Our most recent feature is with the talented George Wu, a Design Director at independent branding and design studio Mother Design. A concept-driven thinker, George stretches the possibilities of brand world and expression, drawing on her experience directing interactive and experiential projects. Instilling excitement and innovation in all she touches, George’s creativity has helped to refresh the likes of Facebook, BBC Sounds and
periodcare brand Cora.
Never one to sit still, outside of Mother Design, George runs The Poundshop - a platform for new and established makers to enter the retail market, which has been featured in the likes of The Institute of Contemporary Art, the Science Museum and Selfridges. A maker herself, she’s also launched her own product, Para Para, a series of bold, animated umbrellas that put a spin on the mundanity of wet weather.

Hi George 👋 Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you?
Hi! I am Design Director at Mother Design in London, where I have been working since 2018. I also run two other ventures – The Poundshop and Para Para – and have always been interested and invested in creativity. Since graduating from university, I have worked in everything from graphic design and film to installations and experiential.

What was it like moving from Manchester to London? 
The funny thing is, is that I wanted to move out of a big city and into a small town. From Manchester, I went to Bath where I studied at Bath Spa Uni. It had a beautiful campus and I lived next door to the studios in halls with everyone else from the course. It really felt like art school and gave me that small town feel. But then when I graduated, I simply followed my friends to London, so not the most ambitious reason for moving.

I was obsessed with crafts as a kid, it allowed me to learn a lot of random skills and made me realise how much I wanted to make stuff with my hands.​​​​​​​

Have you always had an interest in creative direction?
I’ve always loved coming up with ideas. That’s the bit of any job that I love the most. Whether it’s been in graphic design, film, exhibition or anything else, it’s always been about finding out what the new idea or concept behind it is. I was obsessed with crafts as a kid (and still am now), fuelled by my mum giving me a lot of random crafting kits. But it allowed me to learn a lot of random skills and made me realise how much I wanted to make stuff with my hands.​​​​​​​
BBC Sound Cones
As you work across many areas including film, installation and more, which is your favourite to work in?
I’m lucky to be in a role where I do get to dabble in different subjects, where I get to do experiential, creative and sometimes video – the job is so varied. So I don’t have a favourite area as they are all so different, but what I would say is that the ideation stage is my favourite regardless of medium.

As you’ve worked on many projects, with the likes of Facebook, BBC Sounds and period brand Cora, how do you bring new ideas to these big companies?
The most important thing is to make sure that all ideas have a strong strategic foundation. It’s not just about making something that looks good. To put it into a current context, you can’t just do things in the Metaverse for your client because that’s what everyone else is doing. You want to give them something that works in their world.

The most important thing is to make sure that all ideas have a strong strategic foundation. It’s not just about making something that looks good.

Is there any advice you would give to those starting out in similar careers to yours, for example how to believe in yourself and your ideas?
I didn’t believe in myself when starting out and held myself back by worrying about my lack of Adobe skills or that I didn’t know how to build a website. But there are so many variations of this job that there will be something that does match your skillset. There’s no set way of getting into this industry. That’s the most amazing thing about this job. People come from all sorts of backgrounds and bring different skills to anybody else. 
So be true to yourself and don’t mould yourself into what you think someone wants – you can clearly see in a portfolio what somebody is interested in for example type design; similarly you can see when someone is trying to second guess what a company wants.​​​​​​​

be true to yourself and don’t mould yourself into what you think someone wants
BBC Sounds - Soundscape
Tell us a little about your platform, The Poundshop?
The Poundshop is a platform I run with my good friend Sara Melin and we co-founded it in 2010 along with Sarah Gottlieb. The idea is basically to have set up the first design poundshop, where design can be more accessible than ever with affordable price bands of £1, £3, £5 and £10. We work with loads of talented designers and give them a perfect testing ground for their first foray into making products. Lots of them have gone on to sell their products in places including MoMa, V&A and Selfridges.

What inspired you to start up this platform to help makers enter the retail world?
I graduated from my Masters at the same time as the 2008 recession. Lots of my product designer friends were left struggling to find work, as were a lot of people. But I was at a party and ended up discussing the idea of selling 100 things for £1, instead of selling 1 for £100. Would it be possible to flip the established purchase journey? It actually started as an exhibition idea borne of a fun comment on the state of things in a recession. I never planned it as a full retail experience.

You’re a maker yourself, when did you launch your product Para Para?
I launched my umbrella company Para Para early this year after I completed an incubator beginner business course with The Design Museum. After doing The Poundshop I have always been interested in selling my own product.

What drew you to create a line of colourful umbrellas?
Para Para is a set of bold graphic luxury umbrellas that come to life when viewed through an app. The original idea was to create a Zoetrope installation which I still hope to do. But when the pandemic hit I knew a lot of people that started making and selling things. So I went through all my ideas and this was the one that stood out as a product. It’s been eye-opening because I have made brands for other people but never myself. This is my first time making everything from start to finish as well – I created the brand, identified the price point, what the brand values are, and oversee production and aftercare of the product – all of it. I have partnered with the oldest umbrella maker in the UK and they are really beautifully made.  ​​​​​​​
Para Para
What brand would you love to work with in the future?
LEGO – I love their whole ethos about imagination. There aren’t many brands where the remit is to be playful and have fun, so to work on a brand where that is the point would be really cool.

As you created umbrellas, what is your favourite kind of weather?
Snow, actually. It’s so rare in this country, I always get really excited when it snows. Everybody complains but I still feel like it’s magical.

What is a quote or saying you live by?
Not one I live by yet but I’m stealing it from my friend. She recently told me to ‘never make decisions based on fear’. I’m now trying to live by that and not being put off making decisions based on lack of confidence or the unknown. ​​​​​​​
The Pound Shop
You can follow along with what George is up to by following her :​​​​​​​

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