Supple Studio’s designer Becks Skinner chats ideas, internships and not working in isolation
Graphic design proved to be a perfect fit for Becks Skinner: “It was the ideal combination of ideas, images and writing.” After honing her skills on an art foundation course, and later at Falmouth University, she went on to work at some of London’s top design studios. But earlier this year, she made the move to Bath, working at Supple as a part-time designer. As a working mother, Becks swaps her ‘Mum’ and ‘Work’ hats three times a week. Sustaining a good work-life balance can be tricky, but it’s clear that she relishes the variety both the studio and living in Bath provides her: “There is London-quality work, with a more relaxed way of life.” She tells us more about life at Supple; how interning has helped shape her career path and more.
Senior Designer (Part-time), Supple Studio (April 2018–present)
Freelance Designer, The Partners (2016)
Freelance Designer, Purpose (2015)
Senior Designer, The Chase (2009–2015)
BA Graphic Design, University College Falmouth (2005–2008)
How would you describe your job?
I’m a senior designer within the team. I work three days a week, spending the other two days looking after my one year old daughter. As we’re a small team we all work closely together and have a broad range of responsibilities. My role covers everything from coming up with ideas, managing projects, design development, liaising with clients, artworking, making tea and buying the toilet rolls!
What does a typical working day look like?
I’m lucky that I am able to walk to work. Bath is a beautiful place and after the chaos of getting my baby daughter ready in the morning, the 25-minute walk is a good chance to practice some mindfulness and clear my head.
After that, there isn’t really a typical day, it all depends on the work going on in the studio and what stage we’re at on the projects. For me, the perfect day would be half a day coming up with ideas, brainstorming them as a team and then starting to bring them to life in the afternoon.
What do you like about working in the part of the UK you’re based in?
I love the work-life balance that working in Bath allows. Not having a long commute means more time for my family. I also love that there is a blossoming design industry in the South West with some great agencies doing brilliant work and a sense of creative community. I feel like there is London-quality work, with a more relaxed way of life.
“For me, the perfect day would be half a day coming up with ideas, brainstorming them as a team and then starting to bring them to life in the afternoon.”
How did you land your current job?
I’ve known Jamie [Ellul, Supple’s founder] for years. Some of my friends used to work at his previous company Magpie, and I always really rated the work that they did. When I heard that Jamie started up something in Bath, I always hoped that I would be able to work there one day. It just so happened that they were in need of help at the same time that I intended to go back to work after maternity leave.
How collaborative is your role?
In design, nearly everything is a collaboration, especially when you work in a small studio. Whether it’s just bouncing ideas off of one another, or literally working together on a project, if you ask me, the results are always better when you’re not working in isolation. A fresh pair of eyes can be really valuable.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
I love working in a close team and the fun that can be had in coming up with ideas and working together. I also love how varied my job is. One day you might be looking at a campaign for a high-end hotel chain, the next designing stamps. The different subject matters along with the desire to come up with that great idea makes every project exciting.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
We are currently working on the look and feel for a high-end skincare range, from which the proceeds go to charity. The products were lovely and the target audience meant that they needed a distinctive and fresh approach to the branding and packaging. I worked on the concepts and loved every minute (not to mention I smelled amazing having tried all the products!)
What skills are essential to your job?
The ability to come up with ideas quickly, and to then visualise those ideas with an attention to detail and sensitivity, to make the finished result look great. Also, as I work part-time, I have to swap my Mum hat for my designer hat every other day, so you need to be able to hit the ground running and have your mind on design not nappies!
What tools do you use most for your work?
Post-its! For sticking ideas up on the wall. The small size means you’re forced to edit your idea down to its core thought and its a great test to see if the other guys in the studio get it.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I always wanted to do something creative (I did a logo for my own ghost-busting company when I was seven!). But it wasn’t until I did my art foundation course that I realised graphic design was the direction for me. It was the the ideal combination of ideas, images and writing and I loved the process of putting yourself in the audience’s shoes and trying to understand how they think.
“Interning was the perfect way to see how different agencies work and find out which felt right for me.”
What were your first jobs?
When I first left uni and moved to London I spent the first six months interning at some great agencies such as The Partners, Blast, The Chase and Hat-trick. Interning was the perfect way to see how different agencies work and find out which felt right for me. It was also a great way to build up contacts in the industry, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them today. It was off of the back of one of these internships that I got my first job at The Chase in London.
Was there anything in particular that helped your development early on?
I owe a lot to the team at The Chase London when I first started, and in particular my then creative director Oli Maltby. We were a small team which meant I was given a lot of responsibility and I learned a lot from some very talented designers. We also had a laugh working together which meant it was fun, and as a result we produced some great work. I’m really grateful for the start they gave me.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
My work-life balance. I’ve always believed in working to live, not living to work. But it’s easy to forget that when you’re trying to produce the best work, win the awards and so on. Now that I’m a parent, that balance is even more important; trying to simultaneously do the best work and be the best Mum can sometimes feel like a challenge.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
I always imagined that graphic design was about coming up with ideas and making them look great; I’ve been fortunate to have worked in places that have embraced that philosophy too. I guess the only thing that was a bit of a shock was that clients might not like what you’ve done (what? that never happened at uni!), and not being too precious takes a bit of getting used to.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
I would really recommend internships to anyone starting out. But don’t get despondent if you don’t get a job straight away, keep trying different places and meeting different people - you’ll learn lots and build up your contacts and confidence. Remember that the design industry can be a small, incestuous place, so be nice and don’t burn any bridges. And have fun. It’s easy to get bogged down with pressure and deadlines, but if you’re positive and see every project as an opportunity to come up with something great, hopefully you will.
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Mention Rebecca Skinner
Mention Supple Studio
Photography by Morgane Bigault