Posted by Sarah Weigold
24 September, 2021

If there’s one thing that unites everyone at Nixon, it’s that we all appreciate a healthy work/life balance.

That’s not to say that we’re a bunch of slackers, but that we believe you can’t be creative when working every hour of the day. So, when the work is done, it’s time for creative hobbies, sports and side hustles. In this blog we’re lifting the lid on Team Nixon and finding out what some of us get up to in their spare time, and how it benefits their work.

Tamsyn may be the queen of UX design, but she’s also pretty handy with a stick of charcoal.

“In my free time you’ll find me drawing - but that’s not always been the case! Like many designers, drawing was always a passion of mine, but I let it slip during university, and it was ten years before I picked up a pencil for fun once again. I decided that I would try to conquer portraits as they were never my strong point, and I’d experiment with new mediums like charcoal.

My portraits generally take between 10-24 hours, depending on the size and medium I’m working with. Using this time to do something creative for myself makes a nice change after working on client briefs all day! It’s also a chance to get back to the basics of visual communication, which you can lose sight of when in the middle of a complex digital design project.

Through my portraits I’ve developed my own drawing style, but our clients are often looking for a different approach, so it’s fun when we get a brief for which I can create illustration and try something new. I find that the skills I’ve developed doing portraits are pretty easy to apply to any illustration challenge or style. I’m already working at a relatively large scale, but I’d love to push this further. So, if there’s any way I could work a massive mural into our next brief, that would be the dream job.”

By day, Megan is busy creating content, but by night (and at the weekends) she’s digging in to history.

“On the side, I'm a historical researcher and writer. In the past, I've written magazine articles, blogs, a PhD and a book, with topics ranging from spies in the 18th century mail service to the Second World War home front. I’d love to spend more time doing this, but at the moment it's a case of whenever I can.

I think the reason that I love historical research is the same reason I love murder mystery novels – I find it very exciting to track down obscure leads in old records or newspapers, and come up with surprise revelations that I hadn't expected. It can be very more-ish and time-consuming, and so satisfying. I also love writing about historical characters and the lives of everyday people in the past; the storyteller in me always wants to know more about them.

Although it doesn't seem obviously useful for my work at Nixon, I think that the researcher's desire to know and understand more about people, places and events helps me to uncover interesting angles and bring things to life for our clients. It doesn't matter what the subject is – even if it's nothing to do with history, I'll always be asking more questions. My dream project would be researching and writing content for a museum, gallery or historic attraction. I'd love to work on copy for interpretation, articles, exhibitions or guide books. An in-house archive I could pilfer would be even better.”

When he’s not in the studio, you’ll find Creative Director Diggory in the sea.

“Growing up by the sea, surfing, or just generally being in the water, has always been important for me to reconnect in some way. The rise in popularity of surfing (plus my dodgy hips) have meant that I'm doing it less and less. But in the past few years I’ve discovered body surfing and, armed with just a bit of wood and some fins, I've felt that same buzz and connection that I first did surfing all those years ago. 

I head out whenever there's a small and fun wave at my local break – Porthleven. Time-wise it can be anything from 20 minutes to an hour, as it's much more tiring than surfing. I love that feeling of being in the water, floating on your back or noticing the small things, like the way water swirls and moves when you run your hand through it. Plus, being in the barrel is pretty special regardless of whether you're lying down or standing up.

I would like to say that I find all sorts of creative inspiration body surfing and that it benefits my creative thinking for our clients; but in all honesty, for me it’s about switching off completely, blocking out everything, and just bobbing up and down waiting for the next set to approach. My dream project would be to work for a wellness brand associated with water – I've spent so many hours in the sea that I figure I've got some great brand insight.”

Operations Director Laura oversees suppliers, schedules and spreadsheets, but after work it’s all about stitching.

“Over the past couple of years I've been teaching myself how to sew! Initially, I wanted to be able to make my own clothes, but as I've progressed I've found a real love for bag making. I try to spend time each week working on a project, and always have something on the go! Each bag can vary in terms of how long it takes to make, but some of the more complicated patterns would probably take a couple of days if I sat down and did it in one sitting. I tend to split it out over my free time in the evenings and weekends, so it can take much longer to complete.

My role (Operations Director) is very practical, organised and all about processes, so it really helps to have a creative output. I don't have artistic skills like the Nixon designers (don't ask me to draw anything – it will be very bad!) but I love using random pieces of material and a new pattern to create something completely fresh. I get so lost in what I’m doing when sewing (it needs a lot of concentration as it can be very tricky) so it helps me switch off from normal day-to-day life.

In the future, I’d absolutely love to work with suppliers who create their own materials or patterns. One of my favourites is Tilly and the Buttons. Tilly was a contestant on one of the earlier series of the Great British Sewing Bee, and has gone on to launch her own pattern collection and regularly gives workshops on how to improve your skills.”

Designer Sarah splits her week between branding projects and theology books.

“My spare time is spent studying for a degree in theology, which is essentially the history of how people have talked about God. It’s a really nice contrast to design work, which is so fast-paced and practical. I get to slow down and spend time thinking about the big questions, like: What is the meaning of life? What is our responsibility towards other people? Is there hope for the future? But I’m also happy to get back to the design work when discussion gets too abstract! 

This has has definitely influenced the way I design. During a church history module I had the chance to study some amazing old handwritten manuscripts and early printed books, which are an endless source of typographic inspiration (and entertainment, thanks to the sarcastic comments the monks doodled in the margins). I’ve also been really challenged to think more about the ethics, sustainability and purpose of all the work we do.

Having learnt a lot about churches, I would love to do the branding for one and have a go at translating this rich history into something that makes sense to people today. But more generally, after spending time thinking about how beliefs affect actions, I’d really enjoy helping charities or social enterprises communicate their values well through good branding.”