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Interview

An interview with Richard Coombes. Associate Creative Director at Volume

3 minute read

Richard works as an Associate Creative Director at Volume, a company which is both a marketing agency and tech business developing AI tools and products for clients. He’s worked there for nine years, having joined as a junior artworker and progressed through the ranks. 

The role of Creative Director involves managing the junior designers and meeting with clients to discuss briefs, while also still getting to work ‘on the ground’ as a designer.

“The balance of this role is ideal for me because designing has always been what I love most, but of course it’s nice to have greater seniority and responsibility after so many years in the industry.” 

Becoming a designer grew out of Richard’s passion for art.

“It was my favourite subject at school but when I realised it was a precarious career path, I tried to think of another way to be creative. I loved messing around on photoshop and using technology with my art, so headed towards graphic design.”

Richard went to university to study Design and Visual Communications.

“It was a great degree as it offered a really broad foundation in loads of different types of design. It meant you can try things out and find what really suits you.”

After graduation, he worked a few days a week doing basic photoshop for a housing company where he managed to impress his fellow colleagues when he stepped up to help with design due to staff illness.

“There was one lady who remembered me, then when she moved to a new job, she took me along.”

Joining an agency like Volume was a “real shock to the system,” says Richard. “The workload and the deadlines were not what I was used to. I used to spend two weeks on a brochure – suddenly I had a day to get it done.”

But he was eager to learn and worked hard to master skills and rise to the challenge. “I used to take the senior designer’s projects home with me in the evening and unpick them, work out how he’d done it and learn new skills in the process.” 

Having an open-minded attitude to learning is crucial to thrive in a role like this, as well as being able to ‘let go’ of your own work.

“At university you get to call all the shots on your projects, but in the world of work it isn’t down to you. You have to design something that fits within specific restrictions and limitations, and ultimately makes the client happy.” It doesn’t, stresses Richard, take the fun out of the role though.

“There is something rewarding about working with all these different requirements and still creating something you’re ultimately proud of yourself. You can’t allow the limitations to limit your ideas and creativity – it challenges you to be your best and I enjoy that!”  

Being able to manage your time well and organise a busy workload are also important skills.

“I have a planner which allows me to manage what tasks need to be done and how much time I have to complete them,” says Richard. “I also work with clients to set realistic deadlines and expectations – don’t over promise and under deliver!”

Communication skills are key, despite the myth that designers spend all their time on a computer.

“Being able to articulate your ideas is so important. It can’t just look great in your head. I will sometimes sketch things out to help convey an idea. You also need to be able to listen to what clients or colleagues are asking for and ‘translate’ it for them into design.” 

A role such as Richard’s would appeal to someone who is creative, full of ideas, drawn to design and takes pleasure in things that are “aesthetically pleasing and well considered”, he suggests.

“I’m one of those people who can’t look at a menu without considering the format and wondering if it wouldn’t look better in a different font.” For those prepared to work hard, a career in design can be varied, interesting and very satisfying.

“I absolutely love what I do and sometimes can’t quite believe my luck. I’ve always been driven by passion and this is a career that continues to make me happy.” 

Feeling inspired? Find out more about starting a career in Creative Design by listening to our THIS IS HOW podcast, where we chat to Daniel Obichukwu, Creative Designer at TikTok.