The boss, Panna Rose, was interviewed recently by Gabriele Skelton. Some nice thoughts on diversity in marketing and talent spotting today. Here’s the transcript:

Projects from Our Design Agency

We were thrilled to be able to pin down Panna Rose, the MD and one of the founding partners of Our Design Agency. We’ve worked with them ourselves, which is always a pleasure and we have watched them continually produce stunning design work since they began a little over 3 years ago. So we put some questions to Panna below, which provide some great insights into her own career path as well as this blossoming start-up agency:


What drew you to the design industry in the first place?
My BA Branding course covered many different aspects of the creative industry, from advertising and branding, to packaging, typography, filmmaking and design management. Design management stood out for me. I loved being able to input into the creative process but also being close to the business side of design.


How did you find your place in it?
I was interviewing for a local newspaper to be part of their marketing department and at the same time I spotted an advert for an account manager at Elmwood. At the time I didn’t know much about design agencies or packaging design. The process of interviewing really opened my eyes to the transformative power of good design and all the thinking that goes into the brands we know and love. That was the beginning of the journey.


In a nutshell, what has your career journey been?
I joined Elmwood in Leeds after graduating and ran the Asda account. It gave me an excellent grounding in retail that has always stood me in good stead. After 4.5 years I was ready for a new challenge, so I moved to London and joined Enterprise IG (now Brand Union). That was exciting, but a very steep learning curve. I went from a thorough, well-earned, understanding of FMCG and retail, to managing global corporate brand projects for the likes of Merrill Lynch, Corus, and BT. It was the first time I’d managed teams across UK and USA. Apart from meeting some inspirational people it was instrumental in my understanding of running corporate identity projects as well as being able to manage projects of that kind of scale. My next move, to Williams Murray Hamm in 2002 was driven by a desire to be part of a very creative agency at the top of their game. It was extremely challenging and rewarding work. The late Richard Murray was an incredibly inspiring mentor in my life, and that of my business partners too. I started out there as Account Director and worked up to MD by the time I left in 2012.


What made you decide to set up your own agency?
Over the years I experienced different agencies, clients, work and cultures and I began to form my own ideas about what I admired and what I might do differently given the opportunity. But then it came down to finding like-minded partners who shared the same vision and desire, and who I wanted to do this with. I found all that in Grant and Sarah. We share the same work ethic and commitment to keep pushing for great work.


Did you all work together before?
Yes, very closely. We just click. We had worked together and known each other for over 15 years. We know each other so well that we just know what each other is thinking. We are very different but share the same core values. We have huge respect and admiration for each other and there’s an energy between us that we bring to our work. What I love is that we still manage to surprise each other and we all share a desire to do new things and to push ourselves. Having your own business is hard work and grown up stuff, but we laugh a lot and have fun. People forget to do this.


What is your ambition for Our Design Agency (ODA)?
We’ve come such a long way already with real ambition and hard work and I just want us to build on that and keep delivering against the high standards we set for ourselves. It sounds quite cheesy but I’m most proud of the work we’ve done for our clients. Last week a new client said the work we had done had galvanised their people around a new purpose and completely transformed the way they thought about their customers and brand and presented huge opportunity for growth. That was brilliant. I want to explore new avenues that will bring value to our clients, and build on the informal ways we work together to keep making the process hugely rewarding from both sides.


If you could collaborate with anyone – who would it be?
Will.I.Am – that would be amazing, he’s a geeky, creative, technical genius. I haven’t met him, but he looks kind, feels authentic and crazy! I think we’d have a lot of fun. As the business we collaborate with many amazing people. It’s great to get out of the marketing bubble and collaborate with authors, artists and filmmakers because they bring real depth, richness and authenticity to our work. We are passionate about seeking out the right collaborators for our projects to bring fresh perspective and value to our clients. There are so many talented people out there and social media makes connecting with them easy.


Do you find there’s a lot of creative talent out there at the minute?
There’s lots of talented people out there and the pool of talent should get better each year with the quality of our graduates even in the post Brexit era. Since we started the agency we’ve been extremely lucky to work with some fantastically talented people. Talent is one thing but finding the right fit is another. Finding the right ODA person is quite specific. They’re harder to find.


If you weren’t running a design agency, what would you be doing?
On particularly rainy commutes I do find myself day dreaming about running a beach bar somewhere exotic. Obviously, it would have top notch nibbles. But then I get to work and feel excited and I can’t truly imagine doing anything else. I still love it.


There is a general lack of diversity in the creative industry – how do you think this can be changed?

It’s very odd, isn’t it? Given that we’re a creative industry, you’d expect there to be much more diversity. Often clients are the ones leading when it comes to diversity. As far as we are concerned, it’s a natural part of who we are and how we operate at ODA. Diversity is clearly reflected in our culture; having people with different backgrounds and perspectives not only makes life more interesting, it brings a real richness and dimension to our ideas. We need to hear different voices. I think having people who truly understand the importance of diversity in management positions affords us a unique perspective and greater empathy, which we bring to our culture and to our clients’ work. I think that the broader industry will change as we start to see that approach pay off and the existing structure will feel archaic. I know some people are surprised when they see me sitting at the helm but I like that. It means I can help break down barriers and preconceptions, which might help other people and their journey.