My failed first attempt to collaborate with a business owner

FourThings was an idea I had last year for approaching new businesses that I wanted to collaborate with in some way. I wanted to be able to initiate contact with business owners in a way that offered them immediate value while demonstrating competence.

I hoped to stand out by reaching out that way and give the business owner a reason to either get back in touch or think of me in the future when future opportunities to collaborate popped up.

The idea

I started FourThings because I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with Inkbike yet. I knew I wanted to work with other business owners in some way for personal and professional development, but I honestly didn’t (still don’t) have a clue what service I could offer – free or otherwise.

I came to the realisation that I should just treat collaborative work like I would my day job: if my manager gave me a type of project that I had no experience of working on before, I would just go away and try to figure something out.

Everyone has to start somewhere and there’s not much you can’t figure out on Google right?


So I decided I would investigate small businesses I wanted to work with, figure out what they were doing, and try to think of realistic ways they could expand their operation in some way.

These would become projects that I would outline, put into a document and send over in my opening email to a business owner. I knew I didn’t want to spend forever doing this for each business, so I decided to limit myself to four projects.

F-four…things – geddit..?

I hoped that by making four projects, I had four chances to come up with something that the business owner might like.

The ideal outcome would that they liked one of the projects, turn around to say;

Inkbike-person, you’re a brilliant curly-haired genius and I love your idea.

I think it could be great for my business but I don’t have the time at the moment to bring it to life – would it be something that you’d be interested in doing for me?

Imagine. the. scenes.

To achieve the desired effect, I wanted to focus on providing the business owner with value (while actively demonstrating the value I could provide), which meant creating something that went one step further than just pitching basic ideas.

I wanted to give a full break-down of what it would take to roll out the idea, costs and all, so they would have a step-by-step guide if they wanted to go ahead with it.

I thought it was a pretty good idea for being proactive about my development and was super excited.

Plan sorted, I went to work.

Execution headerThe company I decided to focus my efforts on was Cha Lounge. It’s a place I love (in case you didn’t already get that impression from the interview), have spent enough time in to have done some indirect research and I felt Mandeep (the owner) would be open to new ideas.

The four ideas I came up with were (*ahem*); Cha Spice, Cha Pots, Cha Classses and Cha Social. You can check them out in the way I presented them below or download a copy of the document by clicking on this link.

First page of the finished Four Things document

Second page of the finished Four Things document

Third page of the finished Four Things document

Fourth page of the finished Four Things document

Fifth page of the finished Four Things document

In the end I think I spent about a month chipping away at this. It worked out as a couple of hours here or there when I found the time in my evenings and weekends. I was pretty proud of how it came together!

Each point was made based on research that (I hoped) was detailed enough to be actionable while being low-risk financially.

Thinking it looked ready, I typed up an introductory email and sent it on over to Cha Lounge.

How I failed

Months passed and I didn’t hear back.

I started to get really paranoid that I might have accidentally over-stepped a boundary by mistake and offended the recipients somehow or that my ideas were so fantastically bad that Mandeep felt too uncomfortable to get back in touch.

In reality, Mandeep enjoyed the document but was busy running a new, growing business and so never found the time to reply.

Ultimately, the projects didn’t end up getting off the ground (although I did end up collaborating with Mandeep on other things), but that wasn’t why I considered my first collaboration attempt a failure.

The reason is because I was put off – I never made another copy of FourThings for other businesses I wanted to collaborate with.ConclusionsI maintain that FourThings was a decent first idea for approaching a new business. It forced me to creatively think in a way that I enjoyed and was a useful exercise  considering my interest in creating/managing something myself.

So it was absolutely no good that I allowed myself to be put off from doing it again just because I didn’t get a pat on the back as quickly as I wanted to.

Realistically, small business owners are likely to be stretched thin for time and won’t always have the time to get back in touch. Or honestly, they just might not like the ideas I pitch in the first place, but that doesn’t mean that no-one ever will or that I should’ve stopped trying.

I’ll finish by being objective and talking about this as if someone else had done it. The worst case scenario is that no-one ever replies, creating several of these would’ve still built up a kick-ass portfolio which for use in job interviews to demonstrate proactivity, research skills, creative design and more.

Even better, you might end up researching an idea that could end up being a business in it’s own right!

The moral of the story, don’t do a me. If you have an idea, don’t be put off by the first set back. Learn from it and keep working.

After all, good things happen to those who hustle (at least according to their Instagram feeds).

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Image optimisation: What you need to know to get the best out of your pictures

At a glance

The difference between Raster and Vector file types

When it comes to graphic design in any way, shape or form, the most important basic to learn is the difference between these two file types and knowing when to use them. Use Vector images to create clean work with perfect lines and precision, and raster images for photos, digital sketching or paintwork.

Lossy and Lossless Compression

Super important to know when it comes to maintaining the quality of an original image – make sure you understand which image file types use which type of compression and the impact that’ll have for storage, image quality and online experience.

The Basics of Resolution

Ever been unsure of what is actually meant by resolution and the role of pixels? Me too.

All you really need to know is that you measure your workspace in pixels and the size of your workspace is super important in terms of working with and exporting raster images.

Let me preface this article by saying, this is incredibly useful information to have as a foundation if you’re looking to work with visual content professionally.

HOWEVER, this is not a casual read and you WILL need caffeine to power through.

I attended a 4-hour course to learn all of the below and I found it so useful. Before hand, I never paid much attention to what file type I saved my photos or digital artwork under but now I realise exactly what an impact they can make.

You can honestly irreversibly ruin your artwork if you’re not careful.

For me the value of this information is in being able to demonstrate experties when working with clients, because if you produce content for them then they WILL expect you to know this stuff.

Being able to demonstrate specialist knowledge builds client confidence in you as a professional – something which is well worth a 15-minute read.

Let’s start off by explaining the three core digital image types: ‘Raster’, ‘Vector’ and ‘Metafile’ file formatsRasterRaster files store visual data as a series of pixel quantities and approximate locations.

No doubt that if you’ve spent time using any dedicated graphics software for anything from light photo-editing to digital painting, you’ll have worked with Raster image files.

In a raster file, the computer looks at the image and says ‘ok, that colour goes there and this colour goes here…’ many times over until each of those colour dots together form an image.

Because the information is stored like this, a raster image will look the most clear at the resolution that the image was originally created at.

What I mean by original resolution is the size of the original work space that the image was created on, which is measured in pixels.

So if the original workspace for the image was 1800 (pixels in length) x 1200 (pixels in height) when it was created; when you export/save that image as a Raster file, your computer knows exactly where every single pixel/colour lives in that exact space.

But then say after that you want to make that same image appear full sized on a workspace which is 3840 × 2160.

In this workspace you have a greater density of pixels to work with and using the raster file, your computer doesn’t have any other information to fill in those extra pixel spaces.

This means that the image looks a lot more washed out just because there are gaps or blank spaces in between each of the coloured pixels that are displaying colours.

This is something we’ve all seen before, but the same effect is demonstrated in the below image to make sure we’re still all on the same page.


Examples of images file types which store data as Raster information are things like;

    PNG, and

The kinds of programs you’ll be familiar with which work with Raster data are things like Paint, Photoshop and Lightroom among many, many others.Vector headerVector images are visual data files which are saved as a series of ‘intelligent’ instructions.

By instructions I mean like the lines and shapes in your image are stored by your computer as mathematically graphed equations.

For example, a circle drawn in a vector file is not thought of as a circle by your computer, but rather it’s 2πr2 saved on a set of definite co-ordinates on a x-axis and y-axis in the workspace.

You can actually see this if you open a vector file in a text program like Notepad rather than an image program. Doing so would open the file, but instead of showing a picture, you’d see a list of instructions.

This is all probably going to sound incredibly confusing if you’ve never actually worked with a vector drawing tool before (or even if you have – I had to re-read my notes like 4 times to make sure I was clear enough to be able to write this section) but don’t worry, you don’t need to understand exactly what’s going on in the background for this to be useful for you.

All this means is that because Vector images are stored as a set of instructions and not pixel information, you can make a vector image extremely large or small with no loss of quality or sharpness.

This is because no matter what the resolution or pixel density,  your computer knows exactly where it needs to fill in pixel spaces because it has a set of instructions to follow. Pretty swish.

Examples of software which use Vector imaging include Adobe Illustrator, Coral DRAW and Inkscape. Common Vector image file types are AI, CDR and EPS.

Still with me?

Metafile header

Metafiles are files of data which save multiple types of data in one file i.e. both vector and raster information in a single file.

We didn’t cover this too much in the course but some quick research suggests that this file format isn’t particularly stable and can be prone to errors.

Converting Image File Types

So those are the three main types of image files.

Another important thing to know is that data stored under one of these file formats can be transformed into another file type.

So if you get a vector file but want to save it as a raster because you want to edit that image using a certain type of software, or upload it to a website, you can do.

The only thing you have to remember is that the data you’ve changed will start functioning under the rules of the new file type.

So for example, if you convert a vector file to a raster image then you’ll no longer be able to make that image bigger without loss of image quality.

Converting images from Vector to Raster files is much easier to do with minimal loss of information, whereas converting Raster to Vector files can be slightly more difficult.

Doing so incorporates a process known as ‘Image Tracing’, I would be lying if I said I could explain this properly and in all honesty would just be paraphrasing the Wiki article on it.

Instead of doing that, I’ll just link the article here if you want to learn more about how it’s done.

Now that’s a good foundation of information to build on, but the bit that’s probably useful for you to know is the different sub-file types and how using these can impact your work.

File Compression Types

When you are working from your core image and you save to another format, there are two types of compression to bear in mind when deciding what format to save your image as;lossy and lossless.jpeg

Lossy | This format compresses a file size through dumping information which it considers unnecessary.

An example of this type of file is a JPEG – each time you save something as a JPEG, you lose more and more information. You can pretty much make an image unrecognisable by doing this repeatedly.

Lossless | This format compresses a file size without losing information (i.e. quality isn’t compromised).

An example of this type of file is ZIP.

If you ever aren’t sure, or just want to keep up with a best practice approach, you should always keep a high quality original source file at your disposal.

If you ever compromise the quality of your image by mistake, doing this means you have a backup.

Another rule of thumb is to work from the programs source file type until you have completed your work on your image, only after you’ve finished should you start saving your image through compressed mediums.

Different types of image files

JPEG headerA JPEG (or Joint Photographic Experts Group, if you were curious) is likely the most widely known image file type.

As previously mentioned, JPEG uses a lossy compression algorithm which means that it will remove data from a file in order to compress it to a more manageable size.

JPEG files achieve a smaller file size by compressing the image in a way that retains detail which matters most, while discarding details deemed to be less visually impactful.

Because of this, JPEGs are the most common file types for displaying visuals on the internet – since pictures can be compressed to a fraction of their original ‘full’ size with little obvious change made to the quality of the picture. Smaller image sizes displayed on a webpage mean that they load faster on a browser when a visitor heads to your website.

JPEG files are able to store and manage up to 7.2 million different colours making them extremely proficient at displaying visual information with great quality.

However, they are generally much better suited to displaying photographs rather than painted images.

The reason for this is because photographs more typically have smoother transitions between colours.

In painted, sketched or line images, there are more likely to be sharp contrasts in colour between adjacent pixels, and these stark variations would become subject to a more pronounced loss in quality after JPEG compression takes place.PNG HeaderThis is an updated image file type of the GIF and was created as a solution to the limited 256-only colour palette of the GIF file.

In the mid-90’s, monitors that were able to display many, many more different colours simultaneously become much more common and so a new file-type solution was required.

The most notable difference between PNG and GIF files is the inclusion of Truecolour colour palettes which make PNG files much more suitable for displaying more complex visual information.

Another significant difference is that rather than being a lossy file type, PNG is a lossless file which means that no data is lost when you save an image as a PNG file.

Comparing PNG with JEPG

JPEG format can produce a smaller file than PNG for photographic (and photo-like) images, since JPEG uses a lossy encoding method specifically designed for photographic image data (which is typically characterised by soft, low-contrast transitions).

Using PNG instead of a high-quality JPEG for such images would result in a large increase in filesize with negligible gains in quality.

In comparison, when storing images that contain text, line art, or graphics – images with sharp transitions and large areas of solid color – the PNG format can compress image data more than a JPEG can.

Additionally, PNG is lossless, while JPEG produces noticeable losses in clarity around high-contrast areas.

So where an image contains both sharp transitions and photographic parts, it can be a little tricky to decide which file type to go for.

If you’re struggling to choose, best practice would be to try saving your image to both and take a look at;

  • Image quality around areas where colour changes sharply,
  • The size of the resulting file.

Another factor to consider in this scenario should be JPEG’s lossy compression which also suffers from generation loss.

This is where repeatedly decoding and re-encoding an image to save it again means that information is lost each time, which means that the image loses quality.

Generational loss doesn’t happen with repeated viewing, copying of an image or anything like that, it’s only where the file is edited and saved over again (and again).

PNG has the benefit of being lossless, making it more suitable for saving images which might need further editing later on without compromising the quality of the image.

There is also the option that an image can be stored losslessly and converted to JPEG format later if only for distribution, so that there is no generation loss.GIF HeaderNot typically as popular today in the same way as in the past for displaying still images because of the limited colour palette of the file type – 256 colours in a single image only compared with 7.2 million colours in a JPEG file.

The reason for this is that when GIFs were first created in the 80’s, it didn’t seem relevant to include more colours since monitors which could display more than that many colours at the same time were not affordable for most people.

Image types which are better suited for GIF formatting are those with big blocks of same-type colours i.e. things like diagrams, icons on websites like share buttons or simple logos but not photographs or any other colour-heavy images.

Images which contain fuller colour palettes (i.e. more than 256 unique colours), when saved as GIF files, result in blotchier images. The reason for this is because GIF files have to compensate additional colours by adjusting them to a closest approximate colour within an image to be compatible.

The way compression works functionally with GIF files is that the lower the number of different colours used, the smaller the size of the file after compression.

The benefit of this is that simple images like a Facebook share button with like 3 colours on it can be tiny and downloaded RAPIDLY by a browser.

GIF files also utilise interlacing techniques when uploaded on to a website. What this means is that images load progressively on a webpage rather than all at once.

So basically, on a slow loading website, an image will start out as blurry and then grows sharper as more data loads rather than not appearing at all until the image is fully loaded.

The reason for this is that this was a more popular file type to upload on earlier iterations of the internet and this feature was more useful on slower browsers – but as browsers have grown more proficient and advanced, they are able to cope with larger and more complicated image sizes.TIFF HeaderListen, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I fully understand this one and honestly if anyone reads this article and fancies commenting to let me know what the deal is with TIFF files in plainer English than I’ve found online then please PLEASE do.

From what I understand, this file type has a size restriction of 4GB. It supports true colour images (i.e. it can handle information on 56M different types of images) making it brilliant for colour-rich images and is typically much, much bigger than standard JPEG images due to the amount of information which can be stored inside it.

This also means that it can contain extremely high quality images which, combined with it being lossless makes it the ideal home for ongoing design projects where you’ll need to keep editing and saving your work.

Things to bear in mind though;

  • These files can get to be 100MB+ in size fairly easily so you might need to consider storage if you have multiple images you’re working on at a time.
  • Because these are so big, you’ll need to consider how you’ll share these images if that’s your intention. Because of the size, you can’t just chuck a TIFF file on an email because it might be too big, likewise, images that get to that size can’t readily be uploaded onto a website since that would cause the page to load incredibly, in-cred-ib-ly sl-ow-ly.

As with the PNG file though, you can always have your original image saved as a TIFF file before saving a copy as a JPEG or PNG to distribute out further – options!SVG Header.jpegCredit to for their brilliant article on all of this.

A file with the SVG file extension is a Scalable Vector Graphics file and being such, an SVG file can be scaled to different sizes without losing quality. A lot of website graphics are built in the SVG format, so they can be resized to fit different designs later on, making them more sustainable.

SVG extensions also use lossless compression meaning that information isn’t lost when you save an image as an SVG. If an SVG file is compressed with GZIP compression, the new file will end with an .SVGZ file extension and can be anywhere between 50% and 80% smaller in size.

How to Open an SVG File

The easiest and quickest way to open an SVG file to view it (not to edit it) with a modern web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Internet Explorer – nearly all of them should provide some sort of rendering support for the SVG format.

This means you can open online SVG files without having to download them first.

If you do already have an SVG file on your computer, the web browser can also be used as an offline SVG viewer. Open those SVG files through the web browser’s Open option (the Ctrl+O keyboard shortcut).

SVG files can be created through Adobe Illustrator, so you can of course use that program to open the file. Other premium design software which can support SVG files are Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, InDesign, Adobe Animate, Microsoft Visio, CorelDRAW, Corel PaintShop Pro, and CADSoftTools ABViewer.

If you are looking for free software which can be used with SVG file extentions, check out Inkscape and GIMP, but you must download them in order to open the SVG file. Picozu is also free and supports the SVG format too, but you can open the file online without downloading anything.

How to Convert an SVG File

If you want to convert an SVG file into a Raster image, deciding how to go about should depend on the size of the original file.

If your SVG file is pretty small, you can convert it to a Raster file type quite easily online using websites like Zamzar (looks a bit spammy but works brilliantly). They can convert .SVG files to PNG, PDF, TIFF, GIF, JPEG and more so it’s brilliant – even better it works without you having to download any apps to your PC, it can either email converted images to your inbox or let you download them straight from the webpage.

On the other hand, if you have a larger SVG file or if you’d rather not use third party websites, most dedicated design software will let you save and convert the file straight on the interface.

So there you have it! Some fun reading for budding young graphic designers – I’ve only covered the basics and there are many, many more file types to look at if you’re hungry for more.

Although honestly, I would just be impressed if someone made it to the end of this article and is actually reading this section….h-hello..? …anyone still there..?

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Can you be professional videographer with only a phone?

The Pixel 2XL. If you’ve read anything about it then it’ll be no surprise that the feature I’m focusing on is, of course, the camera. The camera on this phone is incredible, an opinion shared throughout the internet in reviews by the likes of TechRadar, Trusted Reviews and Forbes.

Hopefully you’ll be pleased to know that this review of the Pixel 2XL aims to do something different to the others. That’s because all the reviews I’ve read or watched tend to follow a format pretty similar when they discuss cameras on any phone.

It goes something like this;

  • They start by just talking about how good the camera is;
  • As a follow up, they’ll generally throw a bunch of specs at you (which, if you’re anything like me, tend to fly straight over your head);
  • And finally my favourite, they’ll take random images of city streets and friends to give as examples (often shown with duplicate images taken with other phone cameras because…y’know who doesn’t want to see the same image three times over with small changes to sharpness or saturation?).

This doesn’t make any sense to me; if you’re ready to spend that much time reading about a smartphone camera, I feel like it’s because there’s a reason you need it.

You probably intend to do something with it; whether it be because you want to get serious on Instagram, start creating content for YouTube or because you want something that’s good enough to avoid having to investing in a more expensive, dedicated camera.

That’s certainly why I persevered through so many long articles and eventually opted to get the Pixel 2XL. Now I have it, I wanted to write a review that practically demonstrates how the camera might be used and how this device, as a tool, might enable someone to either start a new hobby or even a professional venture…and honestly, I also just want an excuse to shoot some cool sh*t.

The structure header


Practicing what I aim to preach, here’s what I went out and did with this camera;

  • I shot two short films vlog-style using the Pixel 2XL, and edited them to create videos you might expect to find on YouTube;
  • I did a couple of photo shoots with myself and willing friends to see how the phone performed when creating professional-looking images for marketing needs;
  • I used it to produce accompanying images for almost every article in this months issue so be sure to give them a read and see what you think.

I’m hoping that by the time this review is finished, I might have provided a close enough example to a need you might have that it helps you make an informed decision as to whether this device suits your needs.

Happy? All strapped-in? Great – let’s get cracking then!

Film header

To reiterate, each of the below videos was shot entirely using the Pixel 2XL and I’d never tried doing anything like this before.

The only accessories used to shoot with were two Joby Gorrilapod stands ; a magnetic one and a standard one.

If you’re planning to get started shooting video or pictures with your phone, I wholly recommend the GorrillaPod stands. They can balance on pretty much anything as well as wrap around anything like poles, posts and lampposts which makes setting up your shots  SO. MUCH. EASIER.


In the second video, I shot the majority of footage in city centres so the magnetic stand was particularly useful when I could attach my phone to railings or lampposts more securely.

They’re also just awesome gadgets in general, and are super fun to play around with…so there’s that too!

The only other thing I wish I had was a bluetooth remote control which could turn start/stop recording – something like this. Not having one wasn’t a major deal, but it just would have meant that I could have been able to leave the camera set up at a good angle and capture certain natural moments without having to reach over and mess around with the phone.

Walk Header

The perfect weekend header


Shooting experience

Shooting on the Pixel 2XL was an absolute pleasure because it captures brilliant detail first time. I can’t think of a single moment when I had to go back and reshoot something or avoid using a clip because any of the footage was out of focus.

This was especially impressive in the 2nd video when I filmed my friends reaching the top of Primrose Hill, and the buildings of the London skyline are clearly visible. I wasn’t expecting that to come out AT ALL.

Having confidence in the cameras ability to work so well meant I could focus completely on the pleasure of filming without worrying that I needed to refocus or avoid certain lighting conditions.

Another feature of the camera I really liked was that you can pause while recording.

This meant that I could shoot multiple separate ‘scenes’ in succession, but have them saved as a single clip. It might not sound like much, but when it came to editing all the footage, I found this really useful for staying organised.


Another big sell of the Pixel 2XL is that it’s able to shoot in 4K.

The obvious benefit of this being that the camera packs a huge amount of detail into the footage you produce which immediately makes your finished video appear more professional (nothing screams amateur video faster than grainy, unclear footage after all).

Unfortunately this quality isn’t best represented in the linked videos because YouTube compresses videos which are uploaded at the loss of some video quality. There is a way around this based on how you render the video in the editing process, but I was at a push to get this months Inkbike issue out as soon as possible so didn’t manage to figure it out in time.

If there’s any interest, I’ll create a follow up article in the future which addresses it. In the meantime, please trust that there exists higher resolution versions of the linked videos on my computer…

A potential issue I wasn’t expecting to encounter however, was the impact that capturing UHD video has on your available storage. I don’t know if this was just me being ignorant, but I had no idea how large 4K video files were until I started working on this article.

For reference, a 1-minute clip shot in 4K takes up roughly 350MB of storage space. For the ‘Perfect Weekend’ video, I shot maybe around 20 minutes of unedited in footage to produce the final 5-minute video, which equates to 15GB of space taken up on my phone.

My point is that the Pixel 2XL comes in two storage models, 64GB and 128GB, with no option for expandable storage. If you plan on shooting plenty in 4K, it might be worth investing in the additional storage.

It’s not a dealbreaker though, I have the 64GB model and it just means that I can’t be sentimental about my footage after I’ve finished editing and just delete it.


Another feature of the Pixel 2XL which I’ve loved is the way it’s able to stabilise shaky footage using software built-in to the camera app.

This is a huge help when you’re shooting footage while on the move. For example, in some shots I would be facing the subject and stepping backwards. Unless you’re a surgeon with gimbals for knees, keeping the camera steady while you do so is really tricky.

Demonstrating what the stabilisation software does, and how effective it is might be something best seen rather than discussed. See the below;

Having the Pixel 2XL meet me halfway with stabilisation software ensured that I got usable footage for my final video from tricky conditions, and I repeatedly found myself grateful for it while editing.


Getting back to familiar review territory – photography.

As I’ve already said up top, the camera on this phone is amazing and you can read any number of reviews throughout the internet which will tell you the exact same thing.

Since we’ve had clarified for us that this phone takes great shots of random city streets, flowers at close-up (another favourite in reviews) and random people; we can focus our attention on better things.

Our question then, sweet reader, is whether the camera on this phone is good enough for professional purposes.

That can be anything from high-resolution portraits for your LinkedIn profile picture, images to accompany a web-marketing campaign or even just imagery for a kick-ass poster.

To help demonstrate whether this was the case, I decided to create some marketing imagery for dissemination across the Inkbike social media channels.

Check them out!







Conclusions Header

At the end of it all, I hope that some of the examples I put together might be close enough to how you might intend to use the camera to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not the Pixel 2XL is suited to your needs.

If not, then I hope the above demonstrates that I’ve built up enough experience using the 2XL that you consider my final opinion reliably informed.

Simply put, I believe that in this device, you get an all-in-one tool which allows you to go beyond good-quality amateur photography. I’d never made YouTube videos before I started this review, but I was really pleased with how they came out. I think that this camera put in their hands of experienced or novice creators alike could lead to some really incredible content being created.


Another question I think important to clarify is, why did I think this review was important to make?

Because most everyone reading this will have a smartphone, and the majority will have it on a monthly contract that they barely think about. It’s just one of those bills you’ve been used to paying since your late teens.

Brand new this phone will set you back a lofty £629, the price of a good standalone DSLR camera. BUT(!), on contract you can get this phone for as low as £30pm (deal exists at the time of writing but I won’t bother linking because deals change so often – check Uswitch).

That price is likely to go down very shortly too, since the Pixel 3 will be announced in the next few weeks.

If you were already looking to get a new phone, and are looking for an opportunity to start creating visual content for professional or commercial purposes, you don’t need to spend hundreds on a new camera to keep up with your ideas.

I really believe that you can use the 2XL along with the low-cost accessories I’ve mentioned throughout the review, you’ll be shocked at the amazing content that you can film or shoot.

At the very least, it’s an entry point for you to work with until you feel that your work requires investment in more advanced hardware.

For me though, I have every confidence in what it’s capable of and I can’t wait to continue using it to carry my creative ambitions.

Inkbike out!

Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? Any other devices you feel are more worthy of your time? Or even better – anyone who has a Pixel and used it to create some awesome content, I’d love to see and talk about it with you!

Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike




Virtuality 2.0 – Exploring VR

Leeds has long had a reputation for fostering creatives, particularly in music, but many aren’t aware of it’s growing reputation as hub for emerging communities of incredible innovators in FinTech, MedTech and game development.

With so much exciting activity going on in the region, I’ve been looking to secure interviews with up-and-coming entrepreneurs in these fields for some time.

Not that I doubt my tenaciousness when it comes to securing new interviews, but until now I’ve been unsuccessful despite my best efforts. Enter my good friend Tom, the absolute legend.

Tom not only knows a developer working for one of these companies, the brilliant XR Games, but was kind enough to show them my original ‘Visual Trends: Virtuality‘ article when he heard they were looking to get exposure on their work.

Either Tom’s friend owed him a favour, or even LESS likely, they simply thought my article made for a good read because shortly after, they got in touch and asked me if I’d be happy to write something about their latest game, ‘All-Star Fruit Racing VR’. If I was up for it, they’d send me out a headset so I could try it out properly.

As you can imagine, I was IMMEDIATELY on board.

Google Cardboard header

Already a gamer, I’ve been curious to try out VR in some way for ages, but have lacked the incentive to head out and buy the necessary equipment.

So before we get into how much I enjoyed Fruit Racing, I honestly want to take a minute to document my experience of being introduced to mobile VR.

Fruit Racing VR Cardboard side-on-2

It’s honestly one of those rare kinds of gadgets that sticks a big cheesy grin on your face when you try it for the first time. Where as soon as you’ve finished having your go, all you want to do is share it with the person next to you so you can watch them get as excited as you.

I haven’t felt that way about a piece of tech since I started painting with the iPad Pro.

When the card headset arrived in the post, straightaway I downloaded the Cardboard app and tried out some VR demos by slotting my Pixel 2XL in.

The demo included with Cardboard which stole the show for me is an amazing adventure-lite simulator simply called ‘Artic Journey’. On this demo, the controls of Google Cardboard are explained to you through a series of small tasks set in gorgeous polygon-art renderings of an arctic wilderness.


A screenshot from the ‘Arctic Journey’ demo

I was absolutely blown away.

Other highlights include the ‘Tour Guide’ feature which allows you to explore global cultural delights such as the palace of Versailles, and the ‘Earth’ feature which lets you fly around like Superman through 3D Google Maps locations like Chicago City and the Bryce Canyons mountain ranges.


Every person I’ve shared it with reacted in exactly the same way as me, so with that said, I wholeheartedly recommend spending £15 to get the cardboard headset and try it for yourself.

If I was to take one thing away from my experience, it’s how much that the VR platform so inherently has the ‘wow-factor’ when you get hands-on with it. As a platform, it’s dying for innovators to take advantage of it in new ways, whether through app-development, video marketing (which would blow people away) or anything else.

After browsing through Google Play’s library of things to do, I’m left wanting. Some games and apps exist but there’s simply not enough to do justice to the level of excitement you get after trying the headset for the first time.

All I want is to be able to sink hours more into VR and see every possible application of it’s use, and so has everyone else I’ve shown it to. I can see now that the future is bright for VR, and even brighter for people who adopt it as a platform for new innovations early.

All Star FRVR header

After a pretty thrilling start to the world of VR, I was excited to discover for myself what XR Games had created. And like any good arcade-racer, it hooked me in after I finished my first race.

It’s tracks look deceptively simple to navigate, but expertly crossing its difficult turns and getting a high score requires a masterful control of your vehicle.

At the end of each race, you are given a score based on the time you’ve taken to complete your run and the number of coins you’ve grabbed along the way.

Me using Google Cardboard no.1

When using the VR controls to play, you steer the vehicle by turning your head. While it’s admittedly jarring at first to play a racing game this way, it doesn’t take more than a couple of laps before the controls start to feel familiar.

Playing Fruit Racing using VR controls is also helped by the fact that the game is gorgeous to look at; with it’s bright, colourful style reminiscent of Nintendo classics like Diddy Kong Racing.


All-Star Fruit Racing VR is a brilliant introduction to VR, offering tons of replay value and an awesome piece off tech which you’ll be excited to show off to your friends. It’s free to download from the Google Play Store so definitely check it out!

After playing their game, I knew I had a fantastic opportunity to not only get some answers to questions I had about the game development process, but also to long-standing questions I’ve had about a growing niche within the tech industry that can feel inaccessible to outsiders and people that failed to adopt to tech early.

Despite feeling skeptical about whether a busy company would be willing to answer some questions about the wider VR industry from the owner of a completely unknown blog; I asked if they’d be willing to answer questions beyond their recently released game.

To my pleasant surprise, XR Games said that wider questions on the industry would make for a better article and were fully on-board to answer whatever questions I had!

Holy sh*t right? What an amazing opportunity.

Read our interview here.

Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? I’d love to know what’s in your brain!

Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike



The story behind Inkbike

At a glance

Listen, there’s no bullsh*tting you here…
…this is going to be a longer read ‘at a glance’ or otherwise.

Sorry about that.

I kinda just dropped Inkbike into social media and didn’t really explain where it had come from, didn’t I?

It’s something I intended to cover on the ‘What’s Inkbike?’ page, but ultimately it felt like that needed to focus more on what Inkbike does rather than how the idea for it came about.

After listening to people’s thoughts/impressions since Inkbike launched, I’ve realised that for Inkbike to do what I hoped and reach who I intended it to reach, I needed to clarify why it was made.

To do that, I need to go back and talk about the earliest days of my career.

Let’s rewind


Like many who chose to do a degree without a specific career path in mind, the subject I studied at university didn’t provide me with a particularly specialised skill-set that drew in employers (who to my surprise, weren’t particularly blown away just by the fact that I ‘had a degree’ – go figure).

I knew that staying in education wasn’t for me so after I finished I moved back home to London to start my career.

I worked for a short spell as a travel agent and through that job, I was able to transfer to a store based in Leeds (YOOOOOORKSHIRE!), smy girlfriend and I could move in together.

After moving up, I quickly swapped employers and started working for a company that specialised in winning contracts from other businesses looking to outsource work (as interesting as it sounds). The contract I joined was massive, and involved working on PPI claims on behalf of a bank.

There were over 1,000 people working on my site, many of them recent graduates with similar levels of work experience and none of whom enjoyed their jobs, so there was a great sense of grim camaraderie among us.  

It turned out that having such a huge number of people in one place, all of whom viewed the job as nothing more than a salary until they could find something betterwas an amazing opportunity to put my finger to the pulse of a common experience for many graduates in the UK and in their twenties. 

It showed me how many people were working low-satisfaction jobs, feeling desperate to land a role with better opportunities, but struggling to even get interviews without already having relevant experience.

These aren’t lazy people either, everyone had weekly productivity targets to achieve and most met, if not exceeded targets. It also wasn’t for lack of desire for new responsibilities; whenever our employer offered any opportunities for additional responsibilities, there would generally be a mad scramble amongst colleagues to get it.

Successful colleagues would happily add the new role to their CVs and LinkedIn profiles and continue their job hunt with a renewed sense of motivation.

Unsuccessful colleagues however, experienced a range of emotions from disappointed to what can only be described as despair. Many of my friends really felt trapped in their job by limited experience and that they just had no way of moving on to the next stages of their career.

After eighteen months of working there and seeing this happen repeatedly, I grew really resentful of the idea that my career progression might be in the hands of anyone other than me. I knew that this must be a common experience for many other working people too.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that demonstrating a good work ethic and working hard is important, but I worked a job where literally hundreds of others did the exact same work as me and it proved that when there are so many people competing for only a small number of opportunities, demonstrating that you work hard is sometimes a secondary factor to decision makers.


But what are they looking at? What are people supposed to do to get ahead in an environment where opportunities for more responsibility in the workplace are few and competition is fierce?

I figured, what about trying to get the experience I need to get the job I want outside of work?

I mean, if I create opportunities to gain experience for myself, then it means that I’m not waiting around for some manager to finally notice me right? I cut out the middle-man and get my career moving again.


Fast forward a couple of months and I decided that I wanted to do something creative, and started to think a marketing role might be a good fit.

My mentality was that; if I found that I didn’t like it then fine, I could just move on to something else, but at least I’d feel like I narrowed down my professional interests a bit. That way, looking to the potential future of my career wouldn’t feel like as much of a daunting unknown because I was growing an understanding of what I had tried and what I enjoyed.

Obviously I couldn’t just walk into a decent paying marketing role from my current job; I had no relevant experience.

Thank goodness for Mandeep at Cha Lounge.


My girlfriend and I lived in our first flat in Leeds for 18 months, and it just happened to be around the corner from Cha Lounge. We used to go on Sundays for brunch and we’d bring along a Scrabble board to play with because we’re cool like that.

As well as having amazing coffee (thank you North Star), Cha Lounge has an abundance of plugs and kick-ass WiFi, so I started coming in with my laptop on weekday evenings to job hunt.

In time I got to know the co-founder Mandeep, and started to feel invested in Cha Lounge’s success as a growing business. I remember her telling me one afternoon that she used social media for promotion but didn’t feel like she had the time to post new content regularly.

It took about 2 weeks for the rusty cogs in my brain to realise there was an opportunity there, and about 3 more weeks for me to work up the courage to speak to Mandeep about it.

Eventually I pitched the idea of me managing Cha Lounge’s accounts for her by showing her some ideas I had for Cha Lounge post-ers (social media graphics, geddit?) that I’d made.

This was one of them:


I didn’t want any money to do it, I just wanted to be able to build up experience of social media marketing on behalf of a business (and possibly get a coffee or sandwich on the house every now and then).

She agreed and off I went, creating new graphics to post every day for the next few months.

I focused on Instagram and grew the Cha Lounge page from 40 to 430 followers, which gave me a stat for measurable success that I could refer to on my CV, and the work itself allowed me to build up a portfolio of Instagram graphics.

I was absolutely loving it!

Fast-forward to a couple of months later, I was able to land one of those rare opportunities for development at work and was seconded to the role of Communications and Engagement Officer – in part, because they liked that I had built up some minor experience of social media management.

The role wasn’t permanent, but I got 6 months experience under my belt and that experience meant I landed my next job with more responsibility at the University of Leeds.


When I talked to some of my friends about it, the most common thing I heard about the Cha Lounge thing is ‘Ah, I never would have thought to do that‘.

I figured that there was something to that, surely most of the time it takes inspiration to encourage action? In my experience, it was almost always the friends I had with parents who’d built a business or had an independent form of earning money that were most encouraged to try building something themselves.

The people who tended to never consider working for themselves were the ones who didn’t know anyone that had done it either. People that wrote blogs or had significant hobbies outside of work or…whatever!

Obviously everyone has heard stories about the wildly famous self-made success stories like Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson, but I figured that the reason why they didn’t inspire more is because their stories felt un-relatable.

It’s a struggle to empathise with someone who made billions years ago because you know that if you tried to follow the same steps as them in the present, it wouldn’t work. It feels like you’re hearing about some forgettable historical figure in a museum.

Every successful venture they had after they were already rich is even more un-relatable because you know it was funded by the billions they now had and you just beat yourself up for spending £2.50 more than normal on your lunch at Tesco Express.

I felt inspired by Mandeep, and people that I knew who were building things up that I could see around me now.

That inspired me to start interviewing everyday people working on projects, ventures or businesses, asking them to explain in detail how they started things up (what tools they used, their working practices and the steps they took) and documenting our discussions.

The hope was that by collecting interviews with people from across as wide a range of fields as possible, that hopefully someone might stumble along the blog, learn from one of them and get inspired enough to start building something of their own.

Hopefully, if the interview went into enough detail, then they’d have all the information they needed to build their thing.


And that’s the point of Inkbike, it’s about feeling you control the direction of your career – it isn’t about starting a business.

This was the impression I’d gotten from responses to Inkbike after it launched. By interviewing predominantly entrepreneurs, people might think that content was only aimed at other entrepreneurs.

It’s not, the reason most interviews are run with entrepreneurs is because they are the people that most commonly exhibit the behaviour that Inkbike aims to encourage.

Namely; changing your mentality to building experience and career development from passive (if it is) to active. There has never, in the history of mankind, been more resources which are freely available to use or learn from in order to develop new skills.

If you use new skills to build a business, then great(!), but becoming a business owner or freelancer isn’t for everyone. Experience you get from self-provided opportunities can equally be used to develop your career, or even just increase your sense of life-satisfaction without making any change to your work.

Seeking opportunities for development outside of your employment also doesn’t require you to know exactly where you want your career to go. It’s just about building a portfolio of experience outside of work which can give you options.

Although I honestly do believe that there is a revolution coming for the working population, as a growing number of people realise that traditional employment models, and the associated ’employed lifestyle’ that comes with it (think working in the same standard office every single day, having to plan your weekdays around work which takes up set blocks of your time and Tesco-bloody-meal-deals for lunch) doesn’t make them as happy as would the very real potential for them to find an alternative means of making a living..

…that’s a rant for another day though.

I hope that the above has shown that seeking self-provided opportunities has had a significant impact on my own career personally and, though the way it has shaped my career so far might seem inconsequential, the impact it has had on my mental health as compared to how I felt while working the soul-destroying outsourcing job has been tremendous.

The coolest thing that’s happened recently is that by talking about starting projects and following through with them, people closest to me have told me that they had felt inspired and wanted to do more.

That’s been incredible for me to hear and I feel like I’m not articulate enough to talk about it and how it fits in with what Inkbike aims to do, so I’m going to do something unimaginably cheesy and leave off with a quote by someone who does words better than me…innit.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson