1. What time do you start and finish work, and what’s your work environment like?
I’m a single working mum and juggle running two creative companies with looking after my two young children. I do most school drop offs and pick-ups, so my working day is 9.30am – 4.30pm, then evenings and some catching up on the odd weekend. I work from my office in Lewes and from home, from hotel lobbies (the new way to work in London) and cafes. From colleagues houses who also work from home. Also in trains up to meetings, if I’m lucky enough to get a seat.
2. What might you do in a typical day at work?
The kinds of projects I work on are:
Large scale branding projects. Over the past 22 years I’ve done this for Merrill Lynch, CapGemini, Credit Suisse, as well as many smaller companies who do very interesting things. The work starts with customer and competitor research (Quant and Qual), and running client brand workshops to co-create the brand strategy with them. All of this feeds into creating a brand proposition which makes that client stand out from their competitor, unique look and feel, tone of voice, brand values, digital marketing strategy etc. I’ll then work with a hand picked freelance team to turn this into deliverables, like a logo, website, videos, animations, environmental graphics, internal branding, printed materials, digital marketing roll out.
I also run large scale events which engage employees with change going on in their company, I’ve done this for lastminute.com, Nectar, First Utility, Old Mutual amongst others. Once the programme is planned, I will run a team of around 20 people to help deliver it. We will start by creating launch materials (video, emails) and then a digital platform for people to share ideas while the programme is running. Then we will run the programme through which may be a one off event, or european roadshow, then internally run workshops with employees over a period of around 6 months.
So what is a typical day like? After getting the kids to school and heading into the office or back home to start working, I’m very focussed as there is always a lot to get done in a short space of time. I’ll start with writing a list which I’ve usually started at 3am (I’m an insomniac) and then decide what has to get done today no matter what. I could be doing any number of things, but to get all of the above things done it takes strong project management and team communication skills, so I’ll spend a lot of time planning and then checking in with team members (mainly who will be freelance and working offsite) then working through my own jobs, designing, running a workshop, creating a report on a workshop, learning new micro skills I need that day (by watching youtube videos) maybe watching a relevant Ted talk for that project to inspire me. I eat lunch while I work. I work fast. I’m out of there by 4.30 to collect my kids. Then I may catch up on a few odd things in the evenings around cooking for them and putting them to bed. I have a ‘no screens’ rule after 9pm.
3. What Do You Most Enjoy About Your Job
There is no difference between my job and my life. As a creative I think through ideas pretty much all the time, while I’m walking through a forest, having a bath etc. Ideas percolate and you cant expect them to come on command in a meeting. Its about doing the research and then giving yourself space for them the ideas to develop. Its also about surrounding yourself with inspiration, like art gallery trips, nature, meeting inspiring people, going to talks, so your mind is opened and always being challenged. This puts you in an open frame of mind which is a good space think new thoughts.
Creativity is my life, I do creative activities with the kids all the time, encouraging them to express themselves however they feel compelled to do so. My daughter (5) loves to dance, shes amazing at reading and writing, she invents incredible games. My son (11) is a gifted artist but loves to draw cartoons, to create animations, he’s also very funny and loves to invent jokes.
I think tapping into creativity unlocks very important things in us, like critical thinking, the ability to communicate whats in our minds, the ability to connect with people on an emotional level. Its important. It’s the future (I could go on here, but that’s another whole subject)
4. What do you find most challenging about your job?
Time. There isn’t enough of it in the day. Also the sales pipeline. I’m not keen on the sales process, hunting down work and so if it doesn’t land in my lap I get a bit stuck. Luckily it mostly lands in my lap!
5. What experience and qualifications do you need to do your job, and do you have any advice for current students looking to go into your sector?
I got A’s in Art all the way through school, which enabled me to leave at 16 and go to art college and do a 2 year BTEC in Art and design which I got a distinction in. This enabled me to go to Camberwell Art College and study on their Graphic Design Degree where I got a first.
10 years later after solidly working as a designer, I studied at Chelsea art college in interior design. I always do workshops, short courses, attend evening talks etc to keep my knowledge and skills current. TED talks are a great source of inspiration for free. Lynda offer courses very cheap too.
My advice is that qualifications open doors but they are just the start, I experimented and explored and learned the discipline of creative thinking at college. I learnt the skills of being a designer when I started working. I started in a very junior position at a publishers and designed a leaflet in Quarkxpress as my very first print job. It looked awful, but I was very proud of it. So much to learn as a designer. Print is a skill in itself, but is dying out. Digital is where its at. But Creative thinking is central to everything and without that its all just styling and nice fonts.
College/uni gives you time and space to think and also great creative input to broaden your thinking. If you have the means to go, then do it, but aim for the best ones. Id suggest all the University of the Arts colleges are excellent (Chelsea, LCC, london college of fashion, Camberwell etc) Also London is the hub of creativity in the UK and arguably up there world wide. With the top exhibitions, talks, seminars, workshops, events etc.
That’s my advice, aim high in your further education. You’ll be on the courses with amazing people who will go on to do amazing things too, so the contacts you make will be helpful to you going forward. Good luck in your creative journey.