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New Girl in Class: Launching a Graphic Design Business During Lockdown

Whilst lockdown has been a struggle for many, it has also been a catalyst for new businesses and startups to transition from idea to reality. Sharon Armstrong is one of those who took the leap and launched their business!

My daughter Pearl starting school this September has been the catalyst behind me setting up my own freelance business, and even though I’ve worked in the creative industry for many years, I sometimes feel I’m in the same position as her.

It’s always been an ambition of mine to work for myself and this year the timing just felt right, this is a new start for the both of us. My hope is that it will not only give me more flexibility in my working hours to fit around her school day, but I can also be a positive role model for her. Showing that it’s possible to reach for your dreams whilst still being a Mam who’s there to pick her up from school and get involved in school activities.

I’ve learnt so much in these first few months, although I often have some of the same feelings as Pearl starting her new school, the nerves, excitement and worry. I really do feel like the new girl in class, I feel a new zest for design and I’m enjoying where the journey is taking me.

Throughout my career, I’ve always had an illustrative style to my work and I was lucky to get the chance to develop this further during my time working in Tommee Tippee’s in house design team. I created bespoke illustrations which were used to decorate their range of baby and toddler, cups, bottles and soothers.

Illustration is a powerful way to create an emotional connection, add brand personality and bring a brand story to life. Whilst working as a senior creative for Narrative Communications in Sunderland I was involved in a new sub brand launch for County Durham Housing Group (CDHG) – No Place Like M!ne (Rent to Buy scheme) creating character illustrations to give the brand personality and flexibility.

So I knew when starting up my own business I wanted to focus not only on graphic design but also illustration. Lockdown gave me the unique opportunity to develop my illustration style further and get my creative mojo back. I was also lucky during this long time stuck at home to win my first illustration commission for Positive Baby and Beyond first children’s book.

I came across Adele Mitchinson’s call out for local illustrators through the Ladies Wine and Design network. Positive Baby and Beyond aims to promote positive mental health for children and parents through their series of children’s affirmation books. I’ve always loved reading to my daughter and I know the positive impact it’s had on her development, so I knew straight away I wanted to be involved. I enjoyed working on the illustration piece so much, developing my style further and I can’t wait to read the book to Pearl when it’s launched later in the year.

Also during thosefirst few scary months of lockdown a friend put me in touch with Sam Wall who was in the early stages of setting up Just North East People, a community that aimed to help the economic recovery of the region post lockdown by connecting people with businesses across the region. I worked with Sam initially to create a bold, empowering identity and collateral for the community. She then got back in touch to ask me to create illustrations for their website and social media. I was over the moon to get to work with Sam again and I loved creating an illustration style that would inject further personality into the brand.

I’m really excited about the future of my business, I’ve got lots of exciting plans and one thing is for certain, just like my daughter, I think I’ll never stop learning!

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