Designer Talks Podcast

Designer Talks podcast Ep. 4 - David Worthington FCSD

September 23, 2021 Chartered Society of Designers Season 1 Episode 4
Designer Talks Podcast
Designer Talks podcast Ep. 4 - David Worthington FCSD
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Show Notes Transcript

Designer Talks podcast asking designers, how they do it, why they do it and what makes them tick and what design means to them, hosted and produced by Lefteris Heretakis aCSDf.

David is non-exec chairman of branding consultancy Holmes & Marchant with offices in London, Singapore, Shanghai and New York. He is also an independent consultant to various clients, including Sainsbury’s and Swiss Re, prior to which he was managing director of the Conran Design Group and chairman of Designersblock.  

He is chair of trustees of the River and Rowing Museum and a former trustee and trading board chairman of the London Transport Museum. 

In the education arena he has recently completed six years as a governor of Ravensbourne University London, prior to which he was chairman of the Skills Council for the creative and cultural industries - CCSkills. 

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, the RSA and an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff Metropolitan University.

https://www.msqpartners.com

https://www.holmesandmarchant.com

 

Follow us at @csdminerva
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Lefteris Heretakis:

The designer talks podcast. Hello, and welcome to designer talks podcast by the Chartered Society of designers. I'm your host Lefteris Heretakis. And our guest today is David Worthington. Welcome, David.

David Worthington:

Thank you. Good morning.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Good morning. fantastic to have you here.

David Worthington:

My pleasure.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So tell us about you.

David Worthington:

Well, I, I'm a designer, graphic designer by training, and I've spent all of my life or career pretty much being a designer and thoroughly enjoying it. I'm British, for a very grown up children now live just outside London, I've always wondered up until very recently, and three grandchildren and ask away.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Fantastic, fantastic. So when did you realise you want to become a designer?

David Worthington:

Um, well, I was, I was enjoying art at school, you know, like joy. I like painting. And I sort of think I quite like problem solving. But I think when it really when it really dawned on me that there was something called a designer was one of our art teachers was a graphic designer. And as he began to sort of explain to me what that was all about, I began to think actually, this is this is interesting, I like the sound of this, and sort of set out to try and find out a bit more about it. And in our case, we had a we had a careers master at school. And we had a careers room from them, really, with lots of books about being a doctor and being an ambassador, all these sort of things. And there was one small paragraph on being a graphic designer, which suggested that very, very few people can be graphic designers. And the people that work graphic designers be extraordinarily rich, but most of you would fail.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Wow.

David Worthington:

That sounds that's pretty much what it was telling us. So.

Lefteris Heretakis:

And so what happened is, so you read you read the paragraph, you met with your teacher? And what about your education?

David Worthington:

And yeah, I suppose you could track back a little bit further, I went to school at the time where schools did Latin. And, you know, the, the idea was, you did Latin, and if you couldn't do Latin, you would do art, you know. So that immediately tells you the status of art within this particular school. And my father will come back a little bit, but my father was an architect had to go to school and say that David would like to do art because he wants to become an architect. And they were terribly worried because I wouldn't be able to read medicine at Oxford if I didn't have Latin. chances of me going to Watson is just absurd. It's just madness. So you know, art was there, it was sort of hard, hardwired into who I was. And I sort of associated art with freedom. My other a level subjects, or physics or maths, which I didn't associate with freedom at all. But being doing art, it meant you could sort of roam around the school with a drawing pad and sketch that harmonizer afternoon, you could just go and sit outside and then we couldn't do anything about it. So yeah, but I mean, it was for me, it was an escape. It was it was enjoyment. It was a great challenge. And then I discovered I didn't quite know how this was, but I did. I designed a box for a pair of shoes. And I don't have the box anymore, but I have a photograph of it. Thumbelina, somewhere in the middle. And I think I discovered graphic design. And that was sort of contemporaneously with it with this teacher arriving at school and talking about being a graphic designer Mike Collins was his name was his name, I don't know, identities still around. But it was fantastic. It was just a kind of refreshing thing. And, and then, of course, I had to go to college. And my father who never wanted me to become an architect was very worried about being a graphic designer, he can sit and say there's no future in this talk. So what he wanted me to do was become an architect. And once I trained to be an architect, then I could be a graphic designer, you know, because I have something to fall back on, you know, came from an era where careers were very important to get the postwar generation so and so I applied for architecture and got places to sit to do architecture. Yeah, Newcastle University, and very good offer from them. And I also sort of went and saw Central School and Leicester poly, which is where I ended up. And I remember we went for sort of leaving interview with a headmaster, he said long term peace here, where's your architecture, David? And I said, Well, actually, I think I think I'm preparing To become a graphic designer, I think that's what I'm going to do instead. He said, Well, that's marvellous, I think you'd make a wonderful architect. And I absolutely knew that was the rest of my life, you know. And so it's been so

Lefteris Heretakis:

fantastic. So tell us a bit about your education. After after sort of college during college?

David Worthington:

Yeah, well, I was probably one of the first generations to do what was then the new degree course, it had been a diploma in art and design. And probably two years before me, it was maybe the first year where there's dip ideas, it was called turned into a BA honours. So it's a three year course. It was brilliant. best time of my life, possibly. Now, there's lots of ways but it's definitely one of them. We all still know each other and see each other. Once a year, during lockdown, we were doing quite a lot of zoom calls together. And it was just amazing meeting hailing going, going going to university. And the idea that you could become a designer without doing that is, well, it's possible, of course, it's possible, but it's just nothing like as much fun, you know, and the ability to sort of experiment and learning about things, in some sense is not huge, huge amounts to learn. You know, typography is a relatively simple subject. But the practice of it and the doing of it, and the understanding of what design is and how it works for people. And I remember college, I had a bit of a hiatus, because I sort of worked out. But really, the only the only application of a graphic designer doing something that would, could be considered to be really valuable. Were the instructions on the fire extinguisher, we have a fire, how does it work, get it, fire out. There may be other similar examples. Point being actually nearly everything else a graphic designer was doing was in some respects, furthering the commercial advantage of the client of the buyer, you know, travel by train or by car, whatever it is. I sort of I got quite worried about this, because I felt it should be something a bit more I suppose ethereal or cultural or valuable, not just about this, this, this commercial thing about money. So I went to see the head, of course and said, I think I need to leave, this isn't working for me. And he said, he said all while and I explained why he said Yeah. He said, Okay, that's fine. He said, What do you enjoy doing? Or sorry, I enjoy doing it. He's fucking we'll get on with it. Because most people are accountants and they hate. Again, you know, you get these things that happened to you were sorry, she was born that way, you know, you have a sore point. And it was the point where the shoe box, it was the point where they had master saying, You're not listening to me, it was the point with this man saying, Yeah, get on with it, and get over it and move forward. So I think there's a funny thing in education where and I think it's underestimated this where young people are finding their feet. And I don't think that's easy. I was a governor at ravenswood University in London. And, you know, we didn't have much contact with the students. But we had a bit and you can see this that actually, for us, it will seem pretty obvious when you were there, you go to college, and that's it and eventually put everything in architect, fashion designer, whatever it was. But I think not under estimating the confusion in the young person's mind as it was in mind. You know, this, there was this thing I really wanted to do. But yet there was still these times when I would look at it and think, is this the right thing to do? And we're going to be any good at it. Will it work? Will I be one of those two people who get rich? And all those things? And yeah, it's great, gorgeous.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Fantastic, fantastic. So you're actually able to change anything for after the meeting?

David Worthington:

No, I think what what happened then was, first of all, I sort of settled down and said, Actually, I do enjoy this just enjoy it. Don't be anxious about it. The one thing the other was also mattered. A few months later, one of the college tutors came up to me and said, We just got an opportunity to do work experience at Conran associates as it was called, to become a design group. And could you go and I said, Yes, when he said tomorrow. So I said, Gosh, yes, I will, and drove to London, and did two weeks of colour and design group and that was that was again that was another seminal piece because arriving at that business in Covent Garden as it was at the time, and just seeing how it worked, and just watching Watching this stuff going on, you know, they were working to leave Iser with the Romans. And, you know, they were designing the shops, they were designing products, they would they would do the packaging and the identities and you know that what we now call branding, the whole kind of life of this and then also the Congo businesses, the shop and so, and these amazing people. And you know, I mean, I came from Yorkshire, I'm some fairly ordinary kind of kid, you know, and I arrived in London where, you know, you go, you go into the toilet, and this is soap you've never seen before in French packaging, you know, so sophisticated, is me trying to keep up with this as it were. But they were lovely. They were just, you know, fantastic people. And, you know, I bumped into one of them the other day, Geico, Robert Berbick was that garden designer who's graphic designer, and, and I did this project when I was there, the identity for the Nature Conservancy Council. And it's just one of those kind of completely lucky things. And Robert really helped me do it. And it was, it was a good job. And it goes into, got into one of these animals and their home. And I think again, that that was what my head, of course, called the Astra card is, you know, quite quite well thought of now as opposed to design. Those two things just said to me, that's it. And I've never looked back, really, it's just been designed ever since.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So what happens is, so you continued, you graduated, and

David Worthington:

graduated with a two one. My base they set out to go first, but my thesis wasn't. didn't put enough energy into it. So yeah, graduated and hired a van. But a wardrobe on the roof, but the wardrobe and the roof and the clothes in the wardrobe, put a piece of rope around it. So the rest of the there were the bits of furniture that we had, I was I was with someone. And we set off in London, and, you know, got a flat, moved into the flat, drove the van back up to Leicester and said right now we need to juggle it was just almost making it up. And I didn't have a job. So I said, Well, I'll work for myself, I'll be an ad model to clients. I'd sort of picked up and I'd always been quite good talking to clients about you know, what the what they need. And actually, in many respects, I'm better at account facing person than I am a pure graphic designer. And so I said I was freelance and then there was a job advertised at Stuart McColl design associates. And I applied for it and got job. So suddenly, I actually had a real job rather than pretending I had a job, which is great, because I was earning money. And my girlfriend at the time was a PA, so your life settle down, we ended up getting another flat very quickly for one or two reasons. And that was it. Suddenly, I was in London and living, you know, sort of London life, which actually when you first arrived is extraordinarily difficult, because it's a city of enormous wealth and privilege. And, you know, it's being thrust at you all the time. And, you know, slightly kind of that. But I think unsure of it all. I mean, London takes a lot of getting used to. And it's it's, you know, once you do it's fantastic, special place on Earth, you know, I'd only ever thought I'd only ever lived there or New York, there was nowhere else I've seen that captivated me enough. But so yeah, started with, say that about a year and a half. And then I got a phone call from some of the people who were colour and design group because I'd gone back there in the holidays. And when there's a collision done freelance work, they were setting up a breakaway group called benchmark. Would I come and work for them, which I did, which was great. And I was there for about a year and a half. It was funded by ethics industries, which owned a big plastics business and the model kit company in plastic toys, you start together with a small boy, which ended up going bankrupt. So suddenly, I kind of experience going through this kind of receivership as it's called in the UK. And so they started up again, I went to work for them. And I said, well, comfortable work for three months, but then I'm going to work for myself. So probably about three years after I left college, I set up my own thing. And I really worked for myself ever since. Yes,

Lefteris Heretakis:

brilliant. So how what is what is different now and how do you see the future of design?

David Worthington:

It's a good question. I think Well, I mean, the obvious difference is digital because that has shifted the Not just the kind of way things happen and the way things are produced, but it's shifted, shifted the way we live. And, you know, it's sort of become aware of, for example, I will share a museum and chair of Trustees at a museum. And we're thinking, well, we have visitors that come and see the museum, but we could have visitors that don't ever come and see the museum and don't live in this country and don't know who we are. But they subscribe to us. So it's almost like creating real estate in that sense that you can have people that you've never met who are actually part of what you're doing. So I think digital is shifting, not just the way we do things, but actually, some stuff, which is pretty fundamental. The problem with it is it's data driven. And it says it's all about data, you know, they can recall the precise numbers of people who go to a website and exactly to the millisecond, how long are therefore, and design has never had that clinical data driven aspect and the bits of it, you know, if you will, now a nautical designer, you will complete disagree with what I've just said, because without that, please go out of the sky. But design in a more rounded way has an element of intuition, but an element of sort of insight, thoughtfulness, you know, it's reflective. And there's some degree sort of happy accidents a pattern and you know, you just notice, when you do something, you draw a letter, and you look at it, well, that's rather good. You didn't intend it to be what it what it is, it just happened. And I think that there's a sort of argument between data and design, as I as I understood it, and I think at the moment, there's, there's a, there's a pumping in a rubbing of this there. And, you know, we see it in these the web branding, which sort of becomes ever, ever bigger, you know, and you know, what happened to corporate identity, which actually described what you were doing, you were creating an identity for a corporation, that one distinction or another, and now it's branding and includes everything. And because it includes everything, it all goes into one bucket, and a lot of people lay claim to it. So I think I think there is an evolving piece at the moment between design and other sort of influences, which is playing out as we speak, and I think it's got some way to go. I don't think that's a bad thing. I think, you know, it's a very positive thing. And I see design becoming ever more important. And I kind of say that, because in the 80s, I had a client, bear in mind, in the 80s, everything was sort of going up, you know, we were going through the roof, the world was never going to be the same again, you know, post the big value earlier fortune. I personally wasn't, you know, we were and like I said, David I, to be honest, I don't care what you do, I'll show him something, because I don't care what he did just make it look like the designers have been there. And, you know, because design has become a sort of fashion theme where he had to show someone this brochure or whatever it was, and look, you know, and the designer would listen and say, I'm clever, and so and, you know, design has progressed so much, that it's now firmly embedded in what we do, the way we approach things, the way we think about things. And so I think design has a great future. And I think there are some of these kind of localizable frictions going on. And it's also unfolding in different ways as well. You know, things like service design for examples that are relatively recent concept. When I was, you know, was doing training, we were pretty much four or five design types graphics interiors, fashion product. Is that it? I think it might have been, you know, yes, I think it might have been now, you know, what, what's different?

Lefteris Heretakis:

Is it like different titles that that referring to the same different packaging that refers to the same content really.

David Worthington:

I noticed because I was MD a prominent design group for 10 years. And you know, what we were doing was if we were talking to a retailer, for example, we were talking about brand, we were talking about the interiors, we were talking about point of sale, the communications

Lefteris Heretakis:

now told me the different names that we have now I was referring to different names we have now. Yes. Would you say that? I just say that there are different the different needs?

David Worthington:

They are they are different because the brand is the graphic designer and the interior designer, technically are different of

Lefteris Heretakis:

course no, no, of course I'm I was talking about the other names the sort of the

David Worthington:

the new one. Yes, well, they are they are they are equally different. So if you're a service designer, actually, you are dealing with the way people go through the process of being served, but go through the experience and say You're dealing with sound, for example, of course, you're dealing with some what someone says. So you're scripting things. Now graphic designers don't really script stuff and interior design. So I think I think they are different these things. And I think as we discover actually got something called service design, that means that you can improve your service and be more popular. Yes, it's a real subject,

Lefteris Heretakis:

of course, but Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Absolutely. It's just I was I was referring to many other things. Yeah, fantastic. So what would you do differently? If you were to start again?

David Worthington:

I wouldn't spend as much money in SAS cause I stopped that now. My impending pension has suffered from that, you know. So my advice to any young design is actually treat your pension seriously, because we do it early enough. It does make it does, it can make a good difference when you're when you're older. I learned my cost. What would I do differently? That? I'm not sure do very much differently, if anything. But I don't look back on it and think that there were times when I'd like, like it to have been different, or I would have you know, I mean, the you know, obviously certain things that didn't go as well, you think yes, next time I do press a different button or something? Yeah, no, I don't, I don't feel at all, I would do something significantly different. So

Lefteris Heretakis:

what has been your most rewarding experience?

David Worthington:

Gosh, well, from a sort of work point of view, you know, there are projects that stand out. And they're not necessarily the big ones. Here are things where you make a difference. And I think quite often, you can make a big difference with something that isn't quite as glamorous, or starts from a point that isn't as well developed as a mobile client. But the difference that you can make is significant, even if the end result isn't necessarily looked at and thought to be particularly good. So we did a lot of work for first choice, for example, which is a tour operations business activity. And, you know, you wouldn't say that the work we did was amazing. I mean, you know, the designers wouldn't look at it and say, Gosh, what a wonderful holiday ratio, because it just doesn't, you know, there's a little model aeroplane there and one of the deliveries, they see it there. So it's not amazing work. And no one's pretending it is. But the difference from where it was, when we arrived to what we did was significant nights, I think things like that. That stands out, working for diesel stood out, that was extraordinary for Renzo Ross owns it and all the amazing guys that work in quite extraordinary business. And fantastic. And that was just really fun. I think the other thing is that the, you know, think back the number of people that have worked for me or with me or in businesses that I've run has been what is in the hundreds? I feel quite proud of. And, and I know that people would some of the designers have said to me, You know, when I came there, and I you know, I have to do this and you know, we were in a meeting and then some finished meetings, right off you go do it. And I thought, gosh, how are we going to do this? You know, so we just chuck people in the deep end, and we didn't, we never looked after them. But we always gave people the opportunity to do things. We weren't we weren't saying Oh, one day, you will be able to do it like this. Just watch me it was completely the opposite. It was like, right, we're going to get this. You better join in and probably wait, and I feel quite proud of that, actually. But a lot of the things we did we just gone with. So I think when I think back, we were responsible for a huge number of things and where we educated trained to do that. What really we were kind of making it up in many ways. But I think we did. We did very well. Yes.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Fantastic. What What else are you passionate about other than design,

David Worthington:

boats, boats, boats, we only got a boat. During the boat, there's bad, there's all sorts of bad stuff. There's always bad stuff. And it's become kind of what we call a side hustle. I've always had boats and I ended up sort of famous of buying and selling bits of boats, you know, I like classic beta like old pets. So you know buying and selling stuff and that's become a sort of sideline business and in many respects that that consumes as much time as anything else about it. So if you buy sailing boats and bits of boats and things to sell.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So could they have become another career? Or would you have chosen another career? If you hadn't been a designer?

David Worthington:

Yeah, good job. My is go back to my father for a minute. He was an architect. And, in the end gave up being an architect for health reasons, basically. And he wanted them by boatyard he never did. And I think there's probably something hardwired in my head about one day having a boatyard. I never will. I mean, they're just phenomenally expensive things, which is why he got one. The one he found that was making enough money to make it viable was too expensive. The others were just so that never happened, which is a great shame, because I'd grown up in the past, and actually probably would now be running Nokia. So I think life would have would have been very different. But yeah, so yes, it could be

Lefteris Heretakis:

how does design affects your everyday life?

David Worthington:

Well, it's you don't, you know, you can't create designers. They just exist, and it's possible for you. So it's everything. There isn't anything that I do or look at or think about, that doesn't include design, we, you know, we moved out of London A few years ago, bought a project house, basically. So the last three years have been sorting better offs and the other bits that go with it. So that's been my biggest time has been myself working on this house, everything I've looked at on it and courses, design or design related. And so yes, it's everything. And actually, you know, you see things anything custom done, that was why they decided like this, it doesn't work. Look at it what you know, and I'm not talking about, you know, another designers efforts, I'm talking about something a board, you know, that he sort of taken apart he was he was just stupid that I think the other thing is designed. The other place that design is beginning to make inroads, but I'm not quite sure in quite which ways is the whole sort of environmental sustainability question. And currently, that's more of a technical place. But if I look at the way we recycle here, for example, you know, I look at that, and I think, you know, you can say crude object, you got the blue bit, and then you've got a small green bin, and you put this in that night in that, and this is not going anywhere. So you got to put that in the black bit of rubbish. And that whole consist of is random, difficult to manage the equipment, you need to take this thing to the, to the driveway, to them to take it away is just hopeless. You know, it's just a very blunt instrument. And so I think design is popping up all over this all time.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Absolutely. What has been your biggest mistake?

David Worthington:

Well, there are two jobs which of which I had to we had to bring our professional indemnity policy and cover. So those were clearly mistakes. One was where I think we sort of inadvertently didn't realise, and it sounds really ridiculous, didn't realise that using a look at bezzie, a drawing in someone's identity was actually copying. And this is not to blame the designer that came up with the idea but his his view was, this is what we call found imagery. And so we found it so we can use it, but he can't use it because it belongs to the estate of the study, famous architect. And it was a clear error, fortunately, in the pih, or stepped in. The other place that PMI and short stepped in was on McLaren Formula One's reception area in their old previous headquarters, not the current foster building, but the previous one. That wasn't the sake and yeah, I mean, you make mistakes. It's kind of you know, it's a bit like accidents in the meaning of the word is accident. It wasn't intentional. It's an accident. It's a mistake. But whether things that I regret slightly different way of looking at it. No, I did. Yes. I mean, yes, of course. But I mean, I've been very lucky, you know, so that I didn't think there'd be too many mistakes.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Should designers be expected to solve everything.

David Worthington:

Earth over the last 15 years I've sent on various committees and boards, you know, some non exec related stuff, genuinely Generally unpaid roles, you know, for charities and things. And I thought that he likes to do remember who it was sometimes said to me one day, he said, I do like, I do like it when we have a discussion about something. I do like what you say, because you don't think like the rest of us, you come at it from a different point of view, or you say something that we weren't thinking about, or whatever it is. So I think I think designers do approach things differently. Now, it doesn't mean that that's always the right thing. Because sometimes actually, stuff in life needs to just happen without anyone kind of meddling, fiddling or being overly clever or rethinking it. But I do think designers make it can make a contribution to almost every subject, because they come at it slightly differently to the way other people do. And therefore I think, yes, design is there. And it can be there in in everything, either. And just look at nature, the simple Archie scan and ask yourself a question. Who the hell does that? I mean, that's extraordinary, isn't it? So there is sort of, you know, is there a God of design? though, you know, somehow without design, it just wouldn't work at all. And so, yeah, designs designs pretty much there.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Yeah. What principles? Do you adhered with designer?

David Worthington:

That's a good question. I mean, there are designers that would never work on tobacco, for example, he'd say, No, this is nuts. That's against my principle. I don't work on that kind of stuff. I don't work for oil companies, for example. I've never worked for tobacco business, because I've never been asked if I was, would I have done it? Probably. I mean, I spent most of my life by smoking. I don't smoke at all. Now. We'll have done for several years, that term. But I work for an oil company shell. In essence, I think there's, I think there are those kind of principles. I think there are others. I mean, you know, in ticularly pitching, for example, people ask you to pitch for work. And it's such a difficult question, you know, so what's, you know, what would you say? No, I'm principled about this, and I'm not going to do any free pitching. But actually, they're doing a proposal for something, it's essentially a free pitch, you know, you're giving them your intellectual property, whether you draw it or write it or sales or, or, or whatever. So it's a moot point, at which point the free pitch comes in. But it's an insidious. What's the word technique? Or, you know, it doesn't get anyone anywhere? I mean, I was talking to someone the other day, and they said, Oh, yes, will we be one or two, I said, Well, I'm too. Look at 20 Oh view and your beauty parade 12 of you, they'll bring it down to eight, and then that'll come to four, and then it'll come to two. And, you know, you just do the mathematics down at the sharp, one voxels, we're at colour and design group, we spent 1.1 million pounds on our new business effort. And that included, you know, the pictures, the aeroplane slides, all the expenses, the cost of the new business department. And the amount of new business that we went for that year was 1.1 million. Though, if you do 1.1 million that you paid for, it's just ridiculous. Because if you're working at 20% margin, we're probably back round, they're pretty good. It takes you five years to get 1.1 million back in five years. So he's not he spent another 5.5 million in it. So new business and pitching is just is the most exciting thing in the world, you know, but it's when you get it as well. And even when you lose it, sometimes it can be very exciting. But it's it's a tough call.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Also, usually clients take bits and bobs from each pitch and try to put it together and then they think they can also combine and that's where really becomes complicated. Also, because they don't select you for years for who you are, and what you do. Just see bits and bobs in front of them. So it becomes a very complicated process. I was also I was also referring to also your designer, as a designer, the way you design your your your values as a designer, sort of what how you apply these things to your design.

David Worthington:

Yeah, I think the sort of underlying Well, it was in two things really. One is the sort of underlying relationship you have with the person who's giving you the brief for this, you know, the novel always, but mostly a client and the way in which you listen to what they what they want and what they need, what they think they need and then you also Your observation is adding to that colour to that that particular conversation. So I think for me, the fundamental principle is who is asking me to do this? And what is it that they need from that isn't necessarily what they're asking for, but you know, what I might see, or I might see somebody who has something, okay, we'll do this now. And then we'll, we'll move on and do that sometime in the future. So I think, you know, the underlying the right word for this sort of exchange and relationship between the client and the designer. And for me, if you get it right, everything else works, just you know. So I think that that's the guiding principle is there. And that has to be to a great degree compromise, you know, because they're not necessarily going to do what it is I want, or they can't afford it, or they don't think it's right yet, or they haven't sort of got to that point, or actually, I'm wrong. And what this what they see is correct, and I'm trying to take it somewhere else. So I think, I think for me, that is the founding principle sits there. I think the other is that you try and pare things back. So you know, what you're looking at is what you need to look at, and the extraneous stuff that sits around it. So I think simplicity is not void. And then the third one is actually a sort of, it's kind of nautical expression, it's looks right is right. And if you look at a boat, you know, you take the shape of the boats, and if you can see the inside or the outside at the same time, you know, when you're looking down through the cabin, you can see the ribs and the frames and everything. And when it looks right, it is right. And it works well. And I think that's that's kind of an abiding aesthetic. Which doesn't seem to have much place in the modern world, you know, because in the modern world, it's sort of always a brand theory, or it's all or that's all sort of, you know, but actually, it's, it's the root and branch of the industry where someone walks into a room and just gets it, you know, someone walks up to a hotel desk and just nibs it that we walk into an exhibition gallery, and it just, you know, it sort of sort of comes over. Yeah. looks right is right. principle for me is is it has to have that it doesn't have that just not working. Absolutely.

Lefteris Heretakis:

has been your biggest influence in life?

David Worthington:

Well, that's a good question. From a kind of career point of view, it has to be Terran scholar. And that's not necessarily because he was an amazing designer in many respects. He was an organiser, I think rather than a designer, but clearly was the designer. I think, you know, I grew up in the I went to college in the mid 70s 7578. So I was and I came from Harrogate and Yorkshire is very well. Well heeled, very lovely town, sort of daughter towns they call them. It had a habitat in Harrogate. So I'd sort of seen habitat, this is this UK retailer of basically, a better way to live, which is what Terence was, experiment, the virtues of, you know, a better life, better quality of life. And it's, it's very sort of champagne socialist, and it's kind of principles. But this was this was happening, this was coming in, you know, and it was coming off the back of the festival of Britain in the postwar sort of austerity. And then off the back of the sort of swinging 60s where stuff was starting to move. It was beginning to be spread out to the to the to every every everyone, you know, it's becoming democratically available. So I think you have, you have that you have a colour of colour, which is blue, blue is my favourite colour is sort of somehow that. That works. And then of course, I did my work experience, got to know the people there. Then we're back to this sort of breakaway group. And then in the mid 90s, we'd had a bit of a hiatus in the business kind of wondering what to do get ourselves back on our feet. We invested in digital in 1994, when it was called multimedia. And we're the chap that did it for we'll run it from he said, Oh, the internet will never be anything. Don't worry about that. It's all about multimedia. Very anyway. So sitting there, and then I got a phone call. Someone said you want to design group and I said, interesting. What's the deal and you're starting a business with about 25 people or so what's the deal? And they said, well, they'd buy your business or you could buy them. And so we did this kind of amazing deal and sort of 20 years after I'd done my work experience, I went back to this same company but was much different talents coming in wasn't there and so on and so forth. But there was a sort of, cyclical, kind of meant to be think about. So it has that has to be the kind of theme that ran through to which it was sort of a one sided. Okay. So, you know, I've met her a few times. And the first time I met him, I said, you know, leave us alone, we run a company with your name on please understand that we do not pretend you're there and we don't pretend were you. And then he and I hatched a plan to put his design business and the public the original colour and design group business back together. It didn't succeed because the people who designed French report have us didn't want to do it in the end. It's a great show, because I think that would have been a stunning business in every respect. And then I suppose the other influence, but I didn't realise it was my father. He was an architect. He was both for architect part of the brutalist movement. And he worked with Geico and Luda. Elliott is still alive past president of Riva twice, well respected figure in the industry. And together, they design sort of amazing buildings along with a guy called Robby Gordon. So the tripod centre down in Portsmouth was, was one of the as listed now now destroyed, demolish rather than destroy, but my father was a project architect on building up in Gateshead, which was in the film get cancer, so we get car to car park was one of my dad's buildings. Now, you see, I didn't realise that at the time, of course, so that, you know, that influence didn't exist. But if I think back with choice of furniture we had in the house was actually when I reflect on it, rather good that we had a bag and all of some stereo, very designed, and I sort of didn't realise what was happening. But if I look, I haven't photographed them, we went on about three or four in 1959. In this very modern room, this this kind of posts festival of Britain room. And so I didn't pick up any of those particular things at the time, what was going on, I suspect is that sense of aesthetic, probably, sense of design, a sense of clarity was actually being kind of also inculcated into my head. So absolutely. The other thing I should say, is all the people I've ever worked with, you know, I was made a principle to, you know, just always get people that are better than you. Yeah. And that's, that's really stuck with me. And I think, you know, I've worked with some fantastic designers and great operators, you know, really good finance directors, you know, great new business people. That'll be very lucky, though.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Yeah. Excellent. Which brings us to the next question, what other skills does a designer need to have?

David Worthington:

Is me listening? You got to listen, listen, and watch. Because after a while, someone will say to you, like, it could be almost any subject. So dogs, for example. And then you say, it's almost like kind of, there's the quiz show just a minute where you got to speak for a minute without repeating a word on the subject. And here's a subject, there it is. And actually, for a designer, after a while, if someone can say a company name to you, and you can always talk about it without doing anything about it, because you become quite familiar with what might work versus what is there what most of what you're most likely going to find. But I found after a while, I could walk into a reception area and probably tell you what was going to, you know what the brief was going to be like, what the coffee is going to be like, you know, you could judge it, you could fit you can read read the size. So I think listening and looking are two key things. And after a while, you find that you can actually interpret what you're seeing in front of you without being necessarily being told. But it's because you've spent all your time absorbing rather than walking somewhere going on with change. This shows that there's not really a point. So listening, definitely listening and looking. There's more than I will do.

Lefteris Heretakis:

What is the value of research in design?

David Worthington:

Yeah, well, that's been very tested at the moment, isn't it? It's very valuable. But for me, it's the qualitative research that interests me, you know, what, how do people feel about something? And I think, you know, where it's been largely quantitative, we are definitely seeing a move towards quality rather than quantity. And I think there's two reasons for it, I think we are beginning to understand that people's feelings and how they relate to stuff is, is palpable, it's important, it's measurable, I think, the same time, we're going slightly in that direction, because there's so much data being produced, that the quantitative side is, is beginning to over define stuff, in my view. So I tracking for example, on, you know, websites, you know, guess what they tell you the ideas and top left hand corner, that's where we should put the logo. You know, it's just nonsense, you know. So I think there's data data is starting to interrupt, and therefore, we're sort of pulling away from that and looking more at the way people feel. But I think both are important. I think lurtz, slightly, slightly disruptive is at least happens in the packaging industry, where people pitch for job, and then either they might get it down to two or three, and then they'll pay them a pitch leads to generate these packages. And that those pieces of packaging from two or three different companies will go into research. So the customer will choose the pack that has been produced in a pitch. Now, of course, if you produce stuff in the pitches and relatively, it's not an immersive situation, you're not working with the client at the same way, you're not spending as much time thinking about it, you're not being paid as much money as they are rushing to a conclusion, but then someone else chooses and that you start to think about that sort of thing, which probably isn't doing the client any favours, ultimately. So I think research can be disruptive. What's the business that I'm getting to know at the moment called kids know best? This is a very interesting company, because they've focused on an area of consumer, which is not that well understood. People talk a lot about children, there's a lot of old people, but they don't understand either particularly wealth, they tend to concentrate on junk in the middle, they're doing something slightly different, which is to get out of this, but what they're doing is actually understanding how these children think. And they're still producing this, this information related to the client to that particular game, or product or drink, or food or whatever it is clothing. And then they using that information in that client to inform the design work that's then done. But it's sort of research led design, which is I think it's actually very, very interesting. And the conversations I have with them a little bit about, you know, to what extent is design lead or does research. But I don't think it matters, but I think it's quite interesting, if you've got a research company, that is actually understanding that it converts research into real things that people can buy with is from it. So you know, brands, whatever is that has quite quite a significant value. So I think we're gonna see research change, and I think data that's coming out of the digital space is the is the fuel for that.

Lefteris Heretakis:

How do you relate to Design Awards? are they important?

David Worthington:

Yeah, of course. Yeah. He doesn't. It's not me. Well, don't you? pat on the back? Yeah, I think, you know, that we, you know, around the world, there are all sorts of different awards. I mean, in the UK, that particular ones, or notable ones really a DNA D. You know, never, I've got a couple of things in the book. And there's a little certificate there. I've got a couple of things in the book, but I've never done anything good enough to get a pencil. And I would love to but you know, I think that ship has sailed as they say. So dear ladies, fantastic. And the DBA design, Business Association, the commercial awards, you know, the leader of the successful commercially successful design. Great, and I've got a couple of those in my time will say me that might be in my company, whatever it was. Yeah, I think we did. We did is a bit.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Yes. Also, more awards have cropped up different kinds of awards. And so it does get confusing that yes, we have more of them now. And yes, it got

David Worthington:

me to get the brand transformation awards. Which is funny, though reason was 10 Go into particular bits. So the transformation awards tend to be done in sort of the b2b design area, particularly people working on sort of corporate communications, report accounts. And that sort of area, in AD tends to be more around publishing is these awards have their roots in, of course, you know, stuff. I said, I don't know, the I think it's some, it's all good. You know, what did you

Lefteris Heretakis:

know, it's just about, really the the awards that have become a lot. And it seems that some of them are just scraping the surface. They're not like going in the DPS, because also have too many of them possibly right now, yes, randomly established ones? And they are like, Yes,

David Worthington:

I would, I would agree with that. I think there's, you know, there's the integrity of the DNA D process. Arguably, it becomes a kind of self fulfilling prophecy. So you know, if you're part of it, and you will, or do you end up on a judging committee, and therefore, it sort of goes round in that particular space, but the integrity of what was chosen. And actually the breath because you know, the way they develop those awards, so rather than just being in the book, or a pencil, you either have different structures and different types of pencils, and so forth. But clearly as an economic thing, because I could go back and get whatever thing it is, and it'll disk or, you know, rather dull coloured pencil, probably never having the book, but it's quite expensive. But people do, you know, so how many of them? Would you like, if I thought you can do that? It's fair enough. It's fair enough. It pays for their education activities in their case, and, you know, they'll continue,

Lefteris Heretakis:

of course, how do you maintain your enthusiasm and inspiration?

David Worthington:

Well, it goes back. And actually you don't, you're in a sense ball a designer, so it's always there. So the friction in some respects, because to the degree, you're sitting there thinking this looks pretty ugly. That's not a great place. Is that where you want to? You want to look out on the world that sort of, you know, that looks that looks good, basically. Yeah. So I think I think it's there all the time. I think design is always about sort of improving things and seeing slightly different things and new things. I mean, just know, with the house project that we've done, you know, I'm sort of looking at it now thinking, well, we do that, again, do that slightly differently, or something, and it's just continuous. So I don't think evidence doesn't ever lead you. Yeah.

Lefteris Heretakis:

What is the single piece of advice that you'd give to anyone starting out as designer?

David Worthington:

Hmm. What a citizen? Well, I suppose actually, to work, just enjoy it. Just kind of, you know, you're about to do something. I mean, it's just, you know, what a wonderful way to make a living. It's, it's not really work. You know, somebody, someone's going to set you a problem or task to solve. Might be once a week, like once a day, either once a month or once a year, but it's not always going to be the same, you know, someone's going to say, how do we do this? Or these people would like to do the following what's the best way? I mean, that's just such an interesting thing to be given. And then to be able to sort of script it and work with it and shape it is just wonderful when someone's paying you to do this. You know, so, honestly, the advice would be, just enjoy it, you know, you are privileged to do this. Absolutely published. What a wonderful thing to do for working right.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Well, what's the advice for the client?

David Worthington:

Well, I will say, and I've always thought that the client will work as hard as you. And the really successful jobs, I've found is where the clients are firmly engaged in the process. Absolutely. And that interplay, whatever it is, is there now they may not work as hard as you because you're certainly in larger companies and they're dealing with all sorts of things, you know, that you're not dealing with and they're having sort of salads internally and everything else. But I think, you know, I think for the client, you can't don't disengage from it. And I think you know, the the process of selecting the designer, whether whether it's by recommendation or by either choosing or by testing or by pitching or whatever it is, is not the answer. All you've done is choose a designer in the pitch, they've come up with this thing that you think is good. Actually, they will come up with it pretty quickly. And it won't all work. So, you know, one thing I'll definitely say, for parents is don't assume the pictures, the answer is even the pictures, the beginning of the journey. And if you've got something that even you think it's brilliant, and they think it's brilliant, you should stop and say, right, let's just road test this, because we did it quickly. And we don't know that it covers all the bases it's going to need to cover so we need to experiment with this. And I've seen it time and time again, where the pitch becomes the answer. And actually, when you go into another theme go a little bit down the lighting side doesn't really work in that situation or that environment, or it's not quite good enough for that particular shot, whatever it is, you know. So, yeah,

Lefteris Heretakis:

absolutely. And what is the most important thing that you've learned as a designer?

David Worthington:

But I'm not sure that the world will always be a better place, I suppose. You know, the people, that people are the most important thing. Yeah, it has to work for them. But as far as design, okay, where the best design is, when you can't see it. It just sits there. It does what it's supposed to do, you know, even a beautiful car just sits very comfortably on its form. And makes you feel very pleased or happy about things either that improves quality of life.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Absolutely.

David Worthington:

Which I guess is that's what turns comedy on. So

Lefteris Heretakis:

yeah. Well, David, thank you so much for your time. Let's get the conversation.

David Worthington:

interesting for people listening to it. And I'm sorry, I swore early on so you might edit that out.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Okay, so have a wonderful day.

David Worthington:

Yes, Angie? Yes. Bye.