Creative Bloq: New Years Resolutions

The Challenge

“I decided to tweak the 36 days of type challenge to suit me”

Our Junior Designer, Alex, wrote about her new years design resolutions for online blog, Creative Bloq. Read what she had to say about new years resolutions here:

“As a social media addict, I find myself constantly scrolling and finding design challenges in hashtags such as #inktober or #36daysoftype,” says Alexandra Francis, junior designer at Flow Creative. “Every year I have tried to participate in more hashtags but found myself excited to start and never finishing.”

The Challenge
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So at the start of 2018, she resolved to do things differently this year. “I decided to tweak the 36 days of type challenge to suit me, and made a new year’s resolution to draw the alphabet,” she explains. “But instead of completing the challenge in 36 days I posted a letter on my Instagram whenever I had time, aiming for once a week. Once a week fitted better into my schedule, didn’t give me added stress and meant I actually enjoyed drawing each letter as opposed to rushing my way through the alphabet.

For the full article click here

And the result couldn’t have been better. “On top of making the challenge suit me, I accidentally lined up my Instagram grid so that each letter appeared directly on top of each other. Liking how this looked and wanting my Instagram to act as a mini portfolio, it forced me to draw a letter so that this was maintained. In doing this I was headhunted by Flow Creative, who saw my feed and I landed my dream job!


As it’s now officially basically Christmas, we thought we’d give you some Christmas film recommendations. We asked the team to tell us their favourite Christmas films and reasons why.

It’s not Christmas without some rubbish Channel 5 Christmas films. And Rotten Tomatoes seems to think Christmas with the Kranks would fall into that category, rating it just 5%. The film follows Luther (played by Mr Christmas himself, Tim Allen) and Nora as they try and skip Christmas by going on a cruise. The film has become a bit of a tradition in my house after discovering it and it now signals the start of Christmas. Even though I’ve tried not to, I can’t help but love it. – Vicky

For me it’s got to be Miracle on 34th Street. There’s not a more believable or loveable Father Christmas than Richard Attenborough, surely? Combine that with Mara Wilson of Matilda fame and you’ve got the makings of a magical festive tale. Growing up at my parents we’d always have this on whilst decorating the Christmas tree with an obligatory box of Quality Streets, of course. And as C.F. Cole in the film says, ”We invite you to ask yourself this one simple question: do you believe in Santa Claus? – Sarah

The older I get the more I identify with The Grinch. Who doesn’t want to live alone on a mountain with their dog? The story has been reinvented in live action, 3D and 2D which is a testament to its quality. It’s a tale of an underdog, outcast in school The Grinch starts to resent Christmas but eventually learns the true meaning. The Grinch embodies the festive spirit without being sickly sweet, it has tons of comedy and a brilliant song to boot. It’s not Christmas if The Grinch hasn’t been watched at least six times. – Alex

Yippee ki yay mother f***ker! With guns, C4 bombs and poor German accents, Die Hard has everything a family Christmas classic has to offer. Think about it, a story of good vs evil, with its narrative focused on redeeming love and marriage, magical right? Plus, I cannot be the only person who believes that this is one of the great Alan Rickman’s best cinematic performances, as villain, Hans Gruber. With yet another classic kick-ass hero act from Bruce Willis, the on screen battle between these two will never be overshadowed by any other. – Jordan

The actual best ever Christmas film is Elf. This is beyond doubt. I have watched all the Christmas films and this is my conclusion. – Karl

It’s that time again, we’ve put down our Apple pencils, turned off the Macs, put the Out of Office on, finished work for Christmas and for another year. We’re looking forward to some festive fun with family and friends over the holidays, some time to relax and recharge ready to go again in January.

As a business owner I tend to spend most of my time looking forward – to the next project, the next client win, the next recruit, the next financial quarter – but you do have to remind yourself to take a minute occasionally to look back – at where you started, at what you’ve achieved already, at the decisions you’ve made (good or bad) and where they’ve taken you and your business.

You have to go back to why you started the business in the first place sometimes. What did you want to achieve, why turn your back on a busy and successful freelance life to get on the rollercoaster of emotions and stress that running a business is.


Everyone’s reasons for starting a business are very personal to them, and no two paths are the same. But for me there were a few clear reasons I started Flow. It was:

1 – to have the flexibility to have more time to spend with my young family

2 – to have more control of the creative direction of my work

3 – to be able to be more selective with the clients I worked with

4 – to create the kind of environment I wanted to in

5 – to build a shit hot creative team that could do more than I could on my own

“Overall, couldn’t be happier with the start we’ve had at Flow, and where we are as an agency.”

As I look at these now I feel really happy that in less than 3 years since starting Flow I’d confidently tick most of these off now. Let’s look at them individually.

1 – This has taken a while but we’re now at a point where we have a really strong team and great project management and internal processes so the team can handle the bulk of our client work without taking up loads of my time. This has been a revelation for me, allowing me to focus on the strategy and direction of the business, and gives me the flexibility to have some time away from work to spend with my kids before they’re all grown up and don’t want a cuddle with me anymore.

2 – As a freelancer you often get called into an agency to work on a job when the concept, creative direction and artwork style has already been set. This can be frustrating at times, and it’s great to manage that part of the process internally now, especially as art direction and tone of voice is one of the things we do really well at Flow.

3 – It’s been ace to be able to choose the projects we take on and the clients we work with, and since we’ve started some of my favourite projects have been the public sector or non-profit ones, like Arts Council England on a brand campaign, the British Council on an educational app for teachers in India, or Manchester Digital’s 2018 Big Chip Awards animation.

4 – As a pretty sociable person a big part of the appeal of starting my own business was creating the environment and studio culture I wanted to work in. As a freelance designer I went into lots of creative agencies and was able to pick the things I liked best about different places to try to incorporate into Flow. I’ve tried to make it a relaxed and creative space and a fun place to work, and the team we’ve put together all get along really well, which I love.

5 – It can be hard as a designer / art director that then employs other creatives to hand over control of the projects, but we’ve been really selective with recruiting and have got such a talented team that I trust completely with the creative for our clients. I’m still very much involved but we now have the collective skills to do much more than I could on my own, and it’s probably the most rewarding part of Flow’s development.

Overall, couldn’t be happier with the start we’ve had at Flow, and where we are as an agency. We’ve had an amazing couple of years and can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Plan Bee is collective Christmas get together organised by Flow Creative and Sneaky Raccoon (aka Anna Mullin), that brings together Manchester’s creative freelancers and small studios to give them a christmas party they wouldn’t otherwise have. This years event was hosted at Flow Creative’s new studio in the Northern Quarters Stevenson Square on the 13th December.

This year marks the third Christmas Plan Bee and the fourth overall with last year’s summer charity fundraiser. The event was created by Flow Creative’s founder Karl Doran and Sneaky Raccoon in 2016 after identifying that while bigger companies have a big Christmas party to go to, freelancers and smaller studios don’t get that opportunity. Plan Bee invites Freelancers and small studios from across Manchester to celebrate the christmas festivities together.
Previous events have been at NQ bar Texture, which closed this year, so this year’s event was held at Flow Creatives new studio in the heart of the Northern Quarter, and they opted for a house party themed event. The event also encouraged those attending to bring a gift that could be donated to The Hits Radio’s Mission Christmas, which collects gifts to give to children between 0-18 who otherwise might wake up without a gift on christmas.

Karl Doran from Flow Creative said – “having worked freelance for a number of years before starting Flow I knew all too well the reality of the solo Christmas party – on my own in my boxers and party hat, wishing myself a happy Christmas and crying into my mulled wine. I got chatting with Sneaks about it and we thought it would be great to put on a Christmas party just for freelancers and small teams to give them a festive celebration to go to. We’re so lucky in Manchester to have an incredible creative community and this event gives them a reason to come together and celebrate. It’s always so good to see lots of familiar and bew faces, and it’s ace to see that it’s become a staple for Manchester’s creative scene.”

This was a great end to a fantastic year and we’d like to thank everyone who made it such an amazing year! If anyone has any pictures of the night we would love to see them, so please send them to us on Twitter (@we_are_flow) or Instagram (@weareflow)

Merry Christmas
Motion North

With Channel 4 announcing its new headquarters in Leeds, the North is becoming the place to be for design and motion. Manchester has a bursting design and animation scene (not just because we’re here) and there have been numerous talks and conferences of late, showcasing what us northerners have to offer.

Didn’t attend any? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a round-up of what we learnt at four of the most recent design and motion events in Manchester.

Pecha Kucha

Part of Design Manchester this year was Pechakucha. Tucked away in Fairfield social club, this event involves speakers talking through 20 slides that last 20 seconds each. The theme of the night was disruption and the speakers ranged from teachers to sculptors. Our favourite was Lazerian’s whirlwind tour of his amazing design career – including a few cardboard setbacks – his story told us to not take ourselves too seriously.

Moreover, we loved Vicky Carr and Jane Crowther’s project Open Spaces. With some of the Flow members hailing from sunny Stockport it was great to see how design can rejuvenate areas in Manchester, a theme carried on through Liam Dargan’s Heart of Darwen campaign. We look forward to seeing what happens with these projects in the future.

Design Manchester

At the Bridgewater hall we settled down for a day of creative talks. From Anthony Burril to Wolf Ollins, the day was packed with creative inspiration. Kate Dawkins showcased an awe-inspiring portfolio, specialising in projection mapping and large-scale event design. We can all take on board her attitude to briefs, not letting a lack of experience restrict the ideas she has. Her projection mapping of Cloth Hall on the Passchendaele Centenary, marking the third battle of Ypres in World War One showcased a sensitivity to difficult subject matter whilst making a captivating spectacle. Kate if you’re reading and need some help, give us a call!


Craft is held at Leaf on Portland Street. The speakers were Jeanna from Nrth Lass, Tash Wilcocks and the legendary Mr Bingo. Tash’s talk was about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, practice what she preached by singing at the end of the talk. The psychology behind her beautiful illustrations made us want to go out and buy Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray. His book explains how to change your thinking patterns to encourage different behaviour and avoid the dreaded ‘doom loop’, a cycle which perpetuates the belief that you can’t do something, because of irrational thought processes. Tash was a surprisingly good singer and inspired us to do something that scares us

The headline act was Mr Bingo who is best known for his offensive postcards. Beginning as a commercial illustrator, he told us how he transitioned into being a lone artist. His most recent project was his annual advent calendar which featured scratchable gold foil, prompting the user to scratch off clothes to reveal illustrated naked people. His anti-capitalist attitude grows his audience, bumping the price of his prints on black Friday and offering to insult you for money. Underneath the silliness his calendar features a range of body types, from a woman who recently had a mastectomy to disabled people. The calendar ties together humour and diversity in a way that we think represents the holiday spirit.

It’s been a great year for the Manchester design scene and it looks like it will only get better. We look forward to Glug and Ladies Wine and Design next week, before kicking off our own Plan Bee Christmas house party at the new Flow HQ!

World Mental Health Day 2018

As today is World Mental Health Day 2018, we thought it might be interesting to shine a brand spotlight on the increasingly popular app, Headspace. An app that a few of us Flowsters find useful, usually on the daily commute into Manchester city centre.

Headspace is a meditation app developed by former monk, Andy Puddicombe and Rich Pierson, designed to help users practice mindfulness and improve how they deal with stress and worry. Particularly fitting in today’s world of constant notifications and the ability (and sometimes expectation) to be contactable 24/7. It’s a chance to take 10 minutes just for you.

Demystifying meditation

One of the reasons the app works so well is its beautiful design and illustration.

Creative Director, Anna Charity, and Illustrator, Chris Markland, understood that the concept of meditation is still something a lot of people don’t fully get. By personifying the mind as a character and distilling the style to a simple, almost childlike quality, they created something that people find easier to grasp and feel less fearful of, or silly trying.

There are playful animations peppered through the app journey that guide users through each meditation exercise. Animation is such a great tool for visualising complex concepts in a fun and story-driven way, and is the perfect way to walk you through the basics of mindfulness, making Headspace more accessible and engaging to its users.

A friendly tone of voice

The family of characters are a fun and reassuring bunch, and help make practicing mindfulness much less daunting. They represent people of all shapes, sizes and personalities, reinforcing the fact that mindfulness is accessible to everyone and we can all give it a go if we fancy it. The use of a soft, muted colour palette and clean vector shapes helps Headspace feel calm and inviting – there’s a warmth and fuzziness that makes people more likely to engage with it, which indeed they have. As of September 2018, 31 million people had downloaded Headspace with 1 million being paying subscribers.

Complementing the friendly visual style is the voice of Andy Puddicombe, co-creator of the app and the man that leads you through each exercise. His conversational and relaxed manner supports the characters (and you!) to find a bit of inner zen.

Would Headspace have worked so well, and become so popular if it had taken a photographic or footage approach? We think it would’ve been much harder to create that positive brand tone of voice using these methods. There’s a danger that footage would make it feel like a government health film as opposed to an intuitive journey that you want to explore and play with. Either way, we think the brand and their creative team got it spot on with their charming illustrative approach.

Why not celebrate World Mental Health Day by trying a 10-minute exercise and meeting the whole Headspace gang?!


It’s not uncommon for brands to get themselves into hot water from time to time, whether it be through comments on social media or more recently, around the issue of privacy (ahem, Facebook). We thought we’d take a look at some recent controversial campaigns.

H&M received backlash earlier this year after using this photo on their website, which resulted in them losing one of their biggest influencers, ‘The Weeknd’. There was controversy in itself as to whether their error was intentional or a complete oversight. H&M released this statement apologising for the offence caused, but this did little to help and resulted in consumers ransacking their stores and boycotting the brand. H&M have done very little since, with many people forgetting the controversy, however the brand has been struggling and this definitely did not help. Would a more structured comeback campaign have helped their audience believe in the brand again?


Lush has ethics at the heart of its brand, but they are no stranger to controversial campaigns. Lush were forced to scrap their most recent campaign, #SpyCops, which highlighted the undercover policing inquiry, which led to ex-police officers intimidating some of their staff. The campaign came under fire for a number of reasons, including a lack of relevance to Lush’s industry and because it also came across as both anti-state and anti-policing. Lush stuck to their guns, their Public Relations rep Eva Cook saying: “As a global campaigning company, we believe in using our voices, shops and online presence to bring awareness and support to a variety of issues, some of which vary regionally.”

Furthermore, Lush and Cancer Research did very similar campaigns targeting obesity, which were both hit hard with claims of “fat shaming”. Cancer Research stood by their campaign, releasing a statement claiming their ads were not about fat shaming, but designed to raise awareness of the links between cancer and obesity, something they felt was their duty to inform the public and government about. Lush, however, apologised for their campaign with a social media post from their Ethics Director, claiming they had shamed themselves (full apology here).

Both the obesity and #SpyCops campaigns could be considered a success despite the backlash. The main aims of each were around building awareness and because of the response, both campaigns received a larger reach than they otherwise might have.


Most recently Nike came out with a controversial campaign for their 30th anniversary by using Colin Kaepernick, who is best known for being an American Footballer. Kaepernick refused to stand for the American National Anthem because of racial injustice issues. Since this happened he hasn’t been signed for a club and has caused mass anger.

Nike’s campaign caused outrage for many, leading people to burn their Nike branded products, plus their share price dropping by more than 3 percent. The ad even received a comment from the one and only Donald Trump, saying it sends a “terrible message”. (But we think that’s a bit rich considering his daily Twitter antics.)

However, many took to the campaign – both the public and sporting icons alike. Serena Williams tweeted her support on the day of the launch, stating she was “especially proud to be part of the Nike family today”. Interestingly, Nike’s share price and sales then rocketed to higher than they had been pre-campaign, with their target audience of males aged 18-34 buying more products than they previously would.

Whilst Nike might have alienated an older audience, brand awareness within their target reach seems only to have been impacted positively.

Whilst all campaigns reached a massive audience, the response to the issues were all very different, some being effective and others less so. Nike appear to have owned their campaign and are letting it speak for themselves so far, while both Lush and H&M apologised for their actions, and Cancer Research did a bit of both. But is there a ‘right’ way to respond to controversy?

Hello, I’m Vicky – a digital marketing apprentice – and the latest addition to Flow.

I’m taking part in the Juice Academy (more about that later) to hone my skills in the creative and digital sectors and a big part of that is undertaking an industry placement. Here’s a bit about my journey so far…

The Juice Academy is the UK’s first ever industry-led digital marketing apprenticeship programme, which means as well as working I attend college fortnightly to work towards my Level 3 certification and Level 4 CIM award in Digital Marketing.

I chose to apply to the Juice Academy because I want to become a digital marketer and the idea of going to University didn’t appeal to me, despite being accepted last year. I knew I wanted to get an apprenticeship, it was just a matter of finding the right one for me.

When I applied to the Juice Academy, there was a large selection of well-known and well-respected companies including Vimto, Social Chain and online fashion retailer, Pretty Little Thing. This demonstrated it was a well-respected course and one that was certainly worth looking in to.


When I attended my interview at Flow I instantly felt at ease and comfortable. I knew it was the kind of company I wanted to work for. The role Flow were offering was exactly what I was looking for as it covered all areas of digital marketing, meaning that it provides me with the opportunity to explore what element I like and excel at best.

I’ve really enjoyed my first six weeks at Flow. One of my earliest responsibilities was taking over the management of the social media channels. I developed a tone of voice that suited Flow as a brand and compiled a strategy to make it work harder than it previously had been. Making it more cohesive and structured has paid off as engagement has already increased.

I’ve loved getting to know the team and becoming an official Flowster. A highlight so far is definitely attending the Big Chip Awards. As the awards’ creative partner, we designed the opening animation and event brochures, so seeing it all come to life on the night was really special and gave the whole team an amazing sense of achievement. We also had the pleasure of winning a Creative Impact award for our work with BBC Ideas, it was a very proud moment.

I’m looking forward to picking up new skills throughout my apprenticeship and being able to introduce new ideas I learn at the Juice Academy to Flow. It’s a real two way learning journey, which is beneficial for both parties so I hope it will put us in really good stead for the future.

For a bit of fun, here are three facts about me:

1) I teach gymnastics,
2) I was a Barista, even though I don’t like tea or coffee
3) I have a fear of bridges, hate them.

Well, that’s it. The World Cup is over. Football didn’t come home. What started as an ironic, self-deprecating joke by England’s supporters turned into the belief that it just bloody well might! But it wasn’t to be. Football decided instead to head over to our European neighbours, France. And who can blame it really. France is a lovely country and its national side played an attacking, free-flowing and exciting brand of football and were surely the best team in the tournament.

We got to the semi-final though, and that’s still decent, but now that it’s over and we’ve come to terms with the crushing disappointment that England didn’t win, what can we learn from this experience?

I think the more important takeaway from this World Cup has been the positivity and togetherness in the England camp, something that’s not always been there in previous squads. Squads arguably with better, certainly higher profile, players This positive approach has clearly come from the manager, Gareth Southgate, who’s been a breath of fresh air with his honest, thoughtful and genuine style of management.

Not a lot of people had much faith when Southgate was appointed the England manager. His quietness was mistaken for weakness and his thoughtfulness for lack of direction, but he got the team playing well together, without any hint of ego or behind-the-scenes problems that previous England squads have had. And he’s managed to reach a World Cup semi-final.

So how has he achieved it? What’s been different about his management style to his predecessors, and what can we learn from it? Here’s my five key leadership lessons from Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup run that we can all implement in our own workplaces:

Be Honest and Authentic

Southgate’s honest approach to management has been evident in his interviews, and has been refreshing to witness. His players have clearly bought in to his philosophy too. As a leader you need to be authentic. You need to believe in what you’re doing to get others to believe in it. Do your research, put the thought and time into making a plan that you feel confident about and have faith in your approach. Clearly inform your team of the goal and make them aware of the plan and their individual tasks. Be open and honest about it. Talk about why you think it’ll work, but be open to suggestions too. Listen to their ideas and take them on board. You need your people to believe in the direction you’re going to make it work, and this is only possible in they believe in you and why you’ve made the decisions you have.

Be Brave with your decisions

Don’t shirk the difficult decisions. Dropping Wayne Rooney from the England squad, a talisman for England for so many years, can’t have been an easy decision for Southgate, but for the balance and cohesiveness of the squad it was one he felt he had to make. This applies to all the decisions you make as a leader, don’t dodge the tough decisions, but think them through and make sure you’re not making them on impulse and without the proper consideration. Be bold, but be able to justify your decisions to your team.

Be Positive and Generous

We’re all just humans, and we all need a bit of encouragement and guidance occasionally. Southgate’s man-management has been exemplary; taking the time to talk to every player individually at the end of each game to offer some words of encouragement and advice is evidence of this.

Making sure your team has the skills it needs to succeed is important, but creating the right atmosphere and environment for success is crucial too. This can as simple as having regular meetings where the staff’s goals and achievements are discussed, but also the company performance. Don’t be shy about talking to them about the company’s performance, they need to know if things aren’t going well, and if you’ve got a good team togetherness they’ll be as keen as you are to make it work.

Trust your people

It helps to hire good staff. Be careful with your recruitment, take on people that you’re confident can do their jobs well, but also are a good cultural fit for the company. Skills can be learned but the right attitude can be much harder to teach. Once you have a team together give them the trust they need to do their jobs, help them to feel valued and important, this will give them and the confidence they need to create great work, to share ideas, to make suggestions and help drive the business

Lead by Example

Be calm and measured in your approach, and don’t panic when things don’t go to plan. You set the tone for your company, your attitude and ideas seep into every aspect of the business, make sure they’re the values that you want the company to represent – for Flow it’s creativity and quality in our work, and openness and honesty in our relationships with clients and collaborators. The team are aware of these values and make them as part of the company’s ethos as much as I do.

Work hard. Be thorough. If your team can see that you are committed to the company’s success they will be too. Be passionate about the work you do. For us that’s creative work, and I’m still as obsessed with great design and animation now as I was before starting the company. If your team can see you’re into it too, and you care about the standard of the work you’re doing, they will too.

Flow Creative
The Red Hat