Sitting down with talented folk from the agency to discuss their careers to date and what makes them tick.
For the first in our series we sat down with Ben Gale, a designer who had a childhood obsession with race car aesthetics, and more recently a love of electro swing.
Ben, what’s your background?
I’m from a village in the middle of nowhere called Fair Oak. It’s between Southampton and Winchester. So, I’m a South Coast boy. I grew up in Fair Oak and then moved to Bournemouth to study Graphic Design at the Arts University Bournemouth.
What brought you to Coley Porter Bell?
I entered a student competition called ‘Shine’ in my final year that was run by the agency, and the reward was a 3-month internship. I was fortunate to get shortlisted to present in front of the clients, some stern-faced RAF veterans, which was terrifying. I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous about anything. I barely remember presenting. But, somehow, it was enough to win at the expense of some other talented designers, including my best mate. As you can imagine, it resulted in a very awkward train journey back home. I remember feeling so guilty as I knew how much effort he put into the work.
You’ve been at the agency for five years. What’s been your favourite project, and why?
LEGO was great. It was the first time I had even been overseas for work, spending a few days in Billund, Denmark, doing customer experience workshops to really understand the heart of the brand. It was an intense few days but playing with LEGO was pretty much enforced throughout which helped to alleviate the stress!
Other projects – can I have more than one? – are for a very different reason. We did a brand identity overhaul for Boots, and it was the first time I saw my work out in the world in the form of the brown paper Boots bags. Seeing it in public was a bit of a surreal moment. And then, there’s the packaging work we did for Tesco’s core range. My nan always tells her friends “My grandson made that”, which puts a smile on my face.
Tell us something people may not know about you.
I have Ranidaphobia which is a fear of frogs and toads. The fact that they are constantly wound-up ready to jump creeps me out.
What attracted you to get into graphic design?
My dream job when I was a kid was to be an F1 driver, but it became quite obvious quite quickly that that wasn’t going to happen. My fascination of F1 though was more than just the speed and the racing, it was also the way they looked. Some of my favourite liveries growing up were the Jordan EJ11 and the Renault R25. I’d draw them all the time, and me and my brothers would imagine our own Hot Wheels designs by drawing their side profiles and designing the rest from there. We were 8-9 at the time so I guess that’s where my love for creating and designing came from.
What are your interests outside of work?
I’m a Southampton football fan, so I guess I’m interested in suffering! We used to be the best team on the south coast, but we can’t claim that anymore, this season is going to be a struggle. Fun times. Beyond that, there’s gaming. I’m into games that are more story focused as I like to be immersed in a different world, and the standard of storytelling in games has improved drastically over the past decade. A lot of people seem to have a negative opinion of gaming, but those same people will often just as happily binge a TV series.
What’s the last song you listened to?
‘Dramophone’ by Caravan Palace. It’s a banger.
What’s the most recent museum or exhibition you’ve been to?
Sorry, I’m bringing it back to football. It was ‘Football: Designing the beautiful game’ at the Design Museum. It was good, but I was expecting more if I’m being completely honest. I wish there was more talking about community, belonging and identity around football clubs. But there was a great image of a woman mowing the back garden that was adorned with red and white stripes. The fence posts, the washing line, the shed. You name it, it was red and white stripes from head to toe. I felt like I knew her.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient. Be calm. If you don’t know how to do something, ask for help. And things will work out better.
One thing that’s on your bucket list?
I want to go to Iceland. But most of the people that I know don’t like cold places, so that’s a bit of a problem.
What is your superpower?
To find the humour in the direst situations.