10 Questions: Alex Halfpenny

This time in our 10 Questions series, we speak to Alex, who is a Senior Designer at Elmwood - and sweary wannabe butler. It's clear that Alex draws his creative inspiration from a wide range of sources, from movies to making, and building to briefing - resulting in a rich portfolio of fantastic design work, and also a shed full of cool projects!

What do you do?

Answer this question with great difficulty on a regular basis!
I make things.
I work at Elmwood, which is a fantastic global brand design agency. On paper I am a graphic designer, but in practice I am a creative problem solver who is a jack of all trades.

What are you typically doing every day at 9am?

Usually avoiding GOT spoilers while covering my screen in post-it notes with things to do for the day.

What makes your job easier?

Other people.
Bouncing ideas, challenging briefs, building on concepts, asking questions and the exponentially compounded creativity of the collective minds in a studio is a bottomless well of brilliance that needs to be taken advantage of at every opportunity.

What makes your job harder?

Other people.
Subjectivity makes creative strategy really hard. Balancing rationale and purpose in design, while trying to satisfy individual(s) taste is the hardest thing we do.

Dream job title?

Weirdly always wanted to be a butler. The idea of making an omelette for someone at three in the morning, quietly being in the background making inconsequential things, while fundamentally supporting the existence of someone with more money than sense seems strangely gratifying. Think Alfred meets Geoffrey.

One of Alex's latest projects: a new identity for Tesco's 'Go Cook' range of kitchenware.

What is the most overused word in your workday?

“Can we do this?”
“Can you just make this look like that?”
“Can we quickly change this?"
Yes, of course we can, but just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do something.

What misconceptions do you encounter working in your field?

That clients are difficult.
I am lucky enough to work with some amazing clients on some amazing brands, and it’s easy to forget that they are just people. Selling in an idea to a client is no different than them trying to sell it to consumers. Treat the relationship like you would any other, and you can get amazing work done together. It isn’t "us v them".

Any advice for those who want to do what you do?

It’s really, really, REALLY fucking hard. It’s not about how good you are at designing, it’s about how good you are at communicating. About working things out, hunting out the unique and the interesting, about telling the story of the idea to your colleagues and clients. Anyone can make something look “cool”, that’s just trendy. To make something that resonates and can stand up to scrutiny takes intelligence, effort and teamwork.

What’s your career high point?

Apart from this interview, I’d have to say the first time you see one of your designs in the real world. Pointing to a bottle in a bar and telling your mate “I did that” or putting a pack of nappies in your trolley (even though you don’t have kids) in the supermarket because you designed the packaging. It makes all the hard work worth while.

What makes your current job different from anything else you’ve done?

I’ve been a professional chef, an engineer, I’ve worked on building sites and in factories and workshops.
My current job is no different from any of those things; working with others, using my hands and brain to make things for other people, to help them do their job, to entertain them, or simply to make their lives easier.

Big thanks to Alex for sharing your experiences! If you want to take part in our 10 Questions series, please don't be shy and get in touch!