Creative Lives Podcast — Freelance brand strategist Joss Debae on openness, empathy and why having a network is invaluable
Our guest on the podcast this week is freelance brand strategist Joss Debae. Self-employed for most of his career, Joss tells us how he’s managed to shed freelance guilt, train himself out of overworking, and why he feels companies need strategists from a range of backgrounds.
Interview by Indi Davies
BA Product Design, Central Saint Martins (2004–2007)
BTEC Foundation Diploma, Art and Design, Reading College of Arts and Design (2003–2004)
Nike, Dazed Media, Anyways, University of the Arts London, Selfridges, Sony
Working with companies such as Dazed Media, Winkreative and Anyways, Joss is brought in on a project basis, helping to develop objectives to crack a brief, or build growth strategies for brands often in the fashion, sportswear, luxury or retail sector, previously including Nike, Adidas, Selfridges and Sony.
With no such thing as an average day, each job brings its own timeline and research opportunities. In order to draw up an approach and plan that will see a project through to completion, it’ll be Joss’ role to identify and understand all sides of the task. This will often entail detailed studies into a particular market, location, audience or consumer, and might see him interview anyone from a small business owner to school kids.
“Having a network is invaluable. Build connections with people you actually like spending time with and who share your interests.”
But brand strategy wasn’t a job that Joss actively pursued as a fresh graduate. Completing a BA in product design at Central Saint Martins in 2007, he admits leaving the course disillusioned and unsure of his next steps. “Having a network is invaluable. When I graduated, I thought that was all about collecting business cards; it was about the quantity. As I got older I realised that the quality of those connections is the most important thing. You should forge relationships with people you actually like spending time with, and who share your interests.”
Through work at the college’s internal consultancy, The Design Laboratory, and founding a creative collective (KithKin) with his former classmates, Joss eventually found himself in the world of trend forecasting, going on to work for companies such as Global Colour Research and The Future Laboratory. He tells us more about the varying pace of life as a brand strategist and the unconventional path he took to get there.