After recent expansion the YCC are proud operate in London, Amsterdam, Berlin, New York and Newcastle. My part in the YCC is reppin’ the North of England and Scotland and I’m extremely proud of my Northern roots. I want to share with you not only why we’re canny mint* but also share the stories and highlights of some of the region’s most talented, brilliant and all-round awesome dudes and dudettes at the top of their creative game.
Without further ado please enjoy Part 1 of our Champion Northern Creatives, starting with a woman who I’m sure I’ve seen manifest another set of arms to complete deadlines, she’s actually squeezed the 25th hour into a day and was responsible for chucking me my first permanent design role… some years ago. Meet Michelle Pegg, Founder and Creative Director of Curate Creative in Newcastle.
Michelle! Thanks for agreeing to meet with me today in the uber-cool, Pink Lane Coffee in Newcastle.
No problems, Adele!
Tell me a little more about how you got into the creative industry.
I went to Newcastle College to study Graphic Design and when I finished I went to Edinburgh for work experience, which eventually led to a Junior Graphic Designer position. So I accidentally ended up staying there for 5-years working as a Graphic Designer within ad agencies as well as interior design companies which gave me a massive range of skills.
Ahh yes, working across different sectors can give you different perspectives and disciplines which you might not find if you stick to one particular niche.
Exactly, if you don’t know what to do, just give it a go and figure it out. Say yes to everything. I believe having flexible skills and a give-it-a-go attitude has kept me in work all these years.
What was the most difficult hurdle you had to overcome to become a creative/get into the creative industry?
Probably getting that first placement. My first one was working in a really small company with small businesses and charity organisations for clients, which was good because it taught me how to work with smaller/tighter budgets.
Would you say that forced you to be more creative?
Well yes, you need to think about where the creative could best have impact and stand out without the huge budgets of TV, radio or print ads.
What has been one of your favourite or most fun projects across the board? Regardless of budget?
Recently I got to work on a campaign for Virgin Active, which meant we could work on radio, online TV, press, social, events, snapchat, Instagram, Facebook – so many avenues to get the message across and to create something really fun but effective for our client. We worked with a media agency which meant the channels we worked with could have the best impact and we had great fun working with the production company and radio team too. Seeing the idea through from the start to the finish was really important. As well as ultimately helping to increasing sales and awareness. It was the most successful campaign they’ve ran in 6 years which we’re pretty proud of!
Amazing, design however pretty needs function – something you’ve always drilled into me.
Exactly, it needs to get a message across, have a purpose, provoke a reaction. Whether that’s to help drive sales, get people in the door, to read something or to sign up with their data, and when you get pulled in different directions it’s good to go back to that core idea/goal. If it doesn’t do that, we haven’t done our jobs properly.
What was your experience with working collaboratively with other agencies like that?
When everyone’s working towards the same end goal it’s great – you’re obviously working for the client but also as an agency and individuals you want to shine with the ideas and results you create.
After leaving agencies you went out on your own – what was the build up to that like?
After several years at various agencies as well as in-house experience, when I left my last post, I just felt it was the time for me to try and make a go of it on my own. Even though it was pretty scary. I started by testing the water with the contacts I had built up over the years and went from there. The thing I found was the freedom was great but you also might find it restrictive too as you’re only one person with a set amount of hours in the day. I wanted to build on this and work on all sorts of projects of all sizes, which is why I founded Curate with my business partner David – to build a great team and grow and not feel restricted. We’ve found collaborating and bringing in key people on specific projects really works too as no two projects are the same, we make sure we bring in the right skills to get the best results for the job in hand.
Combining forces, nice! What did you learn from being on your own?
Being quite frank, being on your own means you can make your own decisions. There’s no one to have to compromise with, but on the flip side there’s no one to bounce ideas off either. Your’e always in the driving seat running your own business or as a freelancer and that can be scary… but in a good way! Pushing you on to the next job because you need to know you have work coming in and also maintain what you have. Working with David and founding our business means any problems are shared as well as having more time to utilise and work on even more cool things!
So, now you need more people and more desks?
Yes! We have a heaps of Scandinavian boxes needing unpacked back at the office. Now we’re looking for people to join the team.
One thing I will say is I’ve had the privilege throughout my career so far to work with some amazing, determined and very talented people so far. Whatever stage of their careers they’ve been, working with a team that just click and support each other so well is a lucky position to be in. For which I’ll always be thankful for and we all know we’re always here for each other wherever we are. You never lose that. I’d love to have that same camaraderie, that special something that just works in this new team.
*Touching moment, Adele is holding back the tears*
We have discussed in the past the importance of having your own creative outlets. You were a massive part of the Northern Correspondent (Northern based magazine) weren’t you?
Yes, I don’t like to pigeon hole myself! Even now I consult and get involved in projects that I feel are important or excite me. I joined the Northern Correspondent team a few years ago simply because I wanted to get involved with something outside of my day to day work that wasn’t as commercially driven, but was creative and inspiring. I love magazines, and the Northern Correspondent was a great way of telling stories about the North in a long-form journalism magazine.
I joined early on as Art Director/Designer of the magazine and worked with Ian Wylie (leader of the project) and Chris Stokel Walker producing several issues that involved local writers, journalists, artists, illustrators, photographers and poets. And we distributed issues for sale via a launch event for each issue which was in the form of a discussion on various topics, one of which was part of the Northern Design Festival where we held an event with talks and discussions entitled People and Print – Where ideas create communities.
We also distributed via a fantastic network of local bookshops, coffee shops, and art galleries across the north. Co-ordinating all of this was an excellent way of meeting a whole range of very talented individuals who all kindly contributed their skills to help get those stories out there. It was a not for profit project so no one made money from it, but it was valuable in so many ways and I’m very glad I was able to be a part of it.
Amazing, as a creative if you find something you love you need to pursue it!
It’s so true that you have to find ways of doing the things that you love and enjoy, they don’t just land at your feet. And once you start doing these things and getting involved, and just trying things, you never know where it will lead.