Could you please tell us more about yourself?
I’m actually a graphic designer by trade and joined YourStudio five years ago as Head of Communications. I moved into the role of Managing Director three years ago, straight out of maternity leave and into a pandemic. That gave me quite a good crash course in the many facets of the role. My graphics background still applies though; everyday is creative problem-solving and trying to design the best outcome for an audience! I’m also a support act to my husband Adam and a supplier of Lego and general PA to my boys Reuben, 8 and Riley, 3.
What’s something people would never guess about you?
I toured the US with a band in my teens. I did quite a bit of solo travelling when I was younger, which involved some questionable decision-making!
Who did you want to be as a kid?
Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth (or the pink witch in The Wizard of Oz, just for the dress).
What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
Creating great work with great people. And that with a great team of people, anything is possible. We help spur each other on, and particularly since the pandemic, we’ve made an ambitious wish list a reality — seeing a growing team realise personal and collective goals is very motivating.
The growth in client stature and complexity of the challenges means higher impact and more to wrestle with, but it gets me out of bed for sure. And then making that all land back on the bottom line so we can do more with more.
What career achievements are you most proud of so far?
Most recently, going to Google in San Francisco and being shown around the design labs was a personal career highlight I couldn’t have imagined when picking art GCSE at the Cotswold School.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with and mentoring lots of designers. I’ve helped build many great teams that hopefully have some fun memories working together.
I’m hugely proud of the team and the SLT at YS; we’ve weathered quite a lot together, surviving and then growing out of the pandemic is an ongoing proud moment!
Who are the women that have inspired you the most?
Undoubtedly my granny; from the tenements in Glasgow to the most selfless, altruistic person I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
There’s a book called Fashion & Graphics by Tamsin Blanchard that came out in 2004 and showed me that you could have a career in applied design, so that was a key career inspiration. And then there are women all around me, in my family, friends and in the team, who inspire me, too many to name check, but everyday heroes juggling life and getting on with it. Shout out to you all. x
What’s good about being a woman in the design industry?
I want to answer this by saying I imagine it’s the same things that are good about being a man in the design industry! But being able to effect change and have an impact, even through daily decisions that we make as a business, such as where we recruit, running for B‑Corp certification, and matching our policies to our values, helps create a better place for lots of people to work, and sets them up to deliver great work that can impact global audiences.
What challenges have you faced (if any)?
The issue is you often don’t know it’s a challenge in the moment; you realise it with hindsight or the benefit of experience. How do I know whether I was paid equally to my male counterparts throughout my career? Some challenges are industry ingrained and will take everyone, not only women, to address.
In my earlier career, I’ve been in many meeting rooms where I’ve either been spoken over or not addressed by men in the room who were talking to the other men. It happens less often now — or maybe I know how to deal with it better!
What change in the design industry would you like to see?
More women in leadership; we know there are more female design students than male, but when we look at senior roles industry-wide, only 17% are held by women. I’m really proud that at YS, across our four global studios, 53% of leadership roles (Design Director or senior) are held by women.
I’m really passionate about supporting careers after babies; there is a shocking statistic in a report out last month that 85% of women leave the UK workforce within 3 years of having a child. What an oversight of business leaders not to be able to set up their companies to harness all that brilliant experience and knowledge. The pandemic has proven that we can work more flexibly. I hope this means we see an increase in female leadership in design, with businesses recognising the full value of their female workforce and supporting that throughout their whole career.
What advice would you give your younger self starting out in the creative industry?
Own it and speak up. I mentor with Kerning the Gap, and I’ve heard so many anecdotes from women in design about imposter syndrome, and lacking the confidence to express their views, when they’re as valid as everyone else’s in the room. If you think it, say it. What’s the worst that can happen?!