Day in the life of
Design & Marketing Manager – Tara Strickland
I head up design for all divisions. We design lifestyle product collections across a variety of styles – bags, accessories, stationery, 3D Pop Up Cards & also wallpaper/fabric collections.
My Typical Day
I manage two teams (a Studio team of designers & a Marketing team) across multiple projects so my day consists of a lot of emails, checking in with Assistant Managers to determine workflow, project direction, and development timelines. I will also regularly work alongside the Head of Production to sign off collections to ensure the end product is reflective of our premium brand values.
Art Direction – producing concept briefs for various development projects for the team to work up. We are a design house and create collections across various brands and lifestyle product categories which include character brands, 3D Pop Up Card ranges, and interiors collections. I will also check in daily with the Assistant Manager of the Studio to feedback and give direction on designs in development, look at mockups and flat artworks, colourways, swatches, and materials.
I spend a lot of spare time researching current trends and being aware of what is commercially popular in our various markets. We are always looking to develop brand properties for the future so R&D is vital.
Being able to work on products that end up in-store on shelves in stores is a proud moment for anyone who has had a hand in the design process.
Our key brand is one of the number one character brands in Europe, now in its 12th year. It is a challenge to keep developing new collections each year whilst keeping the artwork exciting and new, so each time we launch a new collection is a triumph!
I get to work alongside some amazing young designers on the team – we’re always pushing the boundaries and trying different things with our collections and it’s great to see enthusiastic creatives with new ideas.
At the management level, the time I get to spend actually doing hands-on design work gets less and less, which I do miss a lot! My time becomes more about directing teams to be as efficient as possible, and overseeing creative briefs instead which is essentially more admin than design.
What advice would you give to someone who wish to take a job as a Design Manager from a designer role?
I would say being a Design Manager requires a very different headspace to that of a Designer role. As a manager, you are under pressure to balance time, deadlines, and people as well as creative output. The actual time spent engaging in hands-on design can be quite minimal, as you need to be able to use your team in order to work on multiple projects simultaneously. In addition, you are now required to approach projects with much more of a commercial mindset which can be an adjustment.
I also think you need to enjoy the idea of training up a team to communicate and execute briefs in a way that you would approach them personally, which can be tricky in a team of creative people who often have very different processes! For me, one of the most important factors in Design Management is communication and constantly working on improving that within your team so everyone understands briefs and expectations clearly.
Obviously, the desire for promotion is driven a lot by salary so I would advise someone to consider whether the increased pay is worth it to them, as their relationship with the creative side of the designer role could shift significantly. This can be positive or negative, depending on your outlook!