Richard Fenn

Featured Interview ~ Richard Fenn


Please share a summary of yourself and your career "in a nutshell" to help introduce you to the community.

Although being a country boy from the depths of Herefordshire, I knew pursuing the family tradition of farming was not for me. Like most teenagers I loved playing computer games and was fascinated by cool tech. This inspired me to study Interactive Multimedia at University, a course offering various modules, from programming to graphic design. I quickly knew where my passions and strengths lay. Returning from a gap year I got a job as a Flash Designer. A few years down the road, it was obvious flash was dying a death and that's when I traversed to full design. Many years and three companies later I am now a freelance Art Director and currently working at Google.

In The Beginning:

1. Can you remember who or what gave you the idea to begin a career in design?

That credit goes to my graphics and art teachers, Mr Rogers and Mr Bartholemew. Back in my Graphic classes at school, we were given a brief to design and make a board game. I remember bringing all the aspects together, the concept, the graphic, rules, crafting the box... and it gave me such a sense of satisfaction. That was the point I knew I really loved design but even before then, I would say I was heavily influenced by my Atari 5200, Atari 520STE and SNES.

2. What was the first website you were involved in designing and / or developing and how well did it go?

My first real website I worked on was a Flash microsite (remember them) for a fashion eBay style start up. Luckily I was working with very talented designers so it actually looked good and functionally worked pretty well. I wish I could say that about all of my early sites.

3. How would you describe your career thus far? Is it all going to plan or is there no plan?

I'm lucky enough to be doing a job I love... with that in mind, yeah, it's all going to plan.

4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send yourself a "temporal text" 5-10 years into the past?

You don't know everything and that's ok. Listen to your peers, especially those that inspire you. Do. Make stuff. Don't procrastinate or overthink everything. Absorb as much as you can from different people.

Favorite Things:

1. What are your favorite aspects about working in design?

Hmmm, this could be a long answer. As designers we need to be magpies and take interest in everything. I love seeking new and inspiring work everyday in all different forms... UI, motion, photography, architecture, print, VR, apps, film, etc. As for day to day, I love the craft. I love executing the attention to detail, after all, the design is the detail. Starting a project from start to finish. I genuinely get excited when a project comes together and lives. I get a kick out of storytelling and storyboarding. Starting with so many aspects but through tinkering and tailoring narrowing down an idea into a succinct narrative.

2. If you could pick only one favorite project from your experience thus far, which would it be and why?

Tricky one to answer, but I think it would have to be the MyThomson app because it had so many new and challenging ways of working. It was the first lean project I had worked on, it was my project to own, we released the app within 6 weeks and iterated the design on user feedback, I was involved in filmmaking and the team were super talented and passionate in making great product.

3. What would be your favorite trend in web design and development from the last 5 years?

Simplicity and declutter. It has been a trend for a while, but finally clients are beginning to realize less is more.

4. Are there any favorite trends you would like to see more of in 2016?

I'm loving microinteractions at the moment. I could spend hours and hours tweaking and finessing these little bundles of joyful feedback.

Life Hacks:

1. Did you always want to work in the creative industries or did you consider any other career options?

I wanted to be a pilot, but alas it was not meant to be. I dabble in photography and I would love to up my game and become a travel/wildlife photographer... but let's face it... who wouldn't?!

2. Do you have a good work and life balance or is it a work in progress? Any tips?

I think it's really important to get that balance, but it's easier said than done especially when there's a looming deadline. I personally worked A LOT of long hours creating some great work over the years. However hurtling at this pace will inevitably bring fatigue. I believe it's really important take a break now and again to reevaluate your direction or else you will end up head down working all the hours but going in a slightly different direction than you intended. Plus, it's good to find some space and get some perspective.

3. What advice would you give to younger professionals wanting to find success in design?

Work hard, surround yourself with talented people, take pride in your work and don't be a d**k... the rest will follow.

4. If you had all the money you would ever need, what would you do with your life?

Travel more of the world and probably give something back and do some voluntary work.


1. What type of projects and what industries do you prefer to work in?

I would have to say consumer facing and something that is niche creating the best possible experience for that particular product.

2. What memorable challenges or highlights have you experienced from the projects you have worked on?

I was not the best presenter in the world, it might be because I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert. However, I knew it was something I had to improve and made a conscious effort to throw myself into client presentations. I had two great colleagues who encouraged and advised me. Years later, I've done countless presentations and improved immensely, but it's something I'll always be working on. As for highlight... creating an experiential installation for the Nissan Leaf in a week and winning multiple awards. What a positively whirlwind project that was.

3. What are your, or your company’s, greatest strengths?

Without growing a massive head, I would probably say I'm passionate, driven and always strive for the highest quality.

4. What is the latest project you worked on or what are you working on right now?

Refreshingly, the last project I worked on has been slightly different to the usual responsive web and UI work. The brief was to create content for 2 massive 4K displays for one of the biggest insurers in the heart of London's city. I'm currently working on some pretty cool stuff at Google, but my lips are sealed... shhhhhhhhhh.

Thank you for sharing an insight into your world. Any last words?

3 o'clock biscuits make the day a happier one.

Richard is an award winning freelance Art Director with 10+ years experience at agencies like AKQA working with clients such as Nike, Nissan and McLaren. He's currently working at Google.

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