Andrew Couldwell, Digital Creative Lead at WeWork
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I recently joined WeWork in NYC as a Digital Creative Lead.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I hail from Yorkshire in the North of England, but I now live in Brooklyn, NYC. A few years into my career, after learning what I could at design agencies, I went freelance which was a great move for me. Over the past several years I’ve worked on many digital campaigns for an environmental charity in the UK called Surfers Against Sewage , an organisation I am proud to support however I can. My most recent campaign with them is live now: Sewage Free Seas. In 2014 I moved overseas to the United States to lead the design, UX and creative direction of Adobe Portfolio , working with the team at Behance in NYC.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
It was kind of a natural progression. I loved to draw in my teens. I was good with computers, though web design was barely a thing when I was at school, and we were a long ways away from smartphones and apps back then! I started experimenting with code in my spare time to create a simple website for my own art portfolio, which soon turned into very low paid websites for bands, photographers and small businesses. The more I built the better I got and the more I charged, and I realised there was a career in this.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
My real ‘break’ in design though came via a personal project called Club Of The Waves , a surfing related website that showcases surf artists and photographers. I considered this to be the backbone of my career for a long time — it was my main talking point, it connected me to an international audience and network, and gave me so many opportunities to learn and develop new skills.
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
In a leadership role, I typically have a lot of meetings throughout the day, but I’m very much a ‘doer’ so I try to get as much design work done as I can each day too. I like to approach product design from a problem solving perspective, so I’ll meet with product managers to discuss member feedback, and identify projects we should tackle, based on what gives most value to our members.
My favourite day of the week is Wednesday as we have a great ‘no digital meetings’ rule, so I get a full productive day of designing, sketching, researching and concepting! We have 30 WeWork locations in NYC alone, and we’re encouraged to work off‐site when we can, to meet members and experience more of the culture. This is also a great opportunity to get real feedback and run prototypes by people and gain valuable feedback.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
My first ‘big’ freelance job was a harsh lesson in business ethics. I had worked hard on a complex website for weeks/months, only for the client to tell me once the website was complete and online that they weren’t paying me as their nephew had told them that he could design them a website for £200! Insult aside, this was a real eye‐opener. Even since then I’ve never been a contract person… but it certainly made me be very selective about who I work with (or don’t).
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
Not thinking through a full flow, or considering/covering all angles. If it’s a website, how does it respond on tablet and mobile? I’m still amazed at how many web designers don’t account for or understand responsive design. Many inexperienced designers will design a pretty product with idealistic/unrealistic content, and also only consider 20% of the product. I like to think of it as finding a beautiful building, only to open the front door and discover there is nothing inside.
Don’t be that designer.
There’s something new and amazing coming out every day. What’s something awesome you’ve seen recently that you’re dying to share, or something you’re excited about?
WeLive is an exciting idea that challenges the traditional way of living. Beautifully furnished apartments and living spaces, built around the idea of bringing people together. It’s a novel idea, but I’m also interested in the role digital plays in this, via a dedicated mobile app to foster community engagement. There is much potential here, in the physical, social and digital realms. It’s in its early stages, but one to watch for sure!
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
You have to be passionate, hungry and willing to learn. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you learn best the hard way, and if you’re one to take the path of least resistence, you’re probably in the wrong field. Gain as much experience working with other designers as you can. I believe in learning by doing: Experiment, teach yourself, surround yourself with creative people and learn from working with people better than you.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
The way we consume content is changing. In recent years we’ve seen less and less engagement with content… Our attention spans are getting smaller and smaller, we’ve gone from reading books, to newspaper articles, to blog posts, to tweets, and then apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope more or less did away with reading all together.
You can see all of Andrew’s work at his portfolio Roomfive.