Can you tell us about who you are and what you do?
I’ve been a designer for just over six years. I started this crazy journey at the Arts University Bournemouth with a degree in visual communication. Straight after university, I got a job in another agency where I learned the ropes from very talented and experienced people which put me in good stead for my career and working here at LEAP.
I work closely with Roger Cayless our Group Creative Director to make sure all the creative projects are overseen. I’m involved with everything from recruitment campaigns to shop window displays, social media posts and strategies, even photography shoots.
What’s something people may not know about you?
I’m dyslexic. I like to think of it as a weird superpower because my brain has to come up with ways to get around things like spelling.
There’s a strong correlation between creativity and dyslexia, and at Bournemouth, everyone is tested for dyslexia. About one-third of the students have it and they’re really good at providing support for things such as essays.
I think it’s important to talk about. In the past, I didn’t like to say I was dyslexic. People used to point out mistakes and I used to feel embarrassed and get defensive, but it’s easier now. Neurodiversity is becoming more and more talked about and accepted.
My dyslexia isn’t severe, and I like using my copywriting skills, but it can take longer for me to write what I want to say. For situations like this interview, it’s easier to talk about the answers.
How did your studies lead you into the advertising and marketing industry?
The visual communication course at Bournemouth was particularly amazing because it didn’t restrict you to one discipline. It posed real world questions and then you had to figure out how you’d solve those problems.
Visual communication is about problem solving.
I ended up coming to things from a marketing perspective because I’m always thinking about the end user and how to reach them. I always try to underpin the creative with strategy as a rationale for why this creative is the right solution for that problem.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy a varied work life. I haven’t limited myself to one thing because I think ‘what’s the bigger picture here?’ I then have all the tools at my disposal to solve a problem.
I’ve also liked becoming an expert in things I never thought I’d become an expert in. The variety of clients and projects you’re exposed to makes you become an expert in that field. I once worked for a farm insurance client and now I know all there is to know about tractors.
After working with CGI so much at LEAP, I’ve got a better understanding of the tech industry and how it works. I’ve learned a lot about what roles you can branch out into.
What’s the project you’re most proud of?
I’m proud of the Agile Digital Services (ADS) campaign for CGI because it was a holistic project that we took from idea to execution. It’s been nominated for awards, and the client has had loads of quality hires from it.
The project involved a photoshoot in Manchester. The logistics meant we had to pull together as a team. We were working hard in the cold and rain to capture all the footage. I’m really happy with the execution. There was a fine balance for it to come across as cool and not cringy, and I think we got it right.
The second project I’m proud of was for French Bloom at Selfridges because it was really high-profile. Everyone at LEAP, especially Natalie Lennon and Jo Merecido, came together, so we were able to take it from concept to delivery within a speedy turnaround time.
I don’t get to see a lot of the work I do because it’s for sponsored social campaigns that don’t show up in my feed. When you do see something in real life that came from your ideas, it’s a very proud moment.
What are your favourite creative tools?
One thing I always have is a massive sketch pad because you can’t beat classic pen and paper. We are so used to being digital, but with sketching, you’ll know within two seconds if a layout works because you can see it.
Coming up with ideas in a big mind map gives you a visual brain dump which is super helpful. You might come back to something you wrote down in the first hours of getting the brief.
Oh, and tea helps!
I’m also a big fan of Figma. It’s cloud-based and multiple people can work on it at the same time. I’m a big fan of any software that allows collaboration.
Where do you get inspiration?
I take inspiration from everything – my day to day, conversations I overhear, things going on in the news. My secret weapon is Pinterest, I have Pinterest boards about everything.
Podcasts are a good source of inspiration. If I’m coming up with an idea and I want a rationale to back it up they’re a good way to find out information or get ideas about people’s thoughts and feelings.
If there’s an opportunity, I try to be creative as much as possible. I’d rather be reined in than told it’s not creative enough. When I’m told be creative. It’s music to my ears.
How do you stay motivated?
Keeping motivated and refreshed means learning to switch off. It’s very easy to check emails out of hours and it’s so easy to work through lunch when you don’t want to break the flow, but it’s important to take a moment. There are times when I come back from a break, and I get a level of clarity I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
What’s your favourite ad and why?
Dove’s Reverse Selife by Ogilvy. You know exactly what they’re trying to say about self-esteem and social media. They position themselves as a brand that stands for something, and they do it really well.
Years ago, people were seeing one type of beauty image everywhere and Dove changed the conversation with their Campaign for Real Beauty. It shows diversity of body size, age, skin tone and body positivity messages. And people took note, and it started changing elsewhere. Ads like ‘Reverse Selfie’ feel authentic because Dove has been one of the first to bring to light these issues through their TV ads.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in design?
Having a strong portfolio is your first port of call to impressing an agency, in-house department or new clients, but also make sure you have a strong brand in yourself. It’s a way to show your creativity as an extension of you.
Find what your niche is and make sure you stay ahead of the curve. Technology almost dictates what you use day-to-day. Get clued up and skilled in the areas you can see the industry is going in. That might mean understanding what the metaverse is because it looks like it’s going to be the future of design.
Above all, make sure you’re hot on design fundamentals – like typesetting and layouts. Being able to nail those means you’ve already given someone you’re working with the assurance that you’ve mastered skills that are transferrable for working as any sort of designer you want to be.