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Feature Friday: Nicola Osborn

Our guest for this week’s Feature Friday is Nicola Osborn, a recognised creative design professional with over two decades of industry experience.

We discuss Nicola’s current role as a Creative Director and she kindly shares some fantastic tips for those wanting to take a similar career path.

WOD: Let’s start at the beginning with your background and how you got into the workplace industry…

NO: “Wow this is a BIG question. I did not join interior design the usual route…

I had a very familiar standard comprehensive education up until my A levels in my local town Leighton Buzzard and was an average student in a very formal academic setting. Any creative lesson being the highlight in my week! Creative studies were not valued or supported in this environment. All career advice in answer to following art was signposted to teaching! By circumstance, probably an outcome of spending too much time in the art department, an off the cuff remark from the head of the department made me aware that art was a viable option for further education.

Enter art foundation, 5 days a week immersed in art. I was in heaven for 9 months. On graduation London called, bright lights full of opportunity and vibrancy. I headed to Middlesex University to study Printed Textiles & Decorative Arts, the first in my family to go away to uni! No pressure! Thankfully I did graduate with a first-class degree with distinction.

The course was rich in creativity and inspired by fine art and contemporary artists. I was reprogramming my brain at every step. How to look at the world, digest it, reinvent it. How to be inspired, influenced, excited and action it. I absorbed everything, loved it all, both feet in and up to my neck!

The 7 years that followed my degree were a realisation of how tough the creative and design world can be. I had no network in 1997, being the first in my close-knit world to pursue a creative career there were no friends of friends, no LinkedIn, no google. It was me, my shoulders, my story to carve. A couple of designers from my course alumni offered an outlet. I interned for free at a start-up fashion label creating unique garments and with an illustrator producing album covers, and brochure and book covers. Being part of a wider creative community was inspiring. Alongside these internships, I had a gig as a self-employed textile designer working on a commission basis for a textile house producing hand crafted designs for the fashion industry in London and New York. None of these paid the bills, so add a few part-time jobs to the mix, to pay the bills. I was busy working hard and playing hard… My mid 20’s was a blur!

This was not a sustainable way of life and inevitably I arrived at a crossroads where decisions needed to be made. I had acquired many skills and experience along the way, and I needed to channel my energy and scratch that creative itch. After working as a visual merchandiser for a high street brand, I had realised how much I enjoyed creating environments and curating the customer experience, plus I was pretty good at it!

Enter Interior Design School. In 2004 I graduated from The Interior Design School excited about a future in retail design. I grabbed an opportunity at MoreySmith for a 2-week work experience, 2 weeks turned into a 3-month placement during which I was still chasing retail design opportunities. Soon I realised workplace design had me hook line and sinker! The multi layered levels of design, people, psychology, change, making a difference – all the inspiring elements of my art education and every muscle of my creative reprogramming was firing. After 15 years at MoreySmith, which was a fantastic journey, I approached that crossroads again… What next!?

I needed new challenges & passions to pursue. In September 2019 after completing McKinsey & Co’s flagship London HQ, I launched the next chapter of my career with Basha- Franklin as Creative Director. A meeting of minds and energy which is inspiring and exciting for the future.”

WOD: Wow, not the usual route – you’re quite right! And how about your current role?

NO: “I jointly lead Basha-Franklin. Rachel and I have great ambition to evolve the business together, grow the team and provide opportunities for designers to thrive. We believe strongly in the value of design and how this benefits clients who invest in space, occupy space and develop space. Alongside the strategic future of the business, the day to day is reimagining property for clients, facing challenges and seeing opportunities to progress and move our industry forward. My happy place is the ‘what if’ moment, materiality and co- creation with my team and clients.”

Read the full Feature Friday interview with Nicola Osborn as well as interviews with our previous guests by joining WOD Digital today.