Ask our Associates: John Smith

Posted by Chris Coates on 14th June 2018

In the first of a series of blogs introducing our associates, we spoke to John Smith, who runs his own design & branding company, CreativeSmith. John designs Emphasis magazine for our PR client the Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK and is our first port of call on anything design related for our other clients.

How long have you been working in design?

Just over 30 years. Crikey that makes me sound old but I’m young at heart!

How did you get into design and marketing?

I had an older cousin who was a graphic designer and I spent some time at his work when I was at school. I loved it and then did a work placement in a graphics department and then I went straight to Art School.

What is the best thing about your job?

Working with clients who care about their organisation and producing work together that genuinely makes a difference to people’s lives.

What’s your favourite type of design?

I’ve done everything over the years - from national TV ads to magazine ads in European magazines, to branding for large multi-nationals and local small businesses. It sounds like a cop-out but I enjoy everything - it’s all about the relationship with the client, the talented people writing the content and the opportunity to do something fresh and effective.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

It used to be the big international brand names such as HSBC but these days it is the work for charities and patient organisations. This is where I see the work I’m involved with make a positive, lasting difference to people.

What are some common myths or challenges about design?

That you have to be able to draw to be a good designer - you don’t but you do have to be good at looking.

That anyone can design if they have a computer and the software. Computers are just fancy pencils - the real creativity comes from thinking around problems and always looking for new ways to solve.

That creativity is the preserve of ‘creative people’ which is nonsense. Everyone is creative and uses creative thinking whatever line of work they’re in.

Finally, that ideas have to be quirky to be creative. This often means people lose sight of the actual problem the brief is trying to solve. It’s about creative solutions which are effective, not just for show. Am I allowed to use the phrase 'all fur coat and no knickers'?

Outside of work, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a member of the local Mountain Rescue Team. We're on-call 24/7 and it is totally unpredictable so it can be a very quiet month and then 3 call outs in a weekend or one in the middle of the night. I also enjoy a spot of fell running and I’m saving up my pocket money for a motorbike to fulfil a childhood dream (I always wanted to be the next Barry Sheene!).

Tea or coffee?

Either, as long as its decaf with soya milk.

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