Women In Design feat. Charlie Edwards

Introducing Charli Edwards, a seasoned creative with 18 years of diverse experience, currently serving as Creative Director at Cavendish Consulting. Her journey defies tradition, from Global Art Director at UFC to completing a second Bachelor’s degree in design and innovation during the pandemic. Here are Charli’s 5 standout insights for peers and future talent and why she prefers the concept of mentors over role models. 

Could you please introduce yourself as well as your background?

So I’m Charli; if variety is the spice of life, then I am perfectly seasoned!

I’ve worked as a creative for around 18 years, but becoming a creative director doesn’t necessarily follow the ‘traditional’ route… Over the past 18 years, I’ve seen it all and worn many hats. From my current role as CD to Global Art Director at UFC (yes, that UFC). I’ve followed the opportunities when they’ve presented themselves to discover more about the creative industry and what I can bring to the table. And whilst I’ve always wanted to be in the creative industry, I’ve never restricted myself to an industry or particular remit.

The result of that? I had some pretty exciting experiences (living in Las Vegas for two years was one of them..), but more importantly – a much broader perspective.

But it doesn’t stop there; I, like many women in the creative industry, suffer occasionally with imposter syndrome; I don’t know a single creative that doesn’t, even those who have seen and done it all. Imposter Syndrome is a sneaky little voice that creeps into the minds of many of us, making us doubt our abilities and feel like frauds. But as a creative leader, it’s essential to recognise it for what it is and push past it. After all, the last thing we want is for our brilliant ideas to be stifled by self-doubt. So what did I do? I went back to school…

This year, I finished a second Bachelor’s degree in design and innovation. I originally completed a BA in fashion (see, I told you it was non-traditional), but I needed more foundation to trust I was doing things right. So when Covid came, and we all got grounded – I hit the fuck it button and enrolled in full-time study whilst continuing to work as CD full-time (not something id recommend)

And that leads me to now, as Creative Director for Cavendish Consulting, I oversee an incredibly talented, award-winning creative team that spans design, digital and video, where we work across everything from brand strategy to behavioural change campaigns, podcasts to learning portals. I also mentor for WiPR and Southampton University and advocate for neuro inclusivity.

I love what I do, so at home, I’m pretty low energy; I binge-watch TV shows, curl up with the dogs and keep the chicken nugget producers in business. Other than that? Stressing my husband out with my maximalism taste and teaching my nieces and nephews all the things your not supposed to.

What are 5 “stand-out things” you’ve learned that you’d like to pass on to your peers and the future generation of talent within your sector?

1. Get over taking feedback personally – the sooner you see it for what it is – improving the outcome for the client, the more confident you will feel and the faster you’ll be able to pivot to find new solutions to challenges.

2. Men are not the enemy – yes, there is a gender divide, and unfortunately, our industry only sees 12% of CD’s being female, BUT that doesn’t mean there aren’t some brilliant men out there to learn from and be inspired by!

3. Don’t fear changing lanes -everyone is in a hurry to get to somewhere, but you only have one life so mix it up, take a detour, try a new sector or skillset, whilst it took me a little longer, the knowledge I gained from those experiences ahs made me a much more rounded CD

4. Find your passion – I’m a firm beliver that you cannot be a great creative if you don’t feel passionate about the projects your working on or the assets your creating. Find an organisation that allows you to contribute to causes that you care about

5. Be yourself – don’t hide the best parts of you, share your humour, your opinions and be yourself, we aren’t supposed to be liked by everyone, but be liked for your real self – not for a persona you create to fit in with the crowd.

What is your take on the importance of role models?

I prefer mentors, I think the concept of a mentor is far more effective, because the responsibility is on you to make the most of their time and extract the knowledge they have in a way relevant to you. The term role model for me always a feels a little celebrity, like were putting individuals on a pedastool and that’s not what anyone needs to grow and develop, mentors show you that it IS possible and gives you the communication pathways to discuss how you get there. For me a role model isn’t necessarily that accessible.

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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