In Conversation with Sophia Perkins, Senior Creative

Sophia Perkins, Senior Creative

4 October 2021

Kendra RogersHead of Insight & Strategy

In our latest conversation, I chatted with Sophia who is a Senior Creative here at psLondon. It's actually Sophia’s four year anniversary this month, so what better time to sit down and ask her about what she does in her very important role!

SP: As a senior creative at PS, I work across all clients, doing a range of branding and campaign work, as well as graphic design. But I also do quite a lot of art direction. So when we've got photo and video shoots coming up, I'll be involved with the director or the photographer to make sure that everything is telling the story that we wanted to tell.

Sounds like a job she enjoys AND finds interesting. I was keen to find out if this is what Sophia wanted to be when she grew up…

SP: I wanted to be lots of strange things. I wanted to be a teacher and a waitress, and then I just wanted to be a pop star. But I always loved art, particularly visual arts, which is how I got into graphic design. 

“It helps to think, if I hadn't seen this before, or if I didn’t know this brand, how would I react?”

My degree was Graphic and Communication Design and a lot of it was about the background work before you actually see something live on a bus stop or on TV... it opened me up to the actual thinking behind brands and campaigns.

Funnily enough, my degree was in communications as well. We discussed how there is a difference between theoretical training and on the ground communications...

SP: One of the best things I learned in my education was to not put something in a design unless it has a purpose. What a lot of our clients don’t see is all of the research that we do before we actually produce work. If we came to a creative work-in-progress session and said, ‘Oh, I've just had this idea’, it wouldn’t be the right approach as it means you're not ready to put ideas down on paper yet. 

We will do research for each different stage of a full campaign before we actually do anything visual. It was so important for me to realise that it was about ensuring the end product has a long term impact, and not just looks really good. Obviously, looking good matters but it's important to remember that there's so much more to what we do.

You’ve got to teach yourself that everything has to have a reason. 

Continuing with the theme of communications, I asked Sophia about how her voracious appetite for reading influences the work that she does, and what her favourite types of books are. 

SP: I wasn't a huge reader growing up. Up until five years ago, I’d read maybe two or three books a year. And then I had a couple of friends who decided to try and read a book a month... suddenly we were reading 30 books a year! 

Reading impacts my work because it reminds me that everyone's got a different perspective on life. I read a mix of both fiction and non-fiction: with non-fiction, some of it’s memoir, some of its more journalistic. With fiction, I read novels and short stories, some of its quite nice and gentle - and then some of it's really hard hitting. It helps me take a step back, which I think is really important in our industry, because we put so much thought and effort into each job that we do, but we need to contextualise it within the wider landscape of life.

Sophia’s thoughts on a perspective shift were really interesting. I asked her about a quote from Mark Pollard - “You are in advertising; nobody cares about advertising” - and whether she agreed.

SP: No one wants to feel like they're being advertised to. Which is why it's really important that we try and offer some humour or emotive quality in the final product instead of just a hard sell. We also need to consider that lots of different people are going to come across the advert. And they're not necessarily going to know all the background research that's gone into it.

“It helps to think, if I hadn't seen this before, or if I didn’t know this brand, how would I react?”

That usually helps me to confirm we’re getting our communication across quickly and effectively. That's why I take a step back, fill my mind with books, ideas, art and music - things other than work, and then come back to it.

Sophia’s thoughts on advertising make a lot of sense. Something quite lovely about Sophia, which ties into her reading, is her passion for social justice. I think that Sophia’s quality of not pretending to know everything but being interested and wanting to learn is quite inspiring.

SP: I think it's something that we should all have in us. It's taken a while for me to realise that I've got a responsibility to educate myself, have difficult conversations and use my privilege for good. As a teenager, I was a feminist, but I realised quite early on that feminism isn't something you achieve. It's something that evolves and is open ended. 

When I was very young, I’d think, ‘I've read that X is right, and I've read that Y is wrong.’ And I thought that's what I need to pin my behaviours on. But we need to be a bit more flexible, because not every perspective or opinion you read is totally good or totally bad.

I think if you're doing social justice work to make yourself feel better, then you're coming at it with the wrong intent. It should be about making the world better. It's really important to continue to learn, and to try and avoid the fatigue that occurs when you are reading and watching lots of stuff that's really difficult.

Like Gloria Steinem said, ‘the truth will set you free, but first it'll piss you off’.

Sophia and I agreed that we could talk about this forever! I wanted to explore more about her background and growing up in the North, and what brought her to London. 

SP: I was born in Bolton, which I think was once voted the friendliest town in England! My parents are both southerners, so I feel that my connection with the North is my friends. Plus, there is a warmth in northern people. When you get the train to Manchester, you notice that as people start getting on, they start talking to each other.

I think there is a tendency in any fast-paced city to keep your head down, and not really engage too much. Where I live there’s a market and a community, and people do speak to each other, but when you go into central London it feels quite touristy.

Sophia touched on the fact that she loves her neighbourhood in London, because it has a community feel. I knew she’d recently moved and was decorating and doing all sorts of fun things! I asked how it was going…

SP: Yes, so my partner and I were lucky enough to buy a flat in London, and it's just been the most fun! It's so nice to have a place that really feels like us. It didn't need too much work but we did redo the kitchen. It's something that I've wanted to do since I was little. It’s like when people talk about their wedding day - I've always talked about my first flat. I want to make my home the most beautiful and functional and comfortable place to be and for so long have wanted to fill it with all our things. So yeah, it's been really fun.

I was curious about the one item Sophia loved most in her flat.

SP: My dad made us a lamp and also a bench. We also have this amazing dining table that our old colleague Hayley’s boyfriend made, which I love so much. It's reclaimed wood. 

For my last question, I asked Sophia ‘If you could work with any brand, what would be your dream client or project?’

SP: I love the charities that we work with – we’re working with Mind at the moment, which is great. Some more charities would be really good, but also the event space, for example, theatres. There's so much potential to go wild in terms of communication and visuals, and to be able to work directly with artists who have curated a show. It would be so interesting to find out how they want people to see their piece of work. 

I’d ask, what do you want? What do you think people will buy tickets for? Do you want a 10 second video or a static poster? So yes, theatres and event spaces are a really interesting industry in terms of graphic design and communication. Maybe Sadler's Wells, I love that brand. You're still selling something, you're selling tickets - but it's an experience. It's not a service. That would be a really interesting space to explore.

Sophia’s top 3 favourite books read this year:

  1. Trans: A Memoir – Juliet Jacques
  2. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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