Women In Design feat. Betty Guerra

Meet Betty Guerra, a Senior Designer at NOW with over 10 years of commercial design experience. Here she shares five standout lessons she’s learned and emphasizes the significance of role models in inspiring personal and professional growth.

Olivia @ ADLIB: Could you please introduce yourself as well as your background?

Hi, I’m Betty. I’m a Senior Designer at NOW (Sky’s streaming service) with over 10 years of commercial design experience working across various projects, formats, and clients. When I’m not designing for my day job, I’m either vintage jewellery hunting, tweaking the flat’s interior, or potting around in the garden.

I was born and raised in West London; I lived with my parents and brother for most of my life in a little council flat just off Ladbroke Grove – my parents emigrated from Portugal in the early 70s seeking a better life; they worked hard and saved harder. This motivated me to do the same and I’ll be forever grateful to them for this mindset partly because up until a couple years ago, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning my own little flat. And quickly after that, my partner and I became three: nope, not a baby… we got a dog!

Thanks to my designer brother, I’d like to think that my career started at the age of 7 when, on a random Sunday afternoon, he sat me down in front of his Windows 95 PC to show me the basics of the wonderful world of Adobe Photoshop 5.0: how to add a layer to the canvas, where the paint brush was, how to switch colours. I can still picture the illustration. The thing is, I always loved art, and knowing at that age that I could take this to another level blew my mind – I was in awe and knew from then on I wanted to explore this more… and that Paint was dead to me (hah!).

Going through school, college, university, I was constantly being told by everyone (from my mum, my teachers, even from my gynaecologist!) what career path I should go down: be a dentist, an accountant, a doctor… and because I said I liked art and business; a gallery owner? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with these professions, but none of them really appealed to me, and despite studying Marketing at university (mainly because my brother inspired me to try my hand at Advertising), I never gave up designing. When I graduated, and couldn’t land a marketing role, I took my chances at freelancing, and just my luck, I landed my first design gig at a social agency in Central London. That was a dream come true in itself and the start of a crazy rollercoaster ride although this is probably where my imposter syndrome stems from; “a designer with a marketing degree? Unheard of!” my brain would scream “you shouldn’t be here!” but I kept at it.

In the early days, I really wanted to see my work out there on billboards, and would say “I make things look pretty” but the older I got, the calmer I got, the ‘less-worried-about-what-people-think’ I became, and the more exposed I got to company KPIs, I naturally shifted my priorities to “I find visual solutions to business problems”… essentially. Taking all that imposter syndrome and burying it day-by-day.

 

Olivia @ ADLIB: In an attempt to capture some of the Wisdom you’ve gained as a woman in the design sector so far, what are 5 “stand-out things” you’ve learned that you’d like to pass on to your peers as well as the future generation of talent within your sector?

  1. This might sound so cliché but don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do – if you’re passionate about something whether that be a project, a hobby, or a job role, go full throttle to achieve it. I still remember the one time someone in a leadership position (equivalent to managing director) told me I couldn’t be a designer because I wasn’t studying design at university, but to this day, that same person hits like on every ‘new design role’ LinkedIn status I post.
  2. Mistakes happen – we’re only human! And making mistakes is how we learn not to make them again. I like to think that life doesn’t come with a rule book, and that every day is a good day to start learning something new. And on that point:
  3. Keep learning – when it comes to design in particular, there’s a million and one ways of doing something. There’s never a right or wrong way, and it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes open to new techniques, trends, and value all perspectives.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others – everyone is on their own path. You can always aspire to be like someone, but discover your own style and be your own person.
  5. Remember to rest (wish someone had hammered this one in to me earlier in my career) – a lot of us designers, especially women, feel some sort of pressure to prove everything and anything we do, be it in work or in life, to be able to reach our goals, to keep our jobs, to feel valued – not taking lunch, working out of contract hours (or even on holiday! One of my pet-peeves that is… enjoy your holiday!), and ultimately achieve burnout. Coming from a “work hard, save harder” family, I may sound slightly contradicting with this one, but it’s unforgivable the amount of times I fell victim to this, because of pitch work or just the sheer workload on my plate, or feeling I had to work myself to the bone as an intern/junior. With experience comes the confidence to prioritise life, to slow down, and be able to implement techniques that speed up production in your day job and still retain quality. Creativity takes time, we know this, but we can’t be our best creative selves if we’re constantly switched on. “We don’t live to work, we work to live”.

 

Olivia @ ADLIB: What is your take on the importance of role models?

I think role models are super important, especially for the younger generations. Role models inspire you to be a better you. They can be as close or as far from us: a family member, a friend, a teacher, the shop-keeper, someone on TV, someone you work with… you get the idea.

Personally, I’ve had a fair few role models at different stages of my life – though my secondary school art teacher was intimidating (to say the least) and had super high expectations, I really respected her and learnt a lot in her class; from planning how to tackle a creative brief, to cleaning up equipment after using it (it got pretty messy). In my early career I looked to the likes of Jessica Walsh, Sagmeister, Alexandra Taylor, Paula Scher. When I first met my partner, he opened my eyes to ‘perspectives’ in everything, and later his mum taught me to admire and enjoy antiques, and everything preloved/second hand. But above all role models, I’m grateful for my brother’s similar interests in art, design, photography and architecture. And my mum and dad’s determination and thoroughness will always be front and centre in my mind.

 


If you’re inspired by the stories and wisdom shared in our ‘Women In Design’ series and would like to contribute your own experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Creatives at all levels, please email Olivia and your story could be the next we feature.

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