Kirsty Minns (left, above) and Kathryn Jubrail (right, above) are the newest partners at global design studio, Mother Design. Since joining the London branch of the studio in 2020 they have increased turnover fivefold, working on projects for challenger brands such as chewing gum brand Nuud through to household names such as Pepsi.
The duo aim to create brands that exist beyond the pages of a guidelines book, creating living and breathing brands that hold a space in our homes, hearts and minds. This approach has led to the studio flexing its muscle across strategic, visual and verbal brand building.
We caught up with Jubrail and Minns to find out more...
Read more in our Day in the Life series.
Tell me about a typical day in your role
Kathryn Jubrail: I wish there was a typical day!
But in essence, our role requires us to have a holistic view on everything that’s going on in the studio so that we can manage the here and now as well as plan how we want to shape our future. This could range from advising on the direction of projects and creative reviews, looking after our team’s wellbeing to attracting new business and working on PR.
There’s a lot of balancing of priorities, which is both amazing in its breadth but can make it challenge (and a diary nightmare!). No matter how busy it gets, we’ll always try to make breathing space in our day to check in with one another, so that we’re aware of any potential problems but also just to say hi.
How do you approach a new brief?
Kirsty Minns: There is nothing more exciting than a new brief coming through. Our approach is always to put the problem at the centre and build the best team and approach around that. We start by immersing ourselves in the brand, the consumer and the sector more broadly to understand where the opportunities lie. We then search for inspiring new ways to get our minds fired up, whether that's going to a museum, trawling through an archive or spending the day in VR.
Which project are you the most proud of?
KJ: We can’t choose one, that’s like picking a favourite child! But we did really love the work we did for Pepsi. We collaborated on this with our Mother Family to create a campaign that drove product craving in a way that’s never been seen (or heard) before. We humanised the universal onomatopoeias of the drinking ritual and by doing so, captured the playful and infectious energy of the brand.
The product sound rituals were brought to life visually with playful typography, hyper-real shots of cola liquid and dramatic product angles, all of which led to a design language that you could not only see, but also hear and taste. We’re proud of this work because we firmly believe that design should inform the multi-sensory experience of a brand, not just how it looks.
How do you create a brand that's loved by the public?
KJ: Don’t just broadcast your business at an audience. Spend time to get lost in their world, walk in their shoes and understand what makes them tick. That’s how you’ll understand the role that your brand will be fulfilling for them.
Once you’ve got that role, as well as determining what that role does, you need to figure out how you’ll do it. It’s often in this ‘how’ stage where design can really make a difference, informing a distinctive visual, verbal and behavioural language that appeals to the masses.
Turnover at Mother Design has increased fivefold under your leadership, how did you achieve this?
KM: Building an incredibly talented team is the key to all of this. Every single member of Mother Design has the most amazing skills and different ways of thinking, and they are also wonderful humans too. Our leadership has focused on creating the best environment for them to make the best work they can.
Alongside our people, having strong values as a business has given us the right foundation for growth. Our Trinity of: Do good work, Have fun, and Make a living (and always in that order) means we are always focused on the right thing.
Between those two things, it comes down to hard work and sometimes taking a risk and seeing if it pays off!
Do you have plans to change things at Mother Design now that you're partners?
KM: We’ve always had a pretty clear vision so it’s more of the same. We just want to make work that will make our children, and future generations, proud.
Tell me about a tricky work-related challenge and how you approached it
KM: The in-housing trend (where brands build out their own internal creative and agency teams) is not going away any time soon, and that trend poses a real challenge to studios like ours. But as is the case in the way we work, we look for another way – a third way. How can we help those internal agencies and teams, without infringing on their role and autonomy?
When Facebook approached us to work with them on the rebrand of their iconic blue app, we had to ensure that there was total collaboration and coherence between Creative X (their internal creative team), their product teams and us. Lots of studios talk about collaboration but our solution on this one wasn’t just about saying we’d be collaborative. It was about building a team and process that actually was. So led jointly by a Creative, Strategy and Business Lead, we did the work together, breaking down the usual client/agency barriers and presenting to senior stakeholders together. It required a different process and total honesty between us all but it was brilliant.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a partner?
KJ: Make yourself indispensable by working hard, showing passion and leaving your ego at the door.
What tips would you give a designer who wants to work with a high-profile brand?
KM: Become the ultimate geek of that brand. Figure out a strategy on how to get in front of the right people. Be prepared to work your way up to your dream job.
You can't always get the dream one from the start but you can build up to it once you've got inside the organisation.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
KM: Try to have as many different experiences as possible. We both learnt so much from working in different types of organisations, different brands from different sectors, as well as having some incredible mentors along the way. One thing we’d probably have told our younger selves is that in the middle of all those different experiences, it wasn’t necessarily about finding the right answer, but rather understanding the different perspectives and building up that collective point of view and knowledge.
Who's your dream client?
KJ: We’re lucky enough to work with many dream clients. What excites us most though is not just who they are today but who they want to become tomorrow. We’re excited by those brands that have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives, whether they’re shaking up a category as a new and upcoming business/product/service or they are an established brand with the scale to set new standards in their category.
Find out more at Mother Design.