Creative director Jodine Bell of Principals Brand.

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Jodine Bell is creative director at Australia- and New Zealand-based strategic/creative agency Principals. Her career has gone from strength to strength since her early days at design studio Switch as she develops a team and culture at in the Auckland office to create work for boutique businesses and large corporates both locally and across the ditch.

Below, she talks about her role, the company and how she stays inspired away from work.


You’ve been the creative director at Principals for over three years now and the studio has developed a broader range of client work in that time. What was your plan for your team and getting more boutique brands to balance out the big corporate work?

I’m from a boutique brand background so I have some favouritism towards that side, but really just want to do cool work and have fun doing it. As a team, we made a conscious decision to take on some projects for the love and future potential, not always immediate profit. We’ve been lucky with great clients who trust us with their brands and have become true partnerships.

I really enjoy the challenge of the larger corporate work though. It’s an immensely satisfying feeling rolling out large brands successfully. Being able to change between scale and outputs keeps the studio fresh and sane.


What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Last year was a crazy one and we really expanded the range of projects we work on with our clients (it seemed to be the year of the video — I think we did eight). This year is shaping up with some really interesting spatial and experience work.

It’s been so great seeing strategy as the platform for these brand extensions beyond what people generally think brand is. It also means we get to collaborate with cool people outside of our immediate studio, which is great. Variety is key.



"There are amazing women all through our field, so ensuring we have a visible and equal voice with men through forums and events is vital."



As a senior level female in the industry, how do you feel the future is looking for women to continue to make their mark in the creative space? What can studios do better to continue to create and promote equality?

Realistically, getting more women in senior roles (both creative and leadership) faces the same challenges as any area, until widespread cultural and corporate changes (pay parity, affordable, flexible childcare; equal paternity leave) are made in New Zealand it’s hard to envisage widespread change, but we keep trying.

Our studio usually has a high proportion of creative ladies which is great. They are generally younger, so showing them it’s possible to get to leadership positions is important and that there is a supportive network in the community.

Design Assembly’s Women in Design nights and Dow Goodfolk’s Ladies, Wine and a bit of Design are great examples. There are amazing women all through our field, so ensuring we have a visible and equal voice with men through forums and events is vital.

The interesting thing with design is it’s flexible enough to do your own thing from home, especially if you’ve got little ones, so there’s more women doing their own creative roles without getting noticed.


How do you stay challenged creatively and remain up to date with design 'trends'? What inspires you outside of work?

I’m naturally competitive and like winning. You can always do better. That’s the best creative driver for me. Plus, feeling really proud of what our team delivers is the best feeling ever.

From a ‘trend’ perspective, it’s less about what everyone else is doing and more how we can push a brand to elevate it or make it more interesting or relevant — like bread relief printing for the Venerdi brand pattern design by our talented Stephen Kane (you’d think toast would print better, but soft bread won out). I love a bit of hand lettering as well.




Outside of work I turn into a sloth — sofa and a book all the way (and margaritas!) The flip side of the sloth-ness has usually been a lot travel, but I’ve been slowly DIY renovating my cottage on Waiheke for the past three years so that takes up the time (and dosh) these days. I'm very thankful for YouTube DIY videos.

I’ve got a ridiculous belief that things can’t be that hard to do… learnings are: hire someone else to sand and paint floors, but framing doors is totally easy! Also, I’m finally making use of living on an island and have started ocean kayaking at a very, very leisurely pace.



Who are your heroes?

Another tough one. After much thinking… the people I’ve met who have thrown chance to the wind and pursued an unordinary life. From small to big things. Buying a Dutch barge instead of a house. Chucking in a corporate life for rural Italy. Welcoming strangers into their house for multiple summers (thanks Flo and Alex). Quitting a great job to go volunteering in Morocco (that was me). It’s not always the easy life, but it’s always interesting and I admire those people immensely.


What do you look for in a new team member when hiring? What are the key things you look for when meeting with designers?

They must like dogs or it could be awkward (see next question). Surprising creative — it’s a hard factor to quantify but exciting when you find it. The right fit for the team — we’re big on being supportive. Empathy for each other (and clients) plays a huge part in that. We’re also a bit loopy at times, so ability to roll with it is key. General knowledge — we take the Stuff daily quiz very seriously (lol) and need all the help we can get.


And finally, cats or dogs?

Cats! Mr Charles (large ginger feline) has been my sidekick for 13 years now and still can’t be trusted not to savage you if your back is turned.




But we do have a high rotation of studio dogs — Bowen ’Best-Dog’ Hanson (below) features on our website, and is the most client-requested team member for meetings. I’ve been told I have to also mention Hector, Parker and Bertie, so they don’t feel left out… only once have we all had our dogs in the studio at the same time. That was a crazy day.



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