Posted 13 March 2019
Interview by Indi Davies
Written by Rebecca Irvin

How a portfolio printed on a hand-made map landed Paul Heading a role at the Barbican

As digital design manager within the Barbican Centre’s design team, Paul Heading oversees a variety of projects, from creating marketing content for the Barbican brand to maintaining the institution’s digital identity via website designs and user interfaces. Alongside his work for the Barbican, Paul frequently engages with side projects for clients like the National Youth Orchestra, as well as providing mentorship for a young aspiring designer. He talks to us here about how the design team are creating living guidelines for the Barbican brand, and how printing his portfolio on a large AA map proved a good talking point with potential employers.

The Barbican design team at work

Job Title

Graphic Designer, Barbican Studio

Previous Employment

Designer, Appaloosa Agency (November 2010-March 2013)
Designer, Sky Creative (April 2010-March 2013)
Designer, Brandwave Marketing (April 2010-November 2010)
Design Intern, Publicis (June 2009)

Place of Study

BA History, Goldsmiths (2005)

Social Media

How would you describe your job?
I manage the digital half of the design team. Our core work is to create campaign content for the teams in marketing. I focus more on project work, the latest being a re-design of the online shop. I was the sole designer on the project and had to provide a range of solutions, including page layouts, workflow guidelines and coding.

I’m now working with the design team to build an online library of Barbican guidelines. A lot has changed since our rebrand in 2012 and we’re going to provide a living document that can respond and adapt to that.

“I like problem solving and it’s very rewarding to get to the core of an issue together.”

How did you land your current job?
I saw the job posted on Creative Opportunities and was pretty convinced it was mine straight away! The timing was perfect – I’d already given notice on my previous job and had decided I was moving to London. I’m pretty good at selling something I believe in and I think this came across during the interview. I made sure others could easily imagine working with me, and that I was honest about what I did and didn’t know.

I’m grateful to my previous agencies, who gave me the confidence to talk about job specifics in detail. Also, I had a great idea for my portfolio. I printed my work on a hand-made map, based on an old AA road map. I’d been posting this out to agencies, who could unfold something large and impactful. It worked really well in interviews and gave the conversation a nice focus to revolve around.

Barbican guidelines project (
Online shop redesign (

Do you pursue any side projects?
I’ve usually got a couple of projects on the go. I often run freelance projects with another designer, Chloe Ings, who is based in Toronto. Recent projects include: animating the identity of the National Youth Orchestra, animating the Barbican Estate, and then Leeds Town Hall, as an 8-bit style game, and creating an online shop and print identity for

“Expect to be challenged. By understanding the reasons behind your design decisions, you’ll be able to defend and better develop your ideas.”

Over the last two years I’ve also been mentoring a young guy called Ernest, who’s now studying design at university. I’m also halfway through a full-stack javascript degree with

What do you enjoy most about working on the Barbican design team?
I enjoy it when the whole team works together. We’ve started doing weekly catchups for the branding project and it’s been really productive. I like problem solving and it’s very rewarding to get to the core of an issue together.

Online shop and print identity for

What tools do you use most for your work?
I write a lot of code, so I use Terminal and Atom for text editing. Project work goes through Github for version control and we’ve started using Netlify to host sites. For video work or day-to-day stuff I could be using Sketch, Photoshop, Illustrator or After Effects. I also use Trello a lot to organise my workload.

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do similar work?
Expect to be challenged. By understanding the reasons behind your design decisions, you’ll be able to defend and better develop your ideas.

Be concise. Your job is fundamentally about communication. Don’t add unnecessary decoration or distractions.

Always work towards something. Learning new skills or working on big projects can be overwhelming. Have realistic short term goals to give yourself direction and a sense of progress.

Interview by Indi Davies
Written by Rebecca Irvin
Mention Barbican