We expand our interview series with another member of the creative industries in Liverpool, Gemma Germains works for leading studio Well Made. She has spent a decade working in the creative industries and we talk to Gemma about Liverpool, Well Made, her plans for 2014 & more.
Who is Gemma Germains? What is your role at Well Made Studio?
For the last two years my boyfriend has been trying to convince me I’m 2 years older than I am. So, I think I’m 32 and I’ve worked in the creative industries for almost a decade. I’m not really one of those people who are defined by their work. I used to be. I was very wrapped up in having a fancy job title and responsibility. It took me losing it at 28 to realise that work is mostly bollocks and something that should only be done to facilitate a nice life. I’m extremely lucky to be able to earn enough to live on in as short a space of time as possible.
I will have worked with Joe and Doug, first as Mercy and for the last 12 months as Well Made for six years this Summer. My role is, at it’s most basic to sell their design talent. I’ve been selling design for almost a decade. How design is sold has changed so much in that time. There has a time I used to just open the phone book and call people. There was a time when product managers from major record labels used to answer their own phones. Actively selling isn’t cool anymore. We have to be a lot more subtle about it. The shift has been made from chasing clients to trying to get chased. It’s a very odd game.
What are your plans and goals personally and professionally for 2014?
We rebranded the studio in 2013. In doing so I changed my role into something a bit more productive. I don’t target specific clients anymore. Instead I produce content about how we work that a prospective client can use to decide if we’re right for them or not. I’ve stopped trying to persuade clients to work with us. The ones that need convincing aren’t right for us anyway. I write a lot now. I spend a lot of time talking to clients before we start a project with them. We used to dive into a project and immediately start bashing out design concepts. We spend much more time in workshops now. This a real change in the way I interact with a client. We tend to avoid jobs that don’t foster interaction with the people at the centre of a project.
This is actually the first year I’m starting without any kind of plan. I’m purposely not making any plans in my professional or private life. Everything good that happened to Well Made, and to me last year happened due to someone else’s decision making. I’m just going to concentrate on ensuring that our best work is visible and that we’re known for caring about the industry we work in. We’ve always championed young talent and we’re vocal about the negative impact of internships, not just for the interns but for established creative professionals who are trying to charge quite a lot of money for something they’ve pulled out of their minds. It just needs to be more of the same this year.
I’ve applied for a BBC scheme to encourage more women into regional broadcasting. I want to host a radio show about the North West’s creative industries but I can’t even call that a personal plan because it’s subject to someone else’s opinions about me. Aside from that, there’s nothing. I’m winging 2014.
What have been some of your favourite projects to work in recent years?
My favourite project of the past few years has been the re-brand. I honestly wish we could do it every year.
The thing about my job is that I’m there are the start through the making friends and the requirements. I chat about money and deadlines and then once we’re contracted and the project is agreed, I tend to step back and let Joe and Doug get on with the design. We don’t have account managers because we need the client to be as central to the project as possible. It’s an efficient and streamlined way of working but there are times when I feel a bit left out. I want to get excited about the design process but my input is only ever going to add an unnecessary additional step. Meaning, there are loads of projects that I love – Meringue Girls in particular that I was only a small part of. The re-brand was the embodiment of everything we are as people. It was a true collective vision of our dream studio and probably one of the few pieces of our portfolio that I can truly stake a bit of ownership on.
What for you are the best ways of keeping a studio and creative business fresh?
Seriously, I know what we should be doing. We should be allocating time to self initiated projects, and studio away days. I should be writing a book about intern culture in the design industry. We should be thinking of new ways of working with our favourite clients and running mentor schemes with young talent. I know what we should be doing but so far we haven’t had the time to do any of it. I shot myself in the foot with a blog post I wrote about being busy, which means I can’t ever complain about being busy ever again. I know in the real scheme of things I’m not. But I am. I freelance as a copywriter, I help other design businesses decide what they’re going to say about themselves, I help brands with their social media. Right at this moment, at the end of January, it feels like we’re all completely bogged down with keeping ourselves afloat. We’re still a very young agency, we’re still bedding in. I know we’ll have to keep this level of work up for a while yet. I also know that to do so will mean sacrificing all the good things we’re supposed to do to keep ourselves fresh.
What do you think of the Liverpool creative scene right now? What are its biggest assets?
I love Liverpool. I’ve been here for 13 years. As a creative city it’s fantastic. It’s cheap which makes it an ideal place to experiment with ideas. Once an idea is successful, it’s almost a given that it should be transported down to to London. I don’t know whether we should stop that because Liverpool is small. There aren’t enough clients to sustain the creative industry we already have. I think the brain drain is a good thing as long as we hang onto the best minds. That’s the hard part.
As a busy creative hub, which people (& businesses) is Liverpool do you love the most?
In terms of creative people and businesses, I’m a sucker for the independents. I don’t think we’ve ever shaken off, or wanted to shake off our outsider status.
I love Paul Rafferty‘s work he’s a really interesting designer working in music. I love Unfold Design. A good friend of mine has been working with Firesprite so I’m interested to see what they do over the next year. I’m also a massive fan of the Art School at John Moores. They’re churning out some really interesting people at the moment.
I’m also a massive fan of Bold Street Coffee, same as everyone with a MacBook and a Moleskine. My eldest has recently started skating so I’m also beginning to realise how incredibly valuable having a brand like Lost Art in the city is. They’re a textbook example of how to build and maintain loyalty – I think a lot of businesses could learn a thing from the way LA have built a community around their customers.
Are you involved in any of the wider creative events and groups in Liverpool and the north west?
Every once in a while I meet with a few other female creatives in Liverpool for a chat and a drink after work. I wish I could be a bit more proactive with the group. There’s so much potential for something interesting to happen out of it. We complained about the lack of women at Designival and I’m beginning to feel that I should probably put my money where my mouth is and put on our own event – there are so many amazing scouse female designers who’ve gone on to have insane careers. I’ve already got my dream line up written, I just need to raise a few thousand to make it happen (never, ever gonna happen).
I wish I was a bit more active in Liverpool’s creative scene. I love the Creative Process events. I missed every Geek Chic talk, I’ve missed every kin2kin networking event. I miss most things because I prefer to hang out with kids after school. I know it’s not particularly emancipated of me but sadly, at the moment my kids are infinitely more hilarious than your average networking event. I know this will change eventually.
Who are your favourite people to follow on twitter?
I live for Twitter. It’s my favourite business development tool from the past few years. I must admit, I find myself interacting on the whole with people I know or are connected to in real life. I love listening in to @ForestSwords and @Shenners when they’re getting excited about pop music. @thisismadeup and @neave are also always very entertaining. Twitter has also really changed the way I use blogs now. I don’t have a favourite anymore and I’m no longer loyal to a particular few. I tend to read what interest me. Twitters also been a good way of connecting with emerging talent. I’m a big fan of @mraquelsantos and @LizHamburger ’s work. I wouldn’t have come across them if it hasn’t been for Twitter.
‘Filmed at BLABMini4 as part of Liverpool’s Designival, Gemma Germains takes us through her inspiration.’
Away from work how do you enjoy to spend your time relaxing?
I spend a lot of time relaxing. I’ve come to realise that if you’re feeling stressed a lot of the time then you’re doing life wrong. I write all the time. I want to write a guide book for young parents but it’s such a lonely experience that I doubt I’ll ever get it finished. I spend a huge amount of time with my kids. It took me a while to realise that running around like an idiot, trying to make other peoples businesses successful did nothing to improve my own life. I’d rather earn less money and be home most afternoons. My boys are trying to teach me to skateboard at the moment. Falling hard onto concrete isn’t relaxing in the slightest but it’s nice that they still want to spend time with me. I know I’m on borrowed time with them.
You’ve got £20, Do you go to the cinema or buy a dvd to watch at home? & Which film would you choose?
£20 is actually enough to get me roaring drunk so that’s what I’d probably do if you handed me a bit of free cash. I’d buy a bottle of Prosecco and a whiskey & ginger and hopefully some friend chicken as well. I’m a fabulous drunk. The following day while I was wallowing in my hangover, I’d watch Howl’s Moving Castle.