Split between New York and San Francisco, COLLINS is one of the world's leading design agencies, and won three Brand Impact Awards in 2022. To find out more about the agency and discover what it's really like to work there, we spoke to senior designer Emily Sneddon, who told us all about her favourite recent project, why you should question the things you think you want, as well as her dream client.
What's a typical day at COLLINS like?
I walk into our San Francisco office, and I’m met with music I’ve never heard before. Today it’s Andrew Wasylyk – perfectly matching the mood of the fog outside. Farbod Kokabi (amongst everything else) is masterful at vibe setting at the studio. Slack knocks with a message from Astrid Stavro – she’s sent me a design reference that I’ve never seen. It’s by Anita Klinz and, before long, I’m deep in a beautiful rabbit hole of fresh inspiration.
Later, on Zoom with the team, Sharon Park is sharing mind blowing design sketches that open new pathways within the project. As we build ideas into a presentation, L.A. Corrall untangles the most complex ideas, rationalising them as though there could be no other solution.
These are mere moments from one day at COLLINS, the only thing typical being that every day I bear witness to the imagination and brilliance from those around me.
Which COLLINS project are you the most proud of?
Freeform. It was my first experience being a part of a COLLINS project from brief all the way through to case study. And we were tasked with a unique opportunity. Freeform, a TV platform that supports underrepresented voices and unconventional storytelling, challenged us to create a visual identity system that reflected the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of their content and audience. Through a unique, variable cut of Neue Haas Grotesk and a suite of motion behaviours, the identity tells a story that twists and turns, always in a state of transformation.
Looking back, the project is also perhaps a lovely metaphor for my own growth throughout the project.
How did you approach the brief?
The project was a true collaboration across the different disciplines at COLLINS and the great people at Freeform. Strategy, design, story and program management all came together, and we talked at length to uncover both challenges and unique opportunities within the project. Since we were designing for a TV / streaming channel, we knew that the logotype and motion would play a central role. We identified all of the stylistic tropes of the moment, like tonal gradients and abstract light spectrums. We committed to avoiding them.
And, as always, we explored numerous questions: Why should someone watch Freeform? Who, ultimately, is the work speaking to? How can we expand what is expected for identity design for TV? This work early on in the project helped guide us throughout the design process.
I can't tell you just how good all of the people at Disney were to work with.
Tell me about a tricky work-related challenge
In 2021, I was eager to learn how to use Figma to build a digital product. I had committed to carve out big blocks of time to slowly build my knowledge of the software. So when I started my first day at COLLINS, and I was tasked with designing a fully responsive site for Figma - using Figma - it was a bit of an “oh sh*t” moment.
In hindsight, it was the perfect opportunity to face it, dive in and figure it out along the way.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into design?
Working in design, the journey of even a single project can be long and filled with highs and lows, so be someone who people want to share that experience with.
A friend and I talk about being interested and being interesting.
Being interested means showing up with enthusiasm, taking in the world around you, listening to others, seeking new art, culture and ideas, and caring about the work in front of you, even in the mundane. To be interesting means sharing your pleasures, new discoveries and your unique experiences and perspective on the world. Not only does this greatly add to the quality of your own work, but a generous energy will radiate from you that people will want to be around. It becomes circular.
What would you say to someone who wants to work for a high-profile agency or brand?
I would ask why? Why "high-profile" agencies? Why "high-profile" brands?
Is it for the scale of the projects, the perceived notoriety? Or is it for the opportunity to work alongside the people making that work? Answering this will help you to find the right place for you, as you’ll probably be asked some of these questions during (good) hiring conversations, anyway.
Secondly, find resilience. Project timelines are now longer, there’s more stakeholders and loads of opportunity along the way. Resilience will help you to spot it early and make the most of an opportunity when it arrives.
Lastly, have fun and care very, very deeply about what's in front of you, right now. Great work appears to only happen with both.
Who's your dream client?
It's hard to say, but I’ve always been a big fan of tennis. Sport has a unique way of uniting people from all backgrounds and the diverse range of mediums it touches—such as events, merchandise, products, and broadcasting—would, I think, make for an exciting opportunity.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
"I beg you, Emily, please make your introductory emails more concise."
To find out more about COLLINS, go to the COLLINS website.
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