Interview with Benjamin Purkiss, Founder of Ben Purkiss Design, Canada

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Benjamin Purkiss

Benjamin believes that creativity is about letting your thoughts and visions turn into something tangible.

Interview with the 2021 MUSE Creative Awards Winner - Benjamin Purkiss

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your creative background.

My name is Ben Purkiss and I'm a freelance designer with over 15 years experience. I've designed for some of Canada's top businesses, CEOs and politicians, which has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. When I got my start working for Canada's Prime Minister, it instilled a work ethic which has yet to be matched by any company. It allowed me to take that knowledge and experience into the private sector, with a focus on speed, details and deadlines set by myself or the client.

It's not just about making something 'fun' or cool to experience, it was also about creating something for a REASON. Why did you put that random box in the corner, or use that specific image. All that to say, I'm looking forward to what the next 15 years will bring!

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a creative?

I always had a passion for art. It initially started with graffiti and very detailed fantasy type of sketching. Something about both of those allowed me to get lost in my sketchbook for hours on end. I could live through the art I created and was immensely proud of what I made. After a brief stint doing 2D and 3D animation, I found my passion within graphic design and haven't looked back. I once again get lost in design - it allows my true being to come forward - creativity.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

My company is Ben Purkiss Design Inc (original, I know). I specialize in all things design - websites, social media, digital, print etc. Basically whatever my clientele needs me to create for them. For example, in any given week I will: edit videos, create dozens of social media graphics, build a website, design a brochure. I wouldn't say I have 1 specialty - that would just narrow my company growth.

I work in all sorts of industries, which is what makes my job fun and unique. From Canada's energy sector, to agriculture, to politics and the music industry - I happily do it all and will continue to grow and expand in new uncharted territories.

4What does “creativity” mean to you?

Creativity is letting your thoughts and visions turn into something tangible. It doesn't have to be for a client, but it's for yourself too. Creativity is allowing yourself to try something new, to go down a rabbit hole of design and come out the other side. Creativity is painful, depressing, frustrating, yet the most rewarding thing you can have. There is no right or wrong, there's only yourself and your creativity.

5To you, what makes a “creative” idea and/or design?

Honestly that's an impossible question to answer. What is creative to me isn't necessarily creative to you. So there cannot be an all-encompassing answer. To me personally, however, it's creating something unique. For example, say you have to make 20 Instagram graphics based off a template. The template is the creative idea and the remaining 19 images are not. They're just duplicates of the original, that's not creative, that's copying. A creative idea should be unique and different from what you've done in the past.

6Tell us about your creative and/or design process.

I think that meme floating around sums it up best:

1. Get the project

2. Spend 80% of the time coming up with garbage ideas and hating being a designer

3. Contemplate quitting the profession altogether because you tell yourself you're never good enough

4. Come up with the final idea you're incredibly proud of and forget about the previous thoughts.

5. Repeat

7What's your favorite part of the creative process and why?

The best part is sitting down with my Logo Modernism book by Jens Müller and R. Roger Remington or just browsing through new and exciting Behance projects. There's so much inspiration out there, it's just a matter of finding what you like looking at to get it. That 'research' phase is a healthy mental break from software. I can curl up in a corner somewhere, or lay on a couch and just read.

8Describe your creative style and its main characteristics.

For me, it's all about simplicity. There's not too many reasons why a design should be full of clutter, so why add elements that don't have a meaning? I like to be clear and concise when I create a design. I love everything modern - architecture, furniture, technology - so I try to add this into my designs in some way. This could be by using particular font, or button styling, or colours and shapes.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your creativity process?

Not really. I'm a VERY proud Canadian, but I don't really see how my mixed heritage of Irish and Scottish plays into what I design. At least not right now. Maybe down the line I'll feel that inspiration, but for now I'll design by pulling from all heritages if it calls for it, I pull from what spools that creativity, not based on a particular background.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2021 MUSE Creative Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

It's really massive. This is my 3rd MUSE award and every one brings a smile to my face. It's a reaffirmation that I'm not a terrible designer (we all tell ourselves how much we suck once in a while). It's proof to those people who didn't trust in my abilities that they made a mistake. It's a milestone and something I'm very proud of.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2021 MUSE Creative Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

I really love working with Music Canada. They're the client designers dream about. A total carte blanche on the design and functionality. Of course there's always cost to keep in mind, but you can really let creativity flow. And that's what I tried to do with this microsite. We incorporated unique backgrounds and of course this menu that I absolutely love (Desktop version is best for that piece).

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

As I'm sure most designers can attest to this, the biggest challenge is always with sign-offs. When you have a Board of Directors who all need to see it, it provides a unique challenge. Luckily in this case, they didn't come back with 12 sets of changes, it was more the timing of the project was a bit thrown off.

Technically speaking, one of the larger challenges was that we had to design and build a site when the content wasn't 100% set in stone. With large last minute unavoidable changes, it meant cost overruns and timeline changes. But being up front with the client on this was absolutely key to a good working relationship.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

Well my first award didn't come until over 10 years into my career so I don't see awards as what changes me as a designer per say. I see them as a byproduct of just making good design. They affirm abilities and recognize talent.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

1. Endless creativity

2. New ideas constantly

3. The ability to get inspiration from all over the world. Design has no language boundaries

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?

Well we don't just do maple syrup and poutine in Canada. We are home to some of the top agencies and designers world-wide.

Canada is also heavily influenced by our neighbours (not neighbors) to the south, which also produce arguably the greatest content world-wide. But in all honesty, maybe it's just our modesty?.

16Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?

I think it just keeps chugging along. Digital will still be top of mind, but not necessarily the biggest marketing platform (depending on industry). Facebook will fizzle and hopefully newer and better platforms will come forward to push social content on. TV is not dead, just like print was not dead 5 years ago (and is still alive and very well).

With the rise of mobile editing platforms for video and images, I think a lot more market share might disappear from more traditional sources (re: Adobe). I think it's natural for industries to shift and you're either shifting with them or they're leaving you behind.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Creative Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

Have fun! Life is short. But also know that you have to put in the work if you want to make it. People don't just hand out 60-80k jobs fresh out of school. Agencies pay you peanuts for the 'experience' of working with them. The good news? They aren't the only team in town. There's so many opportunities for creatives. Video games, social media, freelance, politics, business, etc. Try not to get stuck down one path and one path only. I started out doing 3D animation and became a self-taught graphic designer working for Prime Ministers, CEOs, Corporations and businesses. There isn't just 1 avenue to becoming a good designer or creative director.

Oh yeah, and expect to work for at least 3 asshole bosses. They are rampant in the world.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?

If you want inspiration, I still find the best resource out there. You can search by country, project type, people... It's such a great place to get lost in creativity.

I'd also advise you to work under a strong mentor Creative Director. Someone who cares about you and your skillset. Ask questions, learn from them. There's a wealth of knowledge out there that 3 years of school just doesn't provide. If you don't ask, you won't know.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

Ha! At least buy me a drink if you want under my skirt. (or two)

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

I would say my number 1 would be my dad. I worked with him from a young age in his drywall company. He taught me work ethic, values and how to work hard. 10-12 hour days was just the norm. There were no 2 hr lunch breaks or 30 min walk to a coffee shop whenever you wanted. No pingpong tables or beer taps (ps, those are just there to get you to stay at the office so you work longer, not so that you can have fun). It was a work ethic that was ingrained into my life and I still fall back on. Nothing in this life is free. No one hands you $100k contracts just because. You have to work hard and hustle. Always.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

A cocktail a day keeps the boredom away?

Find other things to do that aren't just design. Get hobbies and learn something new. Go for a hike and get outside. You'd be surprised where creativity is hiding if you step away from a computer. For me personally, I started to branch into a new venture last year as a new hobby and I absolutely love it. I actually get inspired and excited from it (importing and selling rare tropical plants). It's this whole other world I didn't even know existed until recently. Sometimes you just need to open your eyes wider and you'll discover something new.

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

Is this where I can hock my sales pitch? Either way I'm actually just happy to connect with other creatives. or find me on the socials! I'll be knee deep in rare plants or making some type of fancy cocktail...

Winning Entries

2020 Year In Review | 2021

2020 Year In Review | MUSE Creative Awards

The goal of this project was to highlight the accomplishments that Music Canada was able to do...
(read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Ben Purkiss Design

Ben Purkiss Design is a design studio that specializes in websites, social media and more, based in Canada.