Talk for London South East Colleges: working in a creative career at a communications agency specialising in the built environment – Kanda

This morning Emilia Dzitko, Senior Graphic and Interactive Designer (Kanda Create) and Freddie Broadhurst, Account Director (Digital Engagement – Kanda Digital), hosted a discussion around creative careers in the built environment with students at London South East Colleges in partnership with Careers Hub East and London Square. Through the discussion they explored what the built environment is; the creative careers that support the industry; and Emilia and Freddie’s journeys to leading the development of creative methods of engaging communities at Kanda.

The purpose of the session was to raise young people’s awareness of the vast and varying careers within the industry by enabling them to connect what they learn in school and success in their futures.

With a Q&A covering the best part of our jobs as community engagement professionals, portfolio advice, and how to handle criticism and work collaboratively, we hope that the students at London South East Colleges were inspired to explore a creative career in the built environment.

Emilia Dzitko and Freddie Broadhurst

Freddie Broadhurst,  Account Director (Digital Engagement – Kanda Digital)

Hello! My name is Freddie, a creative working in the built environment.

At school, I always had an interest in what are typically perceived as more ‘creative’ subjects such as Art & Design and Photography. I was also very interested in social subjects including Sociology and Psychology.

I found architectural design to be the intersection of my creative and social interests and I so I studied Architecture at Oxford Brookes University.

Since graduating in 2015, I have had experience in creative roles working on our built environment as an architectural assistant, graphic designer and illustrator, and most recently my role at Kanda where I develop creative ways of engaging communities on urban projects in their area.

I want to start today exploring what we mean by ‘our built environment.’

Our built environment is anything that human-beings have made – including your home, your school, and the roads you travel on.

In a city like London, almost everything has been made by human-beings. All the time, our cities are changing – old buildings are knocked down, new ones are built, and whole new uninhabited areas are developed.

One of the reasons why we do this is because our population is increasing. 

There are 9 million people that live in London. By 2050, there will be about 11 million people. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, believes that we need to build around 66,000 new homes a year to provide enough homes for current and future Londoners. That’s a lot of new homes! So, where are we going to put them?

Cities can grow either outwards, which we call ‘urban sprawl’, or upwards, which we call ‘urban intensification’. Urban intensification is better than urban sprawl. By building tall buildings, we use less land, protect nature, and it creates better cities by reducing the travel time between where we live; go to school; like to shop; or hang out so that we don’t need to rely on cars.

Making sure that cities grow in the way we want them to is a very big and complicated task. We manage this task by focusing on smaller urban projects, such as a single building, or a collection of buildings, parks, and roads at the same time.

These projects need to be very carefully designed and get the right permission before they can be built. Permission is given by local authorities/councils’ planning authorities, and the process of getting the permission to build is called the ‘planning process’.

There are lots of very talented and creative people working together to make this happen. What this industry has taught me is that being creative comes in many forms.

Who is involved in urban projects?

– Property Developers

Property developers buy buildings or land and improve them to increase their financial value (to make money) and/or generate social value (to have a positive impact on a community).

They are creative because they imagine how buildings or land can be improved.

Architects/Landscape Architects

An architect is a person who designs buildings on behalf of the property developer and, when the property developer has permission to build their project, prepares plans to give to a builder. A landscape architect designs outdoor spaces.

They are creative because they can create art that visualises what buildings or land could look like, and instructions on how things can be built.

Communications Consultants

Communications Consultants reach out and talk to a community that will be impacted by urban projects. Based on these conversations they may have ideas about how an urban project can benefit a community, for example local people might need and want a new park.

They are creative because they think of innovative ways to reach people and encourage them to have a conversation about the future of their local area. They do this by creating engaging materials, something that Emilia is very skilled at and who is going to tell you a little more about.

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Emilia Dzitko, Senior Graphic and Interactive Designer, Kanda Create

My career and education path were very winding and varied, but it was thanks to this that I found myself in the built environment industry. One thing I was always certain of: I was into creative roles.  After school, I studied journalism where I practiced my copyrighting skills.  After that, I turned a bit off this path and tried to practice and improve my art skills, studying graphic design. During that time, I learned many useful and important skills that I use at my work today such as branding, font design, animation, illustration, or web design.  To further specialize in this field, I chose Digital Design for my master’s – a course that covers everything related to designing and building websites and digital products (programming, prototyping, mock-ups design, UX and UI design).  No doubt, it has become my biggest passion but also my profession and a way of life. All the above-mentioned skills and knowledge are something I use every day as a Creative and Interactive Designer, working alongside other great designers and web developers at Kanda.

One of the examples of the companies within the built environment industry are communication agencies (such as Kanda), built of Community Engagement Specialists.  It is important to emphasize that they are specialists in various fields, and based on the Kanda example, they can be divided into 3 main categories: consultants, community engagement strategists, and creatives.

Consultants, as the name suggests, are those who carry out all kinds of consultations and meetings with local communities that are impacted by urban projects. Their main role is to get to know the given community, collect their feedback, and, on this basis, create an objective report.

Community engagement strategists are people who plan communication strategies for local communities. Their task is to choose the right tools and engagement methods.

Creatives, on the other hand, are all those who put these ideas into life and shape them. Their task is to design eye-catching branding for a given project and engaging flyers or banners that not only attract the attention of local communities but also result in positive feedback.

There are as many creative roles within this group as engagement methods. If we build a website for a given project, a web developer will be needed, and if we additionally design flyers, a graphic designer will be necessary too. The key creative roles in communication agencies are: graphic designers, illustrators, animators, branding specialists, UX / UI designers, web designers, web developers.

There are actually five types of creativity:

  1. Divergent thinking – the ability to explore many possible ideas to find the right solution to a problem.
  2. Lateral thinking – the ability to applying your unique experiences to a problem and come up with out-of-the-box ideas.
  3. Aesthetic thinking – the ability to create visual art.
  4. Systems thinking – the ability to investigate how lots of individual things are interacting to create an outcome.
  5. Inspirational thinking – this is when you have ideas that pop into your head from no-where

Traditional vs digital engagement methods

To engage with local communities, we use different methods and tools depending on the projects background and character. The responsibility of the proper selection of methods mainly sits with creatives within communication agencies.

Below are some of the many engagement methods (most common ones) as well as example design outputs that creatives deliver alongside it.

Traditional engagement methods:

1. Door knocking | Outputs: advertising flyer

2. In-person events: Public exhibition, Street pop-up, Workshop | Outputs: Exhibition boards / banners, feedback forms, business cards, interactive activities (branded project maps, colouring books, VR).

Digital engagement methods:

Due to pandemic, we are living in the completely new world. And although it may seem scary or overwhelming – this new, covid/post-covid reality is also bringing us many opportunities. Working in communication agency like Kanda is the best example of it.

“People are three times likelier now than before the pandemic to say that at least 80% of their customer interactions are digital in nature.” McKinsey

This new reality is a great chance to everyone who wants to pursue their career in the digital world:

1. Social media campaign

2. Consultation website

3. Digital methods built to interact with local communities | Outputs: online surveys/feedback tool

Design process

  • (timeline) -> request comes in
  • in depth research on the client, project background, local area and community
  • co-working with other designers / brainstorming sessions
  • early ideas
  • final idea is shared and presented to the client (always explain what the thinking process, creative process, idea behind it and project aim/goal is)
  • Amends, amends, amends -> print/launch -> project comes into live!
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