.net: What are you going to speak about at Generate?
John McFaul: I'm talking about understanding yourself, the industry and what you want out of it. I'm talking about leading and not being lead. I'm talking about choices, balance, soul and seeing another way. I'm talking about being comfortable understanding that its all an education and there is no right way and certainly no time limit.
Actually I'm talking about my lifelong love affair with bicycles...and perhaps a bit in there about beards. I'm talking about gravitating to likeminded folk. I'm talking about how I simply had no choice but to follow my heart.
The talk subject is something I feel very strongly about (now, having done it) as it's all about change and following your soul. It sounds so, so easy but you know as well as I do that this industry of ours doesn't really give anyone the breathing space to think in those terms and we simply get swept along in its tide. From running a successful design company responsible for some huge campaigns around the globe to where I am now took a lot of soul searching, and, well, a lot of balls. It also took a couple of relocations as I tried to understand what I really wanted out of life. A large period out in NYC with Pepsi didn't make things better! Simply put, I had to bring my worlds together - that of my work and my play. Riding bikes defines me, you see. It's what I'm best at. Some might say that I'm also a pretty decent designer (the jury is still out on that, ha!) but the point I'm trying to make is that of balance. To get to my balance I had to move myself from one world into another. It took time but it was very much worth the toil.
.net: What do you think makes a good conference?
JMF: Diversity and inspiration. Creative folk are inquisitive beasts. They need to know. Everything! They want to go away inspired. Oh, and what about the freebies?
.net: How did you get into speaking at conferences?
JMF: I've always been able to speak openly about things like this, and I like to do so. I was a senior lecturer at a university for quite some time and I feel it's important to enthuse and nurture. It's important to inspire and hopefully open people's eyes to possibilities.
.net: What projects are you working on right now?
JMF: I'm feeling happily typecast these days as I'm up to my neck in bicycle, running and lifestyle brands. There's a new UK bicycle brand about to launch that is going to be huge (I can say that sort of thing as I know who is involved) and I have creative reign there. There's also one in Germany that is a more artisan outfit, and they're equally pleasurable for me to be working with. Both allowing me to do what I do and be who I am. All my clients tend to allow me to explore creatively so, I suppose, thats where the longevity lies. You know, allowing a creative individual to be creative; allowing for innovation! I know - crazy! It's fun!
.net: What are the big ideas you're thinking about at the moment?
JMF: My thoughts are filled with expeditions and epic endeavours...obviously! Fun seems to be the glue to everything in my head.
.net: What are the factors that have driven the direction of your career?
JMF: Until my mid 30's I just went along with the ebb and flow of the industry, believing I was doing what I wanted to do in that the industry kept coming back and asking for more. The team were pretty successful. We grew and grew and we were biggish both sides of the Atlantic. The truth is, I was too busy to understand what I wanted and there weren't enough hours in the day to think about anything other than the NOW. The birth of my first child coincided with the credit crunch so things had to change, but I didn't realise by how much my world would need to be shifted.
I'm a very driven individual. With it comes a whole heap of baggage: I can't help upsetting the apple cart and I'm endlessly inquisitive. Those are my character traits and the building blocks of this career of mine. I have a flip side though, and that's of a soul-searching romantic who yearns simply for time. Because 'middle ground' isn't exactly a destination I'd pause on in any career brochure I always feel the need to engineer my own 'place'. There's nothing wrong with that. It does tend to liven things up a little though as nothing is ever simple and every day has a certain 'making it up as I go along' feel. That's my way though...living life how I want to live it. It suits me.
.net: What advice would you give to designers who are thinking of striking out on their own?
JMF: Try. It's a huge education that has its (rather large, if the truth be known) ups and downs but you'll come out the other side a richer individual (I use rich in a soulful sense rather than the all-consuming monetary nonsense). It's not easy and certainly not for all but simply understanding that you want change and opening the door to the unknown is a step you might begin to love. I have, so where I am now isn't necessarily where I'll be in 10 years time. Life is very much what you make it, and there really isn't a course in the country to educate you on that. Just enjoy it and understand it isn't a race.
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