" A DAY IN THE LIFE: STRATEGIC DESIGNER | Haines McGregor

 

There are many pre-conceptions about what a Designer does.

From creating one dimensional logos and meticulously fiddling about with type, to seeing the hours ebb away through imaginative doodling while sipping an overpriced cold-brew coffee, sporting a ruffled beard and vintage check shirt.

While any number of these may be true, at Haines McGregor the definition of a Designer is very different and more difficult to articulate.

So what is a day in my life like?

 

One of the biggest challenges facing creatives over the past 12 months is dealing with the reality of looking at the same four walls all day, every day.

If you’re like me, this can get incredibly draining to the point of your creative juices feeling like they’ve evaporated into thin air. Working from home can be a blessing and a curse, but with my girlfriend getting priority access on our only desk, I make a point of hopping on my bike and traversing the roads of London to the studio every day. I say every day – that is unless England’s infamous wretched weather rears its ugly head. Let’s call it most days.

But even if it is raining or freezing cold, the simple act of getting myself outside in the morning and pedalling through the traffic lifts my spirits and gives me the momentum to tackle the challenges of the day. Inspiration can come in many forms for a designer; creative blogs, social media, portfolio showcases, but an underappreciated one is just getting yourself out of your sanctuary and experiencing the world around you. Allowing your brain to ruminate and mind to run can give you a fresh perspective and unearth that thought, lingering in the back of your mind that might just spark something.

Offices across London have transformed into a weirdly dystopian space. Even now I expect there to be a small crowd of people to greet me on my arrival, but alas today I have a couple of plants and a sofa for company. With a freshly made coffee in hand, I officially start my working day.

This is the part where it gets complicated. When explaining to friends or family about what I ‘actually’ do beyond the purpose of the company I work for, there are a myriad of disciplines to talk about. Where do I start? On any given day I could be exploring packaging concepts for a Swiss lager innovation, while the next I’m editing and producing inspiring brand films for the biggest dairy company in the world. This is all after creating visual brand worlds, inspiring toolkits and planning for an internal photoshoot to help launch our new internal identity.

There is a constant changing selection of work to tackle at Haines McGregor which is both mentally challenging and creatively rewarding. This might put some people off. There is a pressure within design communities and universities to ‘specialise’ in a chosen field and to always have ‘your own style’ when it comes to visual aesthetic and design choices.

I disagree with this.

As this is where being a designer differs from being an artist. We have to gracefully glide between different identity systems, demand spaces, category semiotics and mediums to communicate ideas. Keeping your eyes on the brief and focusing on the commercial ambition of the brand is more important than finding a way to shoehorn in the latest design trend, which will fade away into the Instagram abyss within 6 months.

Brands exist to sell more product and should strive to live forever, it may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe designers should approach their work with this in the front of their mind.

 

Back to my day.

This morning I’m editing an inspiring film designed to explain how Demand Spaces work for internal audiences and brand teams. One of the biggest positives of working at Haines McGregor is being afforded the space to explore avenues of the creative world which you have a particular affinity or passion for. For some that may be illustration, for others writing, but for me that has turned out to be video and photography. Traditional design is wonderful in its ability to communicate, but video is invaluable in its power to be genuinely emotional and awe-inspiring through moving frames and music.

With half of my day consumed, a trip to the shop is needed both to stretch the legs and to fill the stomach. With this comes the inevitable post-lunch slump. We’ve all been there. Your stomach is happily gnawing away at the meal deal you instantly regretted buying and sends your brain into an unavoidable state of fatigue. This is where music comes in to play. With work on the film out of the way, I no longer need to listen to random vocal ticks or stuttering soundtracks as a result of editing a piece frame by frame.  A blast of music can re-energize your day and pump new life into your work.

With a carefully crafted playlist which ranges from the funk fusion of the late Prince to the atmospheric synth-wave inspired Weeknd playing in my reinvigorated work space, I shift lanes from video editing onto packaging design to breathe life into concepts for a global cider brand. Constantly moving between disciplines sounds daunting, but these shifts in workflow bring a refreshing variety to the working week. Having a broad appreciation for different aspects of creativity allows you to better understand the way in which brands show up across all touch-points and how best to tap into them.

Internal creative feedback sessions, client calls and team meetings break up the work and inject a much-needed dose of sociability into a day otherwise spent largely in isolation. Having been selected to head up the HMC Social Club, it is also my job to keep the team engaged every few weeks with afterwork activities or meet-ups. This has become particularly challenging with the limitations in place due to Covid-19, but this week a whisky tasting session is in the works which I’m sure the team will either love or loathe depending on taste preferences, but having a chat and a laugh is the point, and we will certainly do that.

Then comes the time to hop back on that bike and navigate the same treacherous roads as I did in the morning, only this time with more uphill and more beads of sweat to match. Tomorrow is a new day, and who knows, maybe that cycle into the office will provide another eureka moment which can help make another brand richer.