Posted 22 February 2022

Watch John Muleba’s Pep Talk on answering briefs and coming up with creative ideas

Our latest Pep Talk featured creative lead at It’s Nice That, John Muleba, who answered all of your questions on working on commercial partnerships, coming up with creative ideas and answering briefs. Hosted by Steph Fung, John discusses his experience as a Black creative, dealing with creative block and his journey from working in luxury fashion to the world of editorial.

Big talking points:

  • Trusting your vision as a creative (05:58)
  • What does John do as It’s Nice That creative lead? (08:11)
  • John’s journey from studying English to being a creative lead (10:56)
  • The transferable skills John picked up from working in fashion (15:39)
  • A short tour of John’s workspace (18:43)
  • John’s experience as a Black creative (20:53)
  • Insight into projects throughout John’s career that he’s proud of (25:21)
  • Answering creative briefs at It’s Nice That (28:30)
  • A discussion on dealing with creative block (36:27)
  • John’s top three considerations when answering briefs, and knowing how to push back (40:50)
  • How to practice creative confidence (48:00)
  • Is it better to specialise or be a jack of all trades? (51:10)

What did I miss?
After an introduction from our host Steph Fung, John shared his own mini-pep talk with us: “It’s easy to be swayed by the opinions of others (especially in the creative field) so trust your vision and bet on yourself.” This was inspired by John’s beginnings in the creative industry and his experience of having little sense of self, before better understanding career he wanted.

John then went on to share the journey that led him to working as creative lead for our sister company It’s Nice That, specialising in commercial brand partnerships, and overseeing the visual aspects of articles. Speaking on his eight years in fashion and the transferrable skills from that industry to the world of editorial, John explained that “fashion is about not compromising and developing taste… I now know what I like and what constitutes as good work.” For John, both jobs encouraged him to look outside of his normal arena of creativity, and allowed him to full embrace his curiosity.

When it came to discussing some of the early inspirations that impacted his creative career as a whole, John noted how Kanye West’s retired blog, University exposed him to interviews with fashion giants. That, along with a fashion lecture early on in his studies focusing on Alexander McQueen, led to him work for the eponymous luxury fashion house – one that he describes as being “like poetry.”

“It’s easy to be swayed by the opinions of others, so trust your vision and bet on yourself.”

Despite these instances being inspirational and informative, John noted how he still couldn’t see himself in the industry. Delving into his experiences as a Black creative, he discussed having to work twice as hard: “I was always made to feel other than – everyone was white and came from a privileged background. And I did not come from that background.”

Now, after years of persevering in the industry, John was able to lend his tips on coming up with the kind of creative ideas that took him from “being othered to being seen as the unicorn.” When it comes to answering commercial briefs, he discussed the importance of striking a balance between the client’s desires and It’s Nice That’s tone of voice – as well as grabbing the attention of people outside the creative sphere.

The question of overcoming creative block also came into discussion, with John sharing a few unconventional methods – including taking naps and listening to Britney Spears’ hit song, Toxic – to help beat the block. And for anyone feeling a little low on inspiration, John recommended platforms like Tumblr, going to exhibitions and reading magazines to help top up your creative juices.

John’s journey has clearly taken him through peaks and valleys and given him learnings on the best ways to navigate the industry, gain skills and plan his career. His last standout tips are: To fail forwards and early on in your career, and step outside of your comfort zone and embrace a multidisciplinary approach: “To be closed off and be an island is not a good thing – there’s so much inspiration out there.”

About John Muleba
Based in London, John Muleba is the creative lead across editorial and commercial brand partnerships at editorial platform (and our sister company!) It’s Nice That. Covering a range of disciplines such as graphic design, animation, film, art and branding, John oversees the visual output from the creative team, commissioning and creating the visual elements behind the platform’s articles, events and partnerships such as Review of the Year and Ones to Watch projects.

Before joining the team last year as the most senior creative, John worked in the fashion world for eight years. Having originally studied fine art – and admitting that he initially thought “Givenchy was a patisserie” – John would go on to lead visual and corporate identity projects for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen.

Follow John on Instagram.

What is Pep Talk?
Pep Talk is our monthly Instagram Live event to share relatable, easy-to-process tips in conversation with inspiring creatives.

Each session begins with a ‘pep talk’, where a chosen creative gets to share their ultimate advice for anyone who might be feeling a bit stuck, before answering questions submitted by you, our readers.

Mention John Muleba
Written by Creative Lives in Progress