Recently, I’ve been asked by students to answer questions about my career choices, path and packaging design as a subject.

I love to oblige, it actually means that I stop to think! Plus I LOVE to give back as I know how precious that time as a student is.

This is the first set of questions; from Megan Collinson.


Did you go to university? If so, what did you study? Why did you choose to do brand packaging as a career? 

Yes, I studied BA Graphic Design combined with MA Structural Graphics

My first  experience of packaging design was actually at school in Design & Technology.

It was GCSE Graphic Design but we had to make a perfume bottle; it stuck with me since!

When I started University I didn’t necessarily know that I wanted to maintain packaging design, but in the 3rd year we had to choose specialisms to take forwards. I chose packaging design as I’ve always loved collecting sexy bits of print and packaging. 

I also always liked the 3D aspect at University; rather than training as graphic designers, we actually worked with materials and form. We spent our time in the workshops crafting bespoke shapes out of plastics and different materials, this is the other side of packaging design that most people forget.

We worked with sustainability and problem solving at a deeper level than creating pretty labels; I wanted to change the world! (still do) My final year project was all about food waste and how we can reduce the amount of wonky fruit and veg in the supermarkets (this was in 2011, WAY before it became a hot topic.)

The two elements combined for me make it a really interesting subject; as well as the psychology of how we have to turn browsers into buyers at the point of purchase. We have seconds to get a product of shelf; my job now is to think about how we do that.

Did you partake in any work experience/jobs before becoming self employed?

Yes lots! 

Here is the run down:

I graduated 2012; went to London, completed internshisps/placements at:

Coley Porter Bell

Williams Murray Hamm

Dragon Rouge

Dew Gibbons at Partners 

Some of these were a couple of months long and some I returned to multiple times. (I must write a journal entry specifically about this because there’s so much else to share. In a condensed form, I interned for about 18 months, finding dodgy accommodation in London, spending all of my money until I was that anxious about not getting a job I ended up coming home. )

Anyway, then I did some more up North at Anthem, Vast, Elmwood and Ledgard Jepson.

Eventually I got a job at Refinery in Manchester which paid14k (yep.), then very quickly moved to Robot Food in Leeds where I stayed for 3 years.

After that, I had a brief stint at Tonik in Sheffield (1 year) 

It was really here that made me realise I could do it for myself. 

As designers, we had a lot of autonomy. We had our fingers in all aspects of the business, meaning we handled the enquiries, phone calls, quotes and end-to-end design process. It seemed a lot at the time, but it also meant that it showed me what I needed to do, and more importantly what I could do better and if it was MY business; how I would approach things.

Advice for interning - ASK outright to return again, don’t wait for them. I got asked to return, BUT I can only imagine how much easier and less doubt there would’ve been if I simply asked first! Ask about jobs too! 

Looking back it was clear that the places I interned at, weren't looking to hire, but quite frankly I didn’t know what I was doing so it would’ve been a massive commitment for them. 

But again, if I’d just asked or if there was more transparency from each party about our aims and intentions, there might be less tip toeing about in the hope that they might one day offer a job! 

(You’d think it was clear that an intern who was staying in a spare room was looking for a job, but I think there’s also this vibe that they’re doing you a favour and that’s all there is to it.)

What programmes do you recommend using to create great work? eg, photoshop? Illustrator? 

Photoshop for image editing/creation, 3D visuals, texture

Illustrator for all packaging design, logos, graphics

I don’t use indesign daily, but it handles presentations well. I use this as a place to present work, but I don’t design in it.

Recently I’ve started using ProCreate too.

Read this journal post for more on what I work with.

Where do you find your influences/inspirations from? 

Travel - always look up, look at buildings, signage, foreign packaging, foreign lettering

I always feel most refreshed after being somewhere unknown, theres lots to things to see and absorb.

Books - I rarely read the words but like to have books about for flicking through. Not always graphic design books, current favourites are a vintage interior design book and a book on brutalist architecture.

I just like to look at them, but it may never appear in my work

For Visual Planning (I have blog post on this coming up next week) I use instagram, pinterest as my search engines for design reference. 

I also always have bits of reference printed off and pinned near my desk; I change it frequently depending on what I’ve been looking at lately. If I notice I’m being drawn to similar things I collect it all together to see what world it creates. (again, not always used in client work, I just like to have it around!)