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Pat Dryburgh

When I was first learning design, my main goal was to build a few websites for my band, maybe help out a few friends, and just have a bit of fun with it. My girlfriend at the time would constantly tell me I should take some courses in web design as I seemed to be pretty passionate about it and had a bit of natural talent for it. I shrugged those suggestions off for months, instead following a path towards ministry and music.

As I was working at the church as a music director, I found myself with a few opportunities to flex my budding design muscles. From message series branding to designing the logo of the new church plant, I had an awesome opportunity to learn design while creating something that would be used in real life.

When I left the church, I had this new found passion for design, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was mid-March, and school wasn’t going to be an option for at least 6 months. I did, however, know a friend whose father owned a design studio in London. We had a meeting in which we discussed the possibility of me coming on as an apprentice, and not long after I started working at Images. My responsibilities ranged from web design and development to digital print management, a field I was not familiar with but which I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about in the past two years.

Also over the past two years, I have been teaching myself a lot more about web design, print design, and most recently photography. I have loved every moment, and have come across some amazing opportunities. Some time last summer, Michael Mistretta of Fusion Ads approached me about taking on some overflow ad design work, an opportunity I was more than happy to take on. Since then, I’ve had the chance to design about 35 ads, each time taking on the challenge of communicating a company’s message in just a single 130x100px graphic.

I have also had the opportunity to work on some other cool projects, including a WordPress theme for my friends at Band Themer, a couple personal projects, and some other work I have coming down the pipe. All of this led me to my announcement on Thursday.

Going Freelance

My father, for 9 years of my teenage and adult life, as well as many years before I was born, owned his own business. I watched him wake up early in the morning and come home late on occasion to take care of things at work. We didn’t go on many vacations, though that’s not to say we didn’t go on any at all.

What I do remember most, however, was that my dad was able to design his own life. He was able to come to school events during the day, or leave work early to catch us playing sports. He could take us to hockey practice in the morning knowing he set his own hours.

I don’t have kids, but I can appreciate the freedom my dad had. Even though it wasn’t total freedom (he still had to work, had to pay rent on his shop, pay an employee or two, etc), my dad was able to do what he wanted to do. I admired that a lot.

And so, about 6 months or so ago I started seriously considering going freelance. I was debt free, free of responsibilities, had started developing some clients of my own, and could imagine pursuing my own business. I realized that I would never be fully content until I had at least had the chance to prove myself in the open market, to buckle down and tackle my own work. I needed the opportunity to challenge myself.

And so, on Thursday, I gave my two weeks notice. The response from friends on Twitter and Dribbble was overwhelming to say the least. It was a bit nerve-wracking leading up to finally telling my boss, but once I did I knew I had made the right decision. The kind words and encouragement from friends all over the world only helped to bolster my resolve: I am going freelance.

Made by Who?

Many of you will remember that not long ago, I launched a site for the freelance design work I was doing at the time called Made by Athlete. I had spent 4 or 5 months trying to determine a strategy for my freelance business, and thought I had come up with a great brand (I still believe I had). However, after a lot of thought and discussion, culminating in a conversation with some friends on Twitter, I decided to forgo the Made by Athlete brand.

I’ve been on Twitter now for over two years. I’ve been writing at for twice that. When friends think of me, they know that I am a designer. That type of brand recognition is perfect for word-of-mouth marketing:

“Hey, do you happen to know any designers?”

“Yeah! My good buddy Pat Dryburgh works in design! You should give him a call.”

Adding a second layer to this in the form of a separate brand name only adds unnecessary confusion. If I had employees, that’s a different story, but right now it is just me. I am the business, I am the brand. And so, for the foreseeable future I will be working under my own name.

New Digs

As you can see, this post coincides with a new design for my site. Between the launch of the Made by Athlete site and this one, I have worked on at least two or three other designs for this site, going back and forth about what I wanted to accomplish with it. Having observed some incredible discussions around design and business lately, I’ve decided that I really want to work more at making this site a place of ideas. I want to share what I’m learning and get your feedback as well.

For a while now, I have been a proponent of not having comments on my site. Inspired by sites like Daring Fireball and others, I came to believe that my site was my place for my voice. But I am not John Gruber. I am not Shawn Blanc. I am Pat Dryburgh and I thrive on conversation. That is how I learn best. I learn from the conversations happening on Jonathan Christopher’s site and sites like it.

That said, this site is still powered by Tumblr, which does not include a comment system. I am also not a fan of the plugin comment systems available. However, what Tumblr does have is a notes system, where if someone responds to a post of mine using the reblog feature, their response shows up in my stream, where I can find it and respond in turn. There is also always Twitter, where some amazing conversations have happened over the years. And if you would like to keep the conversation private as many people have, my email is just a click away.

Accepting Work

I have two projects currently on the go, one that should be wrapping up in a week or two and another that will take me until the end of May. After that, I am open to accepting projects. If you or someone you know would like to discuss how I could help with your design needs, please don’t hesitate to connect with me.

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