Festival Blog

11 Jun 2019

Interview with Andrew Barraclough, VP of Design and Innovation at GSK

Katherine Fiona Jones
Interview with Andrew Barraclough, VP of Design and Innovation at GSK

Andrew Barraclough, VP of Design and Innovation at GSK, will take to the stage at Festival of Marketing to discuss why brands that use design to their advantage, will grow faster. We spoke to Andrew to find out a little more about his journey and how it led him to this creative role at GSK…


When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a furniture designer or maker as a teenager. I was good at maths and craft, less good at English. I enjoy making stuff that people keep and treasure.

Looking back, it is clear how I ended up where I am now: schools don’t nourish craft and creativity as much as they should.

Nevertheless, I was never going to be the world’s best designer. Like for a large amount of my team today, design and engineering go well together and this is where I sit more comfortably.

Each step of the way in my career path, I’ve unearthed a better understanding of what makes me tick.

Now, I’m vice president of design at GSK – quite a different role to what I had envisaged.

This role feeds my hunger for craft and creativity, logic and maths, business, and crucially for making difference to people’s lives.


What role do you believe design has when it comes to customer experience? How can people get it so right, but equally get it so wrong?

Design is fundamental to creating a meaningful and worthwhile customer experience, and user and service design are the starting point of creating an experience.

The problem is that many brands get it wrong by looking at bits of service in isolation based upon departmental silos or functions. This is especially true of larger organisations where design can act as integrator and cut across multiple siloes to create a joined up experience.

Take banks as an example: service was once delivered at a counter, but when call centres emerged, the experience was horrendous. Banks are now investing heavily in service design to create seamless experiences.

It is easy to create a fiefdom, much less easy to create a kingdom. Companies which have taken on user and service design are the ones who’ve joined the dots, a customer-focused approach that creates heroic moments across the customer journey.


What advice would you give those seeking to integrate design as part of their business strategies? Are there clear do’s and don’ts?

Design is often nesting in its own ivory tower away from the other functions of a business. The crucial thing brands must do is to weave design strategy into business strategy without making the business design-led.

Design has to be actionable against strategy, so the c-suite must think about all design levers to deliver change. Processes, systems, tools, internal and external resources, and comms plans are among the most actionable to deliver that change, quickly.

When I think of how design can help people, I return to the GSK purpose : do more, feel better, live longer. If my companies’ business and brand strategies aren’t doing this, then design is not delivering the right things.


When you started out on your journey, what obstacles did you face? And, what advice would you give those who come up against challenging situations.

I was lucky enough to start my career when it was still possible to get entry-level apprenticeships. This isn’t the case for young adults taking their first steps onto the career ladder, and I don’t envy them. In the creative industries, many kids are already incredibly creative at the age of 17 – so why do they need to go do a degree, when experience would benefit them (and our economy) more?

Nonetheless, one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced is down to my lack of university first degree. It’s sadly hard to be taken seriously without a degree, hence I spent the best part of nine years studying until I got a master’s degree in order to tick a box. But there does come a point, say after 5 years or so, where what you studied no longer really matters – it’s experience, expertise and personality – and this is what I look for when recruiting.

But other obstacles can be good ones. Everyone should consider moving into roles that scare them, where you feel out of your depth and have to continuously push yourself to learn and do new things. Sometimes this might involve taking on your own ego by taking a step downwards in order to go forward.


What are you most looking forward to seeing and doing at Festival of Marketing 2019?

I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can benchmark myself against peers and see where I sit among some of the greatest creative thinkers and problem solvers out there. 

This isn’t about ego. I’m just a very driven person, relentlessly restless, so I am keen to learn about bettering myself, my team and my organisation. It’s dangerous to be inward-looking.

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Bio - Katherine Fiona Jones

Hi, I'm Katie.

I'm a writer specialising in marketing commentary, research and creative copywriting.

Want to talk about content? Good, me too! Get in touch to discuss how I can help you.

e - katherinefionajones@gmail.com


Festival of Marketing

5 - 9 October 2020