As our Design Director, Lewis celebrates his 15th year at 999, we ask him to spill the beans on what it's really like working in one of Glasgow's most established design agencies.
What does your role as design director at 999 involve?
It’s generally a mixture of creative thinking, direction of the design team, hands on design work, client meetings or presentations, scoping and costing of new work, pitching, art direction of photography or video, illustration and copy.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
There’s no such thing as a typical day at 999 which is one of the things I like about the job. It’s all of the above and more. So it’s more a case of ‘business as unusual’!
Who or what inspires your creative thinking?
Peers, colleagues, design blogs, design talks – anything and everything to be honest. Glasgow is a great city to work in and we’re lucky to have some brilliant agencies and creative minds in Scotland. Further afield, I’ve always liked Made Thought who work across most design disciplines. What I admire most is their use of form, colour, fine patterns and bold contemporary typography. Multi-layered but not overdone. Even their 2D work feels like it has a dimension. It’s not so much a house style but an approach that always feels fresh and invigorates the brands they are working with. In terms of packaging, I love Stranger & Stranger – I think their work is genius.
What’s the most unusual request you’ve ever had from a client?
I was once asked to art direct a video shoot in the Carribean - Trinidad and Tobago to be exact. It involved travelling around a stunning subtropical island for a full week. Hanging around on pure white sandy beaches, sampling the best rum (and cocktails) in the distilleries and international mixology competitions. Can you imagine? Who in their right mind would want that gig? Of course, I turned it down…kidding!
What project(s) are you most proud of?
I have to say it’s probably my design work for Highland Spring. It’s the first packaging job I did at 999 and is still the biggest packaging job I’ve ever worked on. We’ve been working with Highland Spring for nearly thirteen years and, in that time, it’s been refreshed three times and has picked up three DBA Design Effectiveness Awards along the way. Don’t get me wrong, each refresh is a major job (headache) and with it comes a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it’s worth it when you see the range of products on supermarket shelves or in restaurants.
What advice would you give an up-and-coming designer?
Play to your strengths and overcome any weaknesses through collaboration or personal development. If you're seeking employment, try to visit agencies of different shapes and sizes to see what fits. Work shadowing and short internships will give you a feel for the work and people there. There’s no point in taking a job that doesn’t suit you or your employer. Once you’re in a job, don’t shy away from asking lots of questions. Be inquisitive in every aspect of your job from client briefs, the workings of an agency, what expectations your senior has of you, that kind of thing. Ask for feedback along the way so you can measure your progress. Be prepared to work hard and accept criticism. It’s the big bad world after all.
What would you say sets 999 apart as an agency?
I know it sounds like a cliché, but our people (and their experience) is genuinely our biggest asset. There’s a great sense of team spirit which is reflected in the length of time a lot of the staff have worked here. In that time, we’ve built up invaluable insights in a number of sectors from sports branding to telecoms, utilities to education. We also have a London base which means a bigger pool of expertise across the agency. We often swap and share jobs to keep our ideas fresh and relevant.
What do you enjoy most about working for 999?
I enjoy the variety of work and the challenges from clients big and small. At our size, we're agile enough to tackle most projects and that keeps our creative minds on the ball.
CV at a glance
- Education: Glasgow School of Art
- Clients: Tennents Caledonian Brewers, Highland Spring, Samsonite, Rockaway Beach, Hebridean Sea Salt and University of Glasgow
- Describe yourself in ten words or less: passionate designer, Star Wars fanatic, snowboarder, gym-goer, father of two
We’re always on the lookout for talented designers to join our ever-expanding team. If you like the sound of working at 999 and want to impress us with your portfolio, send it over and we'll take a look!