Industry Profile: Designworks Melbourne MD, James Sterling

By AdNews | 17 January 2017
James Sterling

Our Industry Insights Profile takes a weekly look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry. 

Today we head to Melbourne to speak with Designworks Melbourne MD, James Sterling.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

About 6 years.

In one sentence, how would you describe what the company does?

Strategic branding and experience design.

In one sentence, what does your role involve?

I oversee all facets of the studio, Account management, Strategy, Creative, existing client relationships and projects, and new business.

Within the last six months/year, what stands out as the company’s major milestones?

From a Melbourne perspective I look at the work we’ve been doing with Vision Australia (blindness and low vision services). They’re on a path of transformation as they implement the NDIS. What has been most rewarding is how they’ve embraced the power of their brand as an enabler for transformation with their clients and their staff. It’s also been an incredible brief to create a brand for an organisation whose primary audience may only partially be able to see what you created, it goes beyond just superficial logos and symbols.

Best thing about the industry you work in:

As a designer being able to immerse yourself in a different business every day is fascinating, learning about new industries, seeing how organisations run and meeting great CEOs and business leaders is a privilege of the job.

Previous industry related (ad land/ad tech) companies you have worked at:

Start Judge Gill (UK) / Virgin Group.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in three years time?:

I’m not one for making grand plans, if you work hard and do great work then things take care of themselves.

What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be. :

With clients I think the lack of horizontality across different departments is hampering their ability to deliver a seemless experience for their customers. Most (medium or big) businesses aren’t organised in a way that matches how their customers are seeing or using their brand. They might be great online but their physical experience is inconsistent or vice versa. It’s tough because you need to unpick 50+ years of organisational structure and rethink how your business works. I’m not sure they know how to change or meet the new paradigm. Ultimately they wont have a choice.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?:

I actually watched Married at First Sight – sorry.

Top networking tip:

Do great work.

My favourite restaurant for a business lunch is:

Kettle Black – It’s close and is pretty much the only decent place on St Kilda road.

My favourite advert is:

Photobooth Hamlet ad from the 90’s.

My must-have gadget is:

My Canon G16.

My favourite media is:


My favourite TV show is:

Only Fools and Horses.

The last book I read:

The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson

My mantra / philosophy is:

Work hard, do great work… the other shit takes care of itself.

I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc because:

When I was at school my mum brought me a book “The Graphic Designers handbook ” (1985 edition) One read and I was smitten. I have been ever since.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

Formula one racing driver.

In five years' time I'll be:


Define your job in one word:


What's your poison:

Jaigermeister… no really.

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