Creative Lives — Playful concepts define the work of Wieden+Kennedy creative and art director Freddy Taylor
As a creative director and art director at London-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, Freddy Taylor develops clever concepts and fresh visuals, easily identifiable by their idiosyncratic – and often comic – style. Poached from KesselsKramer by W+K, he has recently developed Sainsbury’s Food Dancing campaign – if you watch the ad closely you can even spot him throwing shapes. Unexpected cameo roles are not the only way Freddy’s shown dedication to his job. Although not common, he’s stayed until 6am before. Somehow he still manages to fit in fun self-initiated projects, most recently a line of whoopee cushions emblazoned with Donald Trump’s face.
Creative/Art Director at Wieden+Kennedy (2016–present)
Sainsbury’s, Stride Gum, CitizenM
Designer, Wieden+Kennedy (2015-2016)
Art Director, KesselsKramer (2012-2015)
BA Graphic Design, Edinburgh College of Art (2009–2012)
How would you describe your job?
I work alongside two other creatives in a team of three. As a team we are responsible for devising the overall concept for campaigns of all shapes and sizes. Those concepts are then presented internally to the creative directors, where together we’ll choose which to develop. As an art director I tend to be more responsible for the visual aspects of the idea, however at W+K you have to be capable with the written creative too.
What does a typical working day look like?
It really depends on how many projects you’re working on. It’s not uncommon to be working on two or three at one time. It can be tricky to manage your time but the benefit of working in a team means you can share the load. I don’t really think there’s such a thing as a ‘typical day’ but my ideal day is when I’m getting to actually make something, whether that’s prototyping an app, being on a shoot, recording sound or working with directors. That’s when I’m happiest.
My working hours are sporadic. Normally I’m home by 7.30pm however that can vary hugely depending on whether I’m working on a pitch, how many projects we have on and whether we’re in production or not. I probably work about 10 weekends a year and the latest I’ve finished is 6am. W+K are great though, if you have to work the weekend or if you work past 12.00am you get those days back as holiday. Plus depending on what time you finish you can take the morning or whole next day off.
How did you land your current job?
After two and a half years of working at KesselsKramer, I was approached directly by W+K to come and work as a designer. After two interviews I joined in March 2015. In April 2016 I made the transition from designer to creative. My portfolio had a range of both art direction and design projects – The W+K design department are always looking for folk who can art direct or have a sense of that world.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
It’s split 90% in the studio, 10% on location or in campaign production. I spend roughly six hours in front of a computer a day.
“You have to have a thick skin to work in advertising.”
How collaborative is your work?
Very. Internally throughout a project I work with copywriters, creative directors, designers, tech specialists, animators, planners, project managers, account managers, retouchers and in-house editors and photographers. Externally, when a campaign is in production we’re typically collaborating with the best individuals or companies to bring every part of the campaign to life, in the way we think best. That might be sound studios to compose tracks, add effects or record voice overs. It might be working with a director and her or his team on costume and location decisions, storyboarding and of course, shooting. It might be working with a food stylist and photographer on a ‘food-centric’ stills shoot.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable is what you can learn from working with others and tactical briefs (a rapid brief or an opportunity that asks you to be responsive to something at that very moment.) The least is when a project falls through. On the rare occasions it does happen, you might have been working on something for three or four months and it gets pulled. I find that very frustrating, especially when it’s out of your control.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Our first piece of work for Sainsbury’s called ‘Food Dancing’. I worked on it from the beginning of the pitch with a huge team – I think almost every employee helped out in some shape or form –then through to final delivery. I’d never worked on such a large scale campaign before, working on print, TV, digital out of home, idents, tactical films and in store. I also star in it, as a dancer (not joking).
What skills are essential to your job?
Energy, being able to collaborate effectively, saying yes and being accepting of criticism.
Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance?
Yes it does. Whether you let it is another question. I love what I do and the people I work with, so often can’t help sacrificing personal time for project time.
“Having a basic knowledge in certain programs can help inform your thinking and make you a better collaborator.”
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
Arsonist. I loved setting fire to things.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Crucial. I studied graphic design in Edinburgh. The course is tiny (15 in each year) but by constantly working on multiple open briefs at one time it informed how I think and work today.
What were your first jobs?
I interned at NB Studio and a photographer’s studio over the summer after my second year of university. My first proper job was junior art director at KesselsKramer. It was after a three month internship, doing everything from helping in the bookshop, curating the gallery, designing and creative concepting. Doing such a variety of roles and tasks helped me get to know the culture of the studio and how or if I would fit.
“It can be tricky to manage your time but the benefit of working in a team means you can share the load.”
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
Danielle Pender of KesselsKramer and Riposte magazine got me in for an interview and persuaded the partners of KesselsKramer to offer me an internship. She’s mega.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
I’m trying to get to grips with front end web and app development and Cinema 4D. Having a basic knowledge in certain fields and programs can help inform your thinking and make you a better collaborator. Also although I’ve still got a load to learn, being able to structure an idea in a way so you can sell it into a client is something I’m getting better at.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Learning not to take criticism personally. You have to have a thick skin in advertising. Whether it’s your creative directors or the general public, you’re constantly putting your ideas out there to be torn apart, which they often are. However when praise does arrive it feels pretty fulfilling.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
Yes. At the beginning I’d heard rumours about how cut-throat advertising can be. Fortunately I haven’t experienced that yet.
Trump Cushion in collaboration with Nick Bell and Eoin Glaister, 2016; illustration by Mr Bingo; photography by Luke Stephenson; 3D rendering by Thomas Burden
Design of the KesselsKramer football kit. Photography by Jamie Stoker; styling by Daisy Azis; kit construction by Becky Stone
Stride Gum, Wieden+Kennedy. In collaboration with Mark Shanley, Paddy Treacy and Andrew Bevan. Creative Direction by Hollie Walker and Freddie Powell; directed by Lisbon Studio and Titmouse's David Nicolas
What would you like to do next?
A masters in art direction perhaps.
Could you do this job forever?
I think I’ll always be doing something within the field I’m in currently, but perhaps I’ll move into photography someday.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
Those more senior than me have moved on to become creative directors, running multiple accounts, all over the world.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become an art director?
Be humble, bring energy, keep busy on personal projects and keep learning.