MEET #3322 TOM LANE
Designer • Bristol, UK
WNW Member #3322 Tom Lane (alias: Ginger Monkey), is a freelance designer, letterer, and illustrator. His body of work encompasses intricate packaging designs, playful typographic posters, company branding, obsessively detailed illustrations and nearly everything in between.
We've teamed up with Tom and General Assembly to bring you Lettering Not Lettering, a mini workshop of typography, networking, and of course, beer. Tickets are sold out because Tom is awesome, but go here to get on the waitlist. Below, you can learn how the Ginger Monkey got his start and how talking shit in the pub can lead to the best ideas.
1. How did you get started as a designer?
I was a bit of a late bloomer. I had dabbled at art in my youth, a bit of watercolour here and there and some comic book sketching but it wasn’t until I was 18 that I discovered this thing called graphic design. Very fortunately I was working with someone in a supermarket that had been studying design and photography at our local art college in Herefordshire. He showed me his work and it sparked something. Shortly after, I had a bit of a crisis and could see what my life might be if I didn’t pull my finger out and change the path I was on. I quit my job and begged the art college to give me a chance to study and luckily they did.
2. How long have you been freelancing?
A pretty long time now, coming up on 11 years. I started as soon as I graduated university and I’ve always worked for myself.
3. Is there a time or place that you feel most creative/have the best ideas?
I’m a morning person when it comes to being at my best. I tend to do anything that involves using brain power at the start of the day when I’m fresh as I slowly get dumber as the day goes on. Although, there is a bit of a magic period at night, around 11pm that used to get me into trouble. I would get caught up with ideas and excitement, stay up too late and totally screw over my next day.
The good stuff often happens away from the studio or desk though. I think this is common for most people. Often ideas come together when I’m out shopping, driving somewhere or talking shit in the pub. I always like to build an incubation period into whatever I’m working on. Time to let it bounce around the head a little and shoot out an idea when it’s good and ready.
4. What's your ideal Working:Not Working ratio?
70/30, I love my work, developing ideas, making things and getting my hands dirty. I feel a bit lazy and flat if I’m not involved with it in some way. It’s not really work though if you feel like that about it is it? I do however, need and want to do a lot of other things. A 70/30 split keeps me nicely balanced but I tend to live in 80/20.
5. Do your parents understand what you do?
Sort of. The running joke is that I do 'colouring in' for a living. When my father wanted to open a coffee shop and asked me to help they definitely got a much better understanding of what I do through that process.
6. What scene from a movie makes you laugh just thinking about it?
Most of The Big Lebowski but my particular favourite is when Walter is giving Donny's ‘eulogy' on top of the cliff top and finds some way to arc it back to his experience in ‘Nam. Then proceeds to tip the ashes into the wind and they go straight into the Dude’s face.
7. If you were stranded on a desert island, with your computer, what 3 websites would you take with you?
YouTube, I could probably learn how to survive.
BBC so I can keep up with whats going on, I like to feel informed.
Rdio Plus subscription ;) so I have music, very important.
8. What do you do when Not Working?
A lot of sports and outdoors stuff to counteract sitting indoors for long periods of the day. I currently live out in the countryside with my girlfriend by the coast and have taken up surfing. I also play squash, swim, hit the gym, run, box and do yoga.
We’ve got a great group of friends that are mainly back in Bristol so we split our time between there and our place in Devon. We have folks coming down here often too, escaping the city so lots of cooking going on fueled by the consumption of vast quantities of gin and beer. Family time is very important too.
9. Do you have a hidden talent?
I can pull off some pretty mean head stands.
10. Any tips or advice for fellow freelancers?
If you’re fresh to freelancing I recommend focusing on producing quality work for the type of projects you want to do more of. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ‘real’ project or not. It comes down to the results. So self-directed projects are a must. If the right person at the right time sees it, they may hire you because you’ve demonstrated that you have already done a successful job of it. Don’t rely on someone else handing it to you – make it happen. Make it as easy as possible for potential clients to see where you're coming from and what you’re capable of. Also, promotion is mostly free these days. Produce something of quality and get it out across social networks, portfolio sites, blogs etc and it will do the work for you. You never know who’s watching. I also like to keep a good diary of people I work with or that enquire about working with me. Hit any dry patches and some 'checking in' emails with a few new pieces of work attached will probably get you a project or two.
11. What's your favorite thing on the internet this week?
I’m working on a packaging project at the moment that has meant I’m spending a lot of time looking at Arabic pattern work and architecture. I’m feeling pretty mesmerised but the stuff and very inspired!
12. Anything else you'd like to add that we haven't asked?
Just a big thanks for asking me to put this interview together and I look forward to meeting more of the members and team at the lettering workshop we’re putting on. Should be a blast.