We recently caught up with Alexandra Cerruti who was appointed Managing Director of Design Bridge in Singapore back in August, ascending from her previous role as Client Services Director.
Cerruti has spent 13-years working in the creative industry, including a 4-year stint at Carré Noir in Paris, Publicis’ French strategic design agency. She moved from France to Singapore in 2013 to join the client servicing team at Design Bridge, working her way up through the ranks to become Client Services Director in 2018.
Over the course of our conversation, Cerruti talks about how the agency has fared during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the lessons learned during the era of social distancing. She also talks about efforts by the industry to be more inclusive, her transition to the new role at Design Bridge, and more.
What’s been keeping you busy lately?
Our clients, but in a good way! Myself and the whole team are even more motivated than ever to deliver the best creative work for our clients, and we’ve all worked incredibly hard together to turn uncertainty and complexity into opportunity this year. As we look towards 2021 that uncertainty and complexity are still there, but we’re doing everything we can to make the best possible projections.
The pandemic has hit the industry and the brands they work with quite hard. How is Design Bridge faring in the COVID-19 crisis?
Whilst it has undoubtedly been a difficult year, our company spirit, values, and agility has given us the resilience to overcome many of the challenges we have faced. At the heart of our culture is building strong and meaningful client relationships, based on mutual trust and respect.
Over the years we have built one of the best Studio teams in the region and with that comes a reputation for unrivaled creativity and quality of work, which fuels those long-standing client partnerships. These factors have definitely played an important role for us this year.
What are some lessons you and your team have learned during the era of social distancing and what changes do you think will stick post-crisis?
The acceleration in digitalization, whether it’s e-commerce or social media, has been amazing. We see this in every single brief we receive from our clients now, so we have had to adapt and grow our knowledge and expertise in these areas.
As a creative business, working together in the same room has always been the default. Physical inspiration, face-to-face discussions, and sketching ideas together was always how our projects started, so there was definitely an initial nervousness about us all having to work from home. Whilst it has been disruptive, the quality of our work has not been affected, which is a testament to the team and everyone’s ability to adapt quickly.
“The acceleration in digitalization, whether it’s e-commerce or social media, has been amazing. We see this in every single brief we receive from our clients now, so we have had to adapt and grow our knowledge and expertise in these areas.”
We have seen some other unexpected benefits too, such as developing better active listening skills, and our meeting efficiency has drastically improved! We’ve also had to come up with new collaborative frameworks and approaches, such as organizing and facilitating online workshops, which we would never have thought about 8 months ago but will be very useful for the future.
You noted when you took the position that Design Bridge has four out of five global Managing Directors that are women and that your goal is “striving for a more inclusive industry.” Talk more about that.
We are very proud of the strong female leadership at Design Bridge, but diversity is not just about female inclusion. As a global industry, there is still a long way to go, and we need to think about diversity in terms of gender, sexual identities, disability and so much more.
Our local challenge in Singapore is to ensure that our team reflects the diversity of societies, our clients, and consumers across APAC, and we are committed to finding the right mix of ethnicities, social and academic backgrounds, and all walks of life in our Studio. We are always on the look-out for talented people that can bring something new to our existing crew.
You’ve spent 13 years in the biz, how would you grade the industry’s progress towards being more inclusive?
Back when I worked in France the team was 90% Franco-French, but I was lucky enough to be mentored by influential female leaders who shaped my career development and culture of inclusivity and female empowerment.
“As a global industry, there is still a long way to go, and we need to think about diversity in terms of gender, sexual identities, disability and so much more.”
The number of women in creative leadership positions in the industry is still too low – it is widely reported that 70% of graphic design students are female but only 11% of Creative Directors are women. It is our responsibility as an employer to create a positive and supportive environment for women to collaborate and foster their career development and we have fantastic female talents in our Studio – the revolution is underway!
It’s not been long since you were promoted. What’s been one of the more challenging parts of your transition to Managing Director?
The change in scale, and the sense of responsibility and accountability for the entire business. I have to ensure that we create the best conditions for every person in the team to work in, making sure that everyone feels confident in their abilities and can perform at their best every day.
Also, as the pandemic has meant that we are living and working in a more uncertain environment, providing the team with the support they need, in whatever form they need it in, has been a priority.
What is some work you’ve been a part of over the years that you’re most proud of?
As a team, we get a lot of satisfaction from solving a commercial challenge for a client, but the real pride comes when we can use design to play a positive role in society and bring better outcomes for people and the planet.
Simon Black, our Chief Strategy Officer, constantly reminds us that purpose-led brands don’t just happen, they grow, and that we must challenge our clients to realize a more sustainable vision that is true to their brand, then respond with design-led solutions that balance functionality with concern for the planet.
With that in mind, tackling the issue of single-use plastic sachets for one of our clients in the Philippines and Indonesia is what energizes me at the moment!