The latest in our ‘Stories from Design Bridge‘ series is with Lisa Mathews. Having worked in 3 of our Studios, we caught up with Lisa to find out a little bit more about her background, her role in the Strategy team, and how she’s settling in to her new life in Amsterdam…
Hi Lisa. Tell us, what do you do at Design Bridge?
I’m a Strategy Director in Amsterdam, and I work on brand and creative strategy for a variety of clients in the global FMCG and retail space – everything from bathroom cleaning products to the world’s biggest chocolate maker.
On a day-to-day basis this means understanding the behaviours of consumers, customers, culture, categories and companies to uncover insights that will inform client challenges and help our designers to deliver bold and meaningful touchpoints along the consumer journey. Challenges range from innovation and brand creation, to recalibrating and repositioning brands to be simpler, bolder and more unique. I work closely with the client servicing team to build and drive client relationships, and with the Creative teams to deliver progressive and strategic design.
How did you end up in Strategy?
I’m actually a copywriter turned marketer turned strategist who also used to be a Design Bridge client!
I started out working in the global marketing team at Unilever where Design Bridge was one of my agencies – my favourite agency, of course! I then moved agency-side and spent 5 years as a Strategy Director at Design Bridge – in both the London and Singapore Studios – working across a diverse mix of famous brands for global and local clients including Unilever, Mondelez, Danone, Diageo and Carlsberg. I then moved to Sydney for a little while, but I’m now back at Design Bridge – this time, Amsterdam.
Why did you leave, and what did you get up to in Sydney?
I had an opportunity to help build a packaging and retail offer inside of a famous brand agency in Australia, and who wouldn’t want to live in beautiful Sydney for a few years?!
The role taught me loads about running a business, building client relationships and getting great design out the door efficiently, all while delivering brilliant strategy. With the CEO’s background as the youngest ever principal at Pentagram, and sitting within a more minimalist and type-driven graphic design agency, I also learned a lot about communicating big ideas as simply as possible. Less really is more!
Why did you decide to come back?
Although I enjoyed the entrepreneurialism and multitasking, I was a bit of a one-woman band in Sydney and I missed the support of a bigger, well structured team of specialists. I’d obviously kept in touch with friends from Design Bridge and I knew that the business vision and growth potential was evolving – for the team and the clients. It felt fresh and exciting, and the right time to come back.
Amsterdam is buzzing and I really wanted to be part of it. There is such a rich intersection of young and old, traditional and modern, East and West. The Netherlands has one of the strongest economies in the world, especially for its compact size, and Amsterdam is growing fast. Major global brands are relocating here, and hungry young start-ups with incredible visions are really taking off.
What similarities have you noticed between the Design Bridge Studios?
Design Bridge hires great people, there’s a definite thread there. We have a rigorous process, where not only the hiring manager or management team get involved, but the people who will work with the new person. When you’re looking for someone new to join your team, the question is always “Is this someone I’d like to work with? Someone who will help me go the extra mile, someone who will have my back, someone who will share the credit?”. I think that’s a really important part of what makes the Design Bridge culture the way it is.
What has been your most memorable DB moment so far?
There have been so many memorable moments, but I’d have to say that I still get excited when I see something I have worked on up on a shelf or online! Seeing the finished product out in the real world for the first time is always a proud moment.
I feel honoured to have been able to work with some of the world’s oldest and most iconic brands and help make them more relevant for tomorrow, but I’m equally happy working with brands and products that are genuinely useful or help make people’s everyday better – whether a kitchen towel or kid’s ice cream. Finding new opportunities to help those brands to make people’s tomorrows better through driving positive cultural and sustainable change in the community is very inspiring.
If you could choose, what brand would you love to get your hands on?
Hmm. Given that it’s the country of my birth, wouldn’t it be incredible to transform Zimbabwe as a brand? That piece of strategic design would stretch from defining its purpose, place and vision in the world, resetting its personality and values, internal engagement to bring the brand to life, repositioning it on the world’s stage, and telling rich and beautiful stories about its people, its places and what makes it special. Not to mention a regular dose of agile innovation to drive growth!
Speaking of living in different countries, what advice would you give to someone thinking about relocating?
Just do it! You’ll be immersed in new cultures, meet new people, eat and drink incredible new things (some of which you’ll never forget… chicken feet, jellyfish, mopani worms…). Rent out your home, pack your cat, and go and explore the world. Whether you’re already at Design Bridge or considering joining, you’ve got a golden opportunity to work in London, Amsterdam, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, so sign up! I’ve now lived in 6 countries and each one has been an adventure.
And finally, tell us something no-one at DB knows about you…
I’d love to say I do something even vaguely interesting after hours or on weekends, but really I’m just an avid newsreader and wine drinker who’s ever so slightly OCD – I am known to regularly vacuum clean my fridge…
Well now that’s quite an insight, thanks Lisa!
If Design Bridge sounds like your kind of place, check our Careers page for the latest opportunities to join our teams all around the world.