Q&A with Jodine Bell. Creative Director at Principals.

We are really stoked to bring you this Q&A with Jodine Bell, Creative Director at Principals, Auckland.
Jodine’s career has gone from strength to strength since the early days of stalwart design studio Switch. She has found her place and is developing a team and culture with Principals that is quietly creating amazing design work for boutique businesses and large corporates both locally and across the ditch.

Okay lady. You’ve been the CD at Principals for over three years now. The studio has developed a broader range of client work since. What was your plan for your team and getting more boutique brands to balance out the big corporate work?
I’m from a boutique brand background so I have some favouritism towards that side, but really just want to do cool work, and have fun doing it. As a team we made a conscious decision to take on some projects for the love and future potential, not always immediate profit — and we’ve been lucky with great clients who trust us with their brands and have become true partnerships! I really enjoy the challenge of the larger corporate work though. It’s an immensely satisfying feeling rolling out large brands successfully. Being able to change between scale and outputs keeps the studio fresh and us all sane.

What are your goals for your design team in 2019? 
More of the same! Win some stuff. Get to Elite on Airpoints (that’s just me, not the team). Keep going home on time! Such a boring reply!

2018 was a crazy year and we really expanded the range of projects we work on with our clients (it seemed to be the year of the video — I think we did 8). 2019 is shaping up with the same stretch — some really interesting spatial and experience work. It’s been so great seeing strategy as the platform for these brand extensions beyond what people generally think brand is. It also means we get to collaborate with cool people outside of our immediate studio, which is great. Variety is key.

As a senior level female in the industry, how do you feel the future is looking for women to continue to make their mark in the creative space? What can be done better by studios to continue to create and promote equality?
I’ve got some fierce feminist friends so I ‘m worried about getting this reply right! It’s such a tough one to answer, if I knew how we’d be doing it better!

Realistically getting more women in senior roles (both creative and leadership) faces the same challenges as any area, until wide spread cultural and corporate changes (pay parity; affordable, flexible childcare; equal paternity leave) are made in New Zealand it’s hard to envisage wide spread change, but we keep trying!

Our studio usually has a high proportion of creative ladies which is great. They are generally younger, so showing them it’s possible to get to leadership positions is important and that there is a supportive network in the community. Design Assembly’s Women in Design nights and Dow Goodfolk’s Ladies, Wine & Design are great examples of this. There are amazing women all through our field, so ensuring we have a visible and equal voice with men through forums and events is vital. The interesting thing with design is it’s flexible enough to do your own thing from home ‘specially if you’ve got little ones, so there’s more women doing their own creative roles without getting noticed.

How do you stay challenged creatively and remain up to date with design ‘trends?’ Outside of work, what inspires you and recharges you?
I’m naturally competitive and like winning. You can always do better. That’s the best creative driver for me. Plus feeling really proud of what our team delivers is the best feeling ever. From a ‘trend’ perspective it’s less about what everyone else is doing and more how we can push a brand to elevate it or make it more interesting or relevant — like bread relief printing for the Venerdi brand pattern design by our talented Stephen Kane (you’d think toast would print better, but soft bread won out). I love a bit of hand lettering as well.

Outside of work I turn into a sloth — sofa and a book all the way (and Margaritas)! The flip side of the sloth-ness has usually been a lot travel, but I’ve been slowly DIY renovating my cottage on Waiheke for the past three years so that takes up the time (and dosh) these days. Very thankful for YouTube DIY videos. I’ve got a ridiculous belief that things can’t be that hard to do… learnings are: hire someone else to sand and paint floors, but framing doors is totally easy! Also, I’m finally making use of living on an island and have started ocean kayaking at a very, very leisurely pace.

Who are your heroes?
Another tough one. After much thinking… the people I’ve met who have thrown chance to the wind and pursued an unordinary life. From small to big things. Buying a Dutch barge instead of a house. Chucking in a corporate life for rural Italy. Welcoming strangers into their house for multiple summers (thanks Flo and Alex). Quitting a great job to go volunteering in Morocco (that was me). It’s not always the easy life, but it’s always interesting and I admire those people immensely!

When hiring, what is important in a new team member? What are the key things you look for when meeting designers?
Must like dogs or it could be awkward (see next question).
Surprising creative — it’s a hard factor to quantify, but exciting when you find it.
Right fit for the team — we’re big on having a supportive team. Empathy for each other (and clients) plays a huge part in that. We’re also a bit loopy at times, so ability to roll with that is key.
General knowledge — we take the Stuff daily quiz very seriously (lol), and need all the help we can get.

And finally, Cats or Dogs?
Cats! Mr Charles (large ginger feline) has been my sidekick for 13 years now and still can’t be trusted not to savage you if your back is turned.

But we do have a high rotation of studio dogs — Bowen ’Best-Dog’ Hanson features on our website, and is the team member most client requested for meetings! I’ve been told I have to also mention Hector, Parker and Bertie, so they don’t feel left out… only once have we had all the dogs in studio at the same time. Crazy day.


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