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How to evolve your creative skills with the digital world around you

In 2015, 48.7% of creative roles that crossed our desks had a sole digital focus. Not just within digital businesses, they came from multichannel businesses, start-ups, SMEs and established brands alike. The percentage for 2016 is shaping up even higher. With this comes the need to constantly evolve your skills in line with the market.

ADLIB are sponsoring the Collaborate Bristol event on 11th November in Bristol, so we had the chance to catch up with Nat Al-Tahhan ahead of her session. Nat is Designer/2D artist with a multidisciplinary background in graphic design, video game development and illustration. With a grounding in more traditional creative formats, we wanted to learn and share more about her journey to date.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far?
Nat Al-Tahhan: I’d need a massive nut for that, but the TL;DR version is – print designer > freelance digital designer > co-founder of games studio > Curator then Executive Editor of TEDxBristol > freelance designer > event illustrator & games developer, and now personal trainer too.

ADLIB: How has the industry changed since you’ve started out?
Nat Al-Tahhan: Games is a constantly evolving medium where your skillset and workflow has to keep up as technology gets more powerful, when I started out mobile gaming wasn’t even A Thing yet. Contrast that with branding, for example, where nothing has really changed since the beginning of my career in terms of process, we just have a fancier version of Adobe Illustrator now.

ADLIB: Your background is in more traditional formats including graphic design, video game development and illustration. How do these ‘old school’ skills fit into today’s digital world?
Nat Al-Tahhan: Well I wouldn’t really class games development as a traditional format. Since the technology landscape is so fast-moving that development 10 years ago is almost unrecognisable from how it happens now. But in terms of general design and illustration, I’ve always been a digital creative, these days the most I do with an actual pen are really preliminary sketches and thumbnails. I do event illustration and games jams because I like to work fast, maybe because I played too much Sonic as a kid, but probably because I like to get ideas on screen as fast as possible then iterate. So if a new bit of kit or software comes along that enables me to be more efficient and quicker, then I embrace it. That’s not always a creative tool either – Slack, for example. It’s awesome it’s been so widely adopted as I mostly work remotely and effective communication is crucial in that scenario.

ADLIB: Can you share any tips that could help those creatives, wanting to ensure that their skills evolve with the world around them?
Nat Al-Tahhan: Be open to changing the way you do things, have a go drawing on an iPad Pro or in VR with Tilt Brush, just play with it, and it will become apparent if this is something that you can incorporate into your own process. Newer freelancers would also do well to up their business game, I see a lot of crazily talented people who don’t invest in any kind of self-promotion or networking or their portfolio website is poor or out of date, and it’s a shame because they could be doing better.

Thank you, Nat, for sharing!