Tell us about yourself and your creative background
I wanted to study Fine Art and then sort of fell into a Graphic Design HND course when I didn’t get into Art College. A lecturer spotted that I had a good eye for design and encouraged me to try that path instead. The weird thing is when I was about 11 or 12 I was dead set on being a graphic designer or being in advertising somehow, before I even really knew what that actually meant. So I guess ended up doing what I was meant to. I also failed Graphic Communication at school, which I find funny.
I spent 7 years in further education which went by a lot quicker than it sounds. I did 2 years on the HND, a year doing Interactive Design and finally 3 years doing an Honours degree at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee. I went almost straight in to a job and moved on relatively quickly to an Edinburgh agency called Graphic Partners, who were the longest running in Edinburgh at the time. I learned loads of stuff there from some really experienced Creative Directors that I’ll always be grateful for.
I’ve now been at Teviot for almost 10 years, and almost half of that as Creative Director. At Teviot I’ve worked with some huge clients and lots of smaller clients. I always find it’s the smaller projects where you can be the most creative and are also the most enjoyable.
Outside of work I pour what’s left of my creative energy into writing and performing music with my bands Burn The Maps and Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah.
Can you give us an insight into your practice and what you do?
I like to try and simplify everything. There’s a lot of big words and complex strategy talk in this industry. But I’m a creative so I need to frame all of that in a way I can understand. That’s the approach I bring to Teviot. We like to work with our clients to define their brands in simple down-to-earth, everyday language, there’s time for complexity later. Get to know your brand, your competitors and your audience and get to the heart of what makes you stand out. Once you know your brand at a deeper level it should drive every decision and marketing strategy going forward. Connect it with a big, engaging idea and use that to fuel the creative thinking no matter the channel.
I’m a designer at heart though, and still very hands on. My favourite thing to do is create nicely crafted visual identities for brands.
Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?
We’re working with NHS Scotland on a new sustainability brand – Sustainability Action - and on the back of that are now working with a few other environmentally focused organisations. This feels like meaningful work that contributes towards something bigger albeit in a very small way.
We’re working on packaging for an exciting new drinks brand and have also worked on some packaging designs for Edinburgh salon chain Charlie Miller. On the digital side we have been working with the team from Dribble to build their app which helps parents find child friendly places to go and things to do with their kids. We’re also building a really nice little app that I can’t talk about yet unfortunately – another super sustainable one! We have a lot of website strategy and development in the pipeline including the website for the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Other projects, further afield, include Gaze Burville an outdoor furniture designer based in Hampshire and a bank based in Italy so our reach is quite far.
What makes Edinburgh a good base for creatives?
It’s an inspiring place. I’m from Fife and I still commute into the city every day. I love the buzz of the city and the way it changes throughout the year. Sometimes I remind myself to have a look around when I get out of Waverley and appreciate the grandeur of the place. Living in Fife, I don’t really get to as many events and meet ups as I would if I was based here.
What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing a career in the creative industries?
Make sure you can really talk about the rationale behind the ideas in your portfolio and why they are a good solution to the brief. Build a balance between conceptual and practical ability. When you’re starting out, agencies are looking for good ideas but also for you to have the skills to get stuck in to the day to day design stuff. Strong hierarchy, typography and layout skills are essential. Finally, be open with your ideas. I used to bin a lot of ideas because I wasn’t confident in them and then I learned not to. Rooting out the good ones is part of the process, as is accepting that most of the stuff you come up with might not see the light of day.
What’s your favourite thing about Creative Edinburgh?
We’re relatively new members so we’re still finding our feet. It’s a really friendly and lively network and from what I’ve seen so far it’s a great resource both for creatives and potential clients looking to find people to partner with. We’re building really nice connections with some fellow Edinburgh creatives and our team are big fans of the events.