Sporting creativity: Ben Topliss

From TBWA to a unique position at retail giant JD Sports Fashion, senior designer Ben Topliss is taking on the British high street

Manchester-based designer Ben Topliss studied product design and 3D at university. In April he made the move from international advertising agency TBWA to sports and fashion retailer JD, to take up a senior designer position created especially for him. It might seem like a drastic change, but behind the different creative focuses of the two organisations lies a surprisingly similar agency setup.

Tell us about your new position as senior designer for JD Sports Fashion…
JD owns half the high street including JD Sports, size?, Bank, Blacks, Millets, Scotts and a number of one-off boutique trainer shops in London. I’ll be helping to head up a new team as senior designer, working across all aspects of the company and pushing more creative solutions.

What does a typical day entail?
So far I’ve been involved in the early stages of an app and started on a site refresh for Blacks, as well as looked at designing the main focus of the new JD site: ‘The King of Trainers’. Technically, I’m now working client-side, but because there are so many different brands, the internal setup has changed, so it’s not really any different from working at an agency.

Prior to this you worked at TBWA – what were you doing there?
I was at TBWA for three years, predominantly with the offline design team where I was lucky enough to work on some great briefs with some great people. The main day-to-day difference is that I’ll be doing much more digital work now. It’s also a more senior position, so I’ll be expected to help mentor junior members of the team as well as take a more hands-on role with projects.

What are the biggest challenges of your new position?
The main challenge at the moment is just adapting to a new workplace, learning new processes and workflows. I’m sure there will be many exciting challenges just down the road though.

How long have you been working in design and how did you first get into it?
I’ve been working in design since I graduated in 2006. For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in problem-solving and how things look. Studying design at A Level and then at university seemed like the natural thing to do.

What one piece of advice would you give to any new graduates looking to follow a similar career path to yours?
Work hard and don’t give up. That’s two bits of advice, but it’s really competitive out there so you need to make sure your work is good enough in the first place, so you stand out. And you need to be mentally tough as you’ll probably get a few rejections along the way.

If you didn’t work in design, what would you like to do?
I still have boyhood dreams of being a footballer or an astronaut, but probably a bit more realistically I’d love to work in the music industry if I wasn’t a designer. Maybe I’ll be able to combine the two at some point.

Why does design matter?
Design is really important. Everything you see and interact with is designed in some way or another – it’s part of all our lives.

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