Last week we reached out to one of our DA friends Jemma Titheridge to learn more about her experience self-isolating after returning home to New Zealand. Yesterday as our alert level heightened to three ‘Restrict’ with four ‘Eliminate’ coming into effect tomorrow our community have lots we can learn from Jemma’s experience, so we are incredibly grateful she shared her challenges, tips and the unexpected silver linings to being isolated with us.
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, and how you first got started in the industry?
I moved to Wellington from Marlborough in 2010, to study a Bachelor of Design at Massey – as the last intake of students who could specialise in Advertising under the Visual Communication Design major. As part of the course, I also studied graphic design, marketing, branding, and typography (including gaining entry into ISTD).
Cut to the end of my degree, and the month before my student allowance payments were set to end, when I applied for a Marketing Coordinator role at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce – because they mentioned wanting ‘a basic understanding of Adobe InDesign & Photoshop’. I figured there must be some creative / design element involved – so I took the job, thinking I’d be there three months. I was there for two years.
In that time, I rewrote their brand strategy, redesigned the majority of their collateral, and built the marketing team from one to three people. In 2015 I worked remotely for three months while I completed AWARD School, an advertising course and competition, which I managed to win. Returning to Wellington, I started showing my book around local agencies – and one morning, I happened to walk past a glass door on my way to work, with the logo ‘Special Ad Service’ on it. I looked up the website, cold-called the Principal, Scott Henderson, and after a couple of meetings at the right-place right-time – quit my full-time job at the Chamber to become self-employed, and contract 80% of my time to Special Ad Service
What does your typical working day involve?
I’d describe my role as ‘hyphenate’; a person who is active in more than one sphere or occupation (in fact, I even named my freelancing business after it). Creative-Designer-Copywriter-Marketer-Producer-Consultant.
At Special Ad Service, our work ranges from brand strategy and positioning, to BAU marketing and design, to national campaigns. On a day-to-day basis the work can change from creative thinking, to designing finished artwork, liaising with external production, or producing content ourselves. A two-person team, we’re dealing directly with clients, and working directly on their creative, which I love. Depending on the size, resource, and existing networks our clients have, our role can be top-line and efficient (defining the core brand story and messaging strands – which an external party, or the business itself, can implement), or more involved (concepting and overseeing a national advertising campaign; or helping produce photography or video shoots for smaller start-ups or charities).
The other 20% of my time I work with clients through my personal business – mostly doing graphic design, packaging design, social media and marketing consulting.
What have you been working on recently?
We’ve been doing some Destination Branding work for a few local councils.
We’re working with a not-for-profit Health Insurer on new-business marketing.
I’m project managing the completion and publication of a book, by a local Wellington writer.
Plus there’s the ever-evolving packaging I manage for a Hard Sparkling brand, new to the NZ market.
You recently returned from India & Japan and completed a 14 day self-isolation… What tips can you share with Aotearoa designers required to isolate?
Some of it seems simple for those already used to working from home… Stick to a routine; get dressed for your ‘work day’; have a dedicated work area; take rests and breaks, like going for a walk.
But also, be kind to yourself and your brain. It’s ok to do your washing at 10am, or an hour of yoga at 3pm. When you’re in an office environment, there are plenty of distractions that would take you away from your desk for much longer than it takes to sort your whites from your colours. And the hour break you take to clear your mind, will make you much more productive for the rest of the afternoon, than if you tried to ‘power through’. Listen to your brain and your body, and respect the creative process.
My biggest learnings: Make sure you have smooth and secure access to your files if you’re working remotely. I had a few days with patchy access which really slowed down my workflow. In these instances, searching your outbox for ‘to:client’ ‘has:attachment’ becomes your best friend. But most importantly: have a good coffee setup, and more [insert preferred] milk, than you think you’ll need.
What was the most challenging part of the isolation?
Professionally: The patchy access to my files was pretty annoying, luckily there weren’t any urgent jobs I required files for – or I managed to find a work-around.
Personally: it was the FOMO of friends having dinner parties and catching up (which probably won’t be as tempting in these coming weeks). I definitely had cravings for a proper flat white too – but to be honest, I’m a bit of a homebody, and had just come off three weeks of pretty hectic travel, so an excuse to be relegated to home wasn’t the worst. Oh actually, the most challenging part was missing the Foxie that often hangs out in our studio. No human contact, I can take. No dog contact, major challenge.
Was there a silver lining? What did you enjoy most or achieve while isolating?
I actually managed to set up the rebranded website to my freelancing business. Last Tuesday I had a name for the business. Now I’ve got a logo, website, Instagram, and business cards. It was that job at the bottom of my to-do list that felt too overwhelming to start… But having the extra time, and chomping at the bit to feel productive (and fill my time), meant I finally got it done.
We also helped a client in the investment industry send out their Covid19 comms, produced a print ad for Native Hard Sparkling, concepted some billboards for an industry association, and finalised the brand positioning for a cycle trail. Design life goes on when you’ve got a laptop and an internet connection.
Oh, and I also had my first go at AfterEffects! I made the simplest little iPhone UX ‘swipe’ animation, but I’m bloody proud of it.
Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or hobbies are you involved with?
I’m hoping to start a podcast this year. I actually tried to start it the year before last, but I lost an hour of audio during my first recording (don’t forget to press the big red record button kids), and when it came to the editing process, I felt too much like my day-job, so I gave up too easy. But this year will be different. I’ve teamed up with an awesome partner who’s going to keep me honest, and on track. Our first episode may be a bit later in the year at this rate – but it’s a passion project I’m willing to wait for.
What do you hope for the future of design in New Zealand?
Right now (I’m writing at 10pm the evening of Jacinda’s announcement, that we’ll be moving to Level 4) – I’m really just hoping the design industry will ride through this OK. I know a lot of people work as freelancers, or within very small businesses, and there are going to be some tough times ahead. But if we can all support each other as much as possible, and maybe use the extra time we have to put some beautiful, or useful, or thoughtful, or just entertaining stuff out into the world, maybe the next four weeks won’t feel as bleak.
In the meantime, make sure you’ve got good coffee.
Where can we connect with you: