In search of wonder: JDJ Creative backs Lifetime Achievement Award at Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards
It was 2012 and an infographic for a large venture capital firm was on display in New York’s Times Square.
From their office, business leaders at another large corporate were struck by what they saw and went in search of its creator.
Via the ad booking company in Oregon, they were put in touch with a small Waterbeach-based design agency called JDJ Creative – and a new partnership was born.
The company has grown organically ever since, quietly working behind the scenes with companies from start-ups and scale-ups to global brands and household names, including the likes of EY and the University of Cambridge.
Now, JDJ is breaking cover to tell its own story, while teaming up with the Cambridge Independent to launch an exciting new award.
The ‘In Search of Wonder Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards will go to an individual whose work has had a formidable and inspirational impact.
A panel of experts from multiple fields will determine who will earn the inaugural award, which will be presented at our ceremony this spring. The title for the award is inspired by JDJ’s newly-launched campaign, In Search of Wonder, which will itself celebrate the work of individuals who dared to wonder – and broke new ground by doing so.
“In Search of Wonder was inspired by people who have changed the world,” explains Mario Prelorenzo, JDJ’s managing director.
“Wonder mapped the oceans, gave birth to mathematics… we’re surrounded by this, as we’ve been fortunate to work with Cambridge University over several years and also with companies from start-ups to global tier one financial companies in Silicon Valley.
“We noticed how the people we worked with had such passion for what they were doing.
“Some of the people at the university we work with, for example, have been there for decades and have really influenced so many aspects of science and technology.”
Charlene Waterworth, JDJ’s brand and marketing strategy director, adds: “Our clients are always looking and questioning and trying to do the next great thing. There are so many people in Cambridge like that.
“It’s why we talk about being in search of wonder. The campaign is in infancy, but we want it to be not just about our clients, but a celebration in general.”
Within this, JDJ will celebrate the power of design in innovation.
“There is amazing UX [user experience] design and product design here in Cambridge – it’s not just in London,” notes Charlene.
“We want to place Cambridge on the map for design,” adds Mario.
And so it should be. No one who has witnessed CMR Surgical’s Versius robot, for example, can fail to be impressed by its elegance. Representing perfect form allied to function, it is now changing minimal access surgery around the globe.
JDJ will build a microsite of case studies and profiles, and plans videos and social media activity around its theme.
Many of the company’s own clients remain under wraps due to confidentiality agreements.
“If we look at the make-up of clients, it ranges from larger corporates and venture capital companies in Silicon Valley, to Cambridge University, to start-ups. One of the things that link them is innovation,” says Charlene.
The company groups its activities around the themes of design, data and digital.
“We deliver graphic design, user interface and UX design, website design, brand design and strategy, marketing strategy – everything you would expect from a full service design agency,” says Charlene.
Mario adds: “The majority of our work comes from creating thought leadership campaigns, which can come under many different names, like white papers.
“We help them to scale that content, so they are dissected into social panels and video interviews and we get the reports out there. We get involved in many aspects of our clients’ brands. We’ve had really long-term relationships with many of them. Sometimes people go from one large corporate to another and they take us with them.”
JDJ now employs 10 people, based at Stirling House on Cambridge Innovation Park in Waterbeach. But it began as a one-person operation in 2008.
“It was started by my wife, Jean,” says Mario. “JDJ began as Jean’s Day Job. I was busy designing for record labels at the time, but when I joined the team in 2011 I couldn’t go to meetings as Jean’s Day Job, so we changed to JDJ Creative!”
The ethos of the company has remained in place since the beginning.
“We are always exploring what the best medium is to tell a particular story,” explains Jean, who is now the company’s creative director. “For us, it’s about who we are designing for and attaching the right medium to it. It’s about what will work well for your audience.”
This approach impressed Charlene, who enlisted JDJ’s help when working for her previous companies.
“One of the reasons I remained very loyal is that they took the time to understand very complex information,” she recalls. “We work with banks, for example, that specialise in venture capital and high growth tech. Their clients are deep tech and take a lot of understanding.
“I think JDJ is one of the best kept secrets in Cambridge when it comes to design agencies. Now we are looking at how to build the brand and make it bigger, and get the word out that there is this skill-set here.”
If you want to suggest a company or individual who should be celebrated in the In Search of Wonder campaign, contact JDJ by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to suggest an individual worthy of consideration for the In Search of Wonder Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards, get in touch with the editor, Paul Brackley, at email@example.com.
Nominations for all other categories are now closed.
‘Design is a language’
Many of us will appreciate good design when we see it. But why is it so important for companies looking to convey their message?
“People don’t have time,” answers Jean. “We have developed a bit of a scannable approach to information. That’s where design helps, through colour or typography and – something very underrated in design – the actual copy that goes with it.
“A lot of time people will write the copy themselves, but we try to encourage them to use a copywriter. We are fortunate with Antony [Sore] in our team because he has a journalism background.”
Antony says: “Design is a language. It’s a way of communicating which complements and enriches the words on a page.”
“I’ve had to say to CEOs in the past, do not underestimate the power of good design,” adds Charlene. “You can’t communicate clearly without good design.
“What Mario, Jean and the team does is not only condense a message but make it so visually appealing that people want to read it. It’s extremely important.
“We create a lot of pitch decks for clients going for funding. They come to us to make sure their message gets across to potential investors.”
Mario recalls: “Newspaper design is brilliant, because of the approach to typography and hierarchy.
“When we were first approached by financial institutions, their documents looked like Word documents.
“When we took these Word documents and started creating this hierarchy, we had departments getting in touch saying ‘the numbers aren’t right and we need to adjust them’.
“It was very interesting because it showed that before, people weren’t really reading them! So we look for a certain mindset when we hire designers. How do they approach information?”