Q: When you were growing up, were you always interested in design and creative?
Not so much design, but art. One of my earliest memories is of drawing, mainly recreating my own versions of the Daily Mail character Andy Capp. My interest for design started at college whilst I was studying A Level art and a friend mentioned he was on a ‘graphic design’ course. This interested me, and my love for design was born. But fundamentally, creative has always been within me.
Q: What were some early influences on your career choice?
To be honest, it was my interest in art that led me to an interest in design, and how art influenced culture. This influence on culture (and by culture I mean the world around us - be it advertising, cinema, magazines, life) then led me to be interested more heavily in the construction and meaning behind design and how it influences our everyday lives.
Q: Tell us about your first creative job?
My first role as a designer was whilst I was still studying design at Salford University. At the time I was living in Stoke-on-Trent, and whilst on a Greek holiday with my girlfriend at the time, I got talking to a chap around the pool one day who just happened to run his own design studio in Stoke. Fast forward 6 months and I’m working in his studio on a placement and fast forward another 6 months, I’m on his payroll. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! The role was great. It threw me in at the deep end with regard to working in a fast paced environment and I created some great work for local clients. A great first stepping stone in my career. I spent over 2 years there and am still in contact with all my old colleagues.
Q: What were some early lessons you learnt about creativity?
Just one lesson to live and breath by: think the opposite to whatever you think is the solution. This allows you to explore all avenues of opportunity when tackling a brief and often allows you to come up with something wonderfully creative (a suggested read on this is a book by the famous Creative Director, Paul Arden, titled ‘Whatever you think, think the opposite’. It’s a book I constantly refer to and must have read over 50 times).
Q: Tell us about your role with ClientsFirst?
As Head of Design, it’s my role to ensure we produce visually amazing work for our clients. Consistency at these high levels is very important to me as I’m a strong believer in putting my name to everything that we as an agency produce. I lead a highly creative and experienced team who help me to achieve this.
Q: How important is creativity in the professional services sector?
Creativity is important in any sector, but especially the professional sector. Any business that doesn’t sell a tangible product but a service needs to really emphasise its USP and have an exquisite offering for its customers. The experience it delivers has to be perfect along every touch point, and that’s where we help; by delivering creative consistency to our clients which allows them to shine.
Q: Does it come with any challenges?
Many. Daily. But if you don’t love and relish a challenge then life would be so boring, right? The challenge is to dissect a brand and find out what makes it it. The why, the how and the what. That way, the sector becomes irrelevant and it’s about finding the creative angle to answer the brief.
Q: How do you approach creative brainstorming? How do you generate creative ideas with your team?
Every brief is different. Therefore how we execute each one differs. There’s no secret to brainstorming, you just have to go with a spark, an idea, a thought, a word and roll with it and explore. Then, step away from it for an hour, maybe a day, maybe even a week. This gives your brain the time to digest and rest. Great ideas often come when you're not trying to think of an idea when the unconscious mind is at work, so take time to think about something else.
Q: What do you do for creative inspiration? How do you stay motivated and inspired?
It’s difficult to not be motivated and inspired by the people around us and the world we live in. There is inspiration everywhere. From the streets we walk to work on to the conversations you can have with a stranger whilst queuing to pay for your lunch in Aldi. As long as you look and listen and observe, inspiration surrounds us all… even down to the surreal conversations I often find myself having with my two and a half year old.
Q: What advice would you give to young people wanting to start a career in design within an agency environment?
Go for it. If you have drive and passion for what you do and the spark inside to want to create beautifully creative work then you’ll succeed. If this is you then please call me, by the way - I want you on my team!