Neil, hi. You’ve had quite the journey at The Engine Room. Tell us about your career and how it all began.
During my sandwich year at The University of Huddersfield – where I studied multimedia design – I began exploring the world of websites and presentations, to build my experience in industry. Upon graduating, I became a full-time employee at the same organisation, before working as a freelance designer and photographer a few years later.
In 2013, I then found myself at The Engine Room. Hired as the company’s head of digital, I produced animation, photography, film, and websites – supporting brand development projects across a variety of different clients.
Keen to develop my skillset even further, I later moved to become head of graphics at a London-headquartered production firm – which specialises in international communications for large businesses.
Re-joining my former colleagues at The Engine Room four years later, my career came full circle. With a more diverse range of skills and a host of fresh techniques to bolster our visual brand content, my position as senior designer now plays an instrumental role in augmenting each and every brand story.
And what about the role you have now? What attracted you to the job and what does it entail?
Without a doubt, the people and the environment. The Engine Room’s passion for design, respect and professionalism towards clients has never wavered, and the culture is one where everyone is trusted and adds value.
As a creative, I am also heavily inspired by the variety of work that lands at my feet – allowing me to develop nuanced ideas and solutions to help evolve brand stories. I love that no two briefs are ever the same.
A self-proclaimed ‘multimedia master’, my skillset lends itself to a variety of creative outlets. From professional photography and web design to print and brand development, I’d like to think my rich career portfolio has extended The Engine Room’s in-house capabilities over the years.
How has The Engine Room adapted, as a business, over the past couple of years?
When I first returned to The Engine Room, the team was still working from home on a full-time basis – with new processes, systems, and solutions to ensure the creative process was still able to take place, despite being in different locations.
We’re constantly searching for fresh ways to augment our operations, and drive maximum quality for our clients too, and have continued to implement new ways of working to reflect this.
For example, most recently, as retained projects increasingly made their way onto the agenda, we found ourselves needing a better way to streamline workflows – so made the transition to Monday.com. We’ve never been so efficient!
Are you a ‘WFH’ convert or do you prefer to be in the studio?
There’s no denying the studio affords a host of great benefits – heightened collaboration, a sense of community, greater accessibility to in-house resources, and more – but I have to say, I do love working remotely.
Not only has the change significantly improved my work/life balance, it has also offered me a new sense of focus. In an office environment, I become easily distracted by what’s going on around me.
Being able to turn on some music and get lost in my own thought process is where I find myself producing the most impactful results – and it feels great to be part of a business that trusts its employees to work in whichever way suits their individual needs.
What’s your most standout client success, since joining the team?
As my portfolio at The Engine Room continues to grow, it becomes harder to answer questions like these – I’m involved in so many interesting projects that it’s difficult to pinpoint just one!
Having said that, the rebrand of Paxman has to be up there. With the aim of becoming the scalp cooling brand of choice across the globe, videos played a key role in bringing clarity to its proposition, so my skillset really lent itself to the project. The explanation videos were a particular highlight – not least because the subject was so sensitive and complex, so it was a privilege to be in the driving seat.
Results included a US growth rate of 465% between 2017 and 2018, and a US export design return-on-investment of 23:1. Paxman’s story was – and still is – a proud moment for The Engine Room.
What would be your advice for other people considering a role like yours?
Of course, there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to design, but being flexible and able to look at things from other perspectives is a universal piece of advice that works. There’s no ‘correct’ way of doing things, so it’s important to always be on the lookout for innovative solutions – not least in an industry that moves at such pace.
I started out almost exclusively working on website design, and although I have mostly moved away from this realm, the experience and processes I learnt apply to other design disciplines. It’s about rinsing everything you know as much as possible.
And some quickfire 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?
A friendly, craft ale pub with a wide drinks selection.
When travelling is a little easier again, where will be first on your hit list?
A family trip to France – so we can take the dogs with us.
Who’s your dream client?
It would be interesting to work on a project for a modern craft brewery. Although, maybe that would be a ‘never meet your heroes’ type scenario?
What is your main hope for The Engine Room next year?
I hope we continue to expand our capabilities as a team to drive maximum value for brand projects, regardless of location. Animation and video content is only becoming more adaptable and innovative, so it would be a dream to support colleagues and clients with this type of content more as The Engine Room continues to grow.