Monday, 2 July 2018


Meet David Jenkinson, Creative Director at Pearlfisher - an award-winning brand design agency that has worked with brands including; Wagamama, Wolfgang Puck, Starbucks, Seedlip and many more. With over 20 years experience helping brands convey their purpose and highlight their message to the world, David is passionate about what he does and inspires teams to be the best they can be.

Runako: So tell me a bit about the beginning of your journey..did you go to university?

David: Yes. I went to Nottingham Trent University and I graduated with a BA Honours in Graphic design and I came straight to London.

Runako: What did you do after university?

David: After I graduated, I enjoyed the summer a bit then I got my first job with a friend who joined a small agency in Shoreditch, London. I did a year and half there and then I moved to what was then called Sampson Tyrell.

Runako: What sort of things were you doing in this role?

David: It’s always been graphic design at heart but now the world we work in its become brand design so everything I have done since University has been about brand design. From the time I worked at Sampson Tyrell which was about 7 years, I worked my way up from designer to senior to design director. I also did a stint as a freelancer just to test myself on the other side.

Runako: Okay, and how was that?

David: It was good because I had worked with a lot of freelancers and I was intrigued to know what it was like to dip into different agencies and just spend a short amount of time there. I enjoyed it but ultimately, I felt that being consistently or full time in a job with a team was more me.

Runako: That’s cool! What did you do after your freelance stint?

David: I did 7 years at Interbrand as a creative director then I went to my last agency which is Elmwood for 4 and a half years then I started at Pearlfisher which is where I am now.

Runako: Tell me a bit more about your role as Creative Director at Pearlfisher, what does that involve?

David: My role involves a lot of things. There’s the maintenance of creative quality so maintaining the benchmark and everything that goes out of the studio from a creative level. There’s a culture and a team side to it so making sure that the team (I have about 14 in the design team) has a good balance of experience from graduate designers, middleweight, seniors through to design directors associate creative directors. It’s important to have a good level of experience but also new blood. I am part of the leadership team who know and understand what clients we have as part of the business and clients that we want and managing through the business with a design team/strategy team.

Runako:  And so, what is your favourite thing about being a Creative Director?

David: Being creative. Every-day you come in you are creative because there’s different clients, lots of diversity but everything has to be about a great idea so you’re creative in terms of your thinking and you’re creative in terms of your execution. I think doing that for 20+ years is great because there are far worse jobs!

Runako: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career journey and how have you overcome them?

David: I’ve had clients who may be aren’t as clear about the role of their brand in the world or aren’t brave enough to make the brand what it needs to be. On the other side, working with clients who are ambitious, and brave can sometimes be a challenge. There’s also people challenges because not everybody is the right cultural fit, sometimes people aren’t the right creative fit and you have to find ways to get people to push harder or upskilling more in terms of what they are doing. So, I’d say the main challenges are client challenges where you’re trying to push them as far as you can push them, and creative challenges involve maintaining the right team. When I left Elmwood, I left them with a few nuggets of advice and one of them was, when you walk through the doors every morning, you have a choice to be a negative influence or a positive influence and I know from experience that both are infectious.

Runako: And, what does success mean to you?

David: For me, it's enjoying what I do. Success in terms of waking up and going to work and leaving the day having enjoyed what I do is what I regard as a success. If I’m enjoying what I’m doing then I know I’ll do great work, there’s no doubt.

Runako: What are some of the things you get up to at work?

David: I guess if I was to break my days into chunks then it can involve design crits so I can be walking the floor into certain pieces of work with the team on that job in a room and because I’m not down and dirty with the work, I can be objective and I look at it with a fairly objective lens which tends to include a creative lens, a consumer lens and a client lens. The rest of is more working with the rest of the leadership team to make sure we are talking about the business and what needs to happen so my day can involve getting presentations ready. It really can vary.

Runako: In your line of work, I’m sure you spend a lot of time giving feedback, how do you approach this?

David: I’m not afraid to be honest with people but there’s a limit to it to how honest you want to be. It’s not about making somebody feel bad although sometimes they won’t like it necessarily, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, we must hear it, me included.

Runako: So what advice would you give to young people starting out and maybe looking to get into the creative industry?

David: Be keen, be eager, show your enthusiasm because there’s a lot to learn and with the right attitude, you can make a success of it. The very least I would expect from a grad or an intern is inquisitiveness because you want somebody to be asking questions, you want someone to be offering to help on something, you want to see that enthusiasm where they are soaking up the world around them. I think the other thing is, be as relevant as you can to the agency you are talking to. I’ve seen some shockers where someone has clearly left college and has just carpet bombed a bunch of studios and they’ve not bothered to find out about who they are contacting, they’ve cut and pasted the same sort of message to that agency. If you’re going to come for an interview, know the type of work the industry has done or your favourite piece – it goes back to having that inquisitive nature.

Runako: And who inspires you?

David: There are two main inspirations for me. The first is Alan Fletcher. He’s passed away now but he was fantastic in the way he thought about the world, thought about graphic design and the way he communicated his thought. It’s a really beautiful, relevant way of communicating. So yeah, Alan Fletcher is an absolute hero. A more modern-day guy who I’ve been into over the last 4 or 5 years is James Victore who in some ways is like Alan Fletcher and other ways he’s completely different. He describes himself as an artist, activist, graphic designer and his work has a real opinion to it and it's just very ‘him’. He does a lot of vlogs inspiring people about how to be themselves. He’s a real inspiration and I try to emulate his work but not copy it because I want to find my own style based on how he works and approaches what he does.  

I hope this inspires somebody out there! 

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