Creative Lives — Oliver Wigglesworth, associate creative director at Music, on rising up the ranks

Posted 08 March 2017 Interview by Laura Snoad

Having started at Manchester studio Music as a middleweight designer, Oliver Wigglesworth is now an associate creative director. Whereas Music’s overall creative director has a strategic direction over briefs and sits on the senior management team, the ‘associate’ in Oliver’s title means that he’s an ideas-packed middleman between management and the small team of designers that he leads. He helps with the day-to-day running of the studio as well as getting the creative juices flowing for pitches for the likes of Chester Zoo, the Brit Awards and Manchester City FC (a dream client given he wanted to be a footballer growing up). He says the biggest challenge of rising up the ranks has been building the confidence to talk though work with clients, but the supportive culture at Music makes him feel like he’s making the best work of his life while simultaneously having a lot of fun.

Oliver Wigglesworth

Job Title

Associate Creative Director, Music (July 2016-present)

Based

Manchester

Clients

Chester Zoo, Brit Awards, London Collections Men, Henry Moore Foundation, The Christie

Previous Employment

Senior Designer, Music (2015–2016)
Middleweight Designer, Music (2012-2015)
Middleweight Creative, MARK Studio (2010-2012)
Junior Creative, Reform Creative (2009-2010)

Education

BA Graphic Design, University of Central Lancashire (2005-2008)

Website

Day-to-Day

How would you describe what you do?
My (new) position in the company is associate creative director. I'm still learning the ropes, but my main responsibilities consist of working closely with the senior management team on large branding projects, helping out with the day-to-day running of the studio and heading small teams of designers on various projects. And above all else, help provide the office bants (occasionally).

What does an average working day look like?
My working day consists of getting up at around 6.15am, with a short cycle to the local gym followed by a 30 minute stint in the pool or on the running machine. I find this is the only thing that will wake me up in the morning! I'm only a 15 minute tram ride into Manchester, so not too far really, it gives me time to catch up on the BBC news app. Usually, I like to get in early before everyone else (sort of the calm before the storm) and plan my day, the quietness helps me to concentrate. Very rarely is it nine till five (as Dolly Parton once sang). Usually, deadlines play a huge factor in how late we stay at work, for example sometimes we can get a phone call about an hour or so before the end of the day from a client who wants a brief to be turned around over night. I love those calls…

How did you land your current job? 
Luckily for me one of my best friends decided he was leaving good old blighty for sunny Oz, meaning Music were looking to replace him (not a tall order really!). At the time I was looking to move on too, so this was a great opportunity for me as the work Music were pumping out was stuff I wanted to get my hands on. All I had to do was beg my friend Jordan to present my portfolio luckily for me my begging worked. I suppose you have to watch what opportunities are coming up and hope for some good luck.

“There’s a certain attitude and culture at Music that wants everyone to produce the best work of their lives and have fun doing it.”

Fucking Apostrophes, 2015

Fucking Apostrophes, 2015

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Where does the majority of your work take place? 
Most of my working hours are in the studio, unless I’ve got a sofa being delivered to my house, meaning I’ve got to work from home. But seriously, depending on the sort of projects I'm working on I could be out of the office for a day or two, working on photography shoots or sat in one of our meetings rooms brain storming ideas. I'd say I'm probably strapped to my computer for at least half the day if not more.

How collaborative is your work?
It can be very collaborative. Depending what project I’m working on anything from working with illustrators, photographers, freelancers, videographers, animators, artists and filmmakers. But that collaborative approach also works internally, for example we were only working on a pitch last week and we got everyone in the studio together to help brain storm ideas, you don’t have to be a designer to be creative, ideas can come from anywhere, our office administrator and account handlers can also offer great insight and ideas. 

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
I'd probably say recording my hours on a day-to-day basis is a very mundane task. Especially when I've forgotten to record them for at least three weeks. The most enjoyable part of my job is the problem solving we do for clients. We look at the brand as a whole and utilise whatever medium relevant to communicate them with their audiences. 

“You don’t have to be a designer to be creative, ideas can come from anywhere.”

What skills are essential to your job?
There's a heap load of different skill sets that come with a creative job role. Anything from being able to communicate with clients in a professional manner and working under pressure in a creative environment with tight deadlines looming, to being able to spin a lot of plates at once and most importantly the ability to deliver your ideas to the client.  

What tools do you use most for your work?
I love working with a pencil (2B, slightly chewed) and paper (plain paper, Moleskin) this natural process helps me to visualise my ideas. After that it's straight on to my Mac (Retina 5k, 27-inch, late 2015, with a processor of 4GHz Intel Core i7). The graphics is a AMD Radeon R9 M395x 4096 MB – it’s a beast with no spinning wheel of death. 

Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance? 
Usually the balance is right, but depending on workflow in the studio that balance can tip. If there's a lot on and tight deadlines, then work can take over, late nights early mornings. Working in the design industry is not like your normal office job, working 9am-5pm, wearing shirts and ties. Music is a really fun and flexible environment to work in, there’s a certain attitude and culture to our agency that wants everyone to produce the best work of their lives and have fun doing it. Working at Music is like being part of a big family, we’re in it together.

Rebrand for loan and personal finance company Provident, 2016

Rebrand for loan and personal finance company Provident, 2016

Rebrand for loan and personal finance company Provident, 2016

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How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
At first a footballer (I mean what young boy didn’t want to grow up to be a professional footballer?), earning loads of money and retiring at an early age. Failing that, something to do with art and design. 

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
During education, especially later on at college and university I was lucky enough be taught by some great lecturers, who’s philosophy was substance over style meaning it’s all about communication not decoration. This has stuck with me throughout my career.

What were your first jobs? 
My first jobs were in Manchester at Reform Creative as a junior designer and at MARK Studio as a junior to mid weight designer. Here at Music I started as a middleweight and have moved up through the ranks to my current position of associate creative director. I was fortunate to do a gap year during my university studies and interned in London to sample agency life and a bit of the capital. My plan was to sample different sized agencies, spanning a range of disciplines. I interned at Ziggurat Brands (who predominately do packaging), smaller agencies such as The Formation and big branding agencies such as Futurebrand, The Partners, 999 design and The Chase. When I eventually graduated I knew what sort of field in the design industry I wanted to work for.

“There's nothing better than going out with your fellow work colleagues – people get to know you better out of the office.”

Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career? 
I interned at a studio in Altrincham, it was my first placement straight after university, and it turned out that my layout and typography skills were a lot to be desired. Thankfully, for me, two chaps took me under their wing and taught me everything I needed to know about typography and layout. They were very, very, very patient with me and I’m eternally grateful for them sharing their wisdom. It’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my career.

What skills have you learnt along the way?
I suppose wherever you work, you’ll always come away gaining new and different experiences, whether it’s good or bad. The most frightening for me was the speed of how experienced designers would knockout idea after idea, and I would sit there fine tuning one solution for days. Whilst being at Music my skill sets have broadened. Not every day is the same – I can work on anything from big branding jobs, ad campaigns to interior concepts, book designs and anything in between. It is the multi-disciplinary aspect of the job that I really enjoy.

What’s been your biggest challenge? 
For me it's been able to confidently talk through your work to clients. It's something that isn't really taught in education. It's a different set of skills, it can come naturally to some people, and for other it can take more practice.

Is your job what you thought it would be?
At the beginning, no. Nothing can prepare you for working in the industry. It's a completely different ball game from being a student, to have to work to real deadlines, being stuck at a computer for most of the day, having to think on your feet and produce a heap load of ideas in a short space of time. It was a steep learning curve at the start but now it's part of my everyday work life and I love it.

Poster for Talking Spaces, 2015

Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next?
I’d like to win the lottery and retire, but obviously that’s never going to happen, I don’t even buy a lottery ticket. Seriously, I can’t see myself doing anything else. I love the diversity of my job, it’s always fresh and different I think I’ve mentioned this before but it’s the multi-disciplinary aspect that keeps me going.

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a creative director?
Be enthusiastic, show you are willing to work hard. Be proactive, show you are willing to help out on anything (even if it's nipping to the corner shop for biscuits or making the twentieth brew round and it's only 11am in the morning). Most importantly, go to events, exhibitions, talks and socialise. There's nothing better than going out with your fellow work colleagues –people get to know you better out of the office. And never stop learning!

This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Music.

Posted 08 March 2017 Interview by Laura Snoad
Photography: Charlie Hitchen
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Graphic Design, Design
Mentions: Music

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