Nathan Powell – Freelance Designer

Nathan Powell is a visual designer living in Madrid, Spain. He’s author of The Designer’s Guide to Freelancing and founder of nusii an online proposal service for designers and creative types.

Good things to read.

1984 by George Orwell. Orwell sat down to write 1984, over 60 years ago, and his vision of the future was staggeringly accurate. Big Brother is here, and has been for quite some time. 1984 is about repression, a totalitarian state and 24 hour surveillance. The paranoid in me loves this book. I read it nearly every year, and it just never gets old.

Start Small, Stay Small by Rob Walling. Start small, stay small is not a “get rich, quick” book, but one that shows the possibilities available to anyone wanting to grow beyond a 9 to 5 existence. While it was originally written for developers (no geek speak necessary), the content is just as valuable to designers, or any first time entrepreneur looking to create their own digital service or product. It pushed me to want something more than just client work.

Everything I know by Paul Jarvis. I read this book at the end of last year, and it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read on the subject of creative life. We all struggle, we struggle to find the right clients, we struggle to stay motivated and to stay true to ourselves. Paul talks about his own struggles and makes you feel that you’re not alone. It’s 100% inspiring and will give you the creative kick in the ass you need.

Good things to watch.

Breaking Bad. I couldn’t talk about good things to watch without mentioning Breaking Bad. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do watch series. Breaking Bad is based around the life of Walt White. Walt’s a chemistry teacher who finds out he has cancer, not wanting to leave his family penniless, he decides to start cooking Meth… as you do. While the first season is slow, it does set the scene for some of the best TV ever made. Everyone deserves a bit of Heisenberg in their life.

The Sopranos.  Tony Soprano is a mob chief with a heart, albeit a twisted, black one. He’ll put a bullet in you and then agonise over it for months with his shrink. He’s a family man in every sense, and while he’s capable of horrific acts, he also has the capacity to be incredibly humane, in a Tony Soprano kind of way… “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”.

Jaws.  I almost feel I should apologise for this one, but it’s old school summer blockbusterness at its best! I’ve seen it more times than I can remember and it still gets me. Yes, the shark is plastic, yes people really got hurt (the first victim had her ribs broken on camera, hence the chilling screams) and yes Roy Scheider was always old. A true classic. Hurray!

Good things to use.

A smartphone. There’s no doubt that Apple changed the way we work, rest and play (or was that Mars bar), and I can no longer imagine life without my smartphone. I use my phone to keep up with family back home (VOIP), keep up to date with my work schedule, get around Spain with GPS, answer urgent emails, sign contracts, you name it. Aside from my laptop, it’s my most valuable tool. Love them or hate them, there’s no getting away from smartphones.

Alfred. The first thing I do after a clean install of OSX is install Alfred. I can’t work on a mac without it. It’s a reflex action to hit ALT+Space and BAM! Access to anything. Alfred lets you get to any app, file or website in a second. I never use the launch bar, that would be wasting valuable seconds. Once you’ve tried Alfred, which incidentally is free, you’ll never go back. It’s the most used app on my laptop.

Pen and paper When I wake up at 3 in the morning with an idea that would otherwise be lost, it goes down on paper. Invariably the paper gets lost, but it gets written down anyway. It’s nice to have something that’s old school. Digital alternatives are great, but not at 3 in the morning. Long live the pen and paper.

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