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Design lessons from the middle of the Atlantic

I have always loved being active. From a brisk walk at lunch to a game of football in the park, exercise provides me with an escape and a chance to properly refresh my brain. But no sport has given me the sense of fulfillment and freedom that sailing has.

Before joining The Frameworks, I was lucky enough – some would say mad enough – to sail across the Atlantic. In both directions. This mentally and physically challenging feat helped me to see the bigger picture in life and to connect to my surroundings. 

The biggest block to creativity? Fear.

Psychologists including Will Schutz – the pioneer of the human potential movement – consider fear to be one of the biggest blocks to creativity. Many of us hold back from creativity as we do our best to avoid our fears, be that fear of failure, criticism or of the unknown.

1,000 nautical miles offshore, nature is at its finest and fiercest. You become fully intertwined and exposed to the raw elements. It certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. It may seem objectively scary to be in the middle of the ocean surrounded only by water, but when you’re out there, and you know what you’re doing, it’s not intimidating at all. It’s beautiful. Embracing the expansiveness of the ocean and managing the whims of the weather keeps fear away and humbles you in the best way.

I have different fears to embrace in my role as a Digital Designer. Though it is physically safe, I still have to push myself out of my comfort zone to deliver creative solutions.

When I joined The Frameworks, we were using freelancers to do HTML5 banner animation, but wanted to take the job in house. I was initially daunted by the title; HTML5 sounded code heavy, which isn’t something I’m well-versed in. But I volunteered. And I found that it was much more design-focused than I’d expected. Rather than writing and inputting code, I use Google Web Designer, which is more visual. Now, I regularly create animated adverts for our client, UST, and I'm really glad I took the plunge.

Go with the flow

When you’re out in the middle of the Atlantic, your life is in the hands of the weather gods. However meticulous your plans are, change is inevitable. At sea, ignoring the weather and resisting the need to change tack could be life-threatening.

On land, the dangers are different, but the need to adapt is the same. Technology is constantly evolving – platforms are quickly becoming outdated and new systems are forever being folded into the digital realm. As a designer, I have to keep up with these changes to stay relevant and competitive.

Sailing taught me to be more comfortable with change. I no longer see it as a negative, but rather as a challenge to overcome and an exciting prospect to embrace.

It’s all about teamwork

It wasn’t all plain sailing. In a squall 900 miles offshore, our mainsail ripped. We had to quickly think on our feet to determine who would be the repair team and who would continue to sail the boat in the right direction. Teamwork is vital in sailing – even when travelling solo around the world, sailors depend upon a solid onshore team – and the combined input of each member is what makes the whole team strong.

At the Frameworks, our process – think, frame, make, work – involves multi-disciplinary teams working coherently together, producing work that consistently exceeds our clients’ expectations. Ultimately, in both sailing and business, success depends on the ability to work closely with others towards a common goal.

Sailing doesn’t only give me a much-needed digital detox; it has also enhanced my creative career. Embracing fear, accepting change and relying on teamwork while in utterly awe-inspiring scenery has had a life-changing impact on me.

Now that I am – mostly – on solid ground, it’s exciting to see how these lessons play out in my role.

Boat delivery Antigua to the UK. 4,000 meters deep, 1,000 nautical miles from land.
Calm before the storm. A mid Transatlantic race rig check.