Work inspiration with
Chris Berridge

Hi. I'm Chris Berridge. I'm the Head of Design at cxpartners, based in Bristol. I lead our work in brand design, UI design, workspace design and anything related to graphic design. I'm a designer, essentially.

How did you get started in visual design? What is a turning point in your professional career?

I've always been into design. Art was the only class at school I had much interest in (besides Music and English). I went on work experience at graphic design studios and at printing companies. I got my best grades in Art. Everything was pointing to a career in design.

So, of course, I did a degree in Information Systems instead.

By happy accident this turned out to be an inspired decision, as it gave me an understanding of the implications of design, of context. It gave me a passion to create design systems that affect people's lives.

An unwavering belief that design is is a holistic undertaking that goes beyond aesthetics has underpinned my entire career, and was formed during my days on that randomly-selected degree in an old Poly in the drab outskirts of Bristol.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work at design studio all day long or mix a few activities?

We designed the cx office in Bristol so there would be plenty of different places to work from, and I'm a prime user of all of them. I like to mix it up - some days working entirely in the cafe, sometimes in the library, occasionally even at a desk. That's the joy of being allowed to design your own company office (which we're now doing for others too, which is nice).

I also like to go and work on-site with clients when I get a chance - it's the best way to get into the headspace of each other, to get a shared understanding. And it's a great way of uncovering some of the mysteries of the design process - as they see the experimentation and evolution as it's happening. Which is always a good thing.

Where does your work inspiration come from? (Do you believe in 'inspiration' at all)?

I believe in inspiration absolutely. But I also believe in ensuring that inspiration is only 10% (max) of the design process, with the other 90% coming from a deep understanding of exactly what it is you're trying to do, who for, and why.

'Genius design', where an agency says 'leave it to us' then does a big ta-da presentation in a few months time is a bugbear of mine. It doesn't do your customers justice. It inherently makes massive assumptions. It's a great big punt on the most visible part of your business.

That's why such a big part of my job is the creation of a user-centred branding process. In my career I've been subjected to so many bad brand identity implementations I can't stand for it to happen again, so we do everything we can to take aesthetic preferences out of the equation wherever possible.

That's not to say inspiration doesn't play a part, of course. It's essential to bring to life the concepts we've identified earlier on in the design process. But by the time we've got to that stage, we pretty much know where we're going to end up.

Where does it come from? Everywhere. Pop culture all over the world. Inspiration will not come if you have a limited view of the world, you have to get out and about and soak it all up. You don't get many 12 year-olds writing great novels and it's the same for designers - you need a pool of references to work from.

Where are your favorite art places in your city or outside? (to see, buy, whatever's on your mind).

I love a mooch at the Arnolfini, a wonderful arts centre in Bristol - as much for the fantastically creative art bollocks bios on the walls as for anything else.

And it's a great place to go for a drink in the summer too - one of the nicest spots in the whole of the UK to have an after-work pint.

Who are the designers you admire most?

There are obviously loads of obscure designers who are too cool for you to have heard of, so I'll spare you the embarrassment, but also Erik Spiekermann - for his honest and candid appraisal of the role of design, whether it be brand creation or typography. He's a great role model for aspiring designers.

Ustwo are ace, really admire how they go about things. Shoreditch creative shiz based on a framework of solid skills. As are Stupid Studio over in wherever the hell they are - again massively creative but always for a good reason.

Obviously everyone here at cx is amazing but that goes without saying (even if we are too busy to have updated our website for 5 years or something).

I can never think of answers to this question. My mind goes blank. Like when people ask me what music I'm into.