Interview with Jo Barnard

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

I was fortunate to have Product Design taught at my school. I absolutely loved it and the teacher encouraged us to consider continuing it at university. Every single person in that class went on to do a design related course at higher education.

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

Starting the consultancy was easy. I was young (24), naive and, together with a university friend called Rob, we had little to lose. Having already been freelancing, it was a small step to working under a company name.

However, Rob left the business a year later and I think the biggest hurdle was finding belief in myself that I could really make something of Morrama. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve with the amazing support of the whole team. I don’t feel like an imposter so much these days!

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

PR. We spend a lot of time putting ourselves out there. Having an opinion and creating design responses to topical issues is something we continue to do alongside our day-to-day client work. Being and staying relevant is the best way to attract clients.

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

Do an awesome job!

5. What does your typical workday look like?

The start of my day depends on the time of year. Right now, with the early sunrise I’m awake around 6.30am, will read the news, exercise, and cycle to the office. Then it’s emails, checking in with the team and dipping in and out of projects wherever I’m needed.

My job is to enable the rest of the team to do their best work. I love it when we get stuck in solving a problem; nothing else matters in that moment, we just bounce ideas off each other until we land on the solution. That breakthrough moment when you all feel like you’ve nailed it is such an amazing feeling.

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

Remember being a child and being awed and excited and curious and crazy about everything?

Stay that way!

Speed down the supermarket aisle on the back of the trolley; allow yourself to become obsessed with something new (currently I’m fascinated by the benefits of nose-breathing, last month it was how mycelium is going to save us); break things to try and understand how they work; find fascination in watching people interact with one another in a coffee shop.

Having a sense of wonder must be one of the greatest gifts of being human.

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Jo Barnard

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Jo is an experienced and passionate designer and founded industrial design and innovation agency studio Morrama just one year after graduating from University. Prior to establishing Morrama, Jo worked with a number of large-scale clients including John Lewis, TomTom and GravityLight. Jo has been featured in BBC CEO SecretsWIREDTechRound and has been named as one of the top 10 women to watch in tech and STEM.
Jo is one of the few female design founders within the design, innovation and STEM industries and has built Morrama, now entering its eighth year, into a fast-growing design consultancy, working with the likes of Google, Unilever, and Wild on consumer tech, sustainability, and product design briefs. Jo is part of the LGBTQ community, and is passionate about the role of female design input as a source of innovation and growth within the design sector. She is an active commentator on this issue, and can also speak from personal experience about stereotyping within the industry.
Interview published on: May 23, 2022

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