Brand strategy & design career

,  24 May 2011

Nick Eagleton is a Creative Director for The Partners, a brand strategy and design company with a multitude of industry awards. Nick leads a team that helps organisations create a unique identity.

Nick uses brainstorming and numerous Post-it Notes, which encourage brevity and clarity.
Nick uses brainstorming and numerous Post-it Notes, which encourage brevity and clarity.

The Partners have an impressive list of prestigious clients including AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals), Aviva, EBay, Ford, Goldsmiths and Vodafone. Their industry awards include Marketing magazine’s Branding Agency of the Year 2010 and the top position in Design Week’s Creative Survey.

Nick's energy, enthusiasm and enjoyment of his creative career are obvious.

A background in art

Nick’s artistic background is in sculpture, which he regards as hugely beneficial.

“Studying sculpture gave me an alternative perspective. It helped open my eyes and enabled me to look at things differently. I have always been interested in cultural life, and learnt the necessary technical skills for my present job along the way.

"As a child I always enjoyed painting and drawing, and benefitted greatly from the support of my fantastically encouraging mother. Her optimism rubbed off on me, although she had no expectations as to what I might achieve. That optimism has helped me to thrive in my work.

"I never made a conscious decision to enter this career. Rather it more or less chose me. When I joined The Partners after a spell working for another designer, and prior to that, a scientific exhibition centre, I really flourished. I knew I was really fortunate to be working for the number one company in the business.”

Working on a brand campaign

Nick heads up a team of ten designers, and is one of three Creative Directors with similar roles within The Partners.  He works closely with the co-team leader who looks after the client side of the work, and Nick's role is very much a creative one.

"Art or design is just part of a wider picture. We need really smart people with interesting ideas."

“Leading the creative direction on a range of projects at any one time certainly keeps life interesting!  I usually have one big project on the go, such as work I did for Ford, re-launching their blue oval logo, or developing brand campaigns for AstraZeneca.

"At the same time I am responsible for a number of smaller projects, often pro bono [for the public good] for not-for-profit organisations. This contrast ensures my work is always varied.”

Brand strategy and design at The Partners encompasses a diverse range of activities including software applications, films, exhibitions, advertising, recruitment and e-learning.

“Working with such a talented team offers fantastic opportunities to do what has never been done before, in a highly creative way.

"I recently worked with Deloitte, the major international accounting and consulting firm. We were involved in designing and branding a bicycle for Deloitte employees in Holland, this was anything but boring. In this way our work can sometimes be quite deceptive. Projects within these large multinational companies provide a multitude of small challenges and creative opportunities.

"Another exciting project for Deloitte involved developing a corporate screen-saver, called 'Planet Saver', which incorporates software to put the computer into sleep mode when not used. This has been hugely successful, and resulted in massive energy savings for the company.

"The opportunity to do pro bono work is a great part of this job. We work for a variety of smaller clients, but one that stands out is Fine Cell Work, which enables prisoners to learn quilting and embroidery skills. The prisoners, mostly men, make beautiful cushions and quilts which are then sold."

Working in a creative team

Although Nick is creative director, he relies from input on all members of the team to help generate ideas.

“Collaborative working is vital, and helps to unlock great work. We use techniques like brainstorming and numerous Post-it Notes adorn our walls, which encourage brevity and clarity. It can sometimes be someone quite junior, perhaps an intern, who has the best idea.

"Pen and paper are always used at the beginning of a project to generate ideas. I love those early days of a project, when everything is possible and there is so much energy and enthusiasm in the team. Learning about a new subject, be it financial services or asthma can be life-changing.”

All team members have a design background, most often in graphics. An understanding of digital techniques is becoming increasingly important.

“My team members' art or design discipline is just part of a wider picture. Here at The Partners we need really smart people with interesting ideas.

"Our designers are questioning, highly motivated and often passionate about a particular subject. Some are quiet and others more extrovert. I am extrovert, and that undoubtedly makes working life a lot easier, particularly with client presentations.”

The challenges of working in the design sector

“Working with a talented team offers fantastic opportunities to do what has never been done before, in a highly creative way."

“Not everything is a wonderful creative opportunity. Sometimes I have to take on work which is tough and represents a real challenge.

"This sector is changing rapidly, particularly with respect to the internet, mobile technology and most importantly social media. But it is all this which helps to make my job such fun.

"Working on larger projects is very time-consuming. The testing needed for Deloitte’s Planet Saver was very time-consuming. Projects for large companies often take a long time to come to fruition.”

Late working and long hours are common and stamina is essential. Nick aims to leave the office by 7pm most nights, and he often takes work home to finish once his children are asleep. He makes a point of balancing his home and work life, enabling him to spend quality time with his family at weekends.

“Possibly the biggest challenge this sector is facing is the sheer number of people looking for jobs. However, attitude is everything, and if you are smart, committed and thoughtful, you are more likely to succeed."

Advice for a career in design and branding

  • Age is not a barrier in this industry. Different life experiences bring something valuable
  • Be really into 'stuff', lots of stuff, as much as you can. Discover your passion and have your eyes wide open
  • Ask questions about how things can be different
  • Whatever your personality type you need to be able to communicate very clearly and effectively.

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