News | 19th September 2019

Do What You Love | Love What You Do: James Slater, Senior Designer

In the beginning

School wasn’t really my thing. Despite being really ambitious and driven, I was not an academic it’s safe to say. I came out of school with qualifications in Art and Geography and my dad said to me, “so what are you going to do with that? Paint maps?” I felt unsure of my path and which direction to head in, which I suppose is fairly normal at such a young age.

A turning point

It was at a family BBQ when I got talking to my cousin’s husband, who was the Global Creative Director for a B2B marketing agency based in London, that something clicked. The way he talked about the work he did resonated with me so much. It opened my eyes to a way in which I could use my artistic skills in a more commercial way, and I knew that was what I wanted to pursue. I enrolled in a foundation course in Art & Design, followed by a two year National Diploma in Graphic Design - which finally led to me completing a BA Hons degree in Graphic Design from the University of Gloucester. Not bad for the guy who wasn’t particularly academic!

My first role “on the tools” was in-house at the global fashion brand, Superdry in Cheltenham as a Junior Graphic Designer. It was fast-paced and an excellent introduction into a new world. I had a fantastic working relationship with the Head of Design, who became a mentor figure for me and the reason why I’m so passionate about nurturing new talent in my role today. One of my most memorable days in that role saw me sat with Idris Elba designing a logo for his capsule collection, it was incredible to have those kinds of opportunities so early on in my career.

I spent two years at Superdry before moving agency side, a strategic move as I soon realised to gain as much experience and to really challenge myself I needed exposure to a broader range of clients and industries. I spent the next few years working my way up to Senior Designer level at two different agencies, for clients such as Bentley, Jaguar Landrover, Bosch and Intel. I was able to hone my skills in not only design but also studio management which is essential to understand the commercial aspect of my role.

Joining Journey

I joined Journey just over 12 months ago and it has been the best move for me in so many ways. I feel like it is a perfect and very unique hybrid of an “in-house” and agency environment. It is an agency first and foremost, but because we specialise in the luxury hotel sector you are able to really immerse yourself and understand the intricate nuances of one particular industry. To work here travel and a deep-rooted awareness of the wider world has to be an intrinsic passion. This infiltrates the way we work, our in-depth insight into the market we work within and the fantastic output of the agency as a whole.

I know it sounds like such a cliché, but at Journey no two days are alike. It is incredibly dynamic, which is a direct result of the travel industry, and we always have to be prepared to respond to the ever-evolving demands that come with that. As Senior Designer my role is split between design-led creative work on projects that require a diverse range of experience across multiple disciplines, as well as the everyday empowerment, motivation and mentoring of my team.

I listen to a brief and go away to consider and formulate an approach that I feel is the best direction. It is my way of making sense of the chaos that is creativity.

James Slater, Senior Designer

Ambition

The brief I give myself every day is to ensure that the creative work that comes from the studio floor is of a world-class standard, that stands proudly amongst leading agencies around the globe. I am a perfectionist, for me design has become almost an obsession, which can be a blessing and a curse. It means when I go out to a restaurant with my family I can’t help but scrutinise the design of the menu, the colours, the typography and what stock the card is – I can’t help it! I am always striving for excellence and bad design or sloppy work genuinely bothers me. I think this is innate, much can be taught, but I’m not sure that eye necessarily can be. I work with fantastic designers and creatives on my team and our approaches are all slightly different but work in harmony together. Some are incredible conceptual thinkers, they are frenetic in their approach and in their creative process. Ideas come quickly to them and they react accordingly. I am more methodical, I listen to a brief and go away to consider and formulate an approach that I feel is the best direction. It is my way of making sense of the chaos that is creativity. Neither way is better than the other, they compliment each other and I love the diverse mix of characters and skills sets that we can draw from here at Journey. It makes my job a lot easier and more interesting.

Travel is in my blood

When I was just 18 my family emigrated to America and I chose to stay here in the UK, so from a very young age, I had to learn quickly to stand on my own two feet. I created my own home here, and “going home” to see family meant a plane trip to Philadelphia. I travelled as often as I could to the States to see them, but threw myself into my career and creating an independent life that I feel has served me well. I suppose it has shaped my view on the world to an extent. My horizons were broadened pretty early on and I think that pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone leads to huge personal and professional growth. I do have a dream to take my kids out of school for a year and go travelling around the world as a family. I believe that sort of exposure and experience will teach them greater lessons in life than any school could ever provide.

Inspiration

When you work in creative design inspiration is literally everywhere; every magazine, film, song, or image can be a catalyst for creative thought. For me, music is a massive source of inspiration. I listen to everything from rock, to techno and even country. Music allows me to move into the right headspace that is conducive to producing the best work. I think it’s important to actively exist in the creative environment and constantly immerse yourself in things that are going to keep you connected to that world; industry events, exhibitions, design conventions, podcasts, talks, blogs – whatever the source is you need to live and breathe it.

I implemented a weekly Creative Lab exercise with the team that happens every Friday morning. Each week a member of the team devises a task or a brief and we all have to produce something, using good old pen and paper, in just 10 minutes. It’s about stepping away from your workload for a moment and using your gut instincts to create something raw. Last week I challenged the team to create their own “Jinder” (an imagined Journey version of Tinder) profile. The results were pretty hilarious and impressive as you can imagine. I always encourage people to reconnect with the grassroots of creativity and design, to remember why they do what they do and make sure they bring that energy to work with them every day.

 

Want to love what you do? Check out our careers page to see what opportunities we have at the moment. #jointhecrew