People Profile: Executive Group Chair Eleanor Maclure on the importance of Chapman Taylor’s social life

Since first joining Chapman Taylor in 2006, Senior Graphic Designer Eleanor Maclure has complemented her design work with a deep involvement in various aspects of Chapman Taylor’s wider activities, particularly in her roles in the London studio’s Sustainability and Executive Groups. In this profile, Eleanor talks about her early love for design, her work in our Graphics department and her appreciation of the social opportunities on offer at the company.

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born and raised in Halifax in West Yorkshire, and always had an inkling that I wanted to draw and make things for a living. My mum was a teacher but also had a very creative side, while my dad’s background was more science-based. I was always making things and creating a mess, which annoyed my mum no end. I remember being at primary school and wanting to design chocolate bar wrappers for Cadbury’s!

When I was 11 or 12, I became very interested in calligraphy and studied for a diploma in it. I studied Graphics all the way through school and was keenly interested in photography too. I did a foundation course in Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art and then a BA at Nottingham Trent University.

How did you come to work at Chapman Taylor?

Towards the end of my final year at Nottingham Trent, I saw an advert for a position at Chapman Taylor posted on the course notice board – I applied and then had an interview (on the same day that I was supposed to hand my coursework in – I had to gain special permission to bring my portfolio to London). I started at Chapman Taylor two weeks after finishing the course!

I was attracted by the idea of working for a firm of architects because architecture is such a creative field. It was quite daunting, though – I had never worked for such a big international company before, nor in Graphic Design.

Tell us about your early experience at the company.

My very first role was assisting with a Stage D report on a scheme we were working on in Portsmouth – the report ended up being about two inches thick and I remember thinking ‘What have I got myself into?’! I also had to use PowerPoint for the first time, so there was definitely a degree of ‘winging it’ involved in my first few weeks!

After a couple of years, I worked on submissions for Lalesi Bay in Albania, and I was sent to Albania myself to ensure that the brochure was delivered to the client in person – the presentation was to be given by the client to the Prime Minister of Albania, and we wanted to ensure that it arrived safely. I flew over with a portfolio which was nearly as big as I am! I got a guided tour of Tirana to say thanks!

I also worked on submissions for both the Shanghai and Jiangnan Global Harbor developments, which were subsequently built and are now very successful – it is gratifying to see projects I worked on at Feasibility stage now thriving as completed developments. More recently, we rebranded Chapman Taylor with an entirely new graphic identity and a new website in 2017 – that was a major challenge but also very rewarding. The new look is now used on all our digital material, our design studio interiors, stationery, brochures, presentations and marketing materials.

You spent some time away from the firm to study further?

Yes, I studied for a master’s in graphic design at the London College of Communication from January 2010 to December 2012. I really enjoyed the experience – my major project was all about colour, and it led to my presenting research papers at conferences in Gateshead and Italy – so it was a very positive experience.

I then heard that Chapman Taylor was looking for someone to provide temporary cover in the Graphic department, so I returned on a freelance basis off and on throughout 2013 and eventually became a permanent staff member when the team expanded.

Chapman Taylor's brand identity was produced inhouse by the Chapman Taylor Graphics Team

What is your role in the Graphics department?

I support Head of Graphics Edyta Sipta in the day-to-day management of the Graphics team as well as leading when Edyta is away. I also pitch in with whichever projects we are working on at any given time.

Our work can be very demanding – many projects have a short turnover time and strict deadlines, so we sometimes need to stay late to meet those deadlines, although we get time off in lieu when that does happen. We work with all of the company’s global studios as well as with our Marketing department and various internal groups. No two days are the same, and it can seem like a long time if we work on the same project for longer than a week.

Speaking of internal groups, you are also a member of the in-house Sustainability Group. What does that in entail?

I joined the Sustainability Group in 2007 because I have a keen personal interest in environmental sustainability and I recognise the importance of responsible design. It was also an opportunity to get involved with other aspects of the studio beyond my day-to-day work and meet new people within the company.

Our role is to support our UK studios in their ongoing commitment to sustainable design, and we were instrumental in Chapman Taylor achieving ISO 14001 accreditation (which demonstrated that we had a suitable environmentally responsible design management system, in turn allowing the company to bid for projects with higher requirements).

We also gather knowledge and share it with our studios around the world so that everyone is up-to-date with best practice and the latest thinking. In this way, we encourage the highest standards of sustainability within our project designs.

Do you feel that the Sustainability Group has made a difference?

It has, both on a smaller scale and a larger scale. Small, yet significant, changes include getting rid of disposable plastic cups in the London studio, using more environmentally friendly cleaning products and massively cutting down the amount of paper we use. We’re continuously trying to improve, so we are looking at ways of reducing single-use plastic in our London studio.

On a larger scale, we have influenced how we target sustainability on projects, which obviously has an impact on the carbon footprint of those schemes. We are currently looking to make our Environmental Management System more user-friendly to make the process of incorporating sustainability principles easier for our designers.

You are also Chair of our Executive Group. What does that involve?

The Executive Group is one of the core internal groups within the studio – organising and managing key studio activities and themes such as social events, professional development, wellbeing, inter-studio activities, charity events, competitions which foster creativity and making connections with the wider industry. The Executive Group is now composed of four focused sub-groups – CT Connect, CT Social, CT Learning and CT Studio – all of which work collaboratively towards the same end, which is to better connect our staff at all levels of the company.

We operate across all the Chapman Taylor UK studios, with London, Bristol and Manchester each running its own Executive Group, working with the others as part of a network. We are also rolling out the format internationally to major global studios.

I joined in autumn 2017 and have been chair since autumn 2018, in which position I lead monthly meetings and oversee and coordinate our activities, liaising with the Main Board and helping to manage many events directly. I am helping to organise our three UK studios’ participation in the JLL Property Triathlon, for example (and will be running the 5k leg myself). I was also involved in organising last year’s Open City Let’s Build London event with (Senior Architect) Priscille Rodriguez, which we are running again this year, and helped organise our studio’s all-important and very successful Christmas party!

We have been central to our studio’s events to mark the company’s 60th anniversary, including the anniversary architectural walk which took place on 30 May and the celebratory drinks afterwards. Charity activities I have worked on include our Wrap Up London! coat collection and our Beauty Banks toiletries collection for people sleeping rough.

What aspect of the Executive Group’s activities do you get most satisfaction from?

I enjoy being able to introduce or promote initiatives which make a difference to the younger and more junior employees in the studio, involving them and taking suggestions on which events and activities we run. I also like the way in which we promote creativity and links between the various studios, particularly here in the UK – for example, I am currently helping to write the design brief for this year’s inter-studio design competition, which is exciting. It’s nice to be involved in organising events and activities which people enjoy!

How important is the social side of life at Chapman Taylor?

It’s great for morale within the studio, and people look forward to our events – our monthly Payday Pizza event, for example, has been a popular success. The events we organise, whether social, learning or creative, help people to mix within and between studios and teams – allowing people to get to know others with whom they do not work directly.

One of the things which is often remarked upon about Chapman Taylor is that, even when people leave for other places or jobs, they stay in touch with us – such is the bond that people can form here because of our strong social life. They often say that the friendships formed here persist in a way which doesn’t often happen elsewhere. That is a very gratifying motive for what we do.

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