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Denise Pope
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That work / life balance we all aspire to had tipped very obviously in favour of life, And I refused to make any apologies for that.

All in all, a fine vintage...

A personal look back over 2012

1 January 2013

This article is an adaptation of a post I wrote on my personal Facebook profile on the last day of 2012. As tempted as I was to just repost it here, I thought it might be wiser to look back at last year - which included the foundation of Design by Pope - from a professional perspective, and add a bit more detail to some of the highlights. Ultimately, I ended up rewriting it completely.

2012 started under a bit of a cloud for me - and if I'm being honest, I couldn't exactly explain why. It became clearer as the year went on, but it would probably be fair to say I was suffering from a distinct lack of professional motivation at the time, which led to some shall we say 'slightly over-zealous' social behavior whenever the opportunity arose. At no time in my life have I ever let that affect my professional life, but this time, it seemed it was. I was lost. Something had to give.

I'd been involved in business partnerships for the best part of 14 years at that point, having developed two small but successful design agencies and experienced pretty much everything a small business owner is ever going to go through. The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Ultimately, it all got to a point where it just wasn't contributing to the drive and determination I've always had as an individual.

In comparison, other areas of my life were more entertaining and exciting as I can ever remember. That work / life balance we all aspire to had tipped very obviously in favour of life, and I refused to make any apologies for that.

I did however, appreciate that it probably wasn't great for my working relationship with my business partners. Aside from anything, there was a huge sense of friendship and loyalty to the people involved at the time and I didn't want to let them down, but ultimately, I knew I wanted a new challenge. One I'd always wanted to pursue when the time was right. So, that was it. Decision made. I was going to leave the security of a well-established company and go freelance. Erk!

Scary and exciting, that's the only way to describe the next couple of months. I very quickly established that I wanted to develop a brand that would be strong enough to compete with the vast number of other freelance designers whilst still reflecting who I am and what makes me unique. So, with not a hint of knowing self-indulgence (ok maybe a little bit), Design by Pope was born, a domain name was purchased, a Facebook page was created, and business targets were set.

I was incredibly fortunate (lucky?) to be recommended for work from the outset, and I knew doing a good job would lead to more, which has proved to be the case. Going back to basics, setting targets, giving more time to clients and their projects, and being free to express myself, rather than be part of an oddly faceless business, was nothing short of a revelation and I've enjoyed every second of it.

Somehow, thanks to a long-standing friendship, I managed to get myself invited to a Digital Marketing book launch event at Google's London headquarters. Not a bad gig if you can get it - and whilst I'll freely admit that networking really isn't my thing, I'd have been a fool to turn down the opportunity.

Book launch held at Google UK

It was a fantastic evening, and I certainly did my best to introduce myself to a few people. Turns out, 6 months later, one of those people has become an extremely valued client, and I share office space with another. Not a bad result for a first timer :)

So that was the business up and running. What else made 2012 a year to remember? Earlier I talked about work / life balance, and over the course of the year, I think I found where that line was for the first time in my life.

My best friend was getting married in December and had given me the great privilege of being her Maid of Honour (*so* much responsibility!) which meant a lot of girly moments together, not to mention the ever-important hen-night arrangements to sort out. Honestly? Running a business is nothing compared to the level of stress I felt in organising such an important event! As it happened I ended up going to 5 weddings throughout the year. Certainly does make you appreciate what's *really* important in life...

I think almost everyone in the country was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the London 2012 Olympics were to watch. I never was a fan of the branding (was anyone) but seeing it work in context was *very* impressive, and aside from the logo itself, couldn't be faulted. As a piece of creative development and execution, we're unlikely to see much better on such a grand scale. The consistent yet non-uniform application of a unique and visually impressive style across Team GB's kit was also a highlight - thanks to Stella McCartney being asked to design the collection.

I was also lucky enough to see my favourite band, Tegan and Sara perform at Cambridge in November. Lucky in the sense that it was the first gig I'd ever been to, and the first time they'd been in the UK for a good few years. Surely a case of the universe aligning itself just so. Not only amazing to hear them perform life, but also to see that they're genuinely nice, funny and incredibly smart people. A definite source of inspiration for a long time to come.

With everything that happened 2012 wasn't just a fine vintage, it was a genuinely incredible year. I learnt loads, I met some fantastic people, I enjoyed every project I worked on, I laughed lots, I loved moments, and I wasn't afraid to do what I thought was best and say what I thought, something you're not often encouraged to do in business. I think more than anything, after losing sight of where I was going, I found a better sense of direction than ever before.

2013 is going to have to be very special to beat that. Happy New Year!

Your comments on this post are always welcome.

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