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December 15, 2023

Meet Kieran, the newest member of our herd

Jen Burns
Jen Burns

Kieran, who recently joined us as a middleweight designer, is, it would be safe to say, into making stuff – whether it’s a Big Mouth Billy Bass boombox or a large-scale motion project for a client.

Here, he talks about being an avid maker, giving back to the creative community and what we can do to change the industry for the better. 

Tell us a bit about your career.

So, straight out of uni [Kieran graduated with a Graphic Communication Honours Degree from Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2020], I joined an agency called Friendly Giants in London as a graphic designer, where I worked with clients like Not On the High Street and Virgin. And then when I got to Mr. President, another London agency, I started to go more towards the sort of motion and editing role. 

What does your role at Blue Stag entail?

The primary focus of my role lies in the realm of UX/UI, working alongside our dev team to design visually compelling user experiences. Throughout my career, I’ve built my skills not only in UX/UI but also in all areas of design, ranging from branding to motion graphics.

This versatility positions me as a dynamic member of the team, capable of transitioning between any type of project. Whether it’s elevating a brand’s visual identity, infusing motion elements, or building engaging web designs, my varied background has equipped me to tackle any challenge with confidence. 

What drove you to become a designer? 

It was kind of a fluke. I loved art, but I didn’t know where it could go or what it meant as a career. Somebody had a friend of a friend who was a graphic designer – not that I really knew what that was – and I managed to get a two-week work placement when I was 14.

It was just one guy in his shed, and I was doing illustrations for smoothie-press bottles. A few months later, my illustrations are on the bottles, and, me being 14, it was just the most amazing thing. I felt so proud to go out and see that stuff out in the world. Ever since it’s been all I’ve wanted to do.

Tell us about all the metal working, woodworking and sewing you do.

It was something I picked up in lockdown. My house had a big garage, and I just kitted it out with all the secondhand stuff that I could find – a welder, a table saw, a huge sander – and I made myself a little workshop. I learned stuff based on what I wanted to make. I figured that’s the only way I’m gonna learn. And I did, and it was amazing.

Do you find that translates into the digital work you do? 

I think it helps me to be less attached to things. Certainly in my [web] development process, it makes me create more and be prepared to throw it away, just because I’m trying to get in that mindset of just doing it, and not having that barrier of second guessing myself for a reason that doesn’t exist. The worst thing that happens is that you don’t use that idea.

Trying not to restrict yourself in the development process is really important. Your mind’s eye can write things off before you actually put pen to paper. We should just do those things.

What’s your favourite thing that you’ve made? 

There’s an artist I really like called Tom Sachs. I got inspired by his work and his boomboxes, so I was just, like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna make my own’. I think – even in design – you should recreate things to learn and get inspired. That’s how you’ll progress your own style.

So I made a boombox, but then incorporated Billy Bass into it. You could plug in your phone, and then whatever you played, the fish would react to it, singing along.

Is there anything you’d like to see change within the industry? What can we do better?

It feels like there aren’t any avenues into the industry without a degree. And I don’t think that’s right. There should be some sort of option for agencies to bring people in at that level and teach them design, because you learn so much from being at an agency that you don’t learn at uni.

Like what?

All of the day-to-day challenges of actually working with clients. I think uni is great for exploring yourself and finding what you’re really interested in. But, at the end of the day, that’s very rarely relevant in this sort of work.

So I think working to somebody else’s spec is what you learn in an agency – and how to get what’s in their head out into the open. I don’t think that’s something we grasp how to do until we enter the industry.

I’d agree with that. Have you heard much about the Takeaway project we’re doing here?

It’s exactly that – in the sense of getting people in at a younger age, and having as few barriers to getting into the industry as possible.

I hear you’re passionate about giving back to the creative community – can you talk a bit about that?

So, in a similar vein to The Takeaway, me and my partner got involved in a pilot project with Cardiff Met, working with young people [via Action for Children] who were at risk of offending.

It was about giving them a taste of the industry as an alternative to offending. We gave five workshops to one young person and taught them the very basics of graphic design. By the end, we managed to build a brand with them. It was so rewarding. Every session, we could tell that we were making a massive difference.

How can design be used as a force for good?

I think a lot of what Blue Stag is doing is completely right. It’s the kind of work where they definitely believe in taking on the right clients. There’s a lot more to it than just making money and working for big names. It’s who you’re working for and why.

And making sure you’re contributing to the right things. As well as being ethical in your choice of clients, your solutions also have to be ethical, in terms of the way you target people – because it very much is targeting people.

If you come up with an idea that is actually a bit morally unethical, and you wrap it up as this nice idea, a lot of clients will just go with it, because, at the end of the day, we are the experts, and they’re trusting us.

We need to make sure we’re not abusing that trust, and that we’re coming up with the most ethical solution, because there aren’t a whole lot of barriers to that going out into the world. So at our level, we need to be checking ourselves to make sure that this is right. Because no one else is going to. 

Dan Sargent

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    There’s a rustle in the Welsh woods that has been whispered about for generations. They believe it to be Blue. They say it’s not sasquatch, but Stag. All that’s been spotted is the odd antler in the overgrowth or hoofprint on the forest floor.

    We’ve taken matters into our own hands and set up a series of cameras to try and locate Seb the Stag for ourselves. Brave visitor, can you help us in our quest to unravel the mystery and marvel at the myth?

    Launch forest cam
    Number 4
    Craig-y-Nos Country Park
    51.8815° N, 3.4435° W