Design Infestation creative director Sam Bainbridge talks people, brands and marketings

From bashing about a variety of strategic brand challenges to playing Tetris with the studio’s workflow, Design Infestation’s Creative Director Sam Bainbridge reminds us that there are real people behind brands and markets, and firmly advocates for keeping your marketing authentic and believable.


Sam spent most of her teen years hanging out at Big Bay in Tableview with a motley crew of surfers, a pile of fat novels and way too many chip rolls whilst waiting for a wave. After a few years of being a pretty lame surfer, she quit the board for a canvas and proceeded to do no further exercise for at least another 15 years.

Sam discovered her creative spirit at the Tygerberg Art School, where jewellery design and painting were two of her six school subjects. This was also where she spent countless hours generating, obsessing over and doing many a creative push-up until she was satisfied with the end results. Not much has changed in her process since then.


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It was the time spent here and later at CPUT, that set her on the path which would one day see her becoming Creative Director at Design Infestation.


After her studies, Sam spent 7 years in the publishing industry as the art director and designer at an entertainment magazine, before joining at Design Infestation as a freelancer in 2003.

After two years as an independent contractor, Sam took up a full-time position at Infestation and fifteen years down the line, the rest, as they say, is history. The early years at Infestation were a blend of many different design disciplines and steep learning curves, with a gradual shift away from publishing, towards a digital, marketing and brand focus.

We ask her what she’s best known for at Infestation. She laughs sheepishly and admits to being the one most likely to lose her keys, misplace her phone or leave her laptop at home. But after chatting with the team, we discover Sam’s actual renown lies in her love for her tribe, her interpersonal skills, and her ability to mentor, teach – and learn – pretty effectively. 


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Sam lives with her husband (also a multi-award-winning creative) of 21 years and her mouthy, creative teenage son. If you allow her to ramble a bit, she’ll fondly recall her 12 years as a fighter, pounding the pads – and a few unlucky people along the way – at a local Muay Thai gym. This, she reckons, helped her resolve many a creative challenge, and afforded her so many great perspectives.

Here, Sam shares her extensive experience and views on brand design, content creation and marketing:



brand, building, positioning, strategy, brands, identity

What exactly is a brand and who needs it?

It’s everything that comprises what you see – and often what you don’t –  of any product or service.  “We believe that customers relate more to a brand than to a product because a well-thought-through brand will speak to a human need or emotion that is authentic and to which they can identify. 

What recent brand work have you really enjoyed working on?

We’ve been working on the global brand strategy for 361 Degrees – the third-largest sportswear brand in China. They’re looking to replicate their success in other territories and have recognized that a brand-led approach is key to doing so. In a completely different space, we’ve also done some great brand thinking for the Cape Town Museum – a government-led initiative with a 5 year lead time – as well as for the V&A Waterfront and Indonesian department store chain Matahari.

You specialise in brand strategy: What is it and why is it important?

Defining who you are in the marketplace, what value you have, and how to differentiate your offering is a critical step on the path to success. Your brand strategy is your DNA – a framework that anchors all your efforts – and provides the means to a plan that will guide all your decision-making from an operational, supply-chain, hiring or marketing perspective.



design, brand, graphic, marketing

You guys talk about brand design a lot. What is it and who needs it?

The only way to stand out in a crowded market is to build a visual identity that can stand head and shoulders above the rest. That’s what brand design does: it creates a memorable, recognisable and pleasing interface, that then infuses your creative with the values and persona that resonates with your audience. It’s what drives people to buy into and associate with your product, event or service.

It sounds very strategic.

A “pretty” design is one thing, but if you want people to really buy into who you are, you need to employ a process of design thinking that has taken all facets of your brand, the consumer and possible marketing scenarios into account before you go to market. Strategic design is what resonates, invites and inspires action in people.

Looking at industries today, who do you think is most in need of your strategic brand design expertise?

I’d say the manufacturing, healthcare, engineering, education and research sectors could do with some help. They are touching more and more lives directly and it’s time to start showcasing who they really are and how they want to impact lives.



content, marketing, brand, design, creative, business

What about content marketing?

There is literally no industry that does not need authentic, believable and interesting content. Even funeral parlours need a good content strategy! In essence, it is about storytelling, which, in a best-case scenario, is one that is authentic and believable, and that helps people to connect with your brand.

How do you develop a content marketing strategy?

It begins and ends with your audience, not your business. It’s about what they care about, what drives and motivates them. Also, what makes them choose one brand, product or service over another. So it’s about being nimble, honest and thoughtful. About telling stories without trying to sell products. If you hard sell to your audience in this format, you lose them instantly.

What are you exploring next in content marketing?

We’re investing heavily in creating relevant social media content for our clients. This includes video, animation, blogs and, in future, webinars and podcasts too.



digital, marketing, online, advertising, design, media

And the digital content space?

Digital is just a means to an end. We look to create audience-centric stories that are worthwhile and that add value across multiple platforms and channels. This is where people can be found, and where our focus lies.

Who’s marketing campaigns do you like on social media?

I’m into sport and fitness content. It’s always fresh, always edgy, always relevant and I never really tire of seeing it in my feed. Some of my favourites are Puma, Reebok and Adidas, although Asics and New Balance also do a stellar job. Locally, I also like SportsScene’s content. It’s quite in-your-face but gets the job done effectively.

By the way, is print dead?

No. There are always people who engage in print. If they’re in your market, you should have a strategy to engage them. Think, for example of magazines and journals with niche audiences. There, the consumer perhaps wants a more in-depth read. Maybe they’re a collector of specific content. Or they just don’t consume content digitally, due to their age, disposable income or lifestyle.



media, marketing, paid, owned, advertising, promotion

What’s your take on growing your own media base VS paying for media space?

I don’t think it’s an either-or scenario, you need both. Spending more money on paid channels will give you more reach. While at the end of the day, even your paid media is driving interest back to your owned media eventually. And your owned media needs to be strong if you’re going to retain their interest at that point.

For both bought and owned media, get a strategy in place. Decide on your platforms, your content and delivery, and then stick to it.


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Sam Bainbridge

Creative Director at Design Infestation

Launch in a new area, boost sales growth and up your competitiveness. Unlock the power of simplexity with our award-winning brand agency.



Get even more pro marketing insights with our development manager Ferdi Rohrbeck, senior designer Anton Pople production coordinator Sheena Crowie. Plus: Discover all of our brand experts.


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We’re super proud of the brand positioning, design and marketing we’ve done for amazing brands around the world. See some examples of Design Infestation’s work.

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