Confessions of an industry pariah.

I'm Darren Scotland. Founder of Character Creative, a recruitment consultancy working within the design, advertising and digital media disciplines.

Sometimes elated sometimes deflated, recruitment can be a funny old game and this blog is where I plan to let off some steam.

If you're working in the design or digital industries and after a job then have a gander at the Character Creative site here:

If you're not then stick around anyway, take a look round and leave a comment or two.... if you'd be so kind.

Check out my profile!

Sep 23 2013

The Everton crest - good god, not again…

So first up, my sincere apologies, I know there are way more important things going on in the world than the design of some football club crest but I’ve been an Everton fan for some 20 odd years now so you’ll understand it matters to me at least.

If you’re not up to speed, have a read of the previous blog post “The new Everton Badge…” - the gist is that my favourite football team in the world dropped a clanger back in May when they unveiled a hideous new club crest. It was awful. Badly designed, badly thought out and generally went down like a lead balloon.

To give them their due though, the club reacted, apologised and told us that they’d got it wrong and they’d invest time and money in getting it right for next season.

They bought a ‘proper’ design agency in and questioned fans on what we thought were the most important elements of the crest. The culmination of that process was revealed today - a choice of 3 different designs for us fans to choose from - the winner will go on to be the official club crest.

Take a look at them…


Much like last time, it’s left me thinking we’ve missed an opportunity. If anything, these options are worse than the original redesign and to my mind, they’re a classic example of what happens when you design by committee!

Fans told the club that the crest MUST feature the tower, the name, nil satis nisi optimum and 1878. According to the club we also said the we’d really like the laurel wreaths there too!

It’s a tall order fitting all that into something that’s iconic enough to work across all sorts of media and that’s ultimately where the process has fallen down.

The agency (Kenyon Fraser) have fallen into the trap of trying to please everyone and as a result have ended up pleasing (almost) no one.

What makes it worse is the same criticism that I levelled at the first attempt can still be levelled at all three of these options - a genuine lack of craft. It’s as though each element has been designed by an entirely different designer and then slung together at the last minute - there’s no cohesion.

Being an Everton fan this weekend had been great - we won and Liverpool lost - happy days! But seeing these this morning has left me shaking my head in disbelief once again. When will they learn?


P.S - As you can well imagine, there’s been a stack of fans own suggestions floating around since this all kicked off - a lot are of dubious quality but I rather like this effort by Jamie Dunmore:image

May 28 2013

The new Everton badge…

Finally, my two greatest loves (apart from my good wife of course) have collided, giving me the opportunity to write a blog post about football AND design!

Behold, my beloved Everton FC’s new look:


Old vs new.

Shite isn’t it?! And I’m afraid I’m not the only one that thinks it…

Now don’t ge me wrong, I’ve not been a fan of our club’s, ‘visual identity’ for some time so a refresh is long overdue.

This is a massive disappointment though, as well as a missed opportunity.

Several elements of previous badges are missing, though that’s not the big issue for me. It’s just really badly crafted.

The typography sucks, the colour combinations are awful and so it jars and feels like there wasn’t enough time taken over it. As a consequence we’ve ended up with a watered down placeholder logo that looks like the sort of thing you get in games where we’re called ‘Merseyside Blue’. 

I totally take on board that all of those points can be made about the previous incarnation too but, like I said, this is a missed opportunity.

What makes it worse is knowing there are other clubs out there that seem to take this sort of thing so much more seriously - Spurs being the best example.

A club not a million miles from us in terms of their current league standing, recent history etc, redesigned their badge back in 2006. But rather than asking their in-house designer, ‘what would you do?’ they got Navy Blue and Dalton Maag in.

(Dalton Maag! how cool would that have been!)

image                            image

Old vs new.

Together they produced something crisp, clean, simple and totally outstanding - I’d be so excited if we showed anywhere near that level of ambition. Sadly we haven’t.

So without turning this into a (even longer) rant about my club’s misguided and seemingly clueless board, delivering yet another crushing disappointment to our (long suffering) fans - football fans can be so melodramatic can’t they(!) - I’ll leave it as a lesson in the importance of getting your brand’s visual identity right and what happens when when you don’t.

The fall out has already been massive - 14,000 and rising have signed a petition - and the media coverage of that fall out is only going to make things worse:

Creating or evolving a brand’s visual identity can have a significant impact on almost any product. When that brand (or club) has 135 years of history and some of the most passionate ‘brand champions’ you could ever hope for, you better beleive it’s worth investing some time and money.

What a shame that argument wasn’t articulated strongly enough to Bill Kenwright and he didn’t dig a little deeper.

UPDATE: So after all the fuss, Everton released this statement on their official site:

A regrettable bank holiday weekend

It has been a full-on weekend for many Evertonians and undeniably you have spoken to us loudly and clearly. We have listened. Several meetings and countless discussions have taken place. And, we have reached a decision; a decision that starts with an apology.

We are sorry.

It is clear that you wanted to be involved in the selection of our new Club Crest. We agree with you and we are sorry we spoiled so many weekends. We regret we didn’t ask every Evertonian about something that matters so much to every one of you. 

It is also clear that whilst the Fans’ Forum is an excellent and effective group of representative fans, they faced too big a burden speaking for the entire fan-base on something so significant. It is only right that we thank them for their impartial and valuable contribution.

A reminder of what we were trying to achieve

We remain firm in the belief that our Crest should be modernised - not a unique or unprecedented situation and one we know our fans would accept and embrace. Effective logos are simple and streamlined. Simplicity achieves stand-out recognition. This was our starting point for our new Crest.

Our solution, in a globalised, technology-led world - was to present one word, loudly and clearly -EVERTON, along with a truly representative Everton Turret, better than it ever has been done before. Feedback has not been universally negative. Many of you have agreed we delivered on those objectives.

Indisputably, ‘Nil Satis’ has been the most controversial ‘casualty’ of the new Crest. But never was it a casualty. Not for one second would we ever consider dropping the fundamental statement of belief from our Club. It always has been, it is, and it always will be what our Club stands for - the permanent link in our DNA.  Across Goodison Park and in our Club shop, ‘Nil Satis’ will always be living and breathing in everything we do. 

Our rigorous process, our thoughts, our benchmarking, our homework and our design work is set out at

Putting it right

Robert Elstone, CEO, says: “Clearly the weekend’s response has meant that we have reviewed how we went about the whole of the re-design process and whilst many objectives were achieved, we recognised we missed the key part out. Our Chairman had demanded widespread consultation and we stopped short of that. We talked to our Fans’ Forum, our commercial partners and our experienced staff around the Club. That was not enough.

"We want to put this right. Whilst the time-constraints of kit suppliers in particular present challenges, which inevitably means the version released on Saturday will be in operation for the 2013/14 season, we are determined to give our fans a greater say in how we represent the Club on our jerseys, at Goodison Park and across media around the world.

"In advance of the 2014/15 campaign, we are turning to you to help us shape and refine the badge we’ll adopt in the future. Evertonians from all sections of the fan-base will be pulled together in a fully transparent way. This group will conduct an in-depth review of all aspects of past and present Club Crests. The panel will then develop ideas and put forward suggestions to you. Evertonians will make the final decision.

"We have worked hard over recent years to give our fans a greater sense of involvement in the Club and dialogue flows openly and freely in many areas from the Fans’ Forum, to Supporters’ Clubs and of course, via Everton in the Community. We will ensure the same happens with the future development of your Club Crest."

Details on how the panel will be comprised and selected will appear in late summer.

Fair play I guess, at least they’re listening. What’ll happen from here only time will tell. Hopefully they’ll engage with a great agency that can help take them forward with the parts they got right.

May 15 2013

A short rant about ‘Branding’…


Written on almost every CV I read these days I’m told about designers, writers and art directors that are brilliant at ‘brand creation’ and I’m getting a bit sick of it.

No single entity (be it agency or individual) can ‘create’ a brand. Businesses themselves can’t create a brand - it’s the consumer. And (most of the time) it doesn’t happen over night.

Of course that’s not to say we can’t influence things through language and imagery etc but this fundimental misunderstanding of what “branding” is has become more than a bit annoying.

If you’re a designer or art director, your tools for influencing and shaping brands is the visual language they use; logo marks, websites, literature. If you’re a writer, the words (and the order and frequency of them) used. A marketeer; where/when/how those messages are transmitted. And finally, the business owners, it’s the way you respond and serve your customers/clients day-to-day, face-to-face.

Get all those things in sync and the chances are you’ll have a great brand. Don’t and it’ll be awful. Whether you like it or not though, either way, good or bad, you will have a brand and it’ll be all those factors together that create it.

Mar 26 2013


So in the course of any one day I get a stack of emails from people that seemingly have no idea how/why to apply for a role in the creative industry.


Normally it’s cool, I’m polite and reply with a, “thanks but no thanks…” sort of thing, trying to offer a piece of advice where and when I can. But occasionally, towards the end of a long day, I don’t. And I write something like this:

"Dear *****

Thank you for your application for the position of Digital Designer - UX/UI specialist.                        

Unfortunately we’re not able to put you forward for this role for a number of reasons, chiefly your lack of industry experience.

If you’ll allow me to offer a little advice…

I completely understand how difficult it is to get your first break in this industry but there’s a number of things you could and should be doing differently if you’re going to give yourself the best chance.

First of all your CV is a word.doc - if you’re a designer, don’t do that. Think of your CV as the first page of your portfolio; it’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate how awesome a communicator you are.

It should be concise, well laid out (watch those widows and orphans) and broadly speaking, should show you know how to effectively get a  message across.

In your covering letter you say, “As you will notice from my CV, I have worked in various design roles…” Have you?? Because it’s definitely not clear from your CV. Other work experience is great but if it’s not relevant, don’t make a song and dance about it - saying you’ve pulled a pint will make very little difference when it comes to bagging design a role.

Finally your site. You’re applying for a digital designer position and you’re pointing me towards a Behance page? In the ad copy we’re asking for candidates to knock us out with a range of work and you don’t even have your own site?? Come on.

I hope this email doesn’t sound too harsh - it’s been a long day - but I genuinely want to help if I can.

You can call me on 07967 129802 anytime from 8am tomorrow morning and I’ll do my best to pass on any advice I can.

A couple of links that might help:

A blog post I wrote a while back with some tips for those new to the industry:

A site that’ll help you with some ideas for CV layouts:

Good luck with your search and maybe speak soon.


I didn’t push send in the end but part of me still kinda wishes I had. Would I have got a response? Would they have been upset or would they have taken it in the manner in which it was intended?

You’re thoughts, dear reader, would be very much appreciated…

Jan 10 2013

BettaKultcha - then and now.

Last night, at Leeds Town Hall, I went to the biggest BettaKultcha ever held. 370 people, a sell out, crammed inside a stunning venue, eagerly awaiting a night of entertainment.

It’s fair to say it was a huge success but it’s prompted some talk of the once ‘artsy’ and cultural gathering becoming a bit mainstream. Is this true?


(Photo by Rick Harrison:

Way back on the day the event first started I along with 20-30 other people attended the first ever BettaKultcha. It was held at Templeworks in a small, damp, freezing cold room and everyone brought along bottles of wine, beers, nibbles and plonked them on a communal table at the back of the room. Digging in, we chatted and speculated about what the evening had in store.

No one really knew what to expect but apart from the rather dubious spelling of ‘Better Culture’, it was a great and very different night out. I can still remember many of those first presentations and particularly Ed Waring talking about the joys of being in his band, Hope and Social - thanks to that presentation alone I’ve ended up buying their albums, seen them a bunch of times… but I digress.

So anyway, BettaKultcha had started and I was in. I went to them all; helping as stewart on a couple of occasions once they’d graduated to the bigger room at Templeworks and following to Left Bank, The Corn Exchange, Secret BettaKultchas, The Brundnell, that nightclub up at the Uni (I forget the name but it was the ‘controversial’ one and actually, probably my favourite!) and as venues changed I watched as the night grew bigger and bigger.

Fast forward a couple of years and Rich and Ivor have taken BettaKultcha to Bradford, Huddersfield, York and Manchester and now they’d got a crack at Leeds’ grandest of venues, The Town Hall. 

It’d been over a year since I’d been to a BettaKultcha so, as I climbed those magnificent steps at the front of the building, thoughts turned to what else had changed besides the scale of the venue.

The room was packed of course and I can remember thinking that whilst I may have been persuaded to present back in the beginnings, the thought of doing it now, in a room like this, with this many people… well it was frightening to say the least. As David Eccles’ put as he arrived on stage, “wow, that really is a f*** load of people!”

The tone too has changed a little since those early days. Speakers are more polished, confident, professional - there’s even intro music now(!) - but many things are still the same; Ivor’s terrible jokes, the (albeit now rarer) cringe inducing ‘random slide challenge’ and most importantly, the same, passionate people talking about the things that they love or that they want to change.

So yeah, because of the numbers maybe BettaKultcha has gone a bit ‘mainstream’ but that’s no bad thing. I had the very same conversation about 2 years ago after the second Corn Exchange gig. A friend said they thought the grandeur of the venue had seen the audience change a bit; more suits and evening wear rather than the artsy, blogger, purple haired, cord wearing, culture vultures of the early ones - to them it didn’t feel like ‘our’ event anymore. 

They were right in a sense, the hip, cool, underground movement Bettakulcha III, IV & V had felt like it was changing. It was becoming more established. For potential audience members turning up at The Corn Exchange in the centre of town didn’t feel as bigger leap of faith as arriving at half derelict, badly lit warehouse on the edge of red light district so the numbers increased and so did the variety of people. Bettakultcha was evolving - it will continue to so and the journey is an interesting one.

I said to my friend that, for me the joy of BettaKultcha is in seeing people on stage that really care about something. The really great presentations are those that want to affect change - to get people thinking and doing differently - you don’t get change without engaging the mainstream. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of mates patting each other on the back and I reckon there’s enough of that already.

Oct 12 2012
#ldc2012  (Taken with Instagram at Leeds City Museum)

#ldc2012 (Taken with Instagram at Leeds City Museum)

Feb 23 2012

Does the world really need recruitment consultants?

After a frustrating couple of months I’ve found myself asking this question on a more regular basis. Of course I already know the short answer….no, it doesn’t. What we do is definitely not rocket science and everyone knows what *astronomical fees we charge! (*no pun intended) But if you’ll permit me to continue, I’m going to try and explain why we’re here and why, when you find a good one, they can make your life easier and maybe even save you a few quid.

These days when I have a conversation with a client or candidate about how things are going they generally have one of two perceptions - either business must be booming because of all the extra candidates on the market, or it must be horrendous because there’s no jobs to go at. Both hypothesis are wrong.

Yes there’s a load of extra job seekers out there but what that means, for my business at least, is a load of extra “noise” around each vacancy. People have always chanced their arm once in a while by applying for jobs beyond their experience - fair enough - but at the moment it’s commonplace and because there are so few jobs out there and so many job boards, the ones that are advertised are duplicated many, many times so you end up with stacks of applications from candidates with no chance of ever landing the role. 

Experienced recruiters will say, “good candidates are hard to find” - they’re even harder to find through the crowds and because most good candidates still have jobs, they’re reluctant to look at other opportunities whilst there’s so much nervousness in the market.

What about vacancies then? Well let me let you into a little secret; I’ve never struggled to get vacancies. And here’s another one; I don’t fill them all either. That’s the case today and it was the case 5 years ago when I first set up Character. Nothing’s changed. The struggle is always finding the candidates.

So if we’re not guaranteeing to fill vacancies and admitting we’re not Albert Einstein, why use us then?

Well the big one is time - obviously. Because of the extra noise, it takes longer to work each vacancy and you should be busy doing something cool like art directing a shot, dreaming up awesome concepts, kerning type, writing sweet copy or code - you know, stuff we we can’t do… your job.

Great recruiters can write compelling and attractive job ads (this is a brilliant sign post by the way - there are some shockers out there), they know where to advertise to get the best response and if they’ve got their finger on the pulse, they probably already have one or two names in mind before they’ve even finished taking the brief.

Nervous candidates feel easier applying for roles through us too because of the confidentiality we provide - they know they’re in safe hands and word won’t get back to their current employers.

And because it’s what we do everyday we’re good at filtering big shortlists. Great recruiters know their candidates - what makes them tick and the potential impact they can have - we don’t just dismiss on key words or qualifications just to break the shortlist down quickly.

Every candidate put forward and probably twice the number again will have at least been interviewed over the phone, if not face to face - that takes time, time you don’t have.

We’ll really sell your company as well. I can’t say this on behalf of every recruiter but I really like all my clients - I wouldn’t work with them otherwise and if I can’t see the potential in the role or how it’ll help a candidate make progress in their career, I won’t work it. I honestly mean that.

Finally, once we’re down the line and you want to make an offer, we’ll do our best to make sure that offer sticks and prepare candidates for potential counter offers - something that’s happening more and more at the moment. We’ve seen it happen, we know the signs and we’ll be talking about it from the very first conversation.

So does the world really need recruitment consultants? Well maybe need is too stronger word - I certainly think you’ll notice the difference when you do find a good one though.

Oct 25 2011
@Dual_Control makes the paper! Awesome! (Taken with instagram)

@Dual_Control makes the paper! Awesome! (Taken with instagram)

Oct 13 2011

Dual Control rules:

Overall competition rules:

Teams are required to register a maximum squad of 8.

During group stages, 3pts will be awarded for a win, 1pt for a draw and 0pts for a lose - this is the same across both formats of the event.

The top 2 teams from each group will go through to the knockout stages.

In the event 2 or more teams are level on points, progress will be decided by goal difference then goals scored (combined across both formats).

During the knockout stages, if the aggregate score is level, the tie will be decided by a penalty shootout in which ever format the 2nd fixture is played.

Analogue rules:

Rules for the “analogue” element of the tournament can be found here:

It’s each team captain’s responsibility to read these and make sure his team abide by them - for goodness sake, make sure everyone’s got shin pads and no studs!

Digital rules:

All games will be played 2 on 2.

Players are allowed to play once in the group stages and once in the knockout stages. Any player found to be breaking this rule will have that fixture voided and 3-0 victory will be awarded to the apposing team.

Games will be played in “exhibition mode” and players will be able to play as any international side they choose (opposing players may play as the same teams if they choose to (e.g. Spain vs Spain)).

Players will have 2 minutes before KO to make any lineup and/or formation changes.

Games will each last 10 mins with a 1 min pause at half time for any changes to be made.

Players may make up to 3 substitutions during games with players given 30 secs for each substitution.

Any changes to formation must be made during substitutions and no further time will be allocated.

Oct 10 2011

Dual Control - Press Release.

A Unique digital AND analogue football tournament launches in Leeds as part of the city’s digital festival.

Throughout November Leeds’ digital sector will be coming together to celebrate all that;s great and good in the digital markets and part of the celebrations will include a one of a kind 5-a-side football tournament.

On Saturday the 26th of November at Goals Soccer Centre, just off Kirkstall Rd, 16 teams will first battle it out in group stages, playing each other on the pitch (analogue) and then again on the screen (digital) using the recently released PES2012 by Konami games on the Playstation3.

Across both platforms, 3pts will be awarded for a win and 1pt for a draw which will then see the top 2 sides from each group progress to the knock out stages. Those Knock-out stages will be decided over by an aggregate score after the sides have played each other in both formats.

All the action will take place in a single day with the winning team crowned the Dual Control 2011 Champions! They’ll also be golden boot prizes for the competition’s leading scorer on the pitch and the highest scoring team on the screen.

Goals Soccer Centre have over 15 3G pitches for hire and run 5-a-side tournaments most weeks; they’ve also run Playstation3 based competitions in the past but Dual Control will be the first time ever the formats have been combined.

Event organisers Darren and Duncan - both part of Leeds’ digital scene - think Dual Control is the perfect marriage of their passions and hope the event will provide a stern test the sides both physically and mentally.

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