By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

February 15, 2013 | 5 min read

In our new series with twistorstick speaking to leading figures about finding a job in industry, we get the views of Design Council CEO John Mathers

Interview by Marc Shelkin With over 30 years of industry experience, Design Council chief executive John Mathers is well equipped to offer advice to those looking for jobs in the London design industry. Mathers took on the role in September, leaving his post as CEO of Holmes & Marchant. Other roles in his lengthy career include five years as head of design at Safeway, chief operating officer at Blue Marlin, president of the Design Business Association and chief executive at Enterprise IG. During his time at the Brand Union – formerly known as Enterprise IG and part of the WPP group – Mathers was heavily involved in recruitment for the graduate and MBA schemes run by the company. If anybody knows the market for design jobs in London, it’s Mathers. “One of the biggest complaints that we had was that people came through great schools, great universities, came out with fantastic degrees but had no imagination,” Mathers said. “I would always look for people who had ideas, people who had initiative, were entrepreneurial, showed that they were capable of doing something off their own bat rather than just following a norm, people who had been paperboys since they were 15 and had worked in different areas and been involved in different things, had ideas. Those are the people I think that are right,” said Mathers, who advised those searching for work in the design sector to take a broad approach. “I think education gives you a bedrock, it’s what you do with that afterwards, what you’re like as a person, that really counts, so my advice to people would be when you go along for interviews talk about the things you’ve done outside of education, talk about the things that interest you, talk about the things you are passionate about because that’s what we, as employers, are really looking for.” Mathers believes the design industry could prove to be an important component of the UK economy going forward and that the nature of the industry sets it apart from other sectors within the field. “Over the many years ago when I started out, advertising held sway in the boardroom. I think we are seeing a shift now to design being, if we can get back into the boardroom, the thing that’s going to make a huge difference to industry and growth in the UK in the years ahead. I’m passionate about that one,” he continued. “I’ve just come out of a meeting where we were talking about design in a particular part of the country and looking at how design can work with technology to really influence how organisations [grow], how products grow, how brands grow, how SMEs can blossom. I think it’s that design and design-thinking can play such an important role in galvanising new ideas. Design can still make a difference and I think that’s going to continue to set it apart.” To round off our time with the Design Council chief, we finished up with some quick-fire questions. Olympic gold medal or an Oscar? I’d have to say Olympic gold medal Who is the brightest person you’ve worked with? Glenn Tutssel Who is the most creative person you’ve worked with? Glenn Tutssel Who is the best looking person you’ve worked with? I knew that one was coming… pass Creatives or suits? Both Money or happiness? Happiness… happiness is much better Apple or Android? Apple Degree or no degree? Doesn’t matter, it’s what you do what you’ve learned that counts Facebook or Twitter? Twitter Ant or Dec? They both live at the end of the road I live in and they have houses that are completely identical and they have cars that are the same, even possibly girlfriends, I don’t know Retained work or pitched work? Both actually, they bring different things, some people are better at one, some people are better at the other Web or mobile? Tablet Independent agencies or networked agencies? Both have their role, you can’t say one’s right or one’s wrong Outsourced production or onsite production? Again, I think both have their values in different ways Don Draper or Roger Sterling? Don Draper Lastly, twist or stick? I’d say both. Keep yourself fresh, so if you stick make sure you’re doing something that you’re learning. The important thing always is to do something where you’re learning something new - so if you’re not learning something new, twist. Click here to view design jobs on The Drum's job section
John Mathers The Design Council

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