Andy West, creative director

,  20 March 2013

After a year in his first design job, Andy co-founded brand design agency Multiadaptor. With a small team, the company has worked for the BBC, Swarovski, and many other high-profile brands.

Multiadaptor have designed websites, logos, graphic materials and iPhone apps for a range of high profile brands.
Multiadaptor have designed websites, logos, graphic materials and iPhone apps for a range of high profile brands.

Hometown?

Southend-on-Sea, but I'm now based in London.

What job do you do?

I'm a designer, and the owner of a design business called Multiadaptor.

"It's about knowing what you're good at, and specialising in that."

We do branding and communications design. This means we create the identity of a brand: what it looks like, but also all the things it needs to connect with consumers. This can include websites, books, exhibitions, logos – all the different elements of a brand identity.

Our clients cover a real range of industries, from utility companies to charities to technology.

Projects we've designed include an iPhone and iPad app for Swarovski Crystals, Southern Water's main customer-facing website, and a campaign for the BBC encouraging students to eat better.

We do a lot of work with the Design Council and the British Council, but we also work with smaller businesses and start-ups. 

How did you get started in design?

When I graduated, I moved up to London to try to get into the city's 'design scene'. 

My business partner at Multiadaptor, Ben, and I had worked together on a project at college which won a student design award, resulting in a placement at the BBC. This involved a bit of interactive design work and some branding.

My next placement was with Design Bridge. I did packaging work, and more branding. Next, I did a placement at Form – that was more focussed on print-based graphic design.

After working in my first design job at a print company for about a year, Ben and I decided to set up Multiadaptor ourselves.

We had cheap rent where we were living, and we thought, 'Why not? If it all goes wrong, we'll just go back to hunting for jobs.' We were quite naive and a bit arrogant, but in a way that was a good thing, because it quashed any fears we had.

What qualifications do you have?

I did Art at school, then a foundation year at art school.

After that, I did a degree in Graphic Design at Bournemouth Arts Institute (now Bournemouth Arts University).

What do you do at work?

On the one hand, I'm running a business. There's a lot of paying invoices, managing people, and looking at ways to develop and grow the business.

Alongside that, there's the design side of things: creative direction, marketing, and overseeing our designers. 

These days I don't really design things myself so much. I do bits here and there, but my work is more about overseeing the direction we're going in.

I'm in charge of around five people in the office, plus one or two freelancers, so it's a small team. People often think we're about 30 people. Instead, we use our networks and build relationships with other people to get things done.

"When you get a foot in the door, try to exceed expectations."

When we do a website, we don't build it. We design it, but we work with programmers and developers who are either freelance or from other companies we've linked up with. For the Southern Water website job, for example, we partnered up with another company.

It's about knowing what you're good at, specialising in that, and then being able to pull in people with other skills that complement yours.

What's the best thing about your job?

When you're running a business, you're in complete control of what you do. In some ways, the world's your oyster. 

And the worst thing about the job?

You worry about money if you run your own company, and you're very busy. We're quite ambitious with what we want to achieve, so there's always a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it all in!

How do I get into design?

  1. Work hard and be nice to people
    In this industry, whatever goes around comes around. We've always had that philosophy. Do a good job, and be good to work with, and people will respond to it.
  2. Be persistent
    Keep going! You need to have confidence and believe in yourself. I think it's harder nowadays, but making it is still a case of keeping going, keeping on it, and believing you can do it.
  3. Make yourself indispensable
    When you do get a foot in the door, try to exceed expectations. What can you do that means your employer would find it hard to let you go? 
  4. Don't stop learning
    Constant learning is key: make sure you learn from what goes well, but importantly, make sure you learn from what doesn't. Pay attention to your mistakes. 
  5. Don't be afraid to have an opinion
    When you're designing, think about your take on the world. If you have a clear point of view and believe in the issues that matter to you, people will gravitate towards that. Make sure your design work reflects it.

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