Ideas that float.

What I learned about graphic design by building a narrowboat.

People who know me will know that I and some close family have spent a large part of the past ten years working towards the ultimate goal of building and living aboard a narrowboat from scratch. There have been hours of backbreaking work and crafting poured into making the home we have. That’s usually met with one of two reactions: “What are you mad?” or “Wow that’s amazing!”

Either way, It’s only now that we’re reaching the end of the process that I have come to realise just how much creative thinking has gone into it and in turn how much the process has helped to inform and nurture my creative outlook, and tenacity!

I’d like to explain that I don’t make a habit of building 70ft steel boats, so In the beginning it was a completely new experience.

When you head into a project with no real set of rules you find that you are untethered from any preconceptions of how things should be done. Of course you look at various possible solutions through research, but ultimately, when a project is unique and tailored to your own specific needs and aspirations there are not always precedents to follow.

A narrowboat must, of course, adhere to a certain number of rules. It has to be a certain width, length and height to fit through locks or under bridges. It needs to have certain features that make it inhabitable. It needs and engine and of course most importantly it has to float! In other words it has to be fit for its environment. Not only that, It has to fulfil the more abstract needs of a way of life and a sense of contentment and freedom.

We’ve been met with many challenges and constant surprises that had to be dealt with by creating the best possible solutions while using appropriate materials and also staying within budget. In such a small space, there is little room to use prefabricated or everyday materials, you need to get creative, build new solutions, modify existing ones and work within the constraints dictated to you by the shape and size of the boat’s hull and cabin.

During the process, I’ve accumulated a heck of a lot of tools and skills that I never thought I’d have.  Woodwork, metalwork, plumbing, painting, the list goes on. The challenges met along the way have meant that I’ve had to learn to work with unfamiliar materials and adapt my way of thinking to fit the needs of the project. I’ve had to think about how one part of the boat works with the other; how the ergonomics of the space need to be efficient. But that’s something I love, and so it goes with our graphic design process at Deadpixel Creative.

The time and effort spent building my narrowboat has required constant thought about the broader picture, its ultimate purpose and how to create something unique that is tailored to specific needs...sounds familiar!

I’ve come to see a strong connection between the level of commitment and attention to detail involved in building my own home and the way in which we work at Deadpixel. A client has a unique story and set of needs. The brief will outline many practical, concrete criteria that must be met. However It’s how we adapt and work within (or around) these needs using creative design thinking, skills and techniques that defines how unique the outcome will be; Using the right tools to meet the brief is essential. There’s a definite sense of the combination of creative thinking and practicality that makes design successful. Planning, experimentation, adaptation, learning new skills and working with new materials are essential parts of creating unique design that works for the client and fits the situation where the piece will be used. It’s this venture into the new that results in exciting work.

We’d love to start our design journey and build something to be proud of with you so please do get in touch.