Take a stroll around any of our Studios and you’ll come across all sorts of people with all sorts of stories to tell. Take Rebecca Yorke (Becca to her friends) as an example. Becca originally joined the 3D team in London as a Technical Designer, but somewhere along the way found her way to the Client Servicing Team. We sat down with Becca to find out more about her life at Design Bridge, what it takes to be a “DB person”, and how many martinis are too many martinis for a lunch meeting with Bill, our esteemed Group Executive Chairman…
Hi Becca! Let’s start at the beginning – how did you arrive in the wonderful world of brand design?
I was one of those weird people who enjoyed quite contradictory subjects at school, and I ended up doing my A Levels in Physics, Maths and Art & Design. I probably should have followed the Maths and the Physics route, but I really liked Art so I went on to do a Foundation Course at Chelsea College of Arts. After considering Architecture (and being put off by the long course!) I found myself at Brunel doing a 4-year Product Design degree. One of those years was working in the industry, and I was lucky enough to do my year in a consultancy that worked on a lot of branded packs, which I found really interesting. Then, in my final year, there was a contextual design module that was all about designing a product for a brand in 5-10 years time. I loved it and spent far too much time on it, and quickly realised that that was what I wanted to do.
After a year travelling round Australia, I was back in London and looking for my first proper job at a time when the UK was just about to enter a recession. So I put together a portfolio, Googled a LOT of branding and packaging agencies, and spent a day running all over the city having interviews (mostly for jobs that didn’t exist) and handing out my CV. At the end of a very long and exhausting day, I just needed to drop my CV in at Design Bridge before heading home. I walked up to reception and said, “Here’s my CV, it’s for Kirsty”. The person standing next to me turned around and said, “Hi, I’m Kirsty” and off she went to fetch Ed (our Director of Realisation), who proceeded to give me an on-the-spot interview. I got a call back the next day and the rest is history!
And what was your first role at Design Bridge?
I joined as a 3D Technical Designer, working specifically on taking the conceptual designers’ work and turning it into a reality. I worked a lot with CAD and I talked with a lot of suppliers. I loved it.
But as I got to know Design Bridge, I got to understand all of the different teams, people and skillsets that make up a brand design agency. The more time I spent here, the more I started thinking, “I want to be one of those people sitting downstairs who gets to be involved in the whole process, from beginning to end.”
By “the people sitting downstairs”, you mean the Client Servicing Team (CST), right?
Yes! A friend of mine from university was actually working in CST at the time, so I talked to her about it and one day soon after I made my decision. I pulled Birgitte (then the Client Services Director) to one side and said – a little tearfully as it was a big deal for me – “I think I want to change career paths, I think I want to work in Client Services”, and she said “OK that would make sense. Let’s try it.” When I told Ed he wasn’t surprised at all, so that’s when I made the change. I started as Project Coordinator and worked my way up to Client Director.
Tell us about some of the clients you’ve worked with…
When I first moved into CST I was in the very fortunate position to work with Bill (our Chairman) on quite a few projects as he needed some support. Banks Rum was one, and that was a wonderful project. It was a start-up brand and I got to meet some amazing people, like Jim Meehan, who won American Bartender of the Year, and Arnauld de Trabuc, who is incredibly well respected within the Wine and Spirits industry. Just to meet someone at that level with that amount of knowledge and experience when you’re starting out as a Project Coordinator was so inspiring. And, of course, getting to work with Bill, who knows SO much.
I remember one particular client meeting at DUKES Bar. It was just tiny little me and these 2 men drinking martinis on a Wednesday afternoon. Me being me, I was absolutely smashed by 1pm and I was attempting to take notes in the meeting whilst being coaxed into having another incredibly strong martini! It was hilarious, exciting and really interesting all at once! But it was a great project to work on, with lots of opportunity for me to learn, and even to input some of my own ideas.
One of my favourite brands to work on has been Tate & Lyle. It’s a brand that is really close to my heart – I love baking! I loved really getting under the skin of what baking is about, when and why people buy sugar, and really understanding the brand. We went on this incredible journey, moving Tate & Lyle away from Fair Trade messaging to focus on baking. I loved forming relationships with those clients and learning from Hannah Carvosso – back then Hannah was the Client Director on Tate & Lyle, now she is is our Managing Director in London. The clients were great and really listened to what we had to say, and we all learnt together. It was a really collaborative way of working and it resulted in some fabulous projects. Even though I don’t personally work on the brand anymore, I still like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the Studio for Tate & Lyle!
At the moment I’m part of the Mondelēz team. I’m so lucky to work on Cadbury. Like most British people, I grew up on Cadbury chocolate so it’s another brand that is close to my heart. Cadbury is really nostalgic for me but so many children now have a taste for more continental chocolate brands, and that’s a really interesting challenge for us to work on.
Speaking of children, how have you found your work life since becoming a parent to the adorable Willow?
It is completely different! You find you simply don’t have as much time as you did before, which makes you incredibly efficient! Design Bridge have been so supportive of that process though and there are loads of mums here to ask for advice on the work life balance.
Even looking at the work we do, having a child changes your perception on things. All of a sudden you have a whole new insight into a new way of life and it helps you to open up consumer and brand thinking to approach new challenges.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I’m really proud of working on the Fortnum & Mason Handmade Collection. It won lots of awards, including a Bronze DBA Design Effectiveness award. Coming from my numbers and figures background, for me DBA Design Effectiveness is really important as it’s the one real award that truly recognises where design has actually made an impact.
Fortnum’s had this beautiful display stand made to show off the Handmade Collection in the Piccadilly store, but it was always empty because the new packaging was so popular that they couldn’t make the chocolates quick enough! The chocolates themselves are produced by an artisan chocolatier in a townhouse in Brighton, and my favourite fact and figure from that project was that they ended up having to employ 16 new members of staff to be able to make enough of the chocolates to satisfy the demand. When you can say that design has directly contributed to the creation of new jobs, you know that you’ve worked on something very special.
We collaborated with Timorous Beasties on that project, which was also an amazing experience. I mean, who else gets to talk to these amazing artists, work with an incredible world-famous brand, and sample the ridiculously tasty product all in the same project? It’s the best job in the world! I’m sure one day someone’s going to tell me that it’s not a real job and that it’s all just a dream!
Sounds dreamy! But there must also be some hard work that goes on. What does a Client Director at Design Bridge do on a day-to-day basis?
People who don’t work in the agency world always ask me what “client servicing” is. I like to think of it as “the glue” that holds everyone and everything together.
So that means that we’re the glue that holds the strategic thinking and the design thinking together. We do this not just by sitting down and talking about things, but also by getting out and about, and thinking about how we can really broaden people’s minds and consider the scope of what could be involved in a brief. We’re the facilitators.
And, of course, we look after and manage our clients, making sure that they’re getting exactly what they need from us, that they are inspired, and that we’re doing everything on time and on budget so that they feel good about the process.
Every so often we have to put our technical hats on, too, gluing in our Production team to make sure that what we have designed can realistically happen. That can mean that we talk to suppliers about what’s possible, and sometimes even push them to do something different, innovative, new.
It’s all about relationships, really. If you have a good relationship with somebody, it makes conversations much easier. So, as a CST person, our role is to ensure that we’re getting the best out of everybody, and that everybody knows where they need to be and what they need to be doing. We are there to take the stress out of things, and sometimes you really have to look after your team and make sure that they have the space and time to do their best work. And we do it all with a smile, of course!
What do you look for when recruiting people to join your team?
First and foremost, personality. Design Bridge is all about people, and I think you can teach anyone anything other than personality. It’s important to be surrounded by people who see things as opportunities rather than as negatives, and it goes without saying that everyone who works here needs to have that hunger and desire to do great work, because that’s ultimately what we’re all here to do. I always look for open-minded people who want to learn, but who can also bring something new to the team – be it a different way of thinking or an interesting hobby. That can make things more interesting, more creative, and more fun!
Talking of fun, how’s the social side of life at DB?
Brilliant! How many DB marriages have there been now?! There’s definitely some DB babies around, too! There’s always a friendly DB face to be found in The Three Kings, and people are genuine friends here. There was a stag do recently and it was basically ALL DB people! A lot of them were from one particular team and DB really embraced that and planned around it. I think that speaks volumes about how much people care about each other here.
And finally, tell us a secret – something that people might not know about you…
Oh this really is telling… OK, random fact: I am actually descended from the daughter of a Chinese Mandarin! This makes me 1/16th Chinese. Yup, it’s hidden very deep, but it’s quite a cool fact.
Who knew?! Thanks Becca!
Want to join Becca and the client servicing team in London (or any of our other Studios, for that matter)? Check our Careers page for the latest opportunities.