Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hi! I’m Richard Brownlie-Marshall, born in Edinburgh and now living and working in London. I’m currently the Head of Creative at Mindful Chef, the UK’s highest rated recipe box, where I work with the team across all things creative. I truly love working in design and that passion led me to building my eponymous design brand. When not in the design studio, you will most likely find me at London’s latest pop-up, seeing a show on the West End or trying out what TikTok claims is the best Mac & Cheese ever.
What does your job involve? What happens on a typical day?
At Mindful Chef, I head up a team of designers, videographers and photographers. This in-house team creates how the brand shows up at every stage - from the adverts in tube carriages to the website where you order your recipes and right through to the box, packaging and magazine that arrives on your doorstep.
On any day in the office, there is almost always a shoot taking place, whether it is the new recipes from the chefs or our next campaign. The pace is fast at Mindful Chef, so it's beneficial that the studio is on-site, meaning we can collaborate across the team very effectively. We keep a good mix of projects, so most weeks we’ll be working on a variety of e-mail, social, campaign and packaging briefs. This mix certainly keeps it interesting and fresh.
What’s great about what you do?
I enjoy taking a project from conception to delivery; being in-house we can work with other teams within the business on briefs or challenges, develop solutions and create the final artwork.
What are the toughest parts of your job?
With the speed of innovation at the business and the fact that we interact with almost every team, the toughest part is protecting that creative development. There are more than a few dangers here, but two that come to mind are either jumping on a brief and producing the first thing that comes to mind or executing a brief holder's first thought that comes to theirs. Briefs that read like paint-by-numbers will very rarely produce great work. It is paramount to ensure the time for discovery and brainstorming. We have to hear the goal or the problem and effectively investigate it well before honing in on the solution. I feel it important to take stakeholders on this journey, so they understand the value of the process and why it will always result in a more robust and intelligent outcome.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
As a designer, you want to work on projects you can be proud of and I feel lucky to have many past projects I’m still fond of. The ones that stand out are many of the firsts I’ve achieved in my career. The first store design I ever did was for Tossed at Westfield Stratford, the concept landed me the job and I took it through to completion with some amazing results. The global scale of some of my work is another thing that I enjoy, such as seeing my packaging on shelves in New York or trams in Hong Kong wrapped in my designs. I did a brief with Zizzi where I designed the bowls they used in all their restaurants, so it was pretty cool to dine with them and see everyone enjoying pasta from my creation. It’s a great feeling to work on projects that millions of people have interacted with and been part of their daily routine. It’s that same feeling when I see a Mindful Chef box on a doorstep - I get to create something that adds value and hopefully brings joy to someone’s day.
What's been the biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
To be great in design, you must be brave, so the biggest challenge was finding that strength and having conviction in the value I add. Starting out you can sometimes think that “it’s probably a silly idea” or “surely someone else has already thought of it" - but that’s what holds us back. The value we bring to any project is our perspective and our problem-solving approach. When I saw the value in my point-of-view, different conversations could start and I began to develop my perspective on design.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
After studying Design for Industry at Northumbria University, I found it tricky to decide which area of design to go into. It was a daunting thought to apply for my first job, so my game plan was to land an internship to gain real-life experience and get that all-important first company on my CV. I secured a placement at the Brent Hoberman start-up, mydeco.com in London. I worked hard at the interiors website and went on to eventually secure a full-time role as Design Coordinator. I thought that my career was now planned out and I could see my progression in this sector, however, life had other plans. After meeting with the founder of Tossed, Vincent McKevitt, the healthy eating chain was an opportunity too tempting to miss. I joined as the Head of Creative and was involved in designing the marketing, packaging and interiors for the brand – all on a steep learning curve. The experience I gained in these two roles was very different but led me to start my own design brand, work globally for Pret A Manger and now my role at Mindful Chef. So what started as a more planned approach has blossomed into a much freer movement that incorporates multiple disciplines. My aim is to always follow the projects that excite me, and that isn’t limited to just one area or discipline.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry in recent times? If so, what?
Creativity really is king. It now comes under many different guises and titles, but you see that there is a big appetite for creative minds. When the landscape is ever changing, we can’t rely on the status quo, so creative solutions are needed to continually evolve.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
In retrospect, there were many signs I would end up in design. When I was a child, I remember every weekend my parents would take me to art openings at the Open Eye or The Scottish Gallery. Walls lined with new and exciting artwork and rooms filled with Edinburgh’s most creative crowd. Some of my favourite day trips would be to National Trust properties, where I could enjoy the interior design or trips to furniture shops where I enjoyed the Eames chairs I couldn’t quite save up enough pocket money to buy. When I arrived at high school, the art classroom was my sanctuary; it’s where I felt confident and free. I remember my dad being less than enthusiastic when I was applying for design courses at university, as he didn’t believe it was a career you could go into and prosper. I’m happy to report that he’s since changed his thinking and always celebrates in my design successes.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
Be brave and do what makes you happy. Growing up you’ll have a lot of opinions from teachers, family, friends, and foes… but what do you think? Listen to the voice within and make the life you want. I tend to regret the things I don’t do more than the things I do, so seize every opportunity and enjoy every minute of it.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your field?
Be proud of your passion and bring it with you everywhere you go. Working with students and younger designers, I am always looking for their point-of-view and enthusiasm for the craft. It’s about raising your head above the crowd and applying yourself, you might not get it right first time, but that’s how you learn and grow. When I’m interviewing creatives for their first job, I always want to hear about how they get their inspiration or a personal project they might have set themselves. Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there.
Where can people find you and your work online?
You can find out more about my career and select projects here or follow me across socials on @realreechy