Jeni Lennox (Product Design 1992)

Job Title:

Freelance Experience and Service Designer


Product Design


Garnavel Royal Hospital
Cuthbertson House 3

Garnavel Royal Hospital


Jeni Lennox

Interview originally produced for FLOW issue 23

What were the most significant things you gained from your time at the GSA?
Firstly the reassurance of finding and joining a creative community – of finding yourself among others who are familiar, who are interested in a similar way of life. Coming from a small conservative village in Ayrshire where I always felt like the ‘only weirdo in the village’, it was like coming home when I walked into the Mack Building for the first time. Then there is the energy and drive to find, explore and build on the passion you bring with you; the struggle of being stretched and challenged; and the way it helped me learn to think as a conscious activity. It sounds pretentious but it’s the foundation of everything I do now – creative thinking is a skill.

Can you tell us a bit about your experiences after graduating?
I was exhausted with design! So my first job was helping set up a restaurant called Fins back near the village I came from. My pal and I worked on the name, logo, interior and equipping of the space. I then had jobs in Clarks working on innovation in children’s footwear, and at a consultancy in Yorkshire with some real hardcore plastic product designers and engineers developing lawnmowers for Flymo. For the next decade I ran New Product Development for Albyn, a manufacturer who supplied hairbrushes and the like to Boots, Body Shop, Superdrug and the big grocers. This kind of environment teaches you about capitalism in the raw and how to keep creativity alive in the heart of the furnace.

You’ve returned to the GSA since graduating to work – what projects were you involved with?
I had been a visiting tutor at the GSA since the late ‘90s and when Albyn went bust (thanks to the big banks) I joined the GSA’s Institute of Design Innovation [now The Innovation School] to work on a project called Creating Cultures of Innovation with the Business School at University of Glasgow. We worked with the likes of Scott and Fyfe and Moorbrook Textiles to help embed creative behaviours in their team, and we developed some approaches to designing which created a step change in my practice. At the same time I started a project with Alzheimer Scotland called Dementia Circle out of frustration at the lack of practical products that could have helped my grandmother, who was living with dementia. In 2011 this led to Dementia Dog, a student project that we turned into a live service providing trained assistance dogs to people living with dementia.

What do you enjoy about your current work as a freelancer?
Since 2007 I have worked freelance as an Associate Principal for Nile, Graven, and Journey. I enjoy the flexibility, challenges, variety and collaboration. I can be designing bank notes with my creative buddies for Nile, running workshops around service provision for the elderly with Journey, or working on government consultations around community justice with Graven and Spreng Thomson. The common thread is making pals and life knitting, connecting with creative people and making a difference. That’s what we are here for isn’t it?

You were the project lead on the new £20 note for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of this project?
I led the project to design all four RBS and Ulster Bank notes. The challenges were the timescale and working out how to fit the massive story we wanted to tell onto the tiny rectangle we were designing! And making sure we put the right kind of claws on the squirrel, we had the frill on Kate’s blouse in the authentic material, and finding the best location for the midge on each note.

What would you say are the key strengths of the Scottish design community?
I love the way we can collaborate. The network that the GSA opens up for its alumni is irreplaceable. While you are there as a student it’s great fun but once you are up, out and working it is a powerhouse of potential. Scotland is also welcoming and small enough that we can build a proper sense of community. For those creatives who choose to make it their home, we have a set of pretty robust, clearsighted talent here, we weather the economic storms and that makes us tough and realistic operators.