Interview with Melanie Hubert-Crozet

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

Very early on actually! We got our first family computer when I was eight years old. I quickly discovered Publisher and I got hooked on creating my own booklets and flyers for amusement parks and travel agencies I would make up.

Around the same time, I learnt about Photoshop and spent hours manipulating my photos trying all the different filters and effects. I loved creating new visuals. When I was 14, we got on the internet for the first time and my main purpose was to research about my favourite rock bands endlessly. There were so many fan websites being created so I quickly wanted to make my own (the beginning of the internet, what a great time it was!). I learnt basic HTML and CSS, and made my own fan website about Good Charlotte (lol).

I think I always knew I wanted to be a designer but artistic careers are not valued and the school system doesn’t really push you in those directions. In high school, I had pretty good results so they tried to push me towards Scientific or Economics studies but I decided to go in Arts & Literature because it just felt right even though it was the least respected. Looking back, I’m so happy with my choice. Everything I learnt in philosophy, history of art and literature feels so valuable today, so much more than mathematics!

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

After my Bachelor’s degree in design, I got accepted at Gobelins which is one the best design schools in France. The design course was a postgraduate degree as an apprenticeship in two years focusing on digital experiences. As part of the course, I spent two weeks at school and two weeks working in a creative agency every month. Doing an apprenticeship is the best way to get into the professional world and I wish a lot more courses were like this!

Once you graduate, you already have two years of experience in a creative agency which is priceless to find a job after. Most of the teachers are professionals doing workshops and Gobelins’ alumni end up in very good agencies so it’s a network that opens many doors.

During those two years, the biggest hurdle for me was to get confident into designing for real clients. At first, what you do doesn’t feel professional, you don’t really know the softwares the way professionals use and there is a lot of impostor syndrome!

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

Previously, I thought new business was about selling and it felt very artificial to me and therefore, something I would never feel comfortable doing. But then, I realised that the best projects came when I was just honest and openly shared my passion and vision.

People can feel when you are honest and say things with passion. We are building human relationships and collaborations, and before the budget or the portfolio, clients are looking to work with people they like, trust and can be inspired from. Being ourselves, sincere and empathetic is our best power!

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

If we start a relationship based on honesty, then nurturing this relationship with further passion and trust has been a great way to receive more work from existing clients. We care about their businesses, and we create a partnership that has a good synergy and naturally continues with more projects. Partnerships work both ways, we don’t want to be treated like a vendor but that also means we don’t treat our clients as “clients” in an arrogant way but like collaborators.

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

I manage a creative agency / design studio with my partner Mattijs. At the beginning of the studio, we had to learn the hard way what cash flow really means and what are the consequences of late-payment. In our first year, we had a few big invoices that came in really late and it taught us to always make sure 50% of the project is billed up-front.

For a small studio, this is crucial, especially if the project involves a lot of external costs like video production or development. We also learnt to avoid projects that require an unhealthy amount of external costs because that creates too much risk for the agency.

6. What does your typical workday look like?

I walk to the office passing by the lovely Columbia road every morning (for the Londoners who know!) and get a nice flat white coffee on the way. Then my day is spent shifting between brainstorm sessions with the team, client meetings and deep work where I figure out how we should approach new briefs. I work closely with the designers to guide them and push the creative boundaries together, brainstorm concepts and work with the producers to take the best creative approaches on projects.

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

Trust your creative instincts. In design there is not one right way to answer a brief and as designers we are very subject to self-doubt. I used to always think other people had better ideas, better comments and because of that I didn’t even try to understand my own ideas and push them further.

For me, things started to unlock when I started to trust my vision and ideas, even if they went against the norm and what others thought. Everybody thinks differently and sometimes we limit ourselves to fit the norm. Once creatives are unlocked to trust in their own ideas, this is where the magic happens!

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Melanie Hubert-Crozet

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Mélanie leads the creative vision of monopo London. Her desire to mix influences, styles and people sets the tone for the type of work monopo creates and the community monopo builds. She strives to create an environment that breeds unconventional creative approaches and fresh perspectives. Art director by trade, Mélanie looks to help brands own their quirks through expressive visuals and visceral communications.

Mélanie started her career as a digital designer, working on experimental campaign websites. A Gobelins graduate, Mélanie cut her teeth in France before moving to London where she worked at leading digital agencies Unit9 and Huge. In 2016, Mélanie joined monopo in Tokyo and became all-round art director. There she played a central role in the internationalization of the agency, resulting in a growth in global business and a string of awards.

Interview published on: Jun 26, 2022

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