Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and dealing with breaking family ties at just 23 years old, Josh tells us how he has steered his life in new, creative directions.
We talk entrepreneurship, freelance life, the LGBT community and Josh offers his key advice, examples and recommendations when it comes to web design and branding:
Hi Josh! Please can you introduce yourself and what you do?
I'm Josh - a 26 year old entrepreneur living in hipster East London. I help companies strategise their brand and presence online. I am also an LGBT social activist and public speaker.
I currently run two start-ups. One is an on-trend web and branding studio called Regency Creative - www.regencycreative.co.uk. The other is KRUSH Network - an LGBT movement that encourage people in the LGBT community to put down the dating apps for just one night of the month and network face-to-face - www.krushnetwork.com
Could you tell us a bit about your family background and how you have managed to re-create and transform your life?
It surprises many that at-heart I’m a council estate boy from the Midlands. I was raised in a strict religious environment as a Jehovah's Witnesses. I spent much of my younger life knocking on doors preaching about the Bible. In the religious community you are not encouraged to pursue university education so I left school at 16 and started freelancing. This is where both my love for, and the challenges of, entrepreneurship really began. I remember sitting in front of a banker at 16 asking for a business account which they refused as you had to be officially 18 to get a business bank account.
Life has had its ups and downs since then. When I was 23, I told my family that I was gay and therefore could no longer be a Jehovah's Witness. This meant I was put outside of the religious community and haven't heard from my family and previous friends since. This caused me to move to London where I have restarted my life and made new friends. It also gave me the push to focus on new projects.
We are really interested in your work as a web designer as we know how important it is for any business to have a beautiful and efficient website!
Could you tell us what you think makes the perfect website?
Simplicity is the key to any good website. It's great to see simple, beautifully structured content and navigation that allows the end user to find what they want in maximum 3 clicks. I hate it when the browsing process becomes almost like playing a computer game where it's a battle to do what you need to do. I just leave...game over!
When building a website for a client, what is your creative process?
We'd sit down with the client and have a good chat about them. The best meetings are usually those with prosecco - well certainly the ones with the most creative ideas.
Once the project specification has been finalised we'd create a number of concepts for the client and then, once they are happy, we'd move into the development stage. We maintain good communication with the client throughout the process.
What are your guidelines for building a website that stands out from the rest?
It's all about understanding the purpose and audience. If you're not putting something to market that's suitable for it's audience you've already failed. It amazes me how many companies want to jump into the project or choose a web design / branding provider without having asked themselves the very basic questions of why, what and who.
I'm never afraid to put new ideas out there either or try something different. It's also important that we, as a design company, don't shy away from telling the client if we feel they're making a bad decision. If a client leaves us to use our creativity you can be sure that they will get a website that's bang on-trend and that works.
Lets talk about branding.
Branding is such an impactful element to the success of a business.
Yes, the brand is the DNA of any company.
Have you got any favourite examples of branding that you think are just genius?
Google - a great example of a brand that has become one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world. The original brand logo was terrible - a serif, multicoloured typeface which would be a huge no-no to most designers and branding agencies. Their company grew out of the huge success of their search algorithms and they were stuck with outdated, unprofessional looking branding.
Rebranding must have been a huge task and not without it's risks either as the old logotype, whilst poorly designed, carried a lot of value. They managed to bring the logo up-to-date with a sans serif typeface and also adopted a contemporary flat design aesthetic across their huge range of products and services. The only design element that remained from the original branding was the multicoloured letters in the logo. I'm sure that with the next brand update they'll seek to reduce or loose the multicoloured letters and refine the branding even further. A great example of a successful modern rebrand.
Can you give us three key elements to successful branding?
– instantly recognisable (takes time to achieve but is a key aim of branding).
- colours, logotype and typefaces must be used uniformly across output to ensure the brand identity is always presented in the same manner.
- branding must also consider modern applications such as social media when being developed.
- a comprehensive brand guideline document will help to ensure correct usage
How does branding ‘place’ a company in its industry? (competitors etc?)
When branding a product or service a key consideration is the positioning within the industry that the brand is operating. If you're aiming to create a brand that comes across as a low cost, budget, value for money option then you wouldn't want your branding to convey a sense of quality or luxury. If you want to launch a brand with a premium price price tag which operates at the more exclusive end of the industry you don't want a bargain basement, poor quality feel to your branding. A huge amount of reserach needs to be carried out to see how other brands in the industry are presenting themselves.
Haagen Dazs is a great example of hugely successful branding. When they launched ice cream was viewed as a lo-cost industry aimed at children. Haagen Dazs presented itself as a luxury brand made with high quality ingredients and unlike many of it's competitors it aimed it's products at adults. The result was a very successful brand that positioned itself at the premium, top-end of the market.
We are definitely hitting the age of the freelancer. With so many exciting creative career opportunities and transferable skills, more and more people are discovering the appeal of the freelance life.
I'm not a freelancer anymore. But I'm happy to talk about my freelancing years.
How did you make it work for you?
I freelanced for 8 years and looking back they were some of the best and worst years of my life. It was always so hard to generate a regular workflow and to chase the payments of clients at the same time. There's a lot of plates to spin when you're a freelancer and many late night finishing off projects. It does however have some advantages. When I was 19 I remember sitting at home and thinking "why on earth am I working in rainy England when I can be coding in sunny France". Three months later I had relocated to Provence, South France where I ended up living for 3 years.
I've worked on many projects over the past 10+ years in the industry. I was recently invited to lecture at UAL in London to the new graphic students there. Universities often fail to teach students what real world is like out there. I encourage them to incorporate entrepreneuship into their lives by considering freelancing or even starting their own company.
Whats your best tactic for approaching new clients?
People do business with people. So I've always tried to be myself when approaching clients. There's always a line to respect but I've never been aftraid to tell a client that I'm hungover from the night before or that I'm on a gorgeous beach whilst taking their call. I've done business with some of the most successful people in the world and I can say being 'human' goes a long way.
Whats your best tip for organising yourself when working on multiple projects?
I'm a little old fashioned when it comes to organising myself. Years ago you would have found me with a Moleskin diary with very little white space on the page for any other words. Now, thankfully, I have staff to keep me sane. A calendar synced over all devices has already saved my life on so many occasions. Also a good colour-coded spreadsheet is good for me. Each person works in a different way - it's a case of finding a method that works best for you.
What is your favourite part about your work?
No two days are the same. It's great working in something that your passionate about. I have my 9-5 job of leading and managing companies brands and online presence. Outside of that I love creating an LGBT social movement that improve peoples lives and help them be more confident about themselves.
What would you say are the main benefits to freelance life?
The flexibility to do whatever you want. You can work from anywhere, choose which clients you want to work with and completly manage your own time.
What are your career goals for 2016?
I want to push both Regency and KRUSH to its limits and try my very best to make a social difference in the LGBT community. I also would love to find opportunities to share some amazing experiences through public speaking. I recently auditioned for the apprentice - Alan Sugar didn't want me - so I think I might need to work on being more of a bitch. :)