AB Thinks  →  21st September 2018

Award-winning design duo go head-to-head

AB Thinks

We are immensely proud of the talented team here at AB. Now that talent has been recognised by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), which has bestowed awards on two of our designers.  

Neil Sweetman and Jess Foley have both earned IoIC Awards of Excellence. This means on 28 September our award-winning design duo go head-to-head for the Best in Class Best Designer award.

While they are both adamant it’s all about team work and there’s no competition, we couldn’t resist highlighting their vital stats before Friday’s showdown:

Jess Foley (The Upstart)

Title: Lead designer

Qualifications: Fine Art and Photography graduate

Time at AB: Two years

Titles under her belt: Award-winning otm for TfL; otm Pensioners for TfL; Inside for JTI

Speciality: Storytelling approach

Claim to fame: AB Person of the Year 2017 (as voted by peers)

Above and beyond: Sources props for shoots even if it means getting her hands dirty – most recently spotted collecting leaves in her lunch-hour for a cover shoot

Catchphrase: ‘Well… how about…’

Neil Sweetman (The Heavyweight)

Title: Lead designer

Qualifications: Twenty years as newsstand designer

Time at AB: Five years

Titles under his belt: Multi award-winning Courier for Royal Mail; Fusion for Hitachi Rail; Insight for Network Rail

Speciality: Consumer approach to internal comms publications

Claim to fame: Designed lifestyle mag, Love It!

Above and beyond: Posed as a cowboy in chaps (and enjoyed it) for a photoshoot

Catchphrase: ‘I’m just off to the gym’/ ‘Leave it with me’

And the winner is:

The clear winner in this showdown is [drumroll please…] AB! We are thrilled to have two super talented designers on our team. Here are the highlights of their entries and judges’ comments:

About Jess

Jess has become a key member of the design team since joining AB two years ago. She is now lead designer and art director for several magazines and projects, including one of AB’s most prestigious accounts, otm (On the Move) for TfL – a monthly magazine for 14,500 London Underground frontline employees.

Storytelling approach

AB’s creative director Joel O’Connor says: “Jess has introduced a real ‘storytelling’ approach to the photography in otm, which has been key to its popularity amongst employees. As well as constantly evolving her regular titles, Jess often takes the lead on one-off design projects, helps out on pitch work, and supports the rest of the design team with her creative ideas.”

otm needs to cover strategic messages on topics including health and wellbeing, safety, operational performance and the modernisation of the Tube network. However, content also needs to reflect the broad diversity of the LU workforce and the many different Tube lines and stations across all zones of the Tube network.

People centred design

Jess is keen to feature people at the very heart of magazine – strong photography plays a key role in every edition of otm and Jess is always keen to make the magazine as picture-led as possible, to really engage with readers.

“We focus a lot of attention on photography in otm,” says Jess. “We brief our photographers to get the very best images of the workforce and the work they do. And there are some really interesting locations that have real visual impact. The Tube is an icon of London and we want to reflect that in the magazine.”

Rowena Mbanu, Assistant Business Partner at London Underground, says: “Jess’s design approach to both otm and the otm Pensioners’ edition continues to surprise us. Since we decided to go with a fresh approach to the otm front cover she has been great at coming up with exciting ideas and has produced some of her best work yet. Her mood boards are well put together and clearly convey her design concepts. We’re looking forward to seeing what she has planned for the rest of the year.”

Creative and memorable

The IoIC judges said: “One of the keys to Jess’s work is simplicity: creating impactful and engaging design from simple ideas. Her background in photography and fine art is reflected in the work examples. What I believe is stand out in this entry is her storytelling approach, which links back to really understanding the audience and being in their shoes, so that the design work is relevant, creative and memorable.”

About Neil

Neil entered the corporate communication arena after two decades at News International  and was determined to bring the best of his experience to AB when he joined five years ago.

Consumer focus

His career started as a teaboy for a design studio back in the mid-1980s and his hands-on experience means he brings his own twist to liven up design, always with a consumer look very much in mind.

He worked for the Sunday magazine for News of the World and designed ‘Love It!’ magazine, which is still going strong.

Diverse titles

As art editor, Neil worked on a number of publications and campaigns over the past year. These include titles as diverse as Royal Mail’s monthly newspaper Courier, which has a circulation of 190,000, and Arriva Rail’s Exchange, a bi-monthly print magazine with a smaller readership and a circulation of 1,500.

Neil takes huge pride in his work and is adamant that business titles can be as well designed as consumer products.

Positive feedback

It’s not only Neil’s colleagues who appreciate the value of his work. Audience research and feedback from clients has been positive and complimentary.

His work on Courier was recognised at the IoIC Awards 2017 when it won Best Use of Print for a Newspaper/Newsletter. The title also won a Gold Award for Royal Mail and AB. This was the second time Neil has contributed to a Gold Award winning title – in 2014 WOW (produced for Post Office) also received a Gold Award. He won further IoIC plaudits for his design work in 2015 (Courier for Royal Mail) and 2016 (Fusion for Hitachi Rail).

Energetic and engaging

Vanessa Unwin, Hitachi Rail’s Group Head of Internal Communications, says: “Neil has done a great job at making Fusion a really fun, colourful, energetic and engaging publication. The stories really leap off the page and stand out – which is exactly what we want Fusion to do!”

Paul Smith, Senior Channels Manager at Royal Mail, says: “A large proportion of the continued success of Courier – our most established channel – is a result of its design, and Neil is integral to that.”

Elevating our profession

The IoIC judges verdict: “Neil has grafted to become the class designer he is today, learning on the job in a design studio, through national magazines and now at AB, bringing consumer design flair into internal communications. He brings imagination and great attention to detail to his design work and clients praise the way stories ‘leap off the page’. This is solid, creative magazine design work that is elevating our profession.”