11th March 2021
Who on earth is James Huse?
by James H.
Fancy getting to know the KOTA crew a little more? You’re in luck. In this interview series, we’re asking our team just about everything you’d want to know. Today, we’ve got James Huse, our Head of Design, in the hot seat, spilling the beans on headphones and hot air balloons.
Who are you and what do you do at KOTA?
I’m James, the Head of Design at KOTA.
How did you get here?
Having worked as a freelancer and in a few different styles of company over the years, I know what type of work culture suits me best. The small, tight-knit team at KOTA and the massive benefits of remote working were two big draws for me, especially as I was in the process of moving out of London when I found the job. It’s pretty rare to find a small company that also happens to specialise in creative design, so it was definitely the ideal fit for me. I find myself enjoying the complex digital side of design just as much as I do the free-form branding work. Finding somewhere that lets me wear both hats has been really rewarding. Too many old school agencies try to pigeonhole creatives and I find it really stifling.
Three favourite brands and why?
Teenage Engineering – Their industrial design is some of the coolest out there, everything from their incredible audio hardware to fun handheld gaming gadgets. Their branding is super minimalist, but very distinctive – you can spot one of their designs with one glance. They recently made a tiny yellow Game Boy-looking gadget with a black and white screen and hand crank. Crazy, but so well made you can’t help but want one.
Bower & Wilkins – They’re a great British company specialising in headphones and loudspeakers. I use their big over-ear headphones everyday (all day) while I work. They’re 8 years old and still sound incredible. Definitely necessary to drown out a busy household/screaming toddler. They also made that iconic zeppelin speaker that you might remember from Apple stores back in the early 2000s.
Pangram Pangram – Great modern typefaces, very slick website and a great attitude. They let designers trial their fonts for free so it’s super handy for testing out brand typeface options for our clients. They’ve really tried to push the limits of type design while still making them super usable and scalable.
Good web design is…
If you’re a designer, it’s sleek, animated, creative and tells a story. If you’re a consumer, it just gives you what you need as easily as possible (even if you don’t know you need it yet). Hopefully you can do all of those things at once, but it’s really hard. The best designs straddle the line between all of those needs. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of a super cool idea or a great bit of inspiration, but if you find there’s a simpler way of doing something, then you might need to dial down your wild creative ambitions slightly. Ultimately, it boils down to your brief and your audience.
When you were little, you wanted to be…
It’s very sad, but I’ve genuinely wanted to be a graphic designer since the age of 6. No dreams of flying planes or driving race cars for me. I liked drawing and just asked if I could do this for a job, to which I was told, “be a graphic designer”. I never really changed course after that. It made going through education pretty straightforward as I knew the path I wanted to take. Shame I can’t sketch to save my life any more.
What do you geek out over?
I think it’s in most designer’s DNA to geek out over everything we use or experience. We get slightly obsessive, wanting to understand their inner workings while appreciating their quality. For me, I see those traits in my love for gadgets, music, video games and the technical aspects of design. That passion does have its downsides, though. It’s much harder to get shit done at home when you can’t un-see that slightly wonky shelf you’ve put up or get decision paralysis trying to find the best version of some mundane appliance that needs replacing.
Where do you live? What’s it like?
I live in Bristol. There’s a great atmosphere around here: super friendly, really liberal and very creative. I love having access to a vibrant city centre but still being able to go 20 minutes down the road to proper countryside. I feel like I get the best of both worlds. Sitting by the harbour on a sunny day makes you feel like you’re on holiday, but equally seeing 20 hot air balloons floating over your back garden never gets old.