Interview: Let’s Be Brief

Let’s Be Brief is a cultural journal and professional development platform for creative industry.

Inspired by the now and invested in the future, LBB connects the dots between culture, communications and business, providing insight for creative thinkers and doers.

Founded by husband and wife team Steph and Ansel Neckles, LBB run regular events, master-class workshops and industry talks to share their wealth of experience in the creative industry with the next generation. In our exclusive interview, we talk to Steph about their varied creative backgrounds and uncover the story behind the platform ahead of their next Pop-Up School, which returns to Hackney this July.

Can you offer us a brief overview of who you are, your history and how LBB came together?

I’m the co-founder of Let’s Be Brief (LBB) along with my husband and business partner Ansel Neckles. I studied Communications at University of East of London and latterly a Graduate Certificate in Creative Enterprise Management at London College of Communications. I have what you’d call a multi-disciplinary creative industry background, starting off in TV (Trouble / MTV), then I went on to run a fashion accessories label – Sexie Booda – which we wholesaled to stores such as Topshop, Urban Outfitters and House of Fraser. After closing the label I worked as a consultant in fashion and advertising before setting up our own agency. Ansel’s background is a traditional design/advertising background, he studied Graphic Design at Camberwell and worked as an Art Director / Copywriter at various agencies such as Tribal DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi.

We’d always spoken about doing our own thing and then one day whilst we were both in between freelancing gigs we decided to take the leap.

LBB is a cultural journal and creative agency, offering workshops / talks and you also have a monthly show on NTS – explain the ethos behind the organisation?

Let’s Be Brief (LBB) serves to connect the dots between culture, communications and business for creative thinkers and doer’s. We believe that modern day communicators – regardless of discipline – inhabit that space. It’s therefore important for practitioners that communicate ideas for a living, to understand that connection and take a critical approach to their work. It can make the difference between producing good work, amazing, relevant work.

Were you inspired by events you had been to yourself? What drives you – what are your values & what are you passionate about?

Like many companies, our entry point was problem solving. Communication: whether an illustrative or broadcast has an opportunity to enrich, inspire and provoke change. We felt that there was a lot of stuff out there in the design world that celebrates the aesthetic without necessarily asking broader questions of why or critiquing the culture. And that’s cool if you just like looking at pretty pictures. However, having the collective industry experience and perspective that we share, we’re keen to help shape a new narrative as well as a culture influenced by genuine ‘design thinking’ – a process being capitalised on by industries at large but not actually within the design / communications community.  

We’re keen to help shape a new narrative as well as a culture influenced by genuine ‘design thinking’ – a process being capitalised on by industries at large but not actually within the design / communications community.

How many people are in the LBB team? Do you have other roles outside the organisation or are you all full time LBB’rs?

The LBB team is a liquid community. We have several core contributors and we meet interesting people all the time who contribute on occasion. Let’s Be Brief is also a creative agency which we trade as twenty%extra. So we also work client side, so yep, we’re full time and we work with a network of project dependent freelancers.

Last year you teamed up with D&AD for Creative Brief-In, the V&A for Making it: Careers in Art and Design – tell us more.

Last summer we ran a LBB campaign called ‘State of Independence’ which celebrated independent thinkers and doer’s. We set up a pop-up island at Boxpark Shoreditch for a week, and only sold products from independent designers, record labels and artists. We also ran workshops and talks throughout the week. Kati Russell and Ella Scholfield from D&AD, loved the campaign and asked if we would collaborate with them for D&AD New Blood Awards 2014; which led on to us writing the D&AD ‘Make Your Mark’ brief, based around the concept of ‘Tell Don’t Sell’ – challenging young creatives to use storytelling to communicate their brand proposition.

We’ve also been travelling around the country with D&AD delivering our ‘Brand You’ workshop programme as part of the creative brief-in sessions. We run a few workshop programmes and were invited by the V&A to take part in their Careers in Art & Design event, at the end of last year. We really enjoy delivering, as it’s a great opportunity to meet new talent and the next generation of creative minds. The back-to-back sessions did leave is with a serious case of dry mouth, but it was all good.

Your upcoming Pop-Up School covers a variety of topics from time & project management to building creative communities – how did the idea for a Pop-Up School develop? What were the main challenges in making this happen?

If your job is to generate new ideas all the time, [we feel that] it’s helpful to have resource of inspiration and insights as well as have opportunity to learn skills. And that’s the driver behind LBB Pop-Up School.

The future creative economy is going to be more and more reliant upon a freelancer culture and independent businesses which share a commonality with start-up culture; in the sense that individuals will need to keep up with changes and developments in industry to remain relevant.

We thought it important to address some very practical skillsets such as marketing yourself and managing your own time. Running our own business means understand these challenges. We wanted to design a programme that touched on these issues. The main challenge in getting the LBB Pop-Up School off the ground was coordinating the programme in a short space of time. We brought in professionals that we believed would be great at delivering but who had never taught before and convinced them to teach. A few headlocks were required to convince the more stubborn amongst them.

How do you position yourselves amongst other educational offerings out there? What makes LBB different / unique?

As a multi-disciplinary team with a foundation in communications, culture and education, our main point of differentiation is the why and how we do, what we do. The Let’s Be Brief website is a journal and acts as an educational and inspiration resource. You’ll find articles about wider culture, politics to music. Our aim is to contextualise everyday phenomena and trends for modern day communicators; equipping creative practitioners with a new tool kit, for 21st century industry. We’re not obsessed with the too-cool-for-school business. We curate content and programmes that we think important and that we’d want to engage with ourselves.

Compared to other London based workshops of a similar nature, your prices are very affordable – who are your Pop-Up Schools aimed at?

Our target market is all of the above i.e. more of a psychographic segmentation than a demographic breakdown.

It’s about catering towards creative professionals who have an attitude and aptitude for learning and personal development and who see learning as a continuous process.

We aim to keep the programme accessible, and believe in the democratisation of education and critical thinking. We are now looking for sponsorship to enable us to do just that for the next round of the LBB Pop-Up School.

How does the NTS radio show further your mission?

Our mantra is: The Future is Clever™. NTS Radio enables us to have a global broadcast platform to discuss and feature issues of interest and broaden the narrative around ‘creative’ thinking. We tend to focus on a specific issue per show and invite in amazing guests to tell us about what, how and why of their practice and share their insights. It also gives us a chance to be ourselves in a very spontaneous and often hectic environment.

In one sentence describe a typical LBB experience – what can individuals expect?

Folks can expect to leave inspired, with a view to adding something of consequence to the creative / cultural landscape.

LBB Pop-Up School runs 21 July – 3rd Aug at Dalston Roof Park. Featuring a talk around the subject of: ‘What is the role of the 21st century designer?’ Tickets start at £10. Excerpts from this interview appear in Digital Arts: Come together to learn, published April, 2014.


Posted on Jul 8th, 14 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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