Design Works Site


As designers it is our stock in trade to bring an experienced eye to our clients’ identities. We seek to present a clear message for them. We deploy our Visual Communication skills to show them in a confident, poised stance. Their goods, whether books, music or widgets made sparkly and their services reflecting their best qualities.

Look at me! The graphics cries. I’m shiny, appealing, loaded with character. Desirable, charming company you can enjoy doing business with. My shelves are bursting with must-have goodies. A veritable wizard’s quiver of skills and talents. Resplendent in cool, sharp livery and clearly the dog’s dangley bits in their field.

We have listened closely to ourclients’ problems and aspirations. We have compared the competition and teased out what makes them special in our minds and performed our voodoo on the Mac.

We designers bring focus and objectivity. And hopefully some fun too!

But what about our shop windows? I reflect on this as I have just re-vamped my website Frankly it is torture! Andrew Butler at DesignCredo calls it The Cobbler’s Shoes. Personally, I can’t see the shoes for wanting to strip out the cobblers. All your inner conflicts rush to the fore like anarchists at the barricades. Is this piece relevant? Am I being vain? Are SMEs as well represented as the celebrities? Should I make something more prominent? O, the human condition! One minute a carefree Creative Director setting out a succession of successful projects, the next taunted by the Demon Doubt, asking if you know how to re-organize the deck-chairs on the Titanic. Physician, heal thyself!

If you have dallied on my Blog before you will know that I love the English language. Marvelling at its power for clarity and delighting in its potential for whimsy and unruly playtime. But not on my website! I don’t want boastful adjectives and purple promises traipsing through with their out-sized muddy boots. I mean, I must think the better part of my work is good or I could not, in all conscience, release it to any the fab folk whose tags adorn this blog. But I certainly don’t want to lather the pages with sales-pitch. It’s just not me. But do I hamstring my own sales efforts in so doing? Arrrgghh! The Demon Doubt again. Fact is you are not there to apply the same cool-headed objectivity that is your normal daily stock in trade. You are trying to deftly negotiate that minefield of hopes and fears. Alone. With Arvo Pårt doing his level best to be a calming voice through the speakers.

So you try to be as objective as you can and ask other people’s opinions. And listen. Then act on what seems the best advice to you. I am grateful for advice from Joanne Jacobs in particular.

I have worked with a lot of great people and the site shows a good selection. And I have kept it simple. It is tailored to the iPad – that seems the way to go. I am working on a WordPress bridge between the website and this blog. That will have a database where you can search by client/author/title etc.

Could I have your help too? I would love it if you would leave comments/feedback below.

Have a look here:

What do you think?


  • mistergough

    Everything conspires against your own shop window. I think for many designers the unholy trinity of limited time, an over-familiarity with their own complexities and pure, unadulterated fear makes portfolio sites near-impossible.Everyone wants to highlight their best bits, sweep their inadequacies under the rug and bottle their distilled essence, but this is striving for perfection. And perfection is the biggest time-suck ever.So, I can relate to your misery. But I also think that what you’ve done is pretty close to perfect. Your portfolio site gives me a crash course in your design capabilities without anything else getting in the way. Your blog provides a great insight into your personality, thought processes and love of language.So, we get a bit of work/life balance neatly packaged and as the line between work and life fades, a bit of clarity is all the more precious.

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    And that is one cool comment.Thank you for taking the time to read, review and send such a warm, articulate response. I feel humbled by it.

  • Malcolm12boxes

    @mistergough’s comment is cool and accurate, and I love the site. It shows a great deal while being economical with time and space.I have one wrinkle, and this might be more to do with my Monday morning sluggishness than the site. It took me a while to register the ‘back’ and ‘next’ buttons. I used the menu to navigate in a conventional way, and then got stuck when I could only find one portfolio item and could not ‘see’ how to find the next.Can see how you are wanting the menu to work in two modes, but this codger was confused for a moment. I was in ‘hierarchical’ mode. In other words I expected to go into ‘portfolio’ and then be offered ‘next’ and ‘back’ which of course I was – but didn’t ‘see’.Am I right in thinking that on the home page the ‘back’ button doesn’t go anywhere?I think the forgoing is a matter of testing, not opinion.Having said that, what comes through from the site is the understated inventiveness and sheer professionalism.

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    That’s a fair point and one that has me scratching my head!I may have to forgo some understatement if it means people ‘stop’ at the first portfolio page. Good food for thought. Thank you for the feedback.And, of course, the compliments!

  • DesignCredo

    Just like to clarify that The Cobbler’s Shoes was meant to be a generic rather than a specific comment.Having just spent much of Sunday looking at how to develop my site into its next phase the comment is particularly pertinent to me.

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    O, I agree. I was trying to make the point that while was struggling I realised how hard it is for all of us.It strains objectivity to the limits. And, of course, one’s peers in the design profession are not the target audience. Your own site is the easiest one to overlook and the hardest to execute.

  • tartancat

    Having anguished similarly over my own site, I understand how you feel. And spending so much time helping other people with their content and their blogs that I find I suffer a tad from “Cobblers’ children” syndrome.But your site delighted me in its simplicity. Designers can – and often do – get carried away with their talents and their own sites can let them down. Yours is gorgeous; clean, clear, subtly written which allows your portfolio to shine through perfectly.I love it. Well done.

  • Doris von der Aue

    I always find it hard to believe that you doubt what you do. But on the other hand I can relate to it, because I always doubt what I do. Thinking that, it is important to know from your professional relations what they think of it. Not being that I can still say that I enjoyed browsing your website. You managed to bring everything to the point, a port-folio without big adjectives but a clear overview of your work. People not knowing you personnaly will know what you do. THey don’t need to know about your thought and doubts. And I think that is what a website is all about.

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    Tartancat, Think cobblers have trouble with their own shoes. Lord knows what they are like with their kids! On the design front I believe that what you don’t do is as important as what you do. If shows then I am happy. And I am very pleased you like the portfolio & blog.Doris, I guess those self-doubts are what I mean by the human condition. I mistrust folk who claim to be without doubt. Doubt makes us question ourselves and thereby, hopefully, improve. If the site works free standing then I am satifised. Getting in front of prospective clients is the beast that needs to be slain . . .

  • James Ellis

    Ah, yes! How often have I struggled with those self-same demons! We have the double edged sword of talent & self doubt, as well as the infinity loop of displaying our work on a site that is in itself a sample of our work. Enough to twist the mind into the aforementioned knot. So often, the cobbler’s shoes can end up being a load of cobblers.Absolutely not the case here, though, as your new site succeeds in solving the conundrum & presenting your work in a clean, clear way. I have not seen it on the iPad, but I concur – it is the way of the future. If I had one concern, it is that the descriptive/instructional texts are not so obviously so. In a lot of the portfolio example images, there is a lot of text, which makes the description harder to find & focus on. A minor worry, and possibly idiosyncratic. On the whole, the design works.Well done.

  • Doris von der Aue

    I agree with you in the doubt department. It is just that I see work of others that is so good, that I can’t imagine that someone doubts him- or herself about that. But of course the way to get there is to question everything and anything one does/writes/design ect. I am sometimes just in awe of people who can do what they do.

  • John W Lewis

    This is another very interesting and insightful post, Gary!According to those who think long and hard about these things: there are only two problems in life (see link below): – knowing what you want and not knowing how to get it – not knowing what you wantIn your case, is there a clear distinction between: what message to use to convey the required meaning, and what meaning is required to be conveyed? For your clients, it seems that you solve the former; for yourself, your dilemma seems to relate the latter.There is a saying that developing anything to a specification is like trying to walk on water, it is much easier when it is frozen. Perhaps many cases of “cobbler’s shoes” syndrome are similar in this respect: not only is the specification not frozen, but they are also trying to pump it themselves!For a great description of this duality as applied to life, work and everything, see this article by David Allen, the GTD man:…Incidentally, he thinks that the coming together of the two elements is “design”.

  • Graham Pugh

    I think your site’s really good, for all your worry. Clean, clear and to the point. The work shines out and that’s what people want to see (I hope). Rather than a load of ‘philosophy’ and buzzword bingo. Lots of white space and spare words tells me more about your skill and eye than any amount of waffle about it could. And anyway, if you weren’t a worrier and a perfectionist, you wouldn’t be a designer in the first place. That’s what Dave Trott asks young creative teams (see video who don’t know which one is the art director “Which one of you is the fusspot?”.Yet I feel your pain!

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    Thanks Graham. A couple of people have said they missed the ‘NEXT >>’ button after the first page of the portfolio, which is odd as it doesn’t move.Did you get that problem? I have put a big arrow in for now . . .

  • Andy Bold

    Love the site. A good, clean, showcase for the things that you do and have done.And today I learned that you did *the best ever* covers for the Hitchhikers Guide. *Now* I’m going to have to dig them out to read them again. Nice work 🙂

  • Trey Pennington

    You are a creative genius. So is Dr. Lewis. You two continue to teach and amaze. You’ve given me yet another great simile: saying something is as difficult as walking on water, much easier to do when the water’s frozen. I could almost build a whole speech from just that.

  • John W Lewis

    Trey Pennington is shining his light again. Thank you! However, the reason that Trey can almost build a whole speech on that is not because it is particularly observational, although it is and I take no credit for it, having heard it from someone … and, worse, cannot remember from whom!It is because Trey writes great speeches!”Dead brainy” or “brain dead”? Take your pick!

  • Trey Pennington

    You two! Love you both. I am immensely grateful to Scott Gould for bringing us together in real life. You all have enriched my life significantly. Gary, have faith and live out your gift without reservation. John, well, I’m just speechless. Grateful, but speechless.

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