focus on starting with the minimum we cut this down to the first three ‘must have’ items.

Wireframe early skecthes

I sketched these out in more detail to show a responsive layout i.e. how the layout adjusts for desktop, tablet and smartphone sized screens.


I then further refined wireframes incorporating client feedback and ‘real’ content, created in Omnigraffle. These were used to brief the front-end developer.

Against The Grain wireframe v0.3

Creating them at a higher fidelity helped the client to get a better feel for what the final site would look like and gave me a prompt to talk through the different visual components.

Brand imagery

The wireframes defined the need for two brand images; a hero image at the the top of the page with a strapline, and a large image just above the footer with a strapline.

The images were purely there to encompass and illustrate the brand values as expressed in the themes.

There were four qualities from the themes that I focused on:

  • Cosmopolitan, hip
  • Apples
  • Cider reinvented
  • Different/anti establishment

I really liked the collaged hipster characters that I’d created during the ideas generation and decided these had great scope for development. Unfortunately the client didn’t want to use the collaged images as is so I decided to use them as the basis for further development.

I started by thumbnailing ideas:


I then developed these by creating line art versions of the characters and trying them in different compositions:


The composition was really important because it needed to be made to work with a responsive layout. This involved discussion with the web developer to understand the constraints in designing for different screen sizes and how to provide artwork to give the developer maximum flexibility.

The final artwork was created following client feedback:


The final artwork with text:


I created additional versions for use as cover images for Twitter and Facebook.


I did some research to find a series of font pairing that would work in print and on the website and presented these to the client.

Product illustrations

The client settled on three products:

  1. Laid-back Lumberjack – Original session cider
  2. Gypsy’s Kiss – Dry-hopped cider
  3. Hippie Tripper – Cherry, pomegranate + blackcurrant cider

The product names were fun to work with.

Laid-back Lumberjack

I created two versions of this illustration. The first was rejected because I’d misinterpreted the meaning of ‘laid-back’. The lesson for me was to get client sign-off for each stage of the process which is what I did going forward.

Laid-back Lumberjack – version 1 visuals:

The line art was scanned at high resolution and coloured using a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop.

The text layer was the final element to be added.

Laid back lumberjack artwork v2 copy
Laid-back Lumberjack artwork – version 1

This version was rejected because rather than being laid-back he looks more drug crazed after taking too many magic mushrooms (which was the point).

Version 2 was gentler and this time I got client sign-off at thumbnail and line art stages.

Laid-back Lumberjack – version 2 visuals:

The final artwork was created using the same Illustrator and Photoshop process. At this point I agreed with the client to standardise the text layout to give consistency across all three products.

Gypsy’s Kiss

The name of this cider came from some of the research I’d done where I suggested using cockney rhyming slang as a way to give a London feel to the product for anyone ‘in the know’. This seemed to align quite nicely to brand aspiration to be different and slightly subversive.

The image development followed the same process as the previous product.

Gypsy’s Kiss visuals:

The final artwork:


Hippie Tripper

This final product image followed the same process as the previous two.

Hippie Tripper visuals:

Final artwork:


The website

The website went live in October 2019 here:

Screenshots of the site at the point it went live:

Screenshot 2019-11-17 at 21.07.37
Hero image – Barrel on rolling animated background – desktop view
Screenshot 2019-11-17 at 21.08.07
The three products – desktop view

Post go-live update

Subsequently the labelling has been used on can designs that are now commercially available.

Cans in a row
Note that I was not responsible for the can design and layout which was done by another designer

Laid Back can design


Things that went well

  • Trust instinct. Even if client doesn’t like an approach, if you know it’s right then stick with it to see if pushing/developing it further helps to clarify your vision/point-of-view.
  • Use of collage to design characters and generate new ideas.
  • I learned a lot about designing for responsive layouts.
  • I felt like I went through the classic creative process: 1. This is going to awesome. 2. This is hard. 3. This is terrible. 4. I’m terrible. 5. Hey, not bad. 6. That was awesome. Thanks to Kazu Kibuishi @boltcity for these words of wisdom.
  • I managed the timeboxed 5-week period well and delivered everything within that timeframe.

Things I’d do differently/better

  • Don’t overshare. The value or potential I see in something is probably not going to be shared or understood by a client at an early stage of development.
  • Frequent a regular contact and feedback at each decision point. Don’t launch onto artwork without getting sign-off first.
  • Establish clearly how decisions are made and who makes them.

Assessment Criteria – self assessment of PART 5 – Working to a brief

Because I’d completed Assignment 5 some months ago, completing the remaining exercises when I was able to concentrate on the task during the Covid-19 lockdown was relatively quick.

My personal assessment against the OCA assessment criteria:

Assessment criteria How my work meets the assessment criteria
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills Assignment 5 Self-directed project is really the only significant piece of work during PART 5, however it does demonstrate a range of technical and visual and design skills that touch on brand and marketing, UX design, project management related to product labelling, print and digital outputs.
Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas The approach taken to the design and delivery of Assignment 5 – Self-directed brief follows the creative process outlined in 5.3 What’s your working process?This structure was needed to help take the client on the journey to discover what they actually wanted. It worked well.

In terms of presenting work, I have set up an online portfolio in response to 5.6 Presenting yourself. It can be accessed here:

It reflects the work I’ve done to date so is not as focused as it needs to be to attract the attention and interest of art directors. It will iterate and evolve over time.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice I’m currently involved in a collaborative project with fellow OCA students as part of a London OCS initiative ‘Keeping up momentum’. The outputs are in a padlet here.

In terms of developing a personal voice my comments from my PART 4 self-assessment still stand. I’m realising that even though I’m becoming increasingly confident in my ability to create observational drawings I have a way to go in learning to express myself in the way I’d like to.

This is what will frame the remainder of Illustration 2 for me and where I am looking for tutor support.

Creating the online portfolio for 5.6 Presenting yourself has made me look at all of my OCA work in a wider context and highlights that I’m still exploring different creative avenues and approaches.

Context reflection – research, critical thinking (learning logs and, for second and third level courses, critical reviews and essays). PART 5 had a number of research tasks that were interesting. I thought 5.2 Self-directed projects was particularly valuable because I got valuable insight as to how useful they can be if undertaken with clear objectives.

Exploring the AOI resources around some of the legal and business aspects of operating as a freelance illustrator was helpful and something I’m sure I’ll return to as my work develops.


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