Posted 22 June 2021
Mention Elliot Ulm
Written by Lyla Johnston

Watch Elliot Ulm’s Pep Talk on design, humour and building a community online

Our latest Pep Talk featured graphic design ‘cool guy’, Elliot Ulm, who answered all of your questions on working in design, using humour and building a community online. Hosted by Steph Fung, Elliot spoke to us about making work for both yourself and the community at large, how improv classes impacted his life and why Gotham may be his least favourite font.

The big talking points:

• Why design and creativity should be passionate and fun (4:40)
• How Elliot's acting background changed the course of his work (7:48)
• The ultimatum Elliot gave himself after leaving uni early (11:48)
• The differences between copying and making your influences your own (15:48)
• Learning not to undersell your services (20:30)
• Why being yourself is the key to finding your style (29:14)
• The positivity of Instagram’s graphic design community (38:56)
• Tips and tricks for the perfect Twitch stream (41:55)
• How Elliot banishes impostor syndrome (45:58)

What did I miss?
After an introduction from our host Steph Fung, Elliot shared his own mini-pep talk with us: “Design is fun; that’s why you started as a graphic designer. You don’t just end up as a graphic designer – it’s a passion, it’s a choice. Find ways to remind yourself of that, and have fun!”

Rather than continue with his fine art studies, Elliot started off by explaining why he decided to take the plunge into going freelance, learning Photoshop design techniques on YouTube and uploading his work to Instagram.

Elliot started off by making designs for family and friends, while selling phones on the side. It was during this time that he created a trio of business cards, with one card reading: “I don't have a degree, I hope that's OK”, going viral for its brutal honesty and speak-your-mind attitude.

Much like this business cards project, throughout the talk, Elliot stressed the importance of designing for yourself. Instead of making a super-specific design that has to conform to the client’s needs and wants, Elliot described how designing for yourself can help you find your style – even if you have to copy others first – and is often more enjoyable than designing for others, as there’s less pressure.

“You don’t just end up as a graphic designer – it’s a passion, it’s a choice. Find ways to remind yourself of that, and have fun!”

The chat later turned to talking about finances, when Elliot explained how conversations with designers he admired caused him to think twice about his rates and underselling.

Elliot also spoke about putting yourself out there, both in and outside of work. As well as posting daily on Instagram, with the Facebook Creators Studio scheduler helping him use the platform in a healthy way, Elliot streams his creative processes on Twitch. He advised viewers to show your face and your personality, rather than just exist solely as a body of work.

Other topics touched upon include finding kinship in Instagram’s algorithm-busting design community; graphics as artwork; and the fact that he’ll probably never beat imposter syndrome, despite knowing in his heart that he’s qualified for the jobs he gets.

About Elliot Ulm
Elliot Ulm is a self-taught, Sydney-based graphic designer and self-titled ‘cool guy’. His often brutally honest and relatable observations of creative life have attracted a cult following on Instagram under the handle @elliotisacoolguy – with meme-like statements commenting on everything from creative burnout to computer overheating.

Fuelling an early interest in Photoshop, Elliot took to YouTube while still at school, watching online tutorials to pick up some essential design fundamentals. It eventually led to his first client experiences, designing logos and working on branding projects.

After realising that art school wasn‘t for him, Elliot left after a year, set up his Instagram page in 2019, and has been working – and documenting his experiences – as a freelancer ever since. At the moment, he is learning 3D design, working on his Casetify phone case range and, in true Elliot Ulm fashion, making self-deprecating art about both those things

See more from Elliot on his Instagram and Patreon.

What is Pep Talk?
Pep Talk is our monthly Instagram Live event to share relatable, easy-to-process tips in conversation with inspiring creatives.

Each session begins with a ‘pep talk’, where a chosen creative gets to share their ultimate advice for anyone who might be feeling a bit stuck, before answering questions submitted by you, our readers.

Mention Elliot Ulm
Written by Lyla Johnston