• Julie Nicholls

A creative challenge three years in the making



Back in April 2016 whilst working for a media agency I started a little creative challenge to see how many phrases I could come up with based on the letters WMSH. I've been asked many times - why those letters? Well, let's just say the writing was on the wall. Literally. 


As part of a brainstorming meeting on how best to describe the agency we came up with the phrase 'We Make Stuff Happen'. It summed up what the agency did for their clients every single day. It might be through a clever media booking, slick new brochure, or a thought-provoking social media campaign. So as a reminder to the creative team of our mission and as a call to arms, I wrote it on the wall alongside the hashtag WMSH.


On a dull commute, I started thinking of all the other phrases WMSH could stand for... Wet Morning, Stay Home. Work Miracles? Sign Here. I had quite a list by the end of the journey. It got me thinking that these random phrases could become a great internal campaign to showcase the creative team's talents and quirky way of thinking. So I set up an Instagram account, started drawing one a day on a post-it note and ask people to get involved and make their own suggestions.


I would love to write about what a huge success it was, but... it never really took off. Wrong place, wrong time maybe. However, for me, it was a great way of challenging myself to do something creative every day so when I left the media agency I just carried it on. The discipline of coming up with a new phrase, illustrating it and posting it became strangely addictive. Could I reach 100 posts? Then could I reach 200? Three years on and I've just posted my 1000 illustration! So now it's time to pack up the sharpies and focus on other creative projects. 



I've always thought it was really important to have a creative outlet outside of the day job. Yes, I spend all day designing, and I love it, but I'm getting paid for that. There's always a client and a budget to consider with everything I do. With self-initiated projects like #WMSH I can do what I like. When else in my life will I get to draw Madge and Harold from Neighbours, a woolly mammoth and Danger Mouse?


Looking back over some of the posts is like a weird snapshot of my life. The highs, the lows, the happy and the sad. Posts to commemorate Stephen Hawking, George Michael, David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood and Wogan. Posts for the Manchester bombing, Wimbledon, the winter Olympics, the summer Olympics and the world cup. A royal wedding, Eurovision, Tim Peake’s ISS adventure and Trump becoming president. In that time I’ve worked for a media agency, then a design agency (briefly). I’ve experienced the joy and stress of becoming a freelance designer and the heartbreak and sorrow of grief. My life has changed in ways I could not have imagined three years ago. So it’s kind of reassuring that a pack of post-it notes and some sharpies have been a constant throughout.


Here's a 118 second animated snapshot of a few of my favourites...



Well, Made Something Happen 

So here's the thing, I didn't become an internet sensation. The post-it notes never became a kick-ass campaign. I haven't sold the rights for money (Worth Millions, Sell High). But it turns out #WMSH has been great for my own personal brand and you can't really put a price on that.


When I became a freelance designer a couple of years ago I was looking for a way to stand out; a way to break the ice at meetings. So instead of business cards, I got some little books printed of my favourite #WMSH posts. I use these as a leave-behind at meetings or I use them as a conversation starter with people I've not talked to in a while. It's a good way of getting a little of my creative thinking across in a more engaging and unconventional way.


The project might be done but I still have some books left if you would like a copy. And if you've got an idea for my next creative challenge I'm always open to suggestions! Now all I need to do is find a home for 1000 slightly used post-it notes...


If you are looking for a freelance designer who thinks a little bit differently, let's chat.

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SHOWREEL

My 85-second pitch...

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