Creative Lives — Creativity is thriving in the North: Eve Warren on life as a designer in Leeds
Designer Eve Warren might have departed from her childhood dream of becoming “one of those dog walkers in the park who had 20 dogs on a leash”, but her job at Leeds-based branding and packaging agency Robot Food means that she gets to celebrate dogs by working with pet food companies like Wagg. As well as this, she applies her design skills to a range of projects for food and drink companies, including Cadbury and BrewDog. Having grown up in an artistic household, Eve spends her spare time illustrating and undertaking freelance creative branding work. A self-professed “jack of all trades”, she talks to us here about the benefits of being versatile and adaptable, and challenges the misconception that London is the sole creative hub of the UK.
Designer, Robot Food (April 2017–present)
Designer, Fieldwork (July 2014–Dec 2016)
Freelance designer, Koto (January–April 2017)
BA Graphic Design, Leeds College of Art (2014)
Designer Eve Warren
How would you describe what you do?
I’m a designer at Leeds-based brand and packaging agency Robot Food. We specialise in product innovation and develop brands, from small start-ups to some of the worlds leading household names.
During my time at Robot Food, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the world’s most innovative breweries, such as Carlsberg, BrewDog, Northern Monk and Vocation Brewery. When the studio isn’t designing (or drinking beer), we are busy working with the likes of local Leeds heroes Awesome Merchandise, or our very own in-house tattoo care brand Electric Ink.
What does a typical working day look like?
Our team has doubled in size over the past couple of years, therefore we take a very agile approach to how we work as it’s important to stay efficient and deliver the work on time. The majority of the studio work full-time, 9am to 5.30pm. A large number of us have young families, so going home on time is a big part of our ethos.
Once or twice a week we hold planning sessions where each member is assigned to tasks, which are logged onto their individual planners. For me, no week is the same. Sometimes you can be booked on a job for an entire week, or you can be on multiple jobs where you have to juggle a few tasks throughout the day.
Robot Food work space in Leeds
How collaborative is your role?
Our process is super collaborative because the majority of the work we produce is very production heavy. There’s no space for egos. For a project to run smoothly you have to work as a team. There’s never a week where I don’t work closely with creative directors, designers, copy writers and project managers.
My role often requires me to adapt to working in various different phases of a project, from client immersion, concept development and presentations to the client, through to artwork and delivery.
“There’s no space for egos. For a project to run smoothly you have to work as a team.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
I think I’m in a very I’m fortunate position to have a job that I love. Being part of a team of really talented people has brought my practice on leaps and bounds and I get a real buzz when I see our work come to life. I probably have an unhealthy relationship with what I do because I’m constantly switched on, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The only negative is that there is never enough time in the day to learn new skills. I’ve always wanted to explore 3D and motion graphics but sadly they’re never a priority.
Eve working in the Robot Food photography studio
What has been the most exciting project of the past year?
Over the past 12 months we’ve worked on quite a few pet food brands with big personalities. I enjoy these sorts of projects because I love to be expressive with my identity work. Unfortunately I’m unable to share some of them because they are still in production, but a good example would be the work we did for Wagg.
The name Wagg was the perfect starting point and begged for a new brand mark with all the personality of our furry friends. It also inspired a completely ownable photography style for the brand, stepping away from the repetitive and cliché dog images typically seen across the category. We chose a broad selection of tails to celebrate all dogs, from man’s best friend sat on the sofa to the best in show.
Robot Food’s website
Robot Food's work for Wagg
Robot Food's work for Wagg
What skills would you say are essential to your job?
Good communication and presentation skills are essential. I don’t think many young designers are well prepared at university for pulling together and structuring presentations. A big part of what we do involves a great deal of visualising and strategising, so a good understanding of the Adobe suite and the confidence to talk and write about your work is an added bonus. Of course these things take time so a good attitude to get stuck in will take you far.
I personally think I’m a jack of all trades, and with the current full service agency model, more and more designers are adopting this approach. For those who want to stay relevant, being able to pivot and problem solve is a skill in itself.
“A lot of people think the creative industry is quite London-centric but that’s not the case.”
What do you like about working in Leeds?
A lot of people think the creative industry is quite London-centric but that’s just not the case. The north of England, especially Leeds and Manchester, both have fantastic creative communities. I think Leeds has really come into its own in the past seven years, with the opening of co-working spaces such as Duke Studios in the city centre and All In. Leeds. where agencies joined forces and won the bid to become the new home of Channel 4.
Are you currently working on any personal projects?
Since graduating I’ve always set aside time for personal projects. I don’t think I would be in my current job now if I hadn’t have worked on self-initiated illustration work or freelance brand and packaging jobs in my spare time.
Eve's work for &Sisters (also seen in the header image)
I also run the Leeds chapter of Ladies, Wine and Design. This has enabled me to collaborate with others in the city to host meet ups, portfolio reviews and an evening of talks with Glug Leeds. Through this network I met Rosie Manning and Becci Maryanne, two creatives who wished to open their own co-working space, The Greenhouse, in the suburbs of Leeds. I was asked to create the brand and identity for the space, and the aesthetic I developed was centred around an organic, illustrative logo-mark that suitably reflects their mission for growth.
Eve's work for The Greenhouse
What tools do you use most for your work?
I predominately use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, however I’ve recently invested in an iPad Pro that has enabled me to dabble with Procreate.
Is there a resource that has particularly helped you? And which you would recommend to someone else?
Put down your design books and watch Bend It Like Beckham!
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I was always a creative kid – however, according to my Mum, my earliest ambition was to be one of those dog walkers in the park who had 20 dogs on a leash.
How do you think your upbringing influenced your choice of career?
I had no chance of becoming a doctor! My Mum is a practicing ceramic artist and my Dad is a graphic designer, who has been designing magazines since the 80s. I was always encouraged from a young age to create stuff and engage with visual culture. I’m lucky in the sense that I don’t remember a family holiday where we didn’t go to a gallery or an art space. This was important for my family as we lived in rural Lincolnshire, and had to go out of our way to find and experience these things.
How useful have your studies been in your career? Were there any transferable learnings that you took with you?
I was fortunate to go to university the year before they raised the tuition fees. The Graphic Design course I enrolled onto at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University) was renowned for only taking on around 40 students a year, and made it compulsory for students to attend four days a week. This meant we were a tight-knit group with an incredible work ethic, which stood us in good stead for when we eventually entered the industry. Amazingly, Robot Food have five designers who are alumni from the course, ranging from senior level to junior.
Making an effort to stay in touch with one another has been the most transferable learning for me. Many forget that we are the next generation of leaders and creative influencers. Just a couple of years out of uni I worked on the branding and identity of Croatian music and wellness festival Obonjan. This job would have never have come about if my friend hadn't put my name forward for the job.
Eve's work for Obonjan
Eve's work for Obonjan
Eve's work for Obonjan
After graduating, what were your initial steps? Did you find your feet quickly?
I think I had a very smooth transition from university, but only because I was organised. I remember being really anxious about what was going to happen at the end of my third year as my parents lived in a village and I didn't see going home as an option. I also wasn't in any financial position to take a sabbatical and go travelling for a few months.
After graduating, I exhibited at the D&AD graduate show down in London, however I didn’t see working and living there as a feasible option. Luckily, I soon managed to secure a three month internship at Manchester-based design studio Fieldwork which eventually led to a full-time job. The team was very small and I had no work experience at all, and a limited portfolio. Despite this, Loz Ives saw something and took a chance on me which I’ll be forever grateful for.
I was there for two and a half years and worked on a variety of different projects ranging from web design and app prototyping, to branding for social enterprises and charities.
Would you say you ever experienced a lucky break? Or has there been a project that particularly helped your development?
I would class my first year out of uni as my lucky break. I was nurtured and given creative freedom as a young designer, which gave me the confidence to put myself out there. I was also encouraged to draw, which sparked my love for illustration. The first example of this would be the work we produced for The Wild Network – an initiative to connect kids to the outdoors.
Work for The Wild Network
Work for The Wild Network
What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge came after I left Fieldwork in late 2016. I knew I was passionate about branding, but I wasn’t entirely sure of the type of work I wanted to produce next. I freelanced for six months and during this time I was lucky enough to experience working at London-based agency Koto. This time was extremely valuable for me in terms of introducing me to new contacts and experiences, and giving me a clearer direction in my practice.
My intrigue to try new things led me to apply for a job at Robot Food, a studio that produced predominately packaging at the time. I had no experience with commercial packaging and it was a really challenging first year as I had to learn a great deal from scratch.
Inside the Robot Food studio
What would you like to do next?
Who knows! I would love to set up my own practice one day or maybe reinvent myself. I wanted to learn woodwork and become a joiner last week!
Could you do this job forever?
Jobs never stay the same, but I hope to stay relevant.
What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
Hard work is important, but so is work-life balance. Surround yourself with good people and always be open to change and learning new things.