When she’s not meeting with clients or working on her next design, Jo can usually be found at the climbing wall, or out walking with her husband and whippet. To find out some more about Jo, we’ve asked her some probing questions.
Jo, why did you decide to become a designer?
My Art Foundation course in Leamington. A wonderful time where you’re taught to unlearn absolutely everything you’ve picked up through school and college.
At that point a world of possibility opened before my eyes – and I had a whole year to try everything. Just the right amount of time to discover I had absolutely no desire for textiles; no friends in fine-art; and not enough patience for product design. Graphic Designer it was – and I’ve not looked back since.
Has there been a person or event that majorly influenced how you think?
So I’ll go for the cheesy option … and credit my first year degree tutors Simon Downs and Johnny Hardstaff. Because, if I trace my shift in thinking all the way back to the start, they were the biggest single influence on my way of thinking.
They taught me to look sideways, upside-down – to challenge my thinking; avoid the obvious; push the limits of acceptable … a lot. If I thought Foundation changed things – it had nothing on that first year of Uni. And I loved every minute.
What is your strongest skill, and what habits helped you develop it?
Visual problem solving is the skill I draw from the most. With branding projects in particular. You can be presented with a complex brief, multiple audiences and a core message – and at some point it must all be translated and transformed into a visual form. One that has personality and a recognisable identity.
Over the years I’ve got to know my individual creative process inside out. I can see when a lull is coming and I’ve learnt what I need to do to kick start the visual problem solving again.
Do you have a favourite type of brief or project to work on?
Big branding briefs that involve the collective brainpower of the whole team. Projects where we can shape the brand completely – pulling all our skills together and working collaboratively with the client to create something that can grow with them. Flexible, playful, colourful – if those works are suitable then I’m content!
What is sparking your interest right now, and how is that appearing in your work?
Words. They infuriate and fascinate me with equal measure. Words can be so powerful – especially when it comes to branding. And yet great designers aren’t necessarily great wordsmiths. And nor are clients.
Words persuade, coax, drive, embolden, reassure, fire up. But in an instant they can also put you off, turn you away, create suspicion and uncertainly.
Words play a vital role in everything we create. When developing a brand – what is the tone of voice? When writing web copy how do you get straight to the point, speak to the user in an instant without losing them (while juggling SEO considerations and google brownie points at the same time)?
What are you into besides your work?
I seem to be gathering hobbies of late. Yoga, bouldering, running, house renovating (more of a necessity). All of which I love.
But what I’m passionate about? Running a business the best way I know how – while still carving out a window of downtime to spend with my husband and my Whippet. Taking those guys for a walk – you can’t beat it!!
Tell us the best advice you’ve heard that you always pass on.
I don’t think I have any gems of advice that aren’t cliché – your first idea is rarely your best, less is more and so and and so forth.
I did listen to some great programmes of Radio 4 about being ‘addicted to busy’ that really resonated. We’re very good at being ‘busy’, filling every second of time with activity. And yet taking to time to think, read, learn or just switch off is just as valuable. Maybe there’s some advice in there somewhere?