Leo, hi. Having been at The Engine Room for over 15 years, you’re practically part of the furniture now! Tell us about your career and how it all began.
Being very unacademic at school and hailing from an ‘arty’ family, it should come as no surprise that I wanted to go to art college. But I had no real idea what career path that would lead me down. Eventually, I found that creating graphics suited my talents perfectly, and enrolled at West Herts College for further education in Watford.
I thought I might make the move to London soon after, but home called and I quickly made the return to Holmfirth. A chance meet with a customer at the pub where I worked led to me landing my first (and previous) role at a local brand and digital marketing agency. It was also during this job where I first met The Engine Room’s founder and design director, Darren Evans – who was part of the interview panel. Fast forward nine years to 2007, and we became colleagues!
While I’ve only had two jobs in my design career, these have both been extremely varied. Plus, having worked in small teams at both agencies, I’ve naturally learnt to turn my hand to anything and everything – which I believe has made me an all-round better designer in the end.
And what about the role you have now? What attracted you to the job and what does it entail?
I’ve been a creative director for over three years, and for probably the first time in my career, have a clear idea of where I’m heading with my role. Of course, transitioning from being a senior designer – with an abundance of experience helping others tackle and deliver project work – hasn’t been without its challenges. But I’m excited to continue in my development journey, and try new approaches with the team.
It has to be said that no two days are ever the same, but my general responsibilities include: developing, reviewing, and critiquing the work produced by our in-house team; leading on design projects; putting my experience into practice by refining and elevating digital work; consulting with the strategy team to enhance creative direction; and maintaining progress on design work.
How has The Engine Room adapted, as a business, over the past couple of years?
Since the pandemic, we have become a business with a clear idea of the type of clients we are best suited to, plus the services we can offer to truly fulfil our core purpose and add value to brand projects. Each new member of the team has been a great addition, and it certainly breathes new life into the place having new people to work with and get to know.
We’ve also increasingly embraced online working with our clients, seeking the assistance of various partners to augment the quality of our customer experience and streamline workflow – including collaborative intelligence company MURAL and project management software Monday.com.
Are you a ‘WFH’ convert or do you prefer to be in the studio?
I’m much more productive in the studio, and definitely achieve my best results when I’m at HQ. A spur-of-the-moment, face-to-face chat is much easier than back-and-forth messaging or diarising a video call – plus, when you’re working remotely, you’re more likely to struggle by solving a problem alone than seeking a colleague’s help.
Having said that, I do really appreciate those days I do spend working from home – which are typically Mondays and Fridays. Having that space gives me a great opportunity to direct my focus on a specific task, and really get my head down.
What are your three standout client successes, since joining the team?
It’s hard to say after 15 years! Off the top of my head, I’d go for:
Paxman Scalp Cooling – I worked very closely with the team for ten years, firstly conceptualising their brand and subsequently developing and reworking their identity in many ways since. They have a real business purpose and drive to change lives, and that feels a good thing to be so closely involved in.
World Kinect Energy Service – I feel proud we work with such a global company, and have a strong relationship with the marketing team – which is based all across the US and UK. We are helping to develop a very corporate company into a true brand, bit by bit.
Invisible Traffick – this was a piece of charity work we took on as what we would class as a ‘love’ job (no budget). The organisation has since dissolved, through no lack of effort or passion – which was hard not to get drawn in by. Invisible Traffick’s background and the stories involved were all you needed for motivation.
This was also my first real head-to-toe brand project, which I ran and delivered – and the first presentation I’d given where the client cried. That will always stay with me. It does leave you wanting to do more meaningful work.
What would be your advice for other people considering a role like yours?
To ensure you have the time to be able to undertake your role properly, and do it justice. Your purpose is to make time for others, and offer support – so it’s important you have that leeway too.
And some quick-fire ones to finish off…
You’ve had a busy day – would your first choice be a pub, restaurant, or takeaway, and if so, which one?
You can’t beat a good country pub. However, I do love to wine and dine from time to time too. I definitely live to eat, and am a lover of so many different foods and drinks.
If you could pack a bag and head off with your passport, where would be first on your holiday hit list?
Sailing boat. Greek Islands. Done. Bye!
Who’s your dream client?
It would be greekislandsailing.com, obviously!
I’d also love to work with a good old British institution, such as The Royal Mail or the Post Office. Or Lords, the home of cricket, with plenty of hospitality please.
What is your main hope for The Engine Room next year?
That we grow our clients, service them at even higher levels, and continue to improve our internal processes to become an even stronger company. Plus, to bring in new and exciting brand projects that help us in developing the team and the work that we produce. And finally, to become even better at showing others what we can do!