As part of our Career Profile series, we caught up with Megan Jones, Interior Designer at 74. We’re thrilled to share Megan’s journey and hope you can find inspiration that you can apply to your own creative career.
Please could you introduce yourself and 74?
I’m Megan Jones and I’m an Interior Designer at 74 in Manchester, an interior design and architecture practice specialising in the design of BTR (build-to-rent) residential schemes and student amenity projects across the UK and in Europe.
When did you discover that you had a passion for design?
I didn’t really need to discover it in the sense that I’ve always loved absolutely anything to do with art and design, as far back as I can remember, from thinking Lego was the best ever toy to doing anything to do with arts and crafts at home and loving any subject in that area at school.
What is your educational background?
I went to Salford University to do an Art and Design Foundation course and stayed on there to take my BA (Hons) in Interior Design.
What was your ﬁrst step onto the career ladder? What did you learn from this role?
I graduated from university in 2010, right after the ﬁnancial crash and, just as for designers graduating during the pandemic, it was a really diﬃcult employment scenario, with the country in full-on recession. I took my portfolio from door to door and came across company after company with big oﬃces and only about two people working in them. It was super-depressing, so I took the initiative and went and did a short course in 3D Max and used that to get a foot in the door.
I got my ﬁrst paid job doing a CGI and, after that, worked for free to build up my portfolio for a while, working at an interior design practice during the day and in a pub kitchen at night. It all worked out in the end and I got my ﬁrst proper job as a Junior Interior Designer, working in the hospitality and leisure sector, after about a year. I would say I certainly learnt not to give up and also that determination and hard work pay oﬀ in the end!
How did your career progress?
After my first job, I went to work for an architectural visualisation company for two years to hone my skills, working on F&B CGIs within shopping centres in particular. Often those schemes were designed so far in advance and on such long schedules, I’ve only recently seen some of them built myself for the first time! After that, I returned to my first employer for a while, doing lots of bar and restaurant projects, before joining 74.
What were your highlights during this period?
The highlight for me was the ﬁrst time I led a project, which was for The Botanist Bar and Restaurant in Sheﬃeld, about ﬁve years ago now. Being involved at every stage from concept to drawing up to being on site was a really big learning curve for me and really propelled my design understanding forwards.
Name any key projects you’ve worked on and why were they so important to you and your career path?
Two jobs that have just completed at 74 were really key for me. Both were student accommodation amenity design schemes and both were for the same client – Future Generation. One was Luxurio in Loughborough and the other was Guilden Village in Guildford. Both projects were incredibly enjoyable because the client was so open to ideas. They have a really infectious passion and energy and absolutely nothing was too ‘out there’ not to be considered, because they really aspire to being ahead of the curve. This resulted in some very striking aesthetics, with colours and patterns running from the ﬂoor up the walls at Luxurio – whilst the size of Guilden Village allowed us to integrate everything from mini golf to swings, to a ‘secret’ neon games room with retro arcade machines, pool table and the latest games consoles, all accessed through a bookcase in the library room.
Right now, I’m working on a BTR scheme in Milton Keynes, which I also worked on the concept stages for. It’s in the private residential sector, so has been a real learning curve for me too. I’m also working on the amenity spaces for a student accommodation scheme in Cork for client CA Ventures, who are also really open to ‘out there’ ideas, as well as always challenging us to pursue design excellence. They’re really looking for the highest-quality contemporary design from the best designers in their work and it’s great having that high bar to aim for.
What core skills have you developed?
I deﬁnitely enjoy playing to my strengths at the start of projects. Even if I’m not working on that particular scheme as it develops, I love throwing out unexpected ideas at the concept stage and seeing how people react to them. I’m definitely not afraid of colour either and I love putting together the overall palette for the scheme and integrating colour and materials. Space-planning is another core strength and I’m also famous in the studio for my PhotoShop skills!
Why did you decide to join 74?
I think mainly because their jobs were so diﬀerent from anything I’d done. They were in the residential sector, but the really fun bits. I loved their work on their website and I immediately saw they would be able to ﬁll in some gaps in my skillset, which has absolutely proved to be the case. Finally, because it’s not a huge team and I knew I’d get to run projects, rather than having to repeat a single, more narrow function in a larger practice.
Do you have a design ethos?
Fun! I love to create really fun, unusual spaces and the freedom to do that and really express my aesthetic is what it’s all about for me.
What advice would you give to younger designers beginning their profession?
That no idea is a stupid idea, however wild or out there. Your idea may not make it into the ﬁnal project, but it may be the starting point for other ideas to bounce oﬀ that until everyone arrives at an idea that really works. It may be intimidating to suggest things when you’re new and fresh, but there are loads of great projects out there that started with one crazy thought.
What are your plans for the future?
To carry on honing my skills, working on great projects and create, create, create!