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Personal Branding

Neil Duerden: Attacking Ideas

We caught up with Neil Duerden to discuss attacking new ideas, collaborations, and learning from the misses.


Neil Duerden is a UK-based master of mixed media and member of the KDU. His most recent work combines photography interlaced with complex vectors. His pieces have hit the soft spot for clients around the world, from soft drink brands to telecommunication giants. Behance caught up with Neil Duerden to discuss attacking new ideas, collaborations, and learning from the misses.

Neil has different tactics for managing ideas, depending on whether the project is a commission or a collaboration. As he explains, “If the project is a collaboration with a different artist or photographer, then the piece(s) take a free flow pattern. Basically it’s all about experimenting and pushing boundaries which is the fun bit. This means you only have to answer to yourself and that means you’re working for the worst kind of critic [you!], oh and also magazines and galleries who are the second worst critics [he smiles].”

“Commercial commissions take a more rigid pattern, read the brief, a sketch, read the brief again, another sketch, read the brief again, yet another sketch, and so on! Once there is a solution that answers the criteria that works time for a nice cuppa. Then after this it’s time to hit the Mac, always emailing the client with roughs to make sure they are happy with your chosen route. This creates a trust between you and the commissioner that is very important and [helps] keep the project on track.”

Like many freelance creative professionals, Neil’s greatest challenge was leaving full time employment to become a full time illustrator. As he explains, “…it takes time to build up a profile and, with mouths to feed at home, it’s a big commitment! I decided to leave a larger design agency as I was getting annoyed and frustrated by account management not pushing the clients toward creative solutions – instead they would always present the safer options. In my eyes, there is so much advertising around us each and every day that most becomes wallpaper… To deliver a message effectively you have to come up with a solution that delivers the brand message to the right market in a clever way…”

No one can deny that after a truly great new joint piece they take a little of each others’ style on board.

In his confidence to go solo, Neil discovered his true passion, illustration. “I have never looked back and have, luckily, always been busy.” To those still struggling, he suggests to “just keep plugging. You’ll get there if you hone your style right.”

Neil is always learning. When working with new clients, he takes great pride in understanding the brief. While he has a great success rate for winning a pitch, he still loses a few. When he misses out on something, he always tries to find out why. He talks to the client and “takes all of their comments on board.” He explains, “sometimes it’s down to simple factors like [a wrong commission or off track brief], other times it’s simply my fault for getting carried away in the creative.”

Neil believes that collaborations are the truest form of brainstorming. He explains, “everyone involved has their own visions which merge together to create something truly special in an organic style. I love great photography and through collaborations have worked with some truly great talents.” After a successful collaboration, Neil leaves with more than he came with. He claims, “no one can deny that after a truly great new joint piece they take a little of each others’ style on board. A few of these have ended up changing other artists’ styles completely – you can see it in their portfolios…”

Neil advises creative professionals across industries to “have faith in yourself.”  “If you doubt yourself and don’t truly believe in yourself then it will show in your work!”

He also reminds us not to expect an easy ride. “…the road is long and there are many hurdles, but if you work hard and get your style together then the snowball effect will start and from this point forward you will no longer have to chase commissions as they will come to you, which is a nice place to be.”

Comments (6)
  • MWMGRAPHICS

    Neil is on fire. A huge inspiration.

  • sondolo

    his work is epic

  • arisu

    truly great 😮

  • SacredPeaceMonkey

    Why does Neil do what he does, the question I really need answered, also his Bio

  • Hd Wallpaper

    Hello,
    The photo is so lovely and cool,and could I reprint it with business such as Hd wallpaper,High Resolution Wallpaper

  • Andy Gibbs

    Sorry, not a big fan. Sorry.

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