Leading the Design and Creative team here at Futureheads means I get to spend my time talking to interesting people. One of those people is James Reeve, Creative Director at Foolproof. I've known James for a number of years now, so I was delighted to get the chance to hear about his career journey by way of FFS.
For the uninitiated, FFS, or Futureheads Five Stories, is a regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell. We aim to find out more about their career in the digital world, and the lessons they've learnt along the way.
And we couldn’t resist the acronym.
What’s the story of your career so far?
I started out working as a Web Designer way before UX was even a thing. It was all about UCD and HCI back then, but despite this focus on usability, I always tried to design work with an equal balance of beauty and the user in mind. I have worked in-house at Tesco.com and also for digital agencies designing for a whole bunch of brands in a variety of sectors. I moved to Foolproof to work in a UX environment that truly put people at the heart of every project. A place that has evidence-based creativity at its heart. Such rigour has ensured that in my role as Creative Director, I am able to work with a talented team who make products and services that work for people to ensure they can make good decisions for themselves.
What advice would you give to yourself when you were just starting out?
When I think back to my younger days starting out in the career of design, I had a bit of an ego. I thought I was an indestructible super-human-designer. Quite quickly I was brought back down to earth through my employment and by those who were far more experienced and knowledgeable than me. I would often seek out opportunities to be praised on an individual level, waving and crying out “look at me, is it good?”. Looking back on this makes me cringe. The moment when I was able to shift from “Me” to “We” was liberating and is something I hold dear to this very day. “We” make things and the “we” is everyone who has had a hand in crafting great products. The moment you embrace the feeling of happiness in a team delivering great work can be far more rewarding than individual success. This feeling is something I am fortunate to have in my role at Foolproof, where we as a team work seamlessly together irrespective of experience or skillset. Everyone should be given the opportunity to contribute.
What do you love most about what you do?
To be able to challenge convention and to think about things in a different way. I have always had the desire to not just accept the way things are, but to actively disrupt or push against the norms. As a designer, it’s the perfect platform to explore the ways of making things better. To be clear I am not saying it’s a platform to be petulant, but with a pragmatic and considered approach, a designer can genuinely improve people’s lives by improving the products they interact with.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
There are many things that I could list here, but I would say the main thing is the importance of getting to know the people you work with on a personal level in order to form the best working relationship. Not every person responds to the same way of giving feedback for example and having the self-awareness to change your style to suit different scenarios and people is invaluable in helping to work with people in all walks of like.
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?
In the UX industry, things are ever changing which brings new challenges on a daily basis. However, I feel the key challenge for those trying to make differentiated original products or services, is the importance of design brand experiences that go beyond usability. Many experiences, whilst being easy to use, are often lacking in personality and are therefore less memorable and engaging. So, whilst it’s great that defining a great user experience is at the heart the things we make, we need to ensure that we think about the brand and how this helps to define the interactions and overall experience. Brand is back, and it is the best way to set an experience apart from the generic nature of many products where just hiding the logo would remove all reference to which brand you are using.
A little bit about James
A designer who likes to challenge convention to ensure we answer the real brief in the most logical fashion. A dad of three children who keep me on my toes but make me feel super proud. I also coach two youth football teams which is incredibly rewarding but demanding in equal measure.
Want to take part in our FFS series? Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.