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13th April 2018 |
Glug Profiles: Ross Middleham

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Well, hello Ross! How are you? Are we having a good year, so far? 
Oh yes, all is going great! To say I’ve been involved in a feature with Creative Bloq, run a day-long creative workshop with one of the Pentagram partners and now doing a Glug Profile…yep, I’m pretty pleased so far!  

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'Mazing to hear... Ok, so let’s start easy, shall we? For those Gluggers who’ve never heard of you: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do? I’m Ross, Content Lead at the Met Office (the home of weather!), based down in Exeter, Devon. I work in the content team and oversee design and video production – yep, the Met Office really does have a content team, full of designers, animators and video producers… and we don’t just spend our days designing weather symbols.

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We plan and produce designs that go out 24/7 365 across all our social channels – Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/metoffice/), Snapchat (search Met Office), Twitter (https://twitter.com/metoffice), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/metoffice/)and Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/metoffice) to name a few. All with the aim of keeping you (the public) up-to-date with the latest weather forecast and help keep you informed and safe in times of severe weather.

We also work on marketing material, internal comms and I’m responsible for developing the brand guidelines and working towards an online toolkit / design language. I’ve been lucky enough to run some big projects. What I love about the Met Office is that if you’ve got a good idea and enough drive, you can make it happen. I’ve led numerous design sessions at universities, set a YCN brief, run a day-long event as part of D&AD New Blood (including sessions with Twitter, Taxi Studio, innocent and DixonBaxi), created a huge coin river to raise money for WaterAid, turned a Shelterbox into a giant money box and designed and worked on a disco rhino as part of an international arts project. Yes, really.

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How did you end up doing what you’re doing now? What’s your story? I trained as a New Media Designer at Bournemouth Uni, learning about interactive design, UI and UX, training in stuff like Director and Flash (geez that ages me slightly).

I then worked at a local design and print agency, working with a range of customers predominantly in the hospitality and tourism sector. I worked on projects including rebranding small businesses, designing book covers and collaborating on a huge tourism guide for my home town. One day I spotted that the Met Office were advertising for a New Media Designer – it seemed weird not to apply considering that was the name of my degree, but I never imagined that such a huge establishment would want me. They did and I thought I could bring something different to the organisation, so I embraced the role, and I’ve been at the home of weather for the last 9 years.

What an amazing journey! So, as a kid, did you always dream of working in the creative industry? Totally. I was pretty good at all the subjects at school but art and media just didn’t ever feel like work. I really enjoyed exploring techniques and ideas, having freedom to make mistakes but understanding what needed to be delivered to get a good grade. I’ve always loved drawing and copying characters, particularly stuff from the Beano (well I am an 80s child). My career evaluation at school came back as a cartoonist and I was chuffed. The careers advisor didn’t think it was great at all, but that made me all the more determined to stay arty. That always felt like what I was best at.

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Love the determination you had so early on. From there though, who would you say have had a significant influence on yourself and your work? Probably my first employer, Mac, who gave me the opportunity to start doing the job I love. Mac was looking for a designer that could hit the ground running and slot straight into the team to start creating designs for clients. I didn’t have the print knowledge straight out of uni, but what I could offer was bags of enthusiasm, creative flair and the determination to learn quickly. Fortunately he recognised that. Creatively, I’ve been influenced and taken inspiration from loads of people, at different times and in different ways.

Now, that's a good employer right there! Let's go a bit deeper with a potentially quite charged question, but with your hand on your heart… Do you love what you do? What is the best part? Absolutely. I’d be lying if I said that it was all plain sailing though. It’s tough. Some days it feels like you’re making no progress. Most of the time you feel out of your depth. That’s actually important though. We’re trying to work at the cutting edge of social to produce the best and most useful content we possibly can, and that means that we’re having to constantly learn by testing, trying, getting stuff wrong, but hopefully getting more stuff right. We were chuffed recently to be featured by Creative Bloq for the awesome interactive Instagram Stories we’ve been creating. To be considered to be pushing the boundaries by people in the design industry is a real honour. https://www.creativebloq.com/features/a-designers-guide-to-instagram-stories

Hear hear, it's tough but worth it, eh! In 10 years time, do you see yourself doing the same thing as you are today, or are you hoping to evolve into another practice or try another area of the creative industry? Who knows? The world is moving so quickly, I think I’d have been left behind if I was still doing exactly the same thing. I’m very conscious of remaining relevant and to me that means keeping close connections with the ‘real world’ – agencies, universities, students, social, fashion, art and trends. I’m still massively enjoying the opportunities and challenges in-house, but agency side or academia can never be ruled out should the right position come along. As long as I’m enjoying what I do and feeling like I’m making a difference, then I’m happy.

Very true. If you were to give ‘your younger self’ some advice relating to the first couple of years in the industry, what would that be? Talk to more people. Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of people saying no or not liking your work. You’ll quickly realise everyone is a designer but remember you’re the qualified one. Ha! When I give advice to students I tell them to be enthusiastic, full of energy and confident. Not over-confident mind. It’s important to be nice as nobody wants to work with a jerk. I think being humble is a good thing. Let others say how good you or your work is.

Energy and positivity makes all the different indeed! If you’re having a bad day, or running low on inspiration, what would be your number 1 tip to back into the swing of things again? Take a step back. Do whatever energises you. For me, I soak up #randominspiration from anywhere and everywhere…just check my Instagram feed (https://www.instagram.com/superdoodledesign/)! Street signs, packaging, magazines, retro toys, bikes.  

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I also love meeting new people in the creative industry – if you’re a student, uni or agency and fancy sharing inspiration, get in touch!

Amazing, love your 'gram! Let’s go a bit dreamy, shall we? If you could swap job with –anyone- in the industry, who would this be and why? James Sommerville, VP of Global Design at Coca-Cola. I mean, that job title alone. Working on such an iconic brand with the challenge of keeping them fresh, would be awesome. Imagine the potential for incredible collaborations and the influence of emerging technologies and how that can help with that challenge. I totally think I could bring something different to their team. I really like Pepsi Max for a starter.

Yeah, wow, that's a good pick. Ok, and last but not least... Please fill in the below:

Best book on creativity: This book on 80s spray can art is difficult to beat I think https://thamesandhudson.com/spraycan-art-9780500274699 I also like the stuff that Marion Deuchars does like ‘Let’s make some great art’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lets-Make-Some-Great-Art/dp/185669786X

Best book on careers or business: Weirdly picked this up in America at a flea market, but thought it was pretty good for design tips https://www.amazon.co.uk/Non-Designers-Design-Book-Robin-Williams/dp/0321193857

Best website for inspiration: Any 80s gaming fans will totally get this http://pica-pic.com Anyone else will look at me blankly.

Best portfolio I’ve seen lately: I was really drawn to the stuff by Jakk Breedon that I saw at last years grad show down at Plymouth Uni — https://www.behance.net/JakkBreedon — some really bold, bright, fresh designs experimenting with type and animation. The more I work with universities the more I realise how many talented designers there are with awesome portfolios. That’s why I think it’s important for them to be enthusiastic and confident, wrapped up in a unique individuality in order to stand out from the crowd.

Best campaign: The MTV EMA Awards branding and associated content used amazing, in your face graphics, colours and music. So consistent across their channels it was very impressive. I also sat in on a presentation from the RNLI recently and their recent ‘Respect the Water’ campaign had fantastic reach. The presentation was very memorable, in particular their collaboration with LADbible in working to make the message fit for their audience and channel. They made the content look like it was user generated as it was filmed on a phone so it felt real and even more impactful.

A dream client: Rather than a specific name, here’s a few characteristics. Someone who is open to ideas, not afraid to try something new, listens and is open to having a conversation. Someone who says “thank you” when you’ve gone the extra mile.

A dream employer: innocent? Dyson? Coca-Cola? …or to work at Antique Archaeology with the American Pickers team (they’re the guys on TV who go around picking cool retro signs and stuff all over America) :0)

Best podcast listened to: Met Office Mostly Weather [yep, a shameless plug] https://soundcloud.com/mostlyweather

Best piece of advice ever given: Be nice. Push yourself. Make things happen.

I’d like to see a profile on: Spencer Buck from Taxi Studio would undoubtedly be entertaining.



This articles is part of our Glug Profiles series – a series of interviews aiming to highlight journeys and insights from creatives, makers, doers and cool cats from all walks of life in the creative industry, and the world. Get in touch with Malin if you'd like to take part: malin@glugevents.com

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