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Get to know Relevance: Meet Our Creative Director Frances Martin-Isaacs

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in London and raised in South America, London, and Spain. Most of my professional life has been spent working in London, Canada, and France. I studied BA Law and IT at a time when the internet was just emerging outside academia. My independent study and dissertation were about art and virtual reality – the digital world has boomed since those ideas, although VR and AR are still in their infancy.

In February 2021, Relevance acquired my creative agency, Brand Spanking London, along with my business partner, designer Jemma Phayre. We have now grown the creative remit of Relevance to offer clients an elevated level of creative services.

Having spent 15 years in creative and design leadership roles I feel privileged to have worked with so much exceptional talent, both service and client-side.

Outside of work, I’m a traveller, mother, wife, snowboarder, runner, and yogi. I’m at my happiest outdoors or when immersed in art.

What is the role of a creative director in an agency?

My goal is to inspire and motivate the team and clients whilst growing Relevance’s creative capabilities. I put together project teams, curating talent for creative output that not only fulfils briefs but excites clients and audiences alike. I always strive to build strong relationships with clients and truly interpret their business requirements to create unique, remarkable, and elegantly creative business tools. Ultimately it’s about ensuring the creative journey is a pleasure for all involved. 

The creative is also the emotional part of the business – evoking through thought-provoking visuals and beautifully curated copy. I try to instil this positive energy into everybody that I work with, even when burning the midnight oil.

Describe your creative process.

The creative journey begins with understanding: understanding the motivation of the business owners and the business’s customers. Without a deep understanding of our clients and the broader market, we cannot create a successful brief. We do this through clear kick-off communication, and at this point, building a great rapport with our client is important.

It all begins with the creative brief – the more information and planning we can put into a project, the better the results. As designers, time is never on our side, so we have to work quickly and get the creative right the first time, and a good brief helps us do that.

Once we have a brief, a timeline, and a budget, we put together a team for the project.

Whether we’re shooting a video hanging out of a helicopter in the Maldives or building an eCommerce website, planning is the first step to success.

Next, we research. We research what’s already out there and what’s been done to ensure that what we produce is unique and better than anything else.

Then we start brainstorming and sketching ideas, working on mood boards, copy, visuals. This can be really fun as this is when the mad ideas come out, which are always worth exploring.

We present our ideas, hone in on the best, rework, finalise, polish, then create a final brief ready for output.

Projects might take a couple of days or several months, depending on the scope of work. We never stop until our clients are excited about what we have delivered.

Which aspect of your job are you the most passionate about?

Overall, although I am passionate about design and beautiful copy, it’s people that make me tick. As anybody will tell you, I love a good chat (but generally at a fairly high pace!).

I love getting to know our clients and working with and directing the fabulous ideas from our talented creative teams. Seeing it all come together is like a satisfying symphony of ideas, collaboration, head scratching (sometimes head banging) but all in the right direction towards seamless and inspiring creative delivery.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere; you just have to look around, keep an open mind and, of course, talk a lot!

What are your favourite kind of projects to work on?

I find it magical working with photography and video teams who exceed expectations. I also like a brand story that is beautifully told.

I think that branding is my number one passion – the homogeneity and beauty of an offer that can’t be resisted.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

Creative block is a rare occurrence as there are so many new ideas to be explored. The best way to get ideas for me is from people, and as ever, this involves discussion. Other sources are, of course, reading online, researching award-winning campaigns, looking at what the youth are up to, looking at the best of the best, what’s new, what’s old, what’s loved, what’s evolved.

What do you think makes someone a good designer?

Design is subjective; what’s good design in one culture doesn’t work in another, and this brings us back to the creative brief. Nobody can categorically say that good or bad exists when it comes to art because of its subjective nature (I wrote a 10,000-word dissertation on that!) – but we can say that a brief is good or bad. A brief needs to understand the purposes of the creative and clearly explain what needs to be achieved. A good designer is a designer that can evolve that brief and deliver its requirements (as quickly as possible!). A great designer makes the target audience fall in love with the proposition.

Which luxury rebrand interests you?

I always look forward to seeing what’s new from Burberry. This iconic British brand has always managed to stay current and adapt to trends and cultures. The new flagship store opens in Knightsbridge this month, and despite being a classic brand, Burberry embraces technology. I’m looking forward to seeing some engaging installations in the store. Right now, I’m loving their new pattern. 

Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement?

During my career, I have worked on a huge spectrum of work. I learnt so much working on the AON rebrand (one of the largest insurance companies in the world), and I single-handedly created and delivered their animated videos that were screened in every office foyer (an accolade at 24 years old). I now spend more time directing than creating. YCO’s brand rollout and ad campaigns were groundbreaking at the time, and people still consider them the cool kids thanks to the brand. I’m proud to have worked on that. I shot big air competitions in the backcountry of the Coast Mountains, BC, Canada for Whistler Blackcomb mountain and celebrity interviews for local TV, which was quite a departure for this South American / London girl. A photoshoot in charming Capri for yacht Quinta Essentia had huge success with front covers of magazines, and I often see our Meamina shoot photography still being ‘borrowed’ for use here and there. I planned that when I was 7 months pregnant, and Jemma had to fly to the BVIs in my place and did an epic job.

I love teaching younger people how to design precisely and accurately and think around the details and look towards the bigger picture – What’s the real purpose of this design? Who’s going to benefit? How can we make this offer unique and most importantly sell? But overarching everything – how can we make people feel today?

For me, it’s all about feeling; to create something that touches people’s hearts, minds and memories.

We hope you have enjoyed getting to know our Creative Director. Stay tuned for our next interview with Relevance’s Commercial Director, Niki McMorrough.

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