Creative Lives — Be opinionated, listen to people and learn how to deal with criticism: Tim Fellowes, senior designer at 4creative

Posted 02 May 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun

Before joining the team at 4creative, senior designer Tim Fellowes already had a taste of what it would be like to work for the brand while at graphic design studio, Magpie. The Channel 4 briefs, he recalls, were exciting and ‘caused a buzz’, so when the agency later approached him as a freelancer, the opportunity to work full-time at the London headquarters was too good to pass up. Having worked on the recent award-winning Channel 4 rebrand Tim keeps a watchful eye over the way the brand is represented across all mediums. But Tim’s development as a designer is testament to his tenacity; here, he shares some lessons learned on his creative journey.

Tim Fellowes

Job Title

Senior Designer, 4creative (January 2015–present)

Location

London

Previous Employment

Freelance Senior Designer, various studios, (2013–2015)
Magpie Studio, Mid–Senior Designer (2008–2013)
Junior Designer, The Chase (2007–2008)

Education

BA Packaging Design, Somerset College of Arts and Technology (2001–2004)

Tim at work

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job?
As part of the team that rebranded Channel 4 in 2016, my role includes ensuring that the original vision for the brand is maintained across anything we produce. This ranges from overseeing our designers to reviewing work produced by external agencies. I also get the opportunity to work on my own projects which I squeeze in when I can.

What does a typical working day look like? 
My commute starts in Hackney and takes just under an hour by tube. It gives me the chance to listen to some music and wake up before getting to work at around 9:30. My day can vary quite a lot but usually involves meetings to discuss current or future projects, overseeing our designers, and anything else that I’m working on at the time. What to have for lunch is usually big on the agenda with current favourites including pad thai or a falafel wrap from one of the local markets. We finish half an hour early on Fridays, and usually end the week with a beer or two.

How did you land your current job?
I worked on a few projects for Channel 4 whilst I was at Magpie Studio; they were always really exciting briefs and caused a buzz. I decided to leave Magpie to gain experience as a freelancer, and it was during this time that 4creative contacted me. They’d been given my details by my former boss and I guess my previous experience working with the brand was a plus point to them. After meeting the creative director for a chat, the opportunity to work in-house for such an iconic brand was too good to turn down.

“4creative is a weird hybrid between an ad agency, production company and design studio, and it’s great to pull all these skill sets together.”

Work for Formula 1

Work for Formula 1

Where does the majority of your work take place?
Most of my time is spent within the department and is usually split between being sat in front of my computer and catching up with colleagues elsewhere. 

How collaborative is your role?
Collaboration plays a big part in the way we work. 4creative is a weird hybrid between an ad agency, production company and design studio, and it’s great to pull all these skill sets together. Due to our relatively small size, we also work with external agencies and individuals from time to time. Being able to work with some of the creative industries’ most respected talent is a huge privilege and can be really inspiring.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job? 
Aside from the opportunity to work on some incredible jobs with a bunch of really talented people, I’d say one of the perks has to be the occasional celeb spot around the building. Seeing Walter White Jr. from Breaking Bad in the same room as Heather Small from M People is a personal highlight!

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
The ad for the 2016 Paralympics Games is by far the standout job from the last 12 months. I wasn’t directly involved in making it, but being able to watch the process evolve into such an iconic and meaningful piece of work was a great experience. 

“Listening to people and learning how to deal with criticism is essential to developing as a designer.”

Tim at work

4creative

Tim at work

Inside 4creative

Tim at work

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What skills are essential to your job? 
Having an opinion and being passionate about what you believe in is really important, but listening to people and learning how to deal with criticism is essential to developing as a designer.

Would you say your work allows for a good life/work balance?
Generally speaking, my work doesn’t cut into my personal life and I try to head off on time when I can. Although as I write this it’s 7pm and I’m still at work! There’s the occasional late night but luckily they’re few and far between.

What tools do you use most for your work?
Predominantly my brain.

Channel 4 rebrand work

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up? 
I always wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. I'm working on a project at the moment called 'Space' so I guess you could say I'm living the dream. 

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role? 
Somerset College was all about teaching ideas and how to think differently. These days it’s so easy to imitate the latest design trends you find on blogs, so ideas are more important than ever in creating memorable work that stands out from the crowd.

What were your first jobs?
I did a ridiculous amount of placements before landing my first job. Around 17 I think! Although this was tough at the time, it taught me some valuable lessons and made me realise the kind of work that I really wanted to be doing. I’d always been a big fan of the work that The Chase had produced, so for them to offer me my first full time position felt like the hard work really paid off.

What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career? 
I struggled to find work during my first few months in London, but there were a few people that believed in me and gave me great advice. Without them I would have given up before being given the chance to get started.

“I underestimated how much competition there is for jobs in the industry.”

Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development? 
Whilst on placement I got the opportunity to work on an identity for a start-up company based in London. Luckily my route was chosen by the client and the design studio I was working for let me roll the job out. It went on to get recognised by the D&AD awards which acted as a foot in the door to the studios that I was interested in working for. 

What skills have you learnt along the way? 
Being able to take criticism on the chin is really important. If your work doesn’t go down as well as you’d hoped, don’t take it personally. Design is a collaborative process, and working together makes the work stronger.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
I’d say my biggest mistake was underestimating how much competition there is for jobs in the industry. My student portfolio wasn’t up to scratch when I graduated which meant that I was at a disadvantage during my first few months in London. It took some good advice from those already in the industry and a lot of hard work to get me back on track.

Is your job what you thought it would be? 
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but now that I’m here I feel pretty lucky to be able to call what I do my job. 

Colournet proof delivery bags for London printer Gavin Martin. Designed at Magpie Studio

Colournet proof delivery bags for London printer Gavin Martin. Designed at Magpie Studio

Colournet proof delivery bags for London printer Gavin Martin. Designed at Magpie Studio

Work for hair and make-up agency The Milton Agency. Designed at Magpie Studio

Royal Mail Christmas Bible: A modern take on the 400-year-old book to showcase the years Christmas stamps. Designed at Magpie Studio

Royal Mail Christmas Bible: A modern take on the 400-year-old book to showcase the years Christmas stamps. Designed at Magpie Studio

Royal Mail Christmas Bible: A modern take on the 400-year-old book to showcase the years Christmas stamps. Designed at Magpie Studio

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Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next? 
Try not to repeat myself.

Could you do this job forever?
Yes. Providing I’m still being challenged.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
Personally I don’t like to think too far ahead, but most people in my position would aim to start their own studio or become creative director at an already established one. 

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a designer?
Competition for the best jobs in our industry is tough, but if you want something enough, have talent and work hand, you’ll get there in the end.

Posted 02 May 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Photography: Kieran Pharaoh
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Advertising, Film
Mentions: 4Creative, Magpie Studio, The Chase
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