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Inside a New Blood alum’s side hustle – ME&EU

Creative duo Sam T. Smith and Nathan Smith on the secrets behind their side hustle ME&EU

The New Blood Side Hustle category is for people who make their passion projects a reality. It’s there to showcase the raw creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that’ll drive our industry forward, and the new ideas that might change the world.

We spoke to New Blood alumni, Sam T. Smith and Nathan Smith on their ME&EU project – a collection of postcards written and designed by UK-based creatives that were sent across Europe as a means to reconnect the UK with the EU in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote. The creative duo share how they kept their passion for the project going and their secret to a successful side hustle.

In the weeks following the Brexit vote, Sam and Nathan provoked the UK’s creative community to document their reactions to the referendum result. They chose the humble postcard, a symbol of travel and crossed borders, to house the responses. Each of the 116 cards featured individually designed face sides, loaded with humour and opinion, and backs with handwritten messages. This collective act created a powerful visual commentary on the political and personal climate. When Article 50 was triggered, they mailed the cards to studios and agencies in each of the remaining EU countries in a bid to continue a dialogue, despite the growing sense of division.

The project obviously came about as a direct result of the EU referendum, but for Sam and Nathan this was about more than a timely opportunity.  

“Brexit affected us in a way that a political decision hadn’t affected us previously. We felt so strongly about it that we knew we wanted to do something, however small that may be. For us, it was about trying to look outward when Britain was seen as looking inward, to attempt to unite people at a time of such division and to do something positive in an otherwise negative climate".

Sarah Bethan Jones' contribution.

Collaboration is necessary

The process was a joint effort, made up of contributions from many notable designers, including Deanna Halsall, Malcom Garret, Jim Sutherland and several of the KesselKramer crew. It’s no surprise that both Smiths think the most important thing they learned was the true power of collaboration – “The nature of this project meant it was built on a web of many different people. Without this variety of strengths and mindsets, the project would not only cease to exist, but it wouldn’t have been pushed into the areas it has. Looking back, it’s amazing what people can do when they stand on the shoulders of one another, especially when based on a topic they strongly believe in.”

The postcards themselves have been on a journey too, and not just to Europe. First, the project manifested online, capturing the attention of the creative community, press and regular joes alike. The next stop was an exhibition, where the provocative array still confront visitors of the Design Museum as part of Beazley Designs of the Year. And now, their final destination is in book form.

Sam and Nathan teamed up with Craig Oldham’s Common Practices to publish the postcards. They chose to do it as a voucher book, meaning each postcard can be torn out and the conversation the project initially instigated will be shared wider.

How to stay passionate about your work

It’s been quite the ride. But the two D&AD New Blood Pencil-winners held on tight to their initial passion for the project to keep them going. And spreading the word meant they had to follow through.

“How passionate we were about the topic had to be the main drive. The motivation to keep going definitely got easier as more people got involved, but it was slower at the beginning and took a lot of ground work to keep it rolling. Getting it out in the real world and being vocal about it was definitely a good way to keep us buckled in. It made it concrete. It’s much easier to talk yourself out of a thought you’ve been cooking up in your head for a while, but the speed we had to react based on the subject meant we were less precious and put it out there as soon as possible. The other benefit of doing this and getting it in the real world earlier is that others could feedback on it and make suggestions along the way. This comes back to what we said earlier about collaboration.”

Sam Miller's contribution.

How to balance your side hustle and a full-time job

All the way through this, Sam and Nathan were both holding down day jobs as designers at GBH. They pulled it off with plenty of sleepless nights and sacrificed weekends, but it wasn’t the hard slog you might imagine.

"With less sleep, anything is possible. We’re kidding, we did put a lot of time in from our evenings and weekends but this is something we actually forgot about as we progressed through the project. Because we were working on something we believed in and had complete creative freedom it was, dare we say it, fun. The reasons for doing the project made it the most rewarding thing we’ve worked on. If there’s a bigger reason why you’re doing something, other than putting money in your pocket, then juggling becomes much easier.”

The secret to a good side hustle

"This is definitely cliché and we’ve all heard it before — ‘It's all well and good having an idea but you’ve got to actually do it’. But as much as we’d heard it time and time again, this project proved it for us. The time between thinking of the idea and actually doing it was shortened because of the topic and crucial timing. It wasn’t an instant success but a case of making many, sometimes repeated, steps and starting really small. Don’t be afraid to just go for it, some things work out, some things don’t and some things take a while. Take the risk regardless, because you’ll learn from either experience."

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