Creative Lives — Freytag Anderson’s project director Sophie Brown: “Be assertive. Your ideas are as valid as anyone else’s”

Posted 04 April 2018 Interview by Arielle Bier

A veritable globetrotter with a curious mind, Sophie made her way through Paris, Milan, Moscow and London before taking root Glasgow’s design scene. As project director at design studio Freytag Anderson, she works alongside co-founders Greig Anderson and Daniel Freytag in a role that requires both strategic input – helping clients define an initial approach – as well as production know-how. Sophie will oversee the progress of a job through to completion, serving as a point of contact for production partners. She walks us through her job highlights and daily routine, talks finding a rightful calling and shares key advice for maintaining confidence on the road to success.

​Sophie Brown

Job Title

Project Director, Freytag Anderson (2017–present)

Based

Glasgow

Previous Employment

Brand and Project Copywriter (2009–present)
Business Director, Graphical House (2015–2016)
Publications Manager, Glasgow 2014 (2013–2014)
Project Manager, Marque Creative (2010–2012)

Education

MA French and Italian Language and Literature, University of Glasgow (2000–2005)

Sophie in the studio

Day-to-Day

How would you describe what you do?
I have a really interesting role at Freytag Anderson. I work closely with our creative directors to scope and run a diverse range of brand projects. That means anything from defining a communications approach with a client to liaising with production partners, writing proposals or planning brand assets to split for targeted campaigns.

My brain needs stimulation and I enjoy meeting interesting new companies and thinking up ideas for them. The guys share their own thoughts with me as a job progresses and I get to watch concepts materialise onscreen, which in turn, shapes my conversations with clients.

What does a typical working day look like?
My working hours are 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Thursday. After a ten-minute commute on the subway, I start the day with a coffee and a trawl through my emails and to-do list. We have various digital systems (such as Asana) for tracking work but my trusty notebook is my failsafe!

Then I’ll catch up with our directors during the morning and make sure everyone’s clear on the afternoon’s deliverables. We’ll also have individual chats about specific projects throughout the day. Between client calls and emails, I spend a lot of time copywriting and keeping our paperwork up-to-date.

After hours, I’m my own worst enemy. As a bit of a night owl, I tend to switch ‘on’ around 5pm, so keeping that work/life balance in mind, I try to get out and sample some of what Glasgow has to offer.

“If you don't really care about good design, you're not going to give the client the right advice.”

How did you land your job?
I approached Freytag Anderson when they advertised for a part-time project manager. I’d been aware of their work since they opened the studio, and was very drawn to it as a fellow minimalist in life! After an extremely hectic few years, I’d also been seeking to restore my work/life balance, so their needs fitted well with mine. 

Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
One of our most interesting projects – the first I worked on from start to finish – was the repositioning and rebrand of knitwear manufacturer Mackie.

Freytag Anderson’s branding work for Mackie

Freytag Anderson’s branding work for Mackie

Freytag Anderson’s branding work for Mackie

How collaborative is your work? 
At the start of any project, we intensively research the relevant product market, including competitors, product offerings and audiences. I love that moment when we identify the angle that’ll give a brand some extra oomph. On solid foundations, good design can completely change perceptions of a brand.

It’s a very collaborative environment and we pool our thinking before settling on an approach. Often our clients are a significant part of that process – their knowledge can’t be gleaned anywhere else. And yet, it’s interesting how often an outside perspective can shed new light!

We’ll also closely consult production teams and specialist partners like filmmakers and photographers, for example. We have a small and very trusted group of people we use where we can.

What do you like about working in Glasgow?
Having lived in Paris, Milan, Moscow and London for short periods in the past, I have a real soft spot for the city. It’s safe, affordable, laid-back, vegan-friendly and has a good buzz about it.

There are limitations to an extent. Larger cities such as London can sustain numerous creative studios making niche work, but these days, there are few barriers to reaching further afield. In Glasgow, I’ve been fortunate to work at amazing and inspiring design studios with people I respect, and that’s enough for me.

Freytag Anderson founders Greig and Daniel, photographed by Reuben Paris

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
When I was younger I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was good at both arts and sciences and didn’t have a vocation steering me towards one or the other. Growing up in the countryside, I swithered about landscape architecture, veterinary science, stonemasonry and farriery – a far cry from the world of graphic design!

Careers advice at school was non-existent and I didn’t nearly have enough faith in myself. Finding languages easy, I settled on those as the safest route to a decent degree. Although I’ve only used a smattering of Italian ever since, studying other cultures offers a valuable awareness of the world. Being forced out of your bubble abroad certainly makes you less fazed by difficult situations – and boy do I have some stories to tell!

“Being forced out of your bubble abroad certainly makes you less fazed by difficult situations.”

What were your first jobs? 
My first real jobs in London were a matter of endurance rather than pleasure. After some grim experiences, I decided to temp, did entry-level work in a series of design agencies and caught a glimpse into a more pleasant world. 

Back in Scotland, my late stepdad is the person who gave me the first proper step on the ladder. He said there was a job open in the agency next to his and I think he might have talked me up a little. At any rate, I worked my socks off to prove myself to some kind and lovely people for the next two years. 

Work completed for Glasgow 2014’s Commonwealth Games

Work completed for Glasgow 2014’s Commonwealth Games

Work completed for Glasgow 2014’s Commonwealth Games

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What skills have you learned along the way? 
There are two lessons every project manager learns along the way: Be assertive – your ideas are as valid as anyone else’s, as long as they’re based on sound information. You’re much more respected if you speak up confidently. And document everything – get approvals in writing, track correspondence and keep proposals and schedules up to date. It saves a world of pain in the long run.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
There’s no hard and fast career model for someone in my position, it depends on the structure of the business. 

Small agencies, which I prefer, usually have an egalitarian structure and surprisingly fluid job roles. For me, that's what keeps things interesting. Larger agencies tend to have a divide between account or project handlers and creatives, with a more traditional exec/manager/director hierarchy and more pigeonholed responsibilities.

“As long as you can show organisation and communication, any qualification is relevant to this job.”

Work completed while at Marque Creative

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to become a project director?
As long as you can show organisation and communication, any qualification is relevant to this job. I wouldn't say you need a specific degree, though you should have a genuine interest in the visual arts. If you don’t really care about good design, you’re not going to give the client the right advice or help the studio produce its best possible work.

Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. Every single bit of work experience you can get feeds into your ability to handle yourself and deal with other people, so start early! Be willing to do the lowly jobs and humble enough to ask for help. No-one expects you to know it all! 

Don’t be a doormat but be courteous to people around you. Remember, even if it’s how not to do things, you can learn something from everyone. And do your homework. If there’s an information gap in a project, research it. If there’s something you're not sure how to do, find out. Show that you know what you’re talking about!

Studio photography by Reuben Paris

Posted 04 April 2018 Interview by Arielle Bier
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Graphic Design, Design
Mentions: Sophie Brown
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