Interview with James Melia

1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

At school; I originally wanted to be a graphic designer, mainly because the industrial design industry is not that well represented in the education system. I knew that I wanted to be in the world of design as it just felt like a natural fit for me –  I always gravitated towards physically making and building things. From what I could see there weren’t that many industrial designers, so I saw an opportunity and it felt like the perfect industry for me to enter.

2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?

I had a placement year during my time at University at an industrial design agency which was great as I learned so much in a short space of time. It certainly would’ve been difficult to enter the industry without having had this placement experience as it gave me the tools and knowledge to get my foot in the door once I graduated.

The biggest hurdle was starting Blond. I needed to ensure no details were overlooked and it was done with my full intention and focus. I took out a loan against my home and just went for it, knowing I had to make the business successful as it was either that or lose my house.  

3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?

We have also spent a lot of time building our portfolio, making it extremely consistent – due to this, we get a lot of enquiries directly through our website. Additionally, we have been fortunate enough to gain a large social following, particularly on Instagram, which really helps!

4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?

It is as simple as doing a great job; clients have trust in you once you deliver what you promise. We have never missed a deadline and always go above and beyond the scope of work.

5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?

We ask clients for payment upfront, not because we don’t trust them, purely to save time on the logistics of payment after the project is completed. Chasing for payment can often leave a sour taste on the project, which is something we want to avoid. By paying upfront this whole issue is avoided.

6. What does your typical workday look like?

My day always starts at 6am with walking the dog. Mondays start with an in-person team briefing to get a handle of what is going on across projects. I’ll then have reviews with each team during the day and focus on creative direction.

The rest of the week is more sporadic –  there are lots of client meetings each day. We work across different time zones, so I like to leave my mornings free to deal with Eastern clients and suppliers, and afternoons free to deal with clients on the west coast of America. I try to slot everything else in between.

7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?

Having trust in your employees and empowering them to do their best work is essential. I make my team feel responsible and trust them that the work will be done to the highest standards.

From a managerial point of view, trust is the biggest thing – it is often hard to take a step back as a Founder. Something I have realised is that more often than not the work produced by my staff is far better than I ever imagined.

Connect with
James Melia

Main Website: Blond

Social Media: Instagram, LinkedIn and Behance.

More strategies to boost your design career

James began his career as a creative director, managing design teams at international agencies for clients that span a number of sectors. These clients are some of the leading brands in electronics, telecommunications and technology (Microsoft, Panasonic, Philips, LG, Samsung, Technics, Sony, Epson, TomTom, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu and Nokia) in aviation (Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic, B/E Aerospace) and many other sectors (including the likes of Technogym, Bosch, Dulux, Hasbro).

Interview published on: Aug 22, 2022

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