Respect Yourself and Your Limitations
Freelance Graphic Designer
by Elizabeth Lavis|
04 Aug 2023
Timothy Ames, better known as Mister Ames, hails from Portsmouth, England, and specializes in color-saturated, moving designs featuring stark images and fresh compositions. Ames, a Freelance Graphic Designer who considers himself to be the least useful person after the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse, might just be one of the most insightful voices in the room when it comes to putting together a great design and striking the right balance between hard work and burnout.
“Work so you can be as good as you want to be, but don’t assume that you can- or even should- work beyond your physical limitations,” he says. “You’ll need to work out the difference between growing pains, or things that feel difficult because they are forcing growth, and actual pains which are detrimental to your health or situations that are transgressing your boundaries.”
Although Ames still struggles with overworking and stretching himself, he does have some sage advice for others. “Find healthy outlets for stress, spend time with friends and family, sleep as much as you need to, drink water, and spend time in nature,” he says. “If all else fails, remember what an ex told me after a challenging day; ‘bloody hell, you know you’re not curing cancer, right?’ It’s not advice, but I use it to ground myself.”
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The “no pain, no gain” mindset is one that Ames actively disavows and works against now. “There’s a myth that pain somehow improves design or that struggle validates the designer,” he says. “Starting out in design, I had teachers, alumni, and seniors bragging about working weekends and through the night, but, understandably, no one ever told me stories about design being easy, fun, or going well.” He notes that when you hear about working late, missing important events, and not sleeping, you start to think these things are necessary or desirable.
While Ames rejects toxic hustle culture, he also recognizes that design is ever-evolving and has endless growth opportunities. “Design is one of those rare professions where you can always get better, seemingly without end,” he says. “There’s always something new to learn, technique to acquire, or style to uncover. I always value the fact that design is a profession that offers the opportunity for continuous growth.”
Ames’ journey to design was indirect and took him on many different paths before he hit his creative stride. “I wanted to be a chef, then a photographer,” he says. “My love of design was gradual, and I suspect it was linked to my slow disenchantment with fine art, which I studied for a while in college.” There are essential distinctions between fine art and design. “It’s not enough for a piece of design to be beautiful,” Ames notes. “It’s a failure if it doesn’t fulfill its role, whereas art can still succeed if it’s underpinned by a concept and uses a strong technique.”
Ames carries this methodology into work with his clients, arriving early with a pen and notebook in hand. He also does a lot of preliminary research and asks probing questions. “Talk honestly and ask for more details when you’re not following along,” he says. “Don’t promise things you can’t deliver.” His design process follows a similar, logical system/ “I think about what needs to be done, have conversations with the client, make notes and sketches, research, and then start the design.”
Ames references Abraham Lincoln while discussing his design process. “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Give me six hours to cut down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ I use this quote as a reminder to plan a design properly and thoroughly before trying anything.”
Ames is just as dedicated to his goals and the process of working consistently for good results in his off time. “I want to get stronger,” he says. “At this moment, I’m working on increasing my maximum lifting capacity.” Through understanding limitations, being realistic, and having a plan, Ames is bound to go far, both professionally and personally.
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