BA (Hons) Illustration alumni Suganya Walbridge graduated in 2014, and has since carved her creative career to become an artwork designer at the eco friendly, handmade cosmetics company Lush.
With stores in 49 countries across the world, Lush strives to be an ethical, environmentally-friendly and fair business. In 2017, Lush launched the inaugural Lush Summit in London, inviting charities and non-profit organisations from around the world to engage in an open conversation around animal rights, human rights and the future of the environment.
We caught up with Suganya to find out more about her time studying at the college, and what it’s like to be a designer at one of the worlds most influential cosmetics brands...
You graduated from Plymouth College of Art with a BA (Hons) in Illustration, what happened next?
I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do straight after college, so I moved back home to Portland in Dorset, and I carried on working in retail for a well-known stationers, something I had been doing since I was 16. I worked my way up to an Assistant Manager position.
I did consider artworking and designer jobs with them, but wasn't ready to relocate. After a year or so I felt really deflated and uninspired not putting my skills to use. So I cleaned up my portfolio and CV and sent it to every local agency. After a few months of looking for the perfect job I saw Lush were recruiting, and I was invited to interview for the position as an artworker. I got the job and have been there ever since!
What does you job role as an artworker at Lush involve?
I started off primarily creating UK labels, supporting global markets for translations, face stickers, which are those funky faces you see on the pots, and the occasional piece of signage. As I gained more experience, and realised I had a keen interest and was capable, they let me collaborate with the gifts design team on all year round seasonal ranges, which are sold globally.
As I have been there for a few years now, I generally train up our interns so they are up to brand standards. Not only am I designing and being creative, I am also exercising my passion for conservation, and volunteer for a local conservation charity. What I love about Lush is that they don't just sell soap, they care about our development and wellbeing, and other really important global issues. We all get plenty of opportunities to get involved with various cool projects.
What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on so far?
I would say this year’s Christmas range. It was a massive group effort and I taught myself so many new things. I’m particularly proud of the ‘bat bag’ knot wrap. It was an original illustration, and had minimal tweaks to the design, which is always a bonus!
Do you work individually on briefs or is it very much of a team collaboration with artwork? Can you describe your creative process?
There is a bit of both. In terms of a gift brief, we have a set of themes we are going to look at and a two-week sprint to generate ideas and experiment either alone or as a group, it’s at this point we’ve had guest artists and illustrators and even charities come in and collaborate to help get the ideas going. We then refine for about a week, looking at colour ways, composition, whether the artworks fit in the range. Then we have a few days to mock up artworks in-house to show to Mark, the big boss, as he has the final say. Then he’ll either cut something if it doesn’t fit or isn’t what we are trying to communicate, or he’ll want to refine and tweak a design.
In terms of labels and signage, I generally create these alone, however, we’re all on hand to give design tips on typesetting, logo placement, and colour. As our team has expanded it’s more of a team effort, which is great, cause I have an awesome team, and we are always learning from each other.
So how do you relax in your downtime?
I volunteer for ‘The Birds of Poole Harbour’, I grew up with my father taking me out in the early hours of the morning searching for rare birds and taking local counts. When the opportunity arose to get involved I thought I could offer my support, they were established in 2012 but were in the process of creating a new HQ and needed volunteers to greet and educate the public.
Supporting local charities, and issues in the local area is definitely encouraged at Lush. There are often beach cleans, protests, marches that we can all get involved with. In fact there is a whole department based on charitable giving, and one for recycling and the environment. In terms of downtime, they provide us with many activities like Knitting Club, Yoga, and Film Club. Personally yes, the volunteering is definitely something I do in my downtime, and in fact I illustrate birds while I’m there to engage the public, and for them to use on their social media.
What would be your top tips for new graduates pursing a creative career?
Make sure your CV and portfolio is up to date, and always tailor it to a client or job, so it feels a bit more personal, and not generic. You need to make it impossible not to interview you!
What do you feel was helpful in the transition from graduate to career?
For me it had to be all those times we collaborated with peers on projects, or were given mini projects with a super tight deadline. At Lush I am constantly working with new people who work in different ways, and to a tight deadline. It took a while to get used to it, but I think it prepared me for the fast-paced nature of the business.
What did you take from your time at the college?
That we are constantly learning, and it’s okay to put my hands up and say 'I don’t know how to do this?! Help!'. This is why my team are the best people ever, we have a great support network, and no one gets left behind.
You can catch Suganya at our Open Day on Saturday 5 January, where she’ll be giving a free talk about her experience studying at the college and her life in the industry. Register to attend our Open Day by clicking here.