Under The Hood With… Janelle Rodrigues, Creative Lead at Creature

6 months ago by

Ahead of our next Under The Hood November event, we learnt more about one of our speakers, Janelle Rodrigues.

Janelle is a founding partner and the Creative Lead of the award-winning design company Creature. She combines an enquiring mind with strategic motivations to solve her client’s creative briefs. She sees herself as more than a designer… although loves that part of the job. She art directs, writes copy, makes plans, writes strategy – sometimes produces shoots, noodles and doodles, listens to clients, offers advice and curates teams for projects.

She’s been doing this for a long time… 33 years at last count! Janelle knows she might be an ‘old dog’ in the industry but always ensures she’s got some new tricks. She’s got an eclectic range of creative influences and is curious about all sorts of things. She adores what she does, and even with all the ups and downs – good decisions, bad ones, curveballs and long shots – she has enjoyed the journey so far.

Janelle thoroughly enjoys the wide range of areas she works in, from boutique food and beverage brands to larger NZ infrastructure businesses and everything in between. She treats every project as the opportunity to do something significant, something new, something that resonates and motivates.

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and how you first got started in the industry?
I am a gal from Taranaki. I spent my childhood, pretty idyllically, on a small farmlet of 25 acres… when they were called acres! My teenage years were a bit more chaotic, pretty rock n roll for sure! There was a lot of darkness under that mountain then – and still is in many ways. Even so, the mountain is my signal that I am home. From the air or road… as soon as I see it, there’s just that sureness that something natural and solid can give you sometimes.

I was a pretty determined child, a true Taurean for sure. There was a moment as a young teen watching the NZ TV Series ‘Gloss’ where I saw the editor of the magazine looking over some transparencies on a lightbox, selecting the cover image… and I just thought “I want to do that!”

I had no real idea how to actually do that or how to start… and I actually went to University first and did 1 year of a BA… but then I met a super cool chick from Auckland who was going out with my flatmate. She worked at a magazine… I just thought “that’s it” and with her help, I put together my portfolio for design school, just a Diploma back then.

My first job was the true double edged sword – an amazing opportunity in a recession – but the expectations were too much for a junior designer and I took a tumble, but that is another story for another day. But that was my start… a small advertising agency.

What project will you be presenting in Under the Hood?
I’m not deliberately going off brief… well, I am, kind of. I want to present a few projects that fall into the brief’s objective. I want to give a feel for the way I work, and especially now that Creature has changed so much. I’m constantly learning to navigate my own doubts and even more, the client’s doubts along the way!

The thing is, I’m not sure I have one project where there was a huge challenge and then it all ended well!?! My experience is that I’ve had to change course, reinvent the response, compromise, to reach the end. And to be honest – I believe one party has always been happier or satisfied with the result. I’m hoping Johnson can show me it is possible! I’m pretty sure he can 😉

Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment in the project when things clicked and fell into place?
Yes! There has to be an ‘aha’ moment for me… and in a bit of an obsessive way, I am always searching for that moment, to feel creatively satisfied. It’s what excites me, especially in the early stages of a project… and I can be prickly, uneasy, a bit difficult to live with shall I say… until I have that ‘Aha’ in the bag.

Now that the project has finished, what are you working on?
I have always loved the huge variety of work I’ve been fortunate to work on and nothing has changed there, apart from perhaps the scale of projects… and I’m working on smaller brand/identity/campaign work in the hospitality space, which I am loving!

What insights to your methodological approach or philosophy can you give us?
I’ve never felt there is only one way to approach a project. Sure, there is my/our process, but my key thing is to stay open, listen intently and really trust in my conjuring ability 😉

I really do attempt to get right inside a job, feel the person/people the job is for, try to walk a few steps in their shoes so to speak. I do have bat ears and listen to all sorts of bits of conversations around me wherever I am. I like to watch how people communicate, their fashion, their vibe. While my memory for dates and names is pretty weak, my visual memory and the ability to tap into that is pretty good.

Philosophy? Nothing is a dud project – I have made many jobs turn to gold (not always in the awards sense) when many designers wouldn’t take it on. I love the underdog… maybe that’s a combination of being from a small town, being an empath, being competitive… I always want to fight for my clients to at least be seen and heard with their point of view.

Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or hobbies are you involved with?
I have a pottery wheel that hasn’t seen me for more than a year due to work and work fatigue… but I will sit there again soon!

My partner is a musician and going to unusual little gigs and being friends and working with musicians really does refuel me creatively.

I love film… and watch a lot of them! I’m always pausing to take little screen grabs (if I’m streaming) or writing down little things actors say. It helps with my writing, which is another thing I’m trying to get better at.

And finally, where to next for you? What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
I’m going to start the first steps into the world of art next year – taking a few courses to find that side of me again. Maybe, all these bits and pieces of creative will collide into what I do next.

Personal development is a lifelong ongoing thing to me. I am a different person and creative than I was when I set out. Not necessarily better… just different. I have not ‘nailed it’ or ‘got it sorted’… and that is kinda great. I write that sentence… and then I ask, is it great? 🙂 Ha! see that internal dialogue!



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