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Kirsty Minns

Kirsty is the executive creative director at Mother Design in London. In this episode, we follow Kirsty through her entire career and hear about the personal and professional choices she made that ultimately lead her to where she is today.

How to make yourself indispensable
How to make yourself indispensable

How to make yourself indispensable

Ep
144
Jul
28
With
Kirsty Minns
Or Listen On:

Make yourself indispensable

We talk a lot about branding. What it is, what it means, and how it works. But Kirsty Minns lives it. And excels in it at the highest creative level.

Kirsty is the executive creative director at Mother Design in London. Mother is a world famous agency and you’ve probably come in contact with one of their incredible campaigns at some point.

In this episode, we follow Kirsty through her entire career and hear about the personal and professional choices she made that ultimately lead her to where she is today.

You’ll hear about what drives Kirsty’s endless curiosity, how she specializes in not specializing, and why playing the comparison game will only lead you to unhappiness.

Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by
Appearances

Episode Transcript

Kirsty:
If you focus on the work and you focus on working really hard and you focus on the value you're going to bring that organization that's going to bring you happiness and going to give you career development. If you start focusing on everyone else's journey around you, then it's only going to trip you up.

Greg:
Welcome to the Futur Podcast, a show that explores the interesting overlap between design, marketing and business. I'm Greg Gunn. We talk a lot about branding, what it is, what it means, and how it all works. But our guest today works in branding at the highest creative level. She is the Executive Creative Director at Mother Design in London. Now Mother is a world famous agency and you've probably come in contact with one of their incredible campaigns at some point.
In this episode, we follow our guests through her entire career and hear about all the personal and professional choices she made that ultimately led her to where she is today. You'll hear about what drives her endless curiosity, how she specializes in not specializing, and why playing the comparison game will only lead you to unhappiness. Please enjoy our conversation with Kirsty Minns.

Chris:
Okay, Kirsty, I'm so excited to talk to you. I don't know how this happened, how it came to be. But I've been a fan of Mother for a really long time. And so I was like, is this the same Mother that I've looked up to like my entire design career, and it is the same one. And I'm just blown away by the breadth of work and the quality of work and just everything up and down. So that's me gushing for half a second. But for people who don't know who you are, could you just introduce yourself, please?

Kirsty:
Yeah, sure. So my name is Kirsty. I'm an Executive Creative Director at Mother Design in London. So I run the studio alongside my business partner, Katherine. And specifically Mother Design is the branding and design studio. That's part of the Mother family. We've got offices in London and New York. But just in terms of what we do, we work with clients and strategically define their brand, and then translate that visually, totally, and behaviorally. But Mother is also, the family is really well known for their amazing advertising campaigns as well. So that's probably also where people might have seen the likes of IKEA, KFC, some really amazing, iconic work that's come out over the last 27 years, I think Mother has been going for.

Chris:
What is the relationship between the advertising Mother and the design and branding Mother?

Kirsty:
Yeah, so we work holistically. So Mother's an independent run business. So Mother Design sits as an arm within Mother London. So we work on a lot of projects across the agency, but also work with a lot of clients ourselves. So we work with lots of big brands, but we also work with a lot of startup companies, as well. So we like to have a good mix.

Chris:
Wonderful. I read something on the website. And I thought this was kind of funny, and I was hoping you could explain it to me. It says "Mother Design is an independent branding and design studio that specializes in not specializing." I love that phrasing, it got me to raise an eyebrow or two. What does that even mean?

Kirsty:
Oh, that's a good question, Chris. Well, it means two things, I suppose we don't specialize in a visual style, because I think we believe that no brand should look the same. So a lot of the stuff we do is about creating something that feels relevant and distinctive, and true to that brand. And then I think the other thing is we don't specialize in output, because I think, and increasingly, the way that a brand needs to present themselves in the world is they need to be thinking about, not just their brand identities, so not just their art direction, their typography. But now brands really need to focus on how they're speaking.
How do they smell? How do they sound? How do they feel? And I think that's why we don't specialize in a particular output. We really put together quite a multi discipline team of designers, thinkers, makers, around different breeds to solve them.

Chris:
Wonderful. When I ran a design agency, it was called Blind and Blind had a very similar philosophy, which is to begin without preconceived ideas without prejudice. And so we began the project bind and that worked for us. And that's why when I read that... I can connect to that. But it created a huge problem for us, which was, we saw highly specialized firms that either focused on output or specific style, which zoomed past us in growth, and eventually they would hit a dead end. But it was kind of hard to watch some upstart companies zoom past us, and it's like, "Oh, my God, what are we doing wrong?" But obviously, Mother doesn't have that kind of challenge. If I'm a young person, I'm listening to this based on your point of view, how would you advise them? Should they start to specialize or should they take on this philosophy of not specializing?

Kirsty:
Well, I guess that really does relate to my whole origin story. I don't think there's a wrong or right answer, I suppose to your point about what you were building in Blind. And similarly with this structure, there are challenges to it. But I truly believe you can build a design agency that has that multi-disciplined skill set within it. And I think you don't necessarily need to go through your career and specialize if that's not who you are and that's not what excites you. I think there is also a role for specialists too. We use a lot of specialists in projects and bring them together as a blended set of skills. But I don't think being a specialist is the only route forward and I suppose I'm proof of that, that I never specialized. And actually, that's probably my biggest strength today.

Chris:
Okay, tell me more about how that began. So now we know you're a creative director at a super awesome company. Let's rewind the tape. Let's bring it back into a time where maybe this path wasn't so clear for you. How old were you? What were you thinking? What were you doing? So that we can retrace the steps.

Kirsty:
How long do you want me to speak for? It's a long winding story, do you want to settle in, or do you want the fast track version?

Chris:
I want the medium version, I want the juicy details, the parts that matter.

Kirsty:
Okay. Settle in Chris. No, I suppose like from the very beginning, branding, in its most holistic sense was sort of in my blood, when I was born. My grandparents had a small shoe business in Cornwall, that went back four or five generations, and they ran a business there where they made and they repaired shoes. And so even when, at a very early age, I was exposed to what the very onset of like branding and brand was.
My father has like a branding iron in his garage which has my great grandfather's initials on from something like 1860. So seeing sort of those branded details and seeing like the emotional reaction I could have to that was sort of in my blood. And so I grew up in a family that was very business orientated. So my dad also subsequently went into the world of retail, he started a modern apprenticeship at the age of 17. And sort of worked his way up in the world of retail to become a sales and marketing director of a luxury brand called Mulberry.
So he worked really hard to graft his way up. So branding and business was just a part of my every day life. My parents had business books in the toilet downstairs, where you'd have books like the 48 Laws of Power and staring you in the face when you were in the bathroom. And I suppose all of that had like such a massive impact on me and my fascination with branding and design very broadly. So then I entered into the education system, I went to a local state school in Somerset. So in the countryside.
And there they had really great like designed facilities. And I guess at that point, I just didn't know what I wanted to do. But I knew that I had a fascination with design. But at that time, I would be trying out tinkering in the workshop. Sometimes I'd be using the very now, which seems so old school, some of the computer programs in the library. They only had like two computers at that time. So you had to wait your turn.
And I suppose from a very early age, I was just experimenting with design. But part of that, I think, coming from the countryside, there wasn't a lot of access to seeing the sort of design and studios that were coming out of London. So I always knew that's where I wanted to be. And I was really obsessed by the city and obsessed that I wanted to get there. But again, didn't really know what I wanted to specialize in.
So I did a degree at Goldsmiths, which was a really amazing degree course because that too, also went along this philosophy of specializing in not specializing. It was really about thinking about design as a way... But it wasn't just a way of making and doing is a way of understanding and engaging in the world. So we never specialized in a four year degree course. Really, it was about imagining what the possibilities of design could be. So how can design affect the environment as a whole? How does design affect society? How does design affect culture? How does it affect our relationships with things that are coming into the world?
So you learn design as a combination of like systems and actions, you don't just learn any practical skills as part of this degree. Which was an amazing foundations, I suppose. And a level of thinking that has stayed with me throughout my whole career. I think the challenge though, Chris was probably when I graduated, realizing, well how do I make money? Because I didn't have any skills. So I think then, after that, you realize that you've got bills to pay and you've got no one to pay them for you.
So I think that's where I started my career trying to find my home within design. And that consisted of some very unusual jobs along the way. So I started, had an amazing experience working in fashion editorial magazines, I worked for Dazed and Confused magazine and Pop Magazine as an intern.
My favorite experience of that was creating a... Well creating, I was an intern, but I was assisting two amazing fashion stylists, a lovely lady called Kathy Edwards, who sadly passed away and Karen Langley. These really talented female stylists who were working on a Goldfrapp music video. So my first design job was to assist them, which consisted, if you know the video is Goldfrapp Number One, which has lots of dogs, lots of amazing dogs heads in it, and Alison Goldfrapp looking fabulous.
And my job was to look after the hands of the models, and the dogs. So very glamorous gateway into design. But I think it was my first understanding of what a career in the creative industry might look like, and how many amazing people are involved in the process. So from the stylists, to the set designers, to the producers, to the filmmakers, to the focus pullers. I had no idea that a career in the creative industries could be so varied and just so inspiring. And I think from then I realized that was definitely the world I wanted to be in, but still wasn't necessarily clear on what I wanted to do.

Chris:
Okay, there's so much there for me to kind of sort out here. So let me just quickly try to figure this stuff out. So the story began with your grandparents, I believe. So when you said sit back, relax, you really took it back to the start. Grandparents ran a business. And branding was literally like a piece of metal, you'd burn into something, like a hot brand. So that was a mark. And then through your parents in working in fashion and marketing and building a business and entrepreneurship, all these kinds of things. So you grew up in all of this, like multi-generational.
Wonderful, you go to school, I assume you're at college age, like you're 21 years old, and you graduate from Goldsmiths school, is that the idea? Okay. I love the way you say that. They taught you no practical skills. So it's a lot of theory and understanding systems. And did you read a lot? Did you write a lot? Is that what was involved?

Kirsty:
Yeah, a lot of reading a lot of writing, you didn't specialize. So you would be given like specific briefs that were very conceptual. And you could answer those briefs in whatever medium you wanted. So if you wanted to answer the brief through the medium of textiles, or if you wanted to answer the brief through the medium of product design. So I went through my whole four years, working in every single medium, so from ceramics to graphics, to products, and everything in between.

Chris:
How did you know how to even handle the materials if it wasn't very practical?

Kirsty:
You learned from each other and you learned from yourself. It's amazing, if you are dedicated to your craft, you can learn quite quickly from so many different resources. And we had access to workshops and we had some practical based skills, things. But most of the stuff we taught ourselves. For my final year, I did a lot of work in ceramics and spent about three months in this tiny huts on the grounds of Goldsmith teaching myself how to slip casts, teaching myself how to mold make, a lot. And finding people that wanted to offer that support. So there was an amazing guy who was working in like art therapy that then helped me, taught me how to make these molds. So I think you find out how to make things and learn the skills you need along the way, in that sense.

Chris:
Well, that's very curious. Because I was just listening to your story, I was thinking, what attracts you to this school? You have choices, you could choose different schools. What was it about this school and this program that spoke to you like, of all the schools, you can go to why pick this one?

Kirsty:
I think it has an incredible reputation for thinking differently. And I felt like I wasn't sure what I wanted to specialize in. I had always seen... I had this tension between my creativity and the design side, but also this understanding of business and how that ran. And I just felt these tensions. So I wanted to find a degree where I could explore the idea of what design was, rather than necessarily learn a single skill. Because I didn't feel ready to learn what my single craft was at that time.

Chris:
I see. Okay, I get it. All right. So you graduate, and then you are doing fashion editorial, but then you're put into a production, shooting a music video, and you get involved in that. So move us along the timeline here. What's the next major milestone? So I think you're in your early 20s. Where does this adventure take?

Kirsty:
So, well, I suppose the shortcut is I graduated, and came out into the world as you do being an optimistic graduate. And I found this amazing agency in New York called Boym Partners that were specialists in not specializing too. I suppose they were a studio that did a huge broad range of things. They did what I'd call cultural commentary design, they did product design, they did cutlery design, they did graphics.
They were this amazing, creative couple called the Boyms. And I wanted so desperately to experience what a design studio that had my way of thinking would feel like. So I packed my bags from London and moved to New York and volunteered as an intern there for six months.
And I think that gave me hope that those studios that think holistically exist. But the reality is, at some point, I needed to come home, and then you get back to London, and you realize that you need to earn money again. You're like, I'm a junior designer, with not the right portfolio. And a lot of the agencies at the time, were looking specifically for graphic design graduates that they could slot straight into their studio process.
And I didn't have enough experience or my degree didn't reflect that. So I think that was quite a difficult moment to be like, "I've got all this thinking, I've got all these skills, but what do I do as a job?" And so I suppose that my next big moment was the role that I took at Established and Sons, which was an incredibly exciting British furniture brand that was on this amazing journey. When I joined the company, they had been going for just about a year. And they were probably one of the most exciting furniture companies that had launched at that time. That took me to Established and Sons.

Chris:
How do you get a job at a place with not a practical portfolio? I'm just wondering what are you doing there? Because people are like, "How does she get these jobs? What's going on?"

Kirsty:
So with that one, I needed to earn money. I loved the brand. I loved the values. They didn't have any design jobs available. They said they were looking for a receptionist. So I was like, "Well, I've got all the skills, I can run the reception." I didn't get the receptionist job. But they said come and temp while we're waiting for the receptionist to start. And so I kind of wormed my way into the organization and just made myself so indispensable in those three months, that they couldn't get rid of me, and the business was growing at a rapid rate.
And I just every day wanted to get closer and closer to the design process. And that's what I did. And so eventually, after chipping away and showing people what I could do, I was eventually made the Head of Product Development. So I was running a design team working with some of the most incredible designers and branding studios, working across product, branding, exhibition design, and got to work with the most incredible design legends from around the world.
I got to work with Zaha Hadid, Jasper Morrison, [Bob Roscobee 00:20:02] could be all of these people that I'd read about at school, I was making their sketches into real things. And it was such an exciting time. And I think also, what was incredible about Established and Sons is I learned how important is to create this holistic brands they understood that you needed to do everything from your identity, your experiences, your products, your materials, your tone of voice. And I think that's where I learned what it takes to create a great brand.

Chris:
I have a question for you before we move on to the holistic branding part. Which is, how did you make yourself indispensable? What did you do?

Kirsty:
Nothing dodgy.

Chris:
I wasn't suggesting that, by the way.

Kirsty:
Well a combination. A lot of it is hard work. Because I was used to being quite commercially astute, I could see what the business needed. And I was then able to find ways and find solutions for people within the organization. And similarly, a lot of it was about building up relationships with people within the organization, with helping them build up their relationships with press, with sales, with clients. I could see the opportunities within the business. And I just made myself indispensable. And I think also continued to talk about what I could offer as a designer. I'm making sure that at every opportunity and I was there plugging away, day to day.

Chris:
So it sounds to me, like you're very good at looking for gaps and finding the opportunity in the gap. Somebody needs something, can't be fulfilled. So you're still a pretty young person here, I'm just trying to understand the timeline. Can you take me into your mind? Like, what are you looking for when you see there's a problem, a problem that's unsolved, and I'm going to be the person to solve that. Because I think this could be a valuable lesson, whether you're young or old to be a person, like Kirsty who can see the problems, maybe that are ignored by everybody. What are you looking for? How are you making these decisions?

Kirsty:
I think it's about always remain curious. I have never stopped learning. And I think that I still hold as probably the way it is absolutely still how I work today. So I think like, that kind of learning mindset means that you're never satisfied with how it is now in terms of in an organization, you can always find problems to solve. And I think that's probably what allowed me to be able to find those opportunities. Because I was looking for them. And I think I also was excited by them.
I always had a passion to make things better, or try new things. And I hope that becomes infectious then in an organization, if you've got somebody and especially when you're working with a startup like Established and Sons was a still fairly young organization. I think you need the attitudes of your team to... You need people like that on your team who are going to be pushing with you, rather than pushing against you. And I think that's definitely helped in my career.

Chris:
You reminded me of a concept that I heard before. A lot of designers consider themselves problem solvers, be good problem solver. But you go to the next level, you're a problem seeker. You found the problem first. Because you weren't waiting around for people to say, "Kirsty, here's a problem, we need you to solve this client relationship problem. Or we need to figure out a way to turn a sketch into something." You are looking for a problem. And that's critical.
And I think there's there's no surprise now that you're the creative director because you're looking for a good problem. And you're a problem seeker.

Kirsty:
That's a great way of looking at it, Chris.

Chris:
I think that's your idea. I'm just putting words to it.

Kirsty:
I'm going to use that one.

Chris:
Okay, so you're curious. You're always learning, you have this learning mindset. And we're hearing themes now. You like to go to places that... I love the way that you said this as a 20 year old, that had my philosophy in life. It's like, that's their philosophy. You're just a new person into the world. But I like that way of thinking, you intern from one place and you intern for another place, and then you come back, and you just create your own job it sounds like.
You came in, you know what, that's not my job. But I'm going to worm my way in there and I'm going to figure it out. And you quickly did that. Moving along the timeline here, when does it start to materialize for you where you're like you know what, now I've explored a lot and I'm starting to zero in on where I'm going with my life and career. Where are you, how old are you, what are you doing?

Kirsty:
So at that time I was about... I must have been about 24 and at that point I loved the brand, I loved the role I was doing but I really missed being the creator. And so I think my biggest leap I made the brave choice of leaving all of that world behind and going out of my comfort zone and joined Fabrica, the research laboratory for Benetton that's in Italy. So left everything behind for this year experience in this incredible...
So Fabrica is the design research laboratory for Benetton, it was set up in the 90s by the photographer Toscani as like this incredible cross cultural creative experiment. Where you go there and you work on all kinds of projects, some commercial, some much more experimental, some for Benetton, some for other brands. All wrapped up in this incredible concrete building made by the architect Tadao Ando, where all of your worries are taken away.
You live in houses with your colleagues, you're creating and designing every single day in this building. And it was an incredible experience to be going back to my roots and designing again. And it absolutely took me out of my comfort zone. I had an ECD there and Sam Baron, he's amazing. But he was very tough on me and really challenged me to find who I was as a designer again, because I had spent so much time creating work, working with all these other amazing star designers, but hadn't really found my voice in all of it.
And it was an amazing moment. And I think it also taught me so much about what is needed to build the best environment for creativity to flourish. And when I think about what I want the environment of Mother Design to be like now I often look back at that time and think what were all the parameters that made that moment so great that you did make some of the best work of your life, and you challenged each other and I just learned so much in a year and created so much work in a year.
It meant that when I came back to London after that I'd found a confidence and knew that my path, I wanted to be a creative director, I wanted to work with brands and define brands and define their brand. I came back with a really clear view in a way from that experience, because it sort of glued it all together.

Chris:
So where do you land next?

Kirsty:
So I came back to London needed to pay the bills again.

Chris:
I have to just pause right there. Your story is like this loop. It's like Groundhog Day. Something about you says, I want to change, I'll learn, I want to challenge myself, I'm going to go out into the world, but I'm not going to make no money. And then you come back to London it's like, "Oh, I'm broke, I need to make money and now I'm going to go find a job." And you keep doing this over and over again. So you come back with a realization, I need to make money. Where do you go?

Kirsty:
But I think I would say like Groundhog Day makes it sound like each time I was incrementally chipping away at the bigger picture. So it came back. And I think, again, I know with what I was saying about with Established and Sons I always looked for employees that had strong values. And I guess that's always been the thing that's driven me. It's been less about like the role itself. It's always been about like the company first and then I've always... I don't know maybe I've always had a confidence that I would find the role eventually within the organization, but it was about the organization first.
So I came back and worked at this amazing company called the Futur Laboratory. They are a futures consultancy. They do forecasting, insight, strategy and innovation. And I was offered the job as a creative director there working across the business, but also building the design of the offer alongside the incredible founders there, Chris and Martin. And it was just absolutely great fun. I was allowed to test things out, build things. I worked with so many amazing brands.
We looked a lot at like positioning, what the Futur of the brands would be and then bring that to life through design and through innovation. So I had four amazing years with them. And it was a really great experience. And I think also again, it added another layer of experience about how design can be used to help businesses really project where they can go quite far into the Futur. So again it was a different experience to what I'd had before but one in which was kind of building all these pieces which allows you to create these kind of holistic brands.

Chris:
Time for a quick break but we'll be right back with more from Kirsty. Welcome back to our conversation with Kirsty Minns. I'm just trying to keep track of how many different jobs you've had in different companies. So far, in our short story here, you had two internships, you went to work in house as a staff creative at Established, then you left to go to Fabrica, which is like this experimental place. And I've heard wonderful things about that as an experience. And then you come back to Futur Labs. So that's already four, it's kind of thing here. Okay. I already know the rest of your story. So what's the next job?

Kirsty:
So I had four amazing years with them and as I like to iterate my life, I left them and I didn't leave them for a company I left, I traveled across America. At the time, it was way before Trump had got in. But I was always curious about what happened in the middle of America. So I took a road trip for six months, I drove from San Francisco to Detroit's through Texas, up through the middle. And I guess, again, I just wanted to be inspired and have a new experience.
And I came back to London with a great breadth of experience from the past and then spent time freelancing. So then that's when I actually worked for a lot of different design and branding Studios in London. I also had an amazing time at Google Creative lab, I worked with Design Studio, I spent some time with this amazing agency called Scheybeler and Co. So I just had shorter stints of just again, absorbing knowledge. And yeah, so then that finally led me to where I am today, which is at the wonderful Mother Design.

Chris:
Okay, I have a theory about you, Kirsty, that you don't like money. You don't like stability. Because you work and then you go and do an adventure. And then you come back and you work. So how long have you been at Mother right now?

Kirsty:
So three years.

Chris:
Okay. Maybe one more year before you go on another adventure?

Kirsty:
No, I think like, I've always spent a good chunk of time in those agencies. And I suppose part of why I love where I am now is I feel like all of those experiences have sort of led to what we offer at Mother Design, and what we're trying to build there. So I feel like I feel like that order all happened for a reason.

Chris:
Well, okay, so now, I mean, I want to be polite. I don't want to ask how old you are. But I'm doing the math here. It's like, okay, you still sound like a pretty young person. I'm just adding up the numbers here. You've lived a rich life, though, just so many experiences. You really have. And I envy you. I mean, you seem like such a free spirited person. You're courageous, you try things and you're not afraid to fail, you take time to learn about who you are and what you want. And you try so many different things. And it is super fascinating to me, because you must come from, I'm just going to make this giant assumption... I should just rephrase the question. What was family life for you? What was it like growing up from age one to age 18 was a family life for you?

Kirsty:
Family life. I come from a family who have really strong work ethic. So my first weekend job was when I was 15, I worked in a store, I was saving money. Every single weekend, I would be working evenings. I suppose I was brought up in such a household that had this strong work ethic that if you wanted to do something, you save up the money to do it. And then you can enable yourself. Not in a household where I was handed anything on a plate.
And I think that work ethic, in some ways, it sounds like I've had all these amazing adventures and I have. But in between those adventures there was saving there was saving. There was sacrifices. There's like, renting out really small, tiny rooms in big house shares so that I could afford to go traveling and see all these countries. There was hard work and there was great and there was... I worked on the reception for Established and Sons for three months before I was allowed to do something else.
It was never such an easy ride. But I was just so determined. I think what was great about my upbringing is my parents made me believe that if you worked hard, you could get whatever you wanted. But you had to put in the hours and you had to put in the time. And that's how you got what you wanted. And I think that just has allowed me to be able to have these amazing experiences, because I just believed in that I didn't believe that I couldn't do it. If that makes sense.

Chris:
Yeah. Well, the question I want to ask you, is this, is that at any point in your life are you doubting yourself? Like, is this going to work out? Because I think you must come from a stable family life for you not to have those kind of worries that many people have. That I'm always kind of just trying to be mindful that I don't teach my kids to be so afraid of the world, that they don't try stuff.

Kirsty:
Of course, there's been doubt along the way. I think there is imposter syndrome, in probably every stage of that process, which, particularly when you're a female creative director coming into some of these organizations, you start to compare yourself or you doubt your abilities. But I think the other thing that my parents told me is about not comparing your journey to others.
And that's something when I'm mentoring young creatives, is probably the most important thing I'd say. If you focus on the work, and you focus on working really hard, and you focus on the value, you're going to bring that organization that's going to bring you happiness, and going to give you career development. If you start focusing on everyone else's journey around you, then it's only going to trip you up.
So I think also, I have two siblings, and my sister was very clear on a direction from an early age. And I think I always felt a bit lost when I was younger. But my parents was like, "Don't compare yourself. You can't compare yourself." And I think that is a really important thing that I've learned from my family values. Yeah, hard graft, grit, and don't compare yourself to anyone else.

Chris:
That's the cliff notes version of our conversation. Hard work, grit, don't compare yourself to anyone else. Okay, that's clear to me. But so much I think, is happening today, with the proliferation of social media platforms. It almost becomes impossible not to see how well other people are doing. Because you're reminded of it on every platform that you go on. How can I as a young person, see this work that inspires me and be inspired by it, yet not beat myself up over it. Seeing that there's a vast gap between where I am and where I want to be?

Kirsty:
I think it's about trying to offer a more generous way of looking at it and being like, there is room for you at the table, there is room for you in the world, there is room for you in the creative industry. So yes, that person over there might be where you want to be. But instead of being jealous and using that as negativity, use that as inspiration. Use that to be thinking, okay, you want... Learn from that person, get in contact with that person or find other people to do a project with that will get you there.
It is hard to not compare yourself. But I think if you're focused on your own path, and what you can do, in your way and be generous and kind towards other people, it makes it much easier, I think, then if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people within an industry. Which does have room for people. I think going back to what I learned at the very beginning, there are so many amazing creative roles. And I think it's just like knowing a bit more about what those roles are and where you can get involved. There's room for people.

Chris:
Wonderful. Okay. It seems like you're so clear about who you are, what you want to do at such a very young age too. And I'm a fan of Joseph Campbell, the hero's journey. And in it the hero has a call to adventure. And there's a refusal or the anxiety of the call. And then someone comes along, a mentor guides this person and crosses the threshold and leaves the old world for the new world. Throughout this entire story it seemed like you're very clear that there was no resistance, there was no anxiety of the call. Can you look back on your life and see like there was a moment there where you weren't sure and you were doubting yourself and possibly tell us like hat gave you the courage to just go forward anyways?

Kirsty:
I think at every decision, there was doubt and fear, 100%. And I think though, even for probably like maybe five to 10 years after my degree, that degree didn't necessarily make sense. It was only probably when I got my first creative director role, I was like, "Oh, okay, this all is coming into play." So I guess I just believed there wasn't a wrong or right decision, there was just a decision to be made. And so in that case, I suppose my attitude whether it had been a good or a bad experience was like, it's an experience that's going to move me forward. And I'm going to learn something from it.
So I think I probably always, even in good or bad times have been annoyingly optimistic. And sometimes, maybe that's what's carried me through. Even when I've made bad decisions along the way. One example, actually is Fabrica. So I applied, and I got rejected, I applied, I got rejected, I applied, I got a note from Sam Baron, the Executive Creative Director. And he said to me, he was like, "I'm going to reject you again. But if you go and prove that you have your own creativity, then we'll offer you a role."
So then I had to go away. And I am a friend of mine, who I worked with at Established and Sons, we invented a project for ourselves where we created and curated this exhibition that was all about these found photographs we had. And we created this whole show around this project. But that was an example where I was rejected, rejected, rejected, but I've just going back to the seeking the problem. I was like, "Okay, I'll find a way around. I'll just keep finding a different way in or way round or way a side ways in." So I think there's lots of examples like that probably I've blocked out of my mind of... My way of dealing with rejection is finding another way in.

Chris:
You're pretty good at doing that by the way. It's like you don't take no easy. So what is it that's going on in your mind when you hear no three times? Because that's a lot of no's? What are you feeling? And the way I ask that is some people respond with anger? Like, "Oh, yeah. I'll show you. I'll prove to you, you are making a mistake right now." Or are you just sitting there thinking, "I haven't given them what they need to see what I see in myself." I mean, what's the narrative that's going on in your mind?
I think when you're working in design, and you're not a specialist, it's hard to hold your nerve and hold your... I felt like, I wasn't a legitimate designer. I think when I was rejected from Fabrica, I was like, "Okay, maybe my path is not a designer, my path is more in like product development and in that side."
But there was a part of me that was like, "You can't give up that easily. Just because someone's telling you can't be a designer, doesn't mean that you can't be a designer." And so I think at that moment, I wanted to prove to myself, when someone had said, no that many times, it was proving to myself I could do it. Yeah, it goes back to that kind of family ethic of like, hard work, and that belief that okay, you can do anything, if you put hard work into it. I'll just have to work a bit harder to find my way.

Kirsty:
So you converted no into just work harder. And this was set in your roots from an early age hard work can solve a lot of problems. Maybe not every problem. But that was going to be your thing. You're just going to outwork it until you got what you wanted in life. Yeah?

Chris:
Yeah. I also think about this when you're talking about the Goldsmith School, which was like they taught practical skills, it was a kind of go figure it out on your own. Do you think that's at some of the foundations too. When you encountered a problem, you're like, "Kirsty, you're a smart person, let's figure this out." Let's just figure out what we need to do. Change the brief, make up our own projects, do whatever it is that you need to do to be able to overcome the problem?

Kirsty:
Yeah, definitely, I think, again, it's something that I think throughout my whole career, I've always tried to make sure that I always have the practical skills to back it up. So at Fabrica I lived with this amazing coder and developer and he then taught me how to, like do basic coding, and then I started to learn that tool myself.
And I think again, you can teach yourself a lot of the skills. I think, some of the foundations and the thinking, it was so useful to have that from an education system, because I think that requires more time and more over a longer period. Whereas throughout my career, I've always upskilled at every point and done free courses or like found friends who have skills that they can teach me. cross learn skills, and I think that's really important. I love to be able to know how to use all the tools as well as be a creative director. It's almost like, you almost need to know the tools to know how to direct. And I suppose that's the way... I always want to keep relevant, I always want to make sure that I know what tools are out there that can be used.

Chris:
Knowing what now you can go back in time and tell an 18 year old Kirsty, would you still tell that person to go to the school that you'd learn no practical skills? Or would you tell them to go and learn some practical skills from a different school?

Kirsty:
I wouldn't change a thing. You know what, I would tell them, this is going to be relevant, you're going to have twists and turns in your career journey. As long as you teach yourself the skills, the foundations that you are getting here will set you up for your thinking for life. That's what I tell myself. So I'd be like, "Don't worry."

Chris:
Our stories could not be more different in terms of the contrast in you exploring and me going to a school that was known for teaching us very practical skills, helping you to develop a very refined portfolio the minute you step out of school, to be highly employable. And so with that, I got a job, I started my company. And that was that.
The adventure is a different kind of adventure. But it's just fascinating to hear about how you're bouncing across different continents, different kinds of programs and schools and just learning so many different skills. This very rich tapestry of your experience. It's so wonderful to hear about.

Kirsty:
Thank you.

Chris:
Yes. So I guess I said, I was going to ask you no more questions. But I have one last question. Is there a question I should have asked you on this that you want to speak about that I should have asked you but didn't?

Kirsty:
I don't think so? Is there?

Chris:
I don't know. I don't think so. But maybe you are like, "Hey, man, you should ask me about this time that I did this. And then I would love to tell you that story."

Kirsty:
No, I think, I guess the exciting thing with all of these things combined is I see my role now so much about how do you create the best creative environment to create the best work. And I think that's why I feel very lucky at Mother because they have this amazing Holy Trinity that's called... It's got three things it's do the best work we possibly can have fun, and make a living. And it's always in that order. And that kind of philosophy and mindset, I think sort of summarizes in some ways my career journey today, which is, I think, probably why I ended up in Mother. Because it feels like so strangely aligned with the story that we've just spoken about.

Chris:
I think it seems like every experience you had is really aligned with who you are. From Fabrica to Established and Sons to you just going on a road trip across America for six months, it seems so in alignment. And I wonder how many young people out there listening to this and think to themselves, that have that same clarity. And I think they're just struggling to figure out what am I supposed to be doing in this life? You talked a little bit about comparison, how that can wreck you, how can make you depressed and just make you lose a sense of yourself? Do you have any final thoughts on that? And that person who's out there?

Kirsty:
Absolutely. Because like, the difference is I didn't have clarity of where I wanted to end up. That I'm clear about. And I mentor a lot of young creatives. And I have that exact conversation. And all of the creatives that I mentor, they had the same challenge that I had, what do I want to do? I don't know what I want to be? How am I going to earn money, what is my path. And I suppose it's like, take one step at a time. Be curious, learn along the way, you're not going to make... Don't see every decision as a wrong decision. Just every opportunity you have like make the best of it.
If you're working on the reception of a brand that you like, make the most of it. And don't think about where you want to get in 20 years time. Just think about the experience that you want to have now and what you're going to get out of that experience. And I think I never had an end goal in mind, I never had an end goal of being an ECD Mother. That wasn't my end goal. My end goal was just this ambition, drive and passion for design. And it was that passion that led me to go and make those decisions I did. So I think for a young person, just find something you're passionate about or excited about, or interested in and don't worry about where you... Don't be so obsessed with, like needing to know all the answers because no one knows the answers. I mean, do you do know where you want to be in few years time five years time? Does anyone?

Chris:
That's a good question. I hope so. But I don't know. Now I'm thinking about maybe I don't know. Yeah, I usually think about like I have a direction, but I don't know how to get there. So life is about like finding the right path to get there, but we're going to enjoy the journey along the way, and to love every moment of it and allow ourselves to be influenced by the experiences that we have and the people that we meet. That's just my theory on that, though.

Kirsty:
Yeah, I think that's a good theory. And I suppose when you're a designer, it does inform the whole way you view the world and kind of the life you create around it. So it's kind of less necessarily about worrying too much about the final. There is no final destination, I suppose.

Chris:
Right. And when you're telling that story, I want to emphasize to everybody that's listening, that there is no set timetable as to where you're supposed to be, how old or young you're supposed to be and what you're supposed to have in success and awards. None of that really matters. Give yourself some grace to find your path and to be open to what the next adventure holds for you. And now kind of as a game of thrones fan, I want to cite something here that I think maps to your story here.
Which is Theon Greyjoy in the final season of Game of Thrones, spoiler alert, everybody. He's in the woods, he's talking to Bran Stark. He's made some horrible decisions in his life. He's betrayed friends and family. He's done some really dumb stuff and he's had to pay the price. And so he's teary eyed. And he looks at Bran in the woods. And it seems like the world is going to end quite literally in the story. And he says, "Bran, I just want to..." And Bran's just like...
And Bran's the Three Eyed Raven, he knows everything, and he's so wise now. He waves his hand, he's like, "There's no need to say you're sorry. We're exactly where we need to be. If you hadn't done what you did, I wouldn't be here. And we would not be here at this moment in time." And I know it's like pop culture, fiction stuff. But there's something that resonates with me.
Because at that moment, were Bran says to Theon, "Everything's okay and I forgive you." And he breaks down emotionally, and then he turns around, and he does the best that he can in the final moments of his life. And it's wonderful. So I just want to say to everybody who's listening to this, you are exactly where you need to be, and everything will be okay. Thank you very much, Kirsty for doing this podcast with me.

Kirsty:
Thank you. My name is Kirsty and you're listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Burro for editing and mixing this episode. And thank you to Adam Sanborne for our intro music.


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