Our monthly spotlight on the women carving out their own spaces on the Rock, and how they did it.
Not many people can count Redbull and Twitter as clients. Even fewer could say this aged 21. But Georgie Cobbs is not like most people, where traditional career timelines and trajectories apply.
After completing a degree in animation at 21, her freelance career kicked off with a bang as she scored the aforementioned ad commissions. Within four months of graduation she was moving from her Brighton home to Gibraltar to work as a graphic designer for a leading betting agency, with no previous experience in the field or connection to her new home.
Fast forward four years, and she’s launched her own graphic design studio, Paper & Pixels, at the age of 25. Seeing a gap in the Gibraltarian market, where she found graphic design to be an afterthought service provided by local printers, she set out to create a studio focused entirely on modernising design on the Rock. The bespoke services she offers include branding, social media management, and photography, and she’s worked to help launch local start-ups, rebrand established businesses and designed for overseas clients too.
Her business is less than two years old, but she’s already got a mind to expand her team. It seems her generation Instagram-inspired, animated and fun take on design is gathering a loyal clientele base in Gibraltar.
Here she told us all about her impressively short rise to entrepreneurship, and what she’s learnt along the way.
I chose this career because…
When I was a kid and I’d watch cartoons on a Saturday morning or watch Disney movies, I’d say I wanted to draw cartoons, without knowing it was a job – and that was it. I’ve never been an artsy person, I knew I needed to make money, have a stable job, and that was what worried me about art. When I saw there were actually commercial careers in art it spurred me on and I found animation and graphic design.
I did animation at Westminster University. Animation is a lot more illustration, drawing and obviously moving images, whereas graphic design is print work, like for example magazines, posters, or online marketing – it’s all static, so placing imagery and text together. It was a different mindset and software for me to switch to graphic design, but I just worked really hard and learnt it all after BetVictor offered me a graphic designer job in Gibraltar soon after university.
BetVictor really nurtured me and taught me a lot, and I moved up really quickly. I was the for just under four years, but I got to the stage where I wasn’t using any of the skills they had nurtured me to learn – it was all very templated. The higher you move up in the creative industry, the more meetings you end up going to and the less design work you do – you’re just overseeing and giving your opinion, and it’s not what I wanted to do. I was getting loads of freelance jobs on the side, so it got to the stage where I couldn’t do both and I wanted to set up my own place.
I’ve been open for 18 months – I finished at my previous job on the Friday and I came here to my new office on the Monday. I was so ready and excited to come into it.
A typical day looks like…
It varies based on the amount of projects that are on. I’m normally up at about seven or half seven, and I always go to the gym first, just to clear my head. I don’t look at my phone, don’t look at emails, and don’t look at any screens. I just train.
Then I come to the office, I normally check my emails in the morning, check my facebook photo likes, sort out [client and local deli] LPH’s social media posts, crack on with whatever has been left from days before or whatever is most urgent, and roll on from there.
I probably have about one to two client meetings a day, especially with new clients. I always like to ask them to come in because it’s good to meet them, for them to meet me, because they don’t know if I’m going to be the right fit for them, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to produce what they need, and also it’s just good to get a gage of each other’s personality. And they can also bring any ideas they have.
At the moment it’s fairly normal, where I manage to get away from the studio at six or seven, but there’s been weeks and months where I’ve been working until midnight everyday, and waking up at six.
My career defining moment was…
There are two for me. When I came out of university one of my tutors passed on my film to somebody he knew at Redbull, and they asked me to create a TV advert for them straight out of university. It was on Channel 4, so I would be watching TV and it would come on – it was weird, and I was really lucky. From that they asked me to do a second advert, and that really launched me; I got to meet a lot of people and it propelled my freelance career.
The other career-defining moment would be setting up Paper & Pixels. I’ve never felt so much pressure in my life than having to design my own logo, because I knew it had to be right – and I’m still not 100% on it, because there were probably about 25 revisions of the logo that I did. I got to the stage that I had to just choose one because I was due to open!
The best part of my job…
It doesn’t get boring, and that’s the reason why I wanted to work with numerous clients – any in-house designer for any company must get bored of doing the same thing over and over again, unless you like routine. The variety is the best thing; it’s challenging and different every day.
The best feeling for me is when you deliver something and someone says, “That’s exactly what I wanted, that’s exactly what I imagined”. You’ve managed to take what’s in their head and create that.
In terms of being an entrepreneur, it is the flexibility I love. I am definitely in a position to choose; I can say no if I want to.
The worst part of my job…
It’s got to be when you pour your heart and soul into a project and someone turns around and says, “I really don’t like it, start again”. I’ve learnt along the way that you can’t be stubborn on your ideas; your client knows their industry better than you do so you have to listen to them. You have to separate your attachment to work and kind of just concentrate on what is going to work for them – if they say no, don’t dwell on it.
There’s that and then there’s the admin side of running a business, and the paperwork – that’s the worst bit for me because I’m more of a creative person. It’s really hard at the beginning to quantify your work, to say this image is worth so much. In my job there’s a lot of content on social media so people are always being bombarded with imagery from adverts and I think they often assume it takes so little time to produce. But it’s not when you put in the time for researching, staying up-to-date with trends, learning new software, buying new software. Those few hours you put into creating something actually turns into days and days.
If I could be anything else, I would be…
Can I just say Beyoncé? No, but seriously, I would probably have done something to do with sport. I’ve always been really interested in cars – my dad is a car journalist so I’ve always grown up with cars around me and I learned to drive straight after my 17th birthday. So I’d probably be something like a Formula 1 driver or a car photographer – a profession where I get to be around cars.
The advice I’d give to anyone wanting to go into this business…
I’d say two main things. First, don’t get attached to your work because ultimately you are designing for somebody else; you can design for yourself in your own time.
And the other thing is to stay current. The trends are always changing, like monthly, so you always have to be looking at what’s new and be one step ahead so you’re not doing the same as everybody else. I do this through collaborations and the Internet – websites, and also Instagram because it is so instant.