Design Insider was delighted to speak with Jenny Crossland, SpaceInvader Designer and Ambassador for Design Insider. We loved learning about her career journey and found so much inspiration in her story, we’re certain you will too.
Please could you introduce yourself and SpaceInvader?
Hello, I’m Jenny Crossland and I’m a designer at SpaceInvader – an established creative design firm based in Manchester, which works on an array of amazing interiors projects across varying sectors, from workplace and hospitality to residential developments. I also work across all these sectors, on a mixture of graphic and interior design projects.
When did you discover that you had a passion for design?
It all stemmed from being really creative growing up – I loved drawing, arts and crafts as well as playing musical instruments from a very young age! I enjoyed product design in school and felt I could see a career path in design which inspired me to study it at university.
What is your educational background?
After school I studied design at Liverpool John Moores University, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Interior Design. I enjoyed many aspects of the course, from our modules in art history to the CGI and presentation side, so, when I graduated, I was open to looking at other career paths in design as well as interior design.
What was your first step onto the career ladder? What did you learn from this role?
My first role in the industry was 6 years ago as a Junior Visual Creative at JD Sports Fashion plc. As the job title suggests, it was a really varied role which was great for me to try out different things to see what I enjoyed doing and how I wanted to progress in my career. When I first started, my role was mostly setting up new campaign store window visuals in 2D and then in 3D, which was a new skill I brought to the team. During my time there I pushed this further into 3D animations, creating print artwork and motion graphics for large scale billboards and events, and creating new campaign concepts alongside others in the team. I also learned that working in the retail industry, Christmas is always the biggest project of the year so you never stop working on it!
One of my favourite projects during this time was a football shirt campaign for the 2018 World Cup. I took the campaign creative which featured football pitch line markings and bold graphic shapes, inspired by the array of colour on the shirts, and developed a motion concept where these shapes would move independently and line markings would ‘draw in’, creating an eye-catching visual to complement the design of the football shirts.
Motion graphics for JD Sports World Cup campaign
How did your career progress?
I developed a range of skills at JD which I then took to my next role as a Graphic Designer at Extentia Group. Although this was an in-house role, it had more of an agency feel as I was creating graphics for their 11 brands and for some of their clients. My work ranged from branding projects to motion graphics to large scale prints to social media which gave me a broader range of outputs, ideal to start my first dedicated agency role at SpaceInvader. Again, I am in a varied role here which suits my skillset, and I have had the opportunity to work with some great clients and projects!
What were your highlights during this period?
One of my highlights is the recent front cover commission for the BCFA / Design Insider 2022 Directory. I feel that this embodies both where I am and would like to be as a designer – with a blend of graphic design, 3D and conceptual thinking involving both materiality and the interior space. I love thinking conceptually and being able to go very abstract and dreamy with the design made the project a joy to work on!
Name any key projects you’ve worked on and why were they so important to you and your career path?
Early on at SpaceInvader, I had the opportunity to work on a bespoke print design to be applied to different surfaces including wallpaper and curtains for Tribe Hotel in Liverpool. Located in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool, the design was initially inspired by the triangular shape, with a strong Op Art influence which complemented the interior scheme and the Tribe brand.
I have also designed a series of prints for an office in Leeds, working with the interior designer on the project to create a set of graphics based on the interior concept including glass manifestation and print designs. The concept stemmed from 2 main threads – biophilia and connectivity – with biophilia drawn from the planting through the space and represented through the subjects and earthy colour palette. Connectivity is drawn from the location, being above the central hub of Leeds train station and is represented through linear outlines which are also used in glass manifestation. These are a great example of how the project can benefit from blurring the lines between design disciplines, with the outcome being a scheme that feels considered in every aspect. I think these also add a more personalised hospitality feel, which contributes to the blurring of lines between sectors in the scheme too. As a studio, we are continually seeing many workplace projects aiming for a more hospitality or residential feel.
The Granary Building in Leeds is another worth mentioning as my first purely interior design project. I enjoyed the challenge of building on the design concept in a new way and thinking more about form and finish than in a graphical way. One aspect of the scheme I really like is creating polished metal interventions over the existing build – keeping the design responsive to its surroundings and mixing the old with the new.
What core skills have you developed?
I have developed my conceptual design skills, as when working with a range of outputs as I often do, this is what underpins them all. I like to find inspiration in things outside a given project type to always bring something different and unique to the table.
Pinterest is a great resource of course but it’s important to diversify your sources of inspiration to other platforms and offline so that each project has its own unique feel. My initial reference images can sometimes seem a bit bizarre and can be anything from a shop window I saw 5 years ago to a teleportation machine to a vintage illustration of an Octopus, but you can always tone it down once the concept is there. Better to start strong!
Why did you decide to join SpaceInvader?
I had already worked with SpaceInvader on a couple of projects before joining the team officially, and I was drawn to their creativity and varied pool of work. When SpaceInvader Founder John Williams offered me a new Graphic Design position in the team I of course accepted! It felt like an exciting opportunity to bring my knowledge and background of both graphics and interiors to integrate into their design process whilst being able to approach things from a new angle and provide a new service offering to the studio. I also loved the atmosphere – approachable, open, and no hierarchy or micro-managing!
Do you have a design ethos?
I believe everything should have a ‘why’. I always strive to design in an artistic way as I think that’s where the beautiful, fun and interesting ideas come from, but as design exists to solve a problem, I believe everything you design should link back to that ‘why’ – whether from the client brief or the concept that stems from it. As long as you are successful in defining the problems that need to be addressed and every aspect of your design has a purpose contributing to this, you should be able to come up with a successful solution. Just don’t forget to have fun with it too!
What advice would you give to younger designers beginning their profession?
Keep yourself in the loop and meet as many people as you can. And if you’re going to be using a particular computer programme often, do yourself a favour and learn the keyboard shortcuts! The less time it takes to navigate a computer, the more time you have to be creative and develop your ideas.
There are loads of places you can keep in the loop. I like to use Instagram. I created a separate account for anything design-related and it’s a great way to see what’s new, learn tips, find other creatives and find upcoming events. I also think it’s a great way to push yourself to create self-directed projects to share with your peers and develop your creative skills outside of the constraints of a brief, which is something I still do now.
Don’t be afraid to get out there if you’re just starting out. Networking is a great way to learn and make connections, and you never know where that will lead you. There’s loads going on in Manchester, where I’m based, as I’m sure there are in most cities, so it’s worth keeping an eye out. I’ve particularly been enjoying the talks at the new Material Source venue and seem to meet new people each time I go which has been great. But if going to an event isn’t geographically practical there’s also a lot happening online. Again, social media is a great place to find out about these!
Motion graphic video to detail the concept for our stand at Hospitality Event Sleep&Eat
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue learning and growing, actively attending design meet ups, keeping up to date with what’s going on in the design world and teaching myself new processes to keep progressing as a designer. As a studio, we are looking at more ways we can increase the sustainability of our projects so it’s a really exciting time to be involved in that. I’ve also been keeping in the loop on Artificial Intelligence (AI) art – there’s a lot of beta versions of software currently developing, and as much as AI art has the potential to impact the art and design world, it could also create interesting new opportunities in producing graphic design assets and create bespoke reference imagery. Definitely an area to keep an eye on.
In the nearer future, there are quite a few exciting projects I have been working on recently which I am looking forward to sharing when these have completed. Watch this space!