It sounds cliché, but one of the most important recommendations a starting designer should heed is to keep things simple. Easier said than done, of course – and yet some designers, such as Jennifer Swales, make of simplicity the founding stone of their entire style.
As a designer, Jennifer is a firm believer in the power of clarity through simplicity, and she applies that principle to any work she does. A lover of traditional media types as much as she is passionate about new tech, Jennifer loves to hop from one type of work to another to keep herself inspired.
In this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about Jennifer's own style, how she got into the industry and what her dreams are for the future of creativity.
How did you get into the industry?
I’ve always loved to draw and be creative, so becoming a designer felt like a natural way to combine creativity and business. I did a degree in graphic design alongside a couple of short design placements, and then started my career at a Cambridge-based design agency specialising in B2B communications working with clients including Accenture, Shell and BP.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I’m a freelance graphic designer based by the seaside in Brighton, UK – it’s a lovely little spot nestled between the beach and the South Downs national park. I set up my little design studio called Created By Jen (www.createdbyjen.co.uk) in 2020 after many years working in design agencies. Prior to moving to Brighton, I lived out in Melbourne (Australia) for a year and worked in a design agency specialising in property and the built environment sector.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I’d love to work with dogs! If I wasn’t a graphic designer I think I’d retrain to be a dog behavioural therapist – it’s amazing what joy dogs can bring to people’s lives and how their company can affect a person’s outlook and health.
Can you explain your creative process?
My creative process starts with a discovery phase where I work closely with the client to uncover a lot of detail including insight into their business, what their creative requirements are, their future aspirations and their target audience to name but a few things. This is then followed by a research phase where I gather external information on the industry, competitors and visual research to help inspire me. For branding projects I’ll usually craft 3 creative routes, from where I’ll refine and develop one of them.
How would you describe your style?
My philosophy and approach to design is underpinned by a belief that simplicity provides clarity. By eliminating unnecessary information and championing only the essential, I am able to create balance and impact through authentic designs that make a lasting impression.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
Stefan Sagmeister has long been on my list of people I regularly get inspiration from. Over the years I’ve found individuals such as @mr_bingstagram and @adamjk on Instagram provide unexpected and at times, amusing work that help challenge our preconceptions and the way we think.
How has technology affected the way you work?
As a designer it’s important to me to stay connected to my creative roots, and for me that means drawing and putting pencil to paper. There’s so much amazing design software available nowadays but I will always love the organic process of crafting the early stages of a design by hand. I use technology and digital applications to enhance my work but at my core will always be a love for the old-school processes!
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Variation! I like to vary where I work, be that in my studio, in co-working spaces in town or at a local coffee shop powered by many lattes! The type of my work also varies day-to-day, whether it’s a branding brief from a client, an illustration commission or keeping on top of running a business.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
I’ve worked with Ombar Chocolate for many years as their freelance Creative Design Lead. A stand-out moment for me was leading the design of a campaign to launch a new flavour product (pistachio), which involved the creation of large-scale window graphics that appeared in all Planet Organic stores across central London. It’s a great feeling to walk down the street and see your own artwork in front of so many people.
How do you recharge away from the office?
Exercise is a big part of my life – running, bouldering and yoga keep me balanced in mind and body. For me there’s nothing better than heading out onto the South Downs with my trail running shoes at dawn on a beautiful summer’s day – that’s when I feel truly alive!
What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Be persistent and keep trying. These Covid-times are tough and have changed things for so many people, but there is the right work and job out there for you.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
I hope that the creative industry never loses touch and a true connection with traditional styles of work. Advancements in technology have transformed the way we work but there will forever by a beauty in the simplicity of crafting a graphic screenprint by hand, or from creating a brand mark by hand. Nowadays we are able to digitally perfect our work like never before, but I feel there is a different level of creativity in the unpredictable and uncertain results you get from traditional media types.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?
It would be interesting to see a review of our higher education programs to include more practical real-life workplace experience and training. From speaking to graduates I found that they feel there could be a greater teaching of how their role as a designer fits into the larger picture – how might strategists within design agencies influence their creative work and the relationship between creatives and project managers etc.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller is a great book and over the years www.bpando.org has provided me with so much creative inspiration.