Iceland – Shooting RAW

Ever since I started working at MadeBrave I've been racking the brains of much greater photographers than me, and, although this isn't a tough feat (because I am not a photographer) what a difference it's made to my pics, the flexibility I have over my pics and the management I have of my digital files (sorry, geeking out a little there).

I had the chance to visit Iceland, not being a huge fan of cities in general and if only for a handful of days I figured I couldn't miss out on seeing the more beautiful parts of the country outside the walls of reykjavik, which on a side note, is a lovely little city that feels like a town. I was super-excited about the Aurora Borealis and catching it. I slept in my car on the road (yes, it was pretty cold) and had my alarm set at 2am and 4am intervals to check out the sky and had little luck other than a whisper of lights on the second night near Skogafoss, luckily the long exposure and the abilities of post-editing allowed me to capture a little of it. Northern lights life goal = tick!

Anyway, my Boss and my Boss's Boss had been telling me I should be shooting in RAW – which I did, and that I should be editing in Adobe Lightroom – which I did, and they were right. So not only did I get to see a cool wee corner of the world and celebrate a couple of friends marrying each other I also go to learn how to make these awesome little snippets of my eyes' history (all taken on a cheap, sturdy wee Nikon D-40, 6Megapixels, shot in the wonders of RAW):

On another note, when I got back I seen a competition on Abduzeedo to win a Moment Lens. Moment have created a series of adaptable lenses which attach to iPhone models and give you everything from wide angle to telephoto and macro lenses. The comp description was straight forward – post a pic and stick the hashtag #Abdzmoment on it. Having a bundle of snaps at the ready from coming back from Iceland days before I uploaded one, forgot about it then days later was told by friends who'd seen it that I'd WON. Sweet, moment lens inbound!


Torus Vector

I tried my hand at a completely new style of illustration tonight. For what felt like the first time in forever I stumbled across free time (huzzzaah!) and figured I'd make some design for just the sake of design, fun and no other agenda. No clients, no brief, no budgets breathing down my neck.

After seeing the work of amazing illustrator SignalNoise I fancied giving some digital illy art a crack in his signature style. I'd seen James White (SignalNoise) talk in Aberdeen at The Meat Design Conference years back and was completely taken with his hyper-saturated style. The other end of inspiration was probably came from a recent fascination with astronomy; tried my hand at some star trail photography, scheduled a night at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory in Ayr and been reading the mind-blowing news of two black holes smashing in to each other,  so I guess the cosmos was already at the front of my mind. 

What I ended up with is a pretty trippy illustration of some mystical looking prisms in a cold desert night. Shown a few of my progressions from sketches to details of texture I used to get the end product. Will have to doodle more night sky scenes.

Initial sketches, done in pencil and fineliner once the lines are right. Added rough shading to guide. Above shows a quick scamp of figuring out the light source and how it effects the curves and transforms.

Next I worked up a quick outline image of the assets and how they sit in composition in the most basic form.

Forming blocks, I started in greyscale so that I can see how elements stand out from one another with tone alone.

Next working in a rough palette to determine the overall 'feel' I wanted the image to have with flat colour blocks.

Adding in gradients to the colours to give a bit of depth and refining the colours.

Texturising the flat graphics to add style, detail, depth and light/shadows.

A subtle touch on colour balance, saturation and contrast.

Finishing off with tweaking the levels of the darks and lights and brushing every element with a subtle blue wash.


And another which I've done since. Diving out of the sea of infinity and up in to time.


Student Q & A

Had the pleasure of another student in the studio on placement from University, super-skilled illustrator Leanne (if you're looking for stylistic illustration work!) was in for a week helping out on a branding project (and brought us in sugar-loaded donuts to get high on), in the down time she did a wee questionnaire with a handful of team members. Figured I'd share mine:

Full Name

Asa Harrison Rodger

1— Job Title?


2— What job did you want as a child?

When asked what I wanted to be when older I replied ‘younger.’ Just being a cheeky wee shit at the time, but now – it kind of makes sense.

3— Name your favourite Artists or Graphic designers?

Aaron Draplin (Designer); I seen this guy speak at The Meat Conf and his love for functional design is infectious. A big, bold, loveable dude with a big, bold and loveable style. His studio is a strictly ‘sweatpants only’ zone.

Signal Noise, James White (Illsutrator); That level of polished illustration is nothing I can pull off at all but who wouldn’t love his Miami-vice, retro gaming, tech, hollywood, super-saturated, rad graphic style?

Vince Frost (Creative Director); previous Creative Director of Pentagram and now owner of Frost Studio, Vince’s book Design your Life is a nudge in the right direction for each Creative who is solving every problem apart from their own.

Matthew Skiff (illustrator); a throwback to the 90’s comic style and acidic colour palette, PLUS some more added punch. Skiff’s stuff is seriously slick and appears on some of Earth’s coolest brands.

4— How do you think your peers would describe you?

No idea! Strange? Positive, encouraging, loves hats. I’ve been called elusive over and over again but swear I'm hiding nothing except a large turnover of internal chatter (which often goes sideways)!

5— Did you/Where did you attend university? And what did you study?

Gallowgate College – Graphic Design and Robert Gordon’s Uni – Graphic Design & Production

6— How did you come to work at MadeBrave?

I watched MadeBrave for years! I woke up hungover on new years day with my friends in a flat in Glasgow. We put on the Lion King on a projector to nurse our hangovers. Full Screen, HD, surround sound. We sang our hearts out. I came home and seen an ad for a designer at MadeBrave and the copy read: 

“We know there are people out there whose New Year Resolutions are to get a new job, sing the Lion King out loud more, eat more burritos or improve their KSPM score (that’s Keyboard Shortcuts Per Minute). If you’re our new Graphic Designer you’ll probably tick all of these off your list!”

No. Way.

7— Are there any things you wish you knew at the start of your career?

That there’d be bean counters breathing budgets down my neck! Jokes aside, design is not art, it’s a very different monster but I enjoy the constraints a lot. There’s a lot of things I wish I knew now, and I’m (hopefully) chipping away at them daily until the end of my career.

8— What areas of design are you strongest in?

Jack of all trades, master of flip all! And I like it that way. Multi-discipline is a good thing in a design agency. Although I completely admire masters of their skill, I like having the flexibility and being able to manifest ideas through whatever tools best suit.

9— Where does the bulk of your inspiration come from?

I messed up hundreds/thousands of times and I enjoy learning. I like breeding the learning culture. If i’m trying something new it’s exciting and inspiring, on the flip side I get to grow or make something cool I haven’t made before. I also scramble around to surround myself with people I can learn from, or people I want to be more like. I am the biggest fan of my friends and strive to be like them. On the other hand, I like to live moment by moment and make the best designs I can, or even the best day I can so I try not to project too much and just invest in the best possible 'right now'. Seems to take care of me.

10— How do you further develop on your ideas and concepts?

Collaboration, seek inspiration, seek experience. The more experiences I have the more dots I can place in my mind and connecting those dots and navigating around them seems to make for ideas (good ones and bad ones). I try to not be consumed too much by culture and just digest everything with as open a mind as possible.

11— How do you motivate yourself on briefs that you don’t enjoy?

I Ask other people what they think (not just designers either), tell other people what I think and see how they react. Books, books, books. Dig in to the details of the brief, see if there’s anything I do enjoy in the little details.

12— What are the biggest challenges in working within a team and how do you effectively over come them?

The good ol' Clusterfuck of ideas can sometimes let concepts be stretched in multiple directions, although this can be a good thing or bad depending how it’s directed. Good creative directors help overcome that. Getting people’s time and good time management helps. Organised meetings, good traffic managers. Shout out to Lorna! Best in the biz!

13— Had you ever had a difficult client? How do you get past this?

Loads! With a little help from my friends. Design grounded in rationale and reason always helps combat difficult clients. There is a fine balance between meeting expectations and being the spineless yes man as your soul melts. Never let the client morph in to a Creative Director, because many love to enjoy that fantasy.

14— Can you name some books that young designers might find useful?

I have a few! Not necessarily about design, but here’s a few that really really helped me with lateral thinking and some shifted my perspective quite profoundly towards more than just design.

  • On Brand (or Brand New) by Wally Olins digs into what a brand is and how it’s transformed buyer journeys and commerce as we know it.
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek is a model which MadeBrave uses to inform strategic design of What, How and the core of Why – watch his TEDTalk. 
  • Design your life by Vince Frost (who I mentioned up there^) details how to apply design and problem solving to yourself to help create a life you want. We design everything but ourselves.
  • A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young talks about gathering information and stimulating imagination off the back of it – my first creative director gave me this. 
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, the last one – images and words often come hand in hand and I’m trying to get better at writing, I loved this zero tolerance approach to punctuation.
  • Bounce by Matt Syed dispels ‘The talent myth’. Very important book to me.


10 Books That Changed My Mind

In a previous post I admitted to having only recently started properly reading for application in the last handful of years. Below I’ve thrown together a list of ten books which have changed my mind. Maybe surprising to see that they aren’t really design books but I think they’re just as valuable if not more, as most of them encourage lateral thinking, or ‘floating’ to connect dots and ideas which would otherwise be missed out on completely. Reading gives a constant shift in perspective which, from a design view, can only be a good thing. Most of these are about spirituality (without religion), growth mindsets, stoicism, science and the power of practice. I’ve read them all at least once with a highlighter in hand, sometimes twice because I was too thick the first time to really take away what could be applied! I’d recommend getting your hands on them.

01— Bounce, Matt Syed

Bounce is the ultimate myth-buster if you believe in ‘talent’. Matt Syed goes on a clinical breakdown on what makes successful athletes, chess grandmasters and business gurus dispelling talent and opening up the worlds of the fixed and growth mindsets along the way. With back-to-back case studies it’s hard to argue against this book and it shows the negative effects of believing in talent and the sheer truth of putting in purposeful practice to be world class at your sport, art or trade.

02— Start With Why, Simon Sinek

A book which literally cuts to the core of branding. If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk it’s a good place to start. I enjoyed this book because I love creations that are grounded in reason and something others can identify with. Most companies seem to sell on the basis of what they do or how they do it, few dig a little deeper in to why? This book opens the field up to the benefits of giving people a reason to align with why you’re doing what you are and a reason to care.

03—Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig

A bit of a cult number from the 70’s this one looks into values, how to dissect thinking into classic (male), romantic (female) and getting the best of both. It’s not really about Zen and it’s not really about Motorcycles although it draws inspiration from both. It’s a psychopathic breakdown in to what defines ‘Quality’ and making circles of focus smaller and smaller until you are dissecting reason with laser-like precision.

04— Be Here Now, Ram Dass

What can I say about this? Another product of the 70’s turning on and tuning in. The most important and influential book on Mindfulness bloomed open in the hippie movement. Ram Dass went through ‘the system’ to the heights of society lecturing at Universities across US before abandoning it for more understanding of consciousness. Be Here Now offered it’s readers and followers a drug free alternative for attaining higher states of consciousness, with its simple message to live in the present. I can’t speak for everybody, but my copy of Be Here Now is one of my most treasured possessions, it opened the door of conscious discovery and casually pointed towards the way. Oh, and it’s beautifully illustrated.

05— The Idea Writers, Teressa Iezzi

The advertising industry has changed dramatically with the interactive, multi-platform, digital revolution but did the strategy of marketing keep up? This short book shares a cool little insight in to the value of story-telling for brands. Keeping up with the transformation from print, to TV, to the internet and social media.

06— Corporate Identiy, Wally Ollins

The book that scored me my first design job, cheers Wally! An honest look in to how brands evolve from the master. Wally keeps his bullshit meter fully charged and breaks down how brands work, how far they have moved beyond commercial origins and when they grow so big to become part of the cultural glue of Earth.

07— Waking Up, Sam Harris

Sam Harris is a militant atheist who has shopped the spiritual market from A-Z before making that decision. This book digs through the debris of religion, psychedelics and spirituality to uncover the gemstones that are hidden in the rubble. My perspective shifted quite profoundly after reading this book and it’ll likely make you feel tired of being pissed off and angry all the time when you discover that it’s as simple as choosing not to be. Sam has a degree in philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA and puts it to pretty good use here exploring the riddle of the self.

08— Outliers, Malcom Gladwell

10,000+ hours of flight time and you’ll be good at what you’re doing. The book which inspired Bounce up at the start of this list. Outliers forces you to reappraise assumptions so deeply held that you didn't realise you held them, and it’s pretty intoxicating. It’s a solid study in to what comes in to making people skilled at what they do. Everything from their time of birth, to the culture surrounding them, gifts of siblings and patterns of thought. It turns around a simple blueprint for being good at what you want to be good at.

09— The 33 Strategies Of War, Robert Greene

From Napoleon to Hannibal and Sun Tzu’s Art Of War, this book is just stacked with strategy from each empire’s greatest tacticians. Some of the best routes from chaos to calm are outlined here and again even in war it relates to tenets of mindfulness through ‘The Last Good Emperor’ of Rome, Marcus Aurelius' daily meditations.

10— Design Your Life, Vince Frost

Another book not solely about finer details of design but the broader brush strokes of problem solving. Vince Frost was the Director of Pentagram (a huge London ad agency) and gave up this position to tackle his toughest brief to date. He’d spent years solving others problems, finding solutions for clients while his own life, health and happiness slipped out of control. He moved at full-speed to rock bottom and was designing everything but himself. Treating himself like a client he designed his way out of it. This book details the steps he took out of that, and of course the nuggets of information he shares look amazing on every page.

So there's a few books that had lots of impact on me. If going by that list you know of something I shouldn't miss out on then let me know! Now that Facebook is gone I've got all the reading time in the world.



I previously posted some of my favourite indie short-doc videos. Since then I was recommended to give this time, and it didn't disappoint. There's not much I can say that'll do it justice, every time I watch this video I feel my perspective of earth and life shift quite profoundly. It's also beautifully produced, so the viewing is easy. The return is well worth the 18mins investment:

What's Up Two Thousand Sixteen?

I won’t lie — 2015 has definitely had both it’s dark and light moments, and everything in-between. One thing I learned to apply in 2014 was to just embrace the balance of opposites and roll with the punches, no matter how hard they hit. So here's ten things that really made my year what it was.

1— Still no telly

I know it sounds a little weird but a few years ago I binned the telly and year on year I’m enjoying it more and more. I used to be one of those ‘don’t have enough time in the day’ types, yet I was still managing to melt hours infront of the black hypnotic rectangle watching stuff I didn’t care about. I’m always harping on about this and it seems so trivial but in honesty half this list just wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this.

2— Started reading

In past years education systems couldn’t tell me NOTHING while I was raging against that machine. I read certain things that caught me here and there but this year I started properly reading books regularly for application rather than numbly thumbing through the pages without taking much away. Now reading a book for me is not just about completion, but about observation and the effect it has on me. I’ll share a few of my faves in another post!

3— Started writing

I’ve always admired authors, content creators and copywriters so figured I’d give it a crack myself, how tough can it be, write? Wrong! So I started out with three really easy tools where I don’t have to worry about errors flattening me. I began writing to this blog, I began writing down my bizarre dreams as I woke – incredibly hard to build sentences (or even write straight) while your brain is still tripping off di-methyl-triptamine. Last thing I started was a book called 642 Things To Write About. Haven’t quite made that number but got through a good 34 of the whacky scenarios.

4– Set out on my own

I set myself up as a freelance designer in-between two different jobs in 2015 for 5 months and managed to make enough work to live. What a cool feeling. 70% admin, self-management and accounts, 30% design but enjoyed it nontheless. In that 30% I managed to squeeze some really fun design in including an entire branding project (logo, brand style, web layout design, signage, room art and more) for a hotel opening in Hackney soon – keep eyes peeled! #GetSomeKip

5— Deleted my Facebook

I’ve already spent way too much time thumbing through ‘content’ I didn’t want to read. First off I left my iPhone on a train and went back to the old Nokia for four months. What I would’ve considered ‘dead time’ (like sitting on the train) became thinking time and everything seemed… less chaotic. I’ve been trying to be more in touch with exactly how things make me feel and much like watching TV, after surfing through Facebook I very, very rarely left with any feeling of fulfilment and more often the opposite. So now it’s gone too!

6— New job at MadeBrave

After the freelance stint I jumped from my little indie raft to the pirate ship of MadeBrave, the coolest agency which I’d been trying to get to employ me for a year! Rewind 365 days exactly to the morning of 2015. I woke up at my friend’s flat. To nurse the hangover we put on The Lion King and sang Hakuna Matata loud and proud before having a nap. I load up my computer and see MadeBrave’s ad for a Designer saying “Maybe your new year’s resolution is to sing The Lion King out loud more?” If that wasn’t a sign I don’t know what is! Took me a couple of applications and the best part of the year but if I believed in luck I’d say I really lucked out on getting this job.

7— BJJ Purple Belt

I Stopped competing in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), fighting angry fellow midgets in a cage, and worked on solely the wrestling and grappling aspects of that game. After near six years of training and just one week before moving my life southwards for the new job I was given my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) under Karl Tanswell of Straight Blast Gym (SBG) who’ve had some serious exposure under Conor McGregor’s success. Six years ago SBG’s coaching and methodology completely morphed the way I think about everything, not just combat. As much as I think belts only cover two inches of your ass and you cover the rest yourself, it’s cool to have my progression recognised by an outstanding gym.

8— Get out more

Out out? No. probably spent a lot less time ‘out out’. I set a goal to actually get out to the great outdoors more. Design and Mixed Martial Arts are two of my loves but they both happen indoors. Scotland’s so beautiful and there’s no quicker way for me to steal inspiration for anything than getting amongst it! It sounds like some hippy, woo-woo bullshit but it genuinely makes me feel a whole lot better. I don’t know why, but I figure if it feels like it works then I’m going to keep doing it.

9— Playing the long game

The past decade I’d treated health and fitness with a kind of sacrificial peak-performance mindset. This year my perspective changed quite profoundly to longevity. I’m turning in to a little old man, a little too quick. I was invited to an Injury Prevention seminar hosted by SBG Ireland’s John Kavanagh at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and learned some really alarming information in terms of what I was putting my body through in training, dropping weight and general wear and tear on joints and the brain. The second thing I attended was both a talk and seminar by SBG’s strength and conditioning coach Simon McEvoy who blew my mind in terms of functional mobility of the human body and optimising it. Time to make time for my long-term health or make time for injury, sickness and getting old.

10— Treated myself like a little lab rat

I tried a whole lot of stuff out. Especially optimising my diet. Just to measure what happens and figure myself out more I done three weeks on each of the following;

Raw fruit, nuts and vegetables
No caffeine, no alcohol
Juice diet (everything is raw and juiced)

Some were functional, some weren't but I figured more out about my body nonetheless. I think everyone has different tolerances to nutrients and chemicals in the body and health unfortunately doesn't seem a one-brush-for-all kind of scenario, so it's worth figuring it out with a few experiments. If anyone is interested, the most functional for me was the vegetarian diet (Nooooooo!). I measured my body, my sleep and just how I felt in general. I'll go full-blown veggie one day, just when I'm not so selfish with my time and enjoying delicious steaks.

And that's about it! As for 2016? Nothing bolted down other than a few little plans here and there but the more I look after moment by moment, year by year seems to take care of itself.


Brand New: Netflix – See What's Next

Another giant undergoes a branding exercise without changing the logo. After Spotify recently overhauling their brand while barely touching the logo we've another titan of a company evolving with no change of their existing brand mark. Are brands getting more aware and proactive with the component parts of the puzzle outside of the logo and investing more time and effort in to it? Either way, what Netflix have been up to looks very, very slick.

Small but high-profile design agency Gretel stepped up to the task of giving Netflix a conceptual and visual thread to tie everything together. Visually striking yet adaptive and applicable by design agencies and vendors all across the world.

The solution? 'The stack' as it has been dubbed. A visual metaphor for the ever-changing and infinite catalogue service of Netflix, symbolising two very important features – selection and curation. Above all this, it's typeset in one of my favourites and absolute smash-hit, the ultra-sexy geometric sans, Gotham. Hand-in-hand with what I believe to be one of the strongest colour combos in black white and red and we've got a simple idea, expertly executed. 

Alongside the visual development Netflix threw a cheeky wee tagline in the mix for the brand. 'See what's next'. Backloaded (or post-rationalised, take your pick) with rationale of tying in to both the Netflix service and product it's a smart three words when you dig in to it a little and stumble across those little "ahhh I get it" moments that everyone enjoys.

As fickle as I am for pretty things I'd be straight on the ol' Netflix and enjoy the service off the back of the cracking design development. I wouldn't even watch anything, just slide around from page to page with THE STACK. #DesigNerd

Like it? Hate it? Didn't even notice it?


Made a Brave Move South...

That's right, I've moved my life Southwards, now living in the glitz and glam of the West Coast (that's Glasgow for you non-scot readers, if there are any). I'd said to a handful of friends that I would always go back to agency life and I got just what I threw out there with an offer for a Designer position (which I jumped at) with Scotland's coolest, little, fastest-growing design, digital and social media agency, MadeBrave.

So I packed all my life in to little boxes (again) and moved down here to get back on the road of making — making things pretty, making things make sense and making myself better at what I love to do. Inspired spaces make for inspired people and the studio of MadeBrave is a seriously cool little spot just oozing with good colours, good lighting and good inspiration to be pinched. Normal offices just aren't for me and I can't wait to get properly stuck in here!

For a glimpse of what goes on in and out the studio you can keep up with MadeBrave in these places: