Creative Lives — NB Studio Senior Designer Jamie Breach
Often involved in a project from first briefing to completion, NB Studio’s senior designer Jamie Breach started out as an intern and worked his way up the ranks. He was heavily involved the creation of Russian finance app Zhuck, which saw him swot up on designing digital interactions for a non-English speaking audience and co-host workshops in Russia to develop the concept from the get-go. The Kingston grad wanted to be a cartoonist growing up, and still looks forward to the moments in a project where he can escape the computer in favour of a sketchbook or cutting mat.
Senior Designer, NB Studio (2010–present)
BA Graphic Design, Kingston University (2007–2010)
Jamie with the team at NB Studio
How would you describe your job?
As a senior designer I’m usually involved in a project from the very first briefing through to the end, often getting involved in pitches and potential new business. Each project will usually have myself and another designer working on it, so I work closely with them and oversee any interns or freelancers helping out. My role involves talking to clients on a daily basis or presenting work with either Nick Finney or Alan Dye [creative directors], our account manager Tom and strategist Dan. I try and develop friendly relationships throughout projects with suppliers, illustrators, animators and photographers, so I’m often pulling together briefs for them or passing on feedback.
What does a typical working day look like?
On a Monday morning we all get together in the kitchen and discuss what’s on in the week and how everyone’s time is split between jobs, which usually depends on deadlines and meetings. An ideal day is one that isn’t interrupted by too many emails, phone calls or unexpected distractions! I love a day where I can really get my head into something; sadly a typical day doesn’t always go so smoothly. Working hours are from 9.30am to 6pm but definitely varies throughout the year. I’ve done plenty of late nights but I’m a firm believer in not staying late for the sake of it. I find my brain stops working properly past 7.30pm so everything takes twice as long and is never as good as when you’ve had a decent sleep.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
Too much of my work is spent in front of a computer, but I always jump at the chance to take a pile of scrap paper away from my desk and sketch out ideas, or mock stuff up over by the cutting mats.
How collaborative is your work?
My role is extremely collaborative. On a daily basis I work closely with nearly every member of the team. For us it’s all about working with the best people and we try and collaborate with an individual or company on nearly every project (from illustrators, animators, photographers and typographers to digital designers and printers). I also think that working with a client is a collaborative process and that’s how we get the best results.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
I’d say I’m pretty good at handling stress and I’m always very calm if there’s a problem or last-minute deadline. The least enjoyable aspect is how much time I spend on email but I’m sure, compared to many roles in the studio, it’s hardly any time at all. The most enjoyable aspect is when everyone in the studio can get together for the day on a new project. We’ll all get briefed, go away for a few hours and bring back all the ideas we’ve had. It usually ends up with an entire wall and half the floor covered in printouts, books, magazines and sketches – it’s a great way of kicking off a project.
“People always say it’s good to move around so you can figure out what you like doing, but as soon as I started interning at NB I realised it was the perfect place for me.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Working on the visual identity for Ravensbourne was pretty exciting as there were so many stakeholders (such as marketing services, tutors, governors, students, parents and industry figures) and the solution had to work for everyone. Another design company worked on the previous identity so there was extra pressure there! I was involved right at the start of the pitch process, helping Nick, Tom and Dan with some creative starting points. I worked closely with another designer on the concept and developments stages, along with an intern or two before refining the final identity system and rolling it out across applications.
What skills are essential to your job?
People skills are essential as the best solutions come from collaborating in and out of the studio. I think you also have to be a great listener and try and absorb everything you can at the beginning of a project.
What tools do you use most for your work?
An iMac, Retina 27-inch, Wacom Intuos Creative tablet, Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, Apple Mail and Calendar, Google Chrome, Evernote, a Papermate flair pen and A5 Moleskine notebook, Post-it notes and a Stabilo Boss highlighter.
Would you say your work allows for a good work-life balance?
There’s a brilliant balance at NB so work rarely cuts into personal life. I think if you’re always working late then there’s something wrong with your time management.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
A cartoonist. I would never stop drawing when I was a kid and cover every surface I could find in weird characters.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Graphics at Kingston is all about generating ideas first and execution second, which is exactly what NB is all about. Any design solution needs to have an amazing idea at the centre if it’s to solve the brief and stand the test of time. It can’t just look beautiful.
How did you land your current job?
I was exhibiting some university work in London with loads of students from my course, and we managed to get lots of industry people along. Dan, who was a designer at NB at the time, saw my work and said I should interview for a placement. I ended up falling in love with NB and getting on with everyone so well that I stayed for about six months before Nick and Alan offered me a job.
“I always jump at the chance to take a pile of scrap paper away from my desk and sketch out ideas, or mock stuff up over by the cutting mats.”
What were your first jobs?
NB was my first job as a designer after graduating. I know people always say it’s good to move around so you can figure out what you like doing, but as soon as I started interning at NB I realised it was the perfect place for me.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
There were a lot of challenges on a project called Zhuck, which was an app for Russian entrepreneurs to help them keep track of their finances. It involved going over to Russia and co-hosting workshops with the team there before anyone knew what the product was, presenting creative ideas over Skype to a non-English client and working closely with experience design agency Else. I had to learn quickly about designing for digital in another language.
Is the job what you thought it would be?
Yes. As much as I enjoyed the freedom of university, I really love the challenge of a proper brief and the problem-solving experience.
Inside NB Studio
Could you do this job forever?
Yes! Every project is different and always has new challenges so you never stop learning. The way people experience design is also constantly changing so it’s an exciting industry to be in.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a senior designer?
Have an open mind and to want to keep learning. Don’t develop a style, you need to be flexible and find solutions that work for the client and the audience (which, more often than not, is not yourself or other designers).
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on NB Studio.