We caught up with Zeena Shah to find out how her degree, and experiences as an independent creative, led her to working with kids as Lead Designer at Wonderbly.

Tell me a bit about your role as Lead Designer at Wonderbly — what does it involve?

I run the in-house design team here at Wonderbly, my role is incredibly varied and extremely fun. We publish personalised children's books, meaning that we get to work with kids on a regular basis, which keeps us on our toes!

I work with my team to concept, design and produce all of the creative content for the Wonderbly brand. We're most often found creating content for our digital marketing comms or our website creative, but we will often design for print and various internal projects.

We're a typical start up and so work at a very fast pace. We'll have regular team ideation sessions and workshops to come up with concepts and creative ideas for each of our campaigns, before working together, or with other creatives, to bring our ideas to life. We have weekly photoshoots in our East London studio, a super cool, sometimes leaky, old warehouse space that kids and parents love visiting. A big part of our creative is using a combination of beautiful product and lifestyle photography and illustration. Our books are filled with rich detailed illustrations, something we like to champion in our creative.

"I love being creative every day. To make decisions about the creative direction of our brand is a real joy."

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What do you love most (and least!) about your job?

I love being creative every day. To make decisions about the creative direction of our brand is a real joy. The best part is being able to realise all of my mad ideas in a very short amount of time and working with a great team to do this.

We recently planned a photoshoot around an art direction flat lay route I really wanted to try. Getting kids to lay down on a giant colourama and hiring a sports hall to do it in – as it was the only (affordable) space big enough – was both brilliant and challenging. I've definitely learnt how to keep kids smiling after sitting in front of very hot lights for three hours!

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What did you study at university (if at all) and how has this impacted the journey to where you are today?

I studied Print Design at Chelsea School of Art and Design. On graduating I worked for a number of independent brands and design studios; before setting up on my own as a Print Designer, publishing a book, and working as an illustrator and stylist – and later finding a home at Wonderbly.

Being trained in Print Design and having experience running my own business means I'm a multidisciplinary designer and love being hands-on. It's the perfect combination for a young startup like Wonderbly. I've always felt at home in the company and love being a part of a project from start to finish. (Any excuse to make a cardboard space rocket!)

"My best advice is to get out into the real world as soon as you can"

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After graduating, was there a particular step that helped you at the start of your career?

Throughout my degree and after graduating, I interned with as many brands and businesses as I could. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do when I first left art school, there were so many possibilities. Working in-house was a great way to realise what I enjoyed the most and where I wanted my career to take me. It ultimately led me to start my own print design brand.

What one thing do you know now, that you wish you’d known when you started out in the industry?

I wish I'd realised the importance of networking and making contacts earlier in my career. My course was very design-focussed and not business-minded at all which meant I had to learn those skills pretty rapidly on graduating. So my best advice is to get out into the real world as soon as you can and make some meaningful connections, as those are the ones that will inspire you the most.

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