Elliot Ulm’s graphic design memes will make you laugh and then make you think
If the idea of your dream client seeing your post resonates with you more than the idea of your crush seeing your post, then Elliot Ulm’s memes on life as a creative are what you have been looking for.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 25 May 2021
“If the client doesn’t think I’m cool, was the project really worth it?” reads a recent post on Elliot Ulm’s Instagram page. “Absolutely not!” is the general response in the comments section. This is a typical interaction between the Sydney-based graphic designer-cum-meme maker and his audience of enthusiastic fellow designers. Having made his name through funny, relatable content about working in the creative industries, Elliot is now the go-to for many looking for lighthearted relief from the trials and tribulations of creative work. From navigating designer-client etiquette to the pains of being a student who can’t afford the Adobe subscription, Elliot’s witty takes on the woes of being a designer have won him a loyal fanbase.
“I’m a strange blend of graphic designer, artist and content-creator,” he tells us. “My work mainly lives and breathes on my Instagram page and has turned into several different streams of content creation all under the handle of @elliotisacoolguy.” In his teens, following some Photoshop lessons in high school, and a quick play around with the Liquify tool, Elliot would spend hours at home on the family computer watching YouTube tutorials on how to make “cool vintage wallpapers”, incredibly niche text effects and photo manipulation techniques. His first official client-based projects came not long after, near the end of high school. These were always “simple logos or branding projects” that he “significantly undercharged for”, but they gave him a taste of life as a professional graphic designer. These formative experiences also instilled in him a love for the medium, and it led him to a dilemma: applying for design school and taking the junior designer position that would likely follow, or throwing caution to the wind and going freelance from the start. Realising that he often found dealing with clients “very intimidating and awkward”, he chose the latter and in 2019, he created his now extremely popular Instagram page.
“The second post I ever made – a series of ‘honest business cards’ – took off, and I was immediately hooked on the idea that my design work could exist outside of just client interactions, and that I could potentially build an audience of graphic designers with whom my work would resonate,” he recalls. “I posted frequently over the course of the year and then really picked up speed when Covid-19 forced everyone to go online more. Since then, I‘ve built a community of graphic designers, freelancers and creatives on Instagram, and I’ve been expanding that community over on Twitch as well.” With all of us stuck at home, and with many struggling to achieve the right work-life balance, Elliot’s straight-speaking, tongue-in-cheek brand of creative industry-focused comedy has been a hit – and a sorely-needed distraction from our otherwise monotonous routines.
His hilarious posts draw on age-old troubles between designer and client, as well as various points of contention within creative circles, such as gatekeeping, freelance stability, unpaid internships and the stealing of work and ideas. Through his posts, Elliot encourages discussion around these topics: “I don't think my career would be anywhere as big as it is now without the honesty behind my work! I’m a big believer in being as open as possible about how you work as a creative,” he says. “Whether that be how you interact with clients when negotiating a price, how you make certain elements in your work or how you use hashtags on Instagram. There really isn’t much great advice out there on the internet for young designers, and it’s important to build online communities to help develop confidence and skills within the next generation of creatives.”
Alongside the work that focuses on the more difficult aspects of life as a creative, Elliot’s output also serves as friendly motivation to his fellow designers. “If your computer gets really hot it’s because it can’t handle how good your designs are” reads another recent post on his page, and it’s this kind of solidarity that keeps people coming back for more. With many of us still figuring out the harder parts of working in the creative industries, it’s encouraging to know that there are designers like Elliot out there who have got your back.
Elliot Ulm: CLIENTDESIGN (Copyright © Elliot Ulm, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.