Getting to Know... Lisa Campana, Director of Design at Wunderman Thompson UK

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Team leaders have it the hard way. Experienced motivators, often capable mentors and managers of both time and people, they are responsible for making sure that everything remains on track, even if it means putting out fires here and there.

Throw a kid into the mix and you're probably in for a treat. Lisa Campana, head of design at Wunderman Thompson UK, is also a mum in her not-so-free time and was still able to find a few minutes to answer our questions with some insightful advice for all the creatives out there.

Let's get to know her in her answers below, with a hopeful note at the end for creatives and the future of the industry.

Tell us a bit about your current role

I’m currently Head of Design at Wunderman Thompson UK and mum to my 10 year old daughter. Each role has its benefits and challenges. As a team leader my role is about focusing on the work that we do as a team and trying to create the best environment for great work to happen in. It’s also about mentoring, encouraging positive leadership practices, fire-fighting and trying to keep things on track.

Being a mum is way more challenging. I’m not a natural and you don’t get university training for it, but I’m trying my very best to create a good human being who respects other people and the world around her.

Tell us about your background and how it has equipped you for today

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, called Endicott. It’s the birthplace of IBM and my father worked there, so we always had a computer in the house (and this was a long time ago before personal computers really took off). I always remember drawing, creating, building things and generally making a mess around the house and driving my parents crazy.

Not being able to pick up a pencil off the floor forced me to find creative solutions to everyday situations that most other teens took for granted

However I think the single most defining thing for me as a teenager was that I spent all of my high school years in a back-brace. Suddenly not being able to tie your own shoelaces or pick a pencil up off the floor forced me to find creative solutions to everyday situations that most other teens took for granted. That experience greatly shaped my determination, problem-solving abilities and being able to see things from a different person’s perspective.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I’m a fairly determined person, so I normally seek out challenges and always chose the least comfortable path. That way you’re always experiencing something new and don’t find yourself becoming bored. If you ever find yourself needing to really dig deep to find inspiration, try a total shift-change. Learn something new, try something different, speak with people you’ve never spoken with, read loads of books about subjects, people, or cultures you don’t know about, etc. 

Tell us something about your professional life we don’t already know

I once bagged it all in and decided to change careers. I spent 6 years studying part-time for a second degree in healthcare. In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t totally quit the creative industry because the past 10 years since I got my second degree have been really great to me. Medicine and design actually have a lot in common, as both are about problem solving.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

That’s a hard one! I suppose there’s been a few ‘firsts’ over the years and those are the things that stick out to me. Things like, which was one of the very first fashion ecommerce sites, and which I worked on with the late make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin, during the boom in the late 1990’s, are early highlights. They were both fun because they were fresh creative challenges. I remember that people kept telling us that no one would buy fashion or make-up online, at that time it was a totally new thing. We had genuinely interesting challenges, like how to shoot a $400 handbag in a way that people could see the quality, without clogging up their 56k dial-up modems.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I’d be working in Functional Medicine; it’s definitely the way modern healthcare is going. I spent a lot of time around doctors and volunteering in hospitals growing up, so I’ve always been really interested in medicine. After I completed my BSc in Health Science, I started studying Functional Medicine. It’s nice to know that if the design thing doesn’t work out, I have something else to fall back on.

How do you recharge away from the office?

With the current lockdown the office and home are the same thing so it’s hard. The streets are empty so I’ve been cycling loads and exploring parts of London I’ve not been to before. I’ve loved discovering new sights, sounds and smells (it’s spring and who knew London could smell so lovely!). Street art is a huge inspiration for me, so I love making little pilgrimages to pieces I’ve seen online. Getting lost is the best, because you always turn down a new street and sometimes find a totally new piece that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

Truthfully, less dependency on the internet and more brave clients. Although the internet has been great for a lot of reasons, it’s completely homogenised creativity. We used to take our time with projects, sketching, crafting, researching through books, being inspired by textures or materials. I used to have whole books of full of things I’d found and collected, it could have been a paper texture I loved or a club flyer from the 1990’s that used an interesting type treatment.

Now we’re led by what we see online as a shortcut to the lack of time we’re given to create within. I find that I’m often disappointed with the majority of stuff that makes it into the 'real world.' The stuff that really cuts through does so because it’s brave. To make brave things you need brave clients who are willing to take a chance on being different and be led by their own brand’s mission and purpose, not copy whatever the latest fad is.

Lisa Campana is Head of Design at Wunderman Thompson UK.


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