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The Unstoppable Creative Drive of Sheryl Ellis

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Sometimes ambition can only take you so far. It is with passion that you truly shine.

Freelance design consultant and director Sheryl Ellis has plenty of passion to spare. Having worked with brands in the likes of MTV and HMV, her stories resonate with creative drive and act as a powerful beacon of inspiration to all those aspiring to someday work with their favourite brands.

For this Member Spotlight we have had a chat with Sheryl, who was so kind as to spend some time to answer our silly questions on her career and the future of the industry.

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How did you get into the industry?

My first big break in digital design was with the iconic retailer, HMV. I started as a freelancer and worked in the digital team on hmv.com and hmvdigital.com, 15 or so years ago… at the time they were the market leaders in selling all entertainment products. They were rebranding so it was all systems go, and a really exciting time to be in a position to reshape their digital experience. 

I was involved in rethinking hmv.com’s brand experience online. It was when they officially took the brand’s capitalised logo to lowercase.

This was one of their largest creative overhaul and CRO projects, bringing a new, simplified design to the homepage and emarketing templates to increase conversion and reduce the bounce-rate also. It  was a major success and we saw conversion increases of over 15%+ almost immediately. 
I also worked on the launch creative for their music downloads service hmvdigital.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I am based in London, I freelance and work with various clients, creating and transforming brands and product design experiences.

My latest client in Curated Pieces, a soon to be launched home decor brand. I am defining the Creative Direction, UI/UX design and shaping a number of creative projects with them.

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

I’d be a restorative yoga teacher. Last year I started these classes at Triyoga they’re amazing for relaxation, stretching and healing. I think it’s a really powerful practice. There is so much benefit from being able to quieten the mind, breathe, and slow down. When I have space to attend these classes now it definitely helps my creativity.

Can you explain your creative process?

I love sketching, moodboarding and iterating on my ideas… I seek inspiration from everywhere. Scanning through magazines, Instagram, looking at interesting visuals around me as I navigate through the city. Inspiration can come from everywhere and anywhere. Once I’ve consumed all my inspiration, I love getting my ideas down. I will jump into some sketches or maybe early concepts… I love the Miro white-boarding tool for showing my creative development or stream of consciousness… I enjoy also adding my moodboards or developing empathy maps to it. It’s such a great tool!

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What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Meditation and having my own side creative projects that don’t relate to brand and product design. I set myself 30 minutes only sketch challenges and I also paint. I am currently completing a series of paintings on a birds, acrylic on canvas.

I think it really energises me to come back with new ideas once I’ve taken the time out.

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

My project with Viacom to produce MTV’s first ever entertainment and music app, MTV Trax.

It was exciting times! I was working at MusicQubed at the time and Viacom partnered with us to bring the MTV Trax product to market. I defined the overarching Creative Direction, the UI and UX, as well as principles for the entire execution. I worked on applying that to the lead platform that I designed for, iOS and also worked with my team of designers that I led to execute the rest of the creative direction across other platforms and media. 

The MTV Trax product was key to allow Viacom and MTV to understand their millennial reach. It was their highest rated app of all time in the app stores. It was also the first app on MusicQubed’s new platform that I also designed so a lot of exciting firsts in this. We actually got the project as a Senior exec over at Viacom International saw the HeyList Product that I designed which our CEO had on his phone. MusicQubed was initially going to take HeyList to market but Viacom was wowed by the product and decided that they wanted the product  branded MTV.

I worked very collaboratively with Viacom, it was very explorative which was fun to see where it would end. The product enabled them to also get into the mobile market which was one of their key objectives also, with the MTV Trax Sim product with EE. 

I also worked with senior stakeholders over in Viacom International, New York,  to demo other similar formats across the Viacom network including exploring a Nickelodeon product also.

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How do you recharge away from the office?

I love meditation, yoga, running, sketching and painting... Meditation helps me find the space to let creative ideas flow and develop intuitively

Being outside with nature is also great. It helps me ground and renew so I can feel energised to give creatively back to projects.

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