Creative Lives — Toby Roberts, junior creative at 18 Feet & Rising: “Learn how your brain works best, then go for it”
Following a five-mile cycle to work every morning, junior creative Toby Roberts arrives at the office with a “sack-full of energy”, ready to churn out a stream of exciting ideas. Having literally won himself his current position at 18 Feet & Rising as part of a competition the agency hosted to find the best young single creatives, he is thriving in an environment of constant change and challenge, where personal projects are actively encouraged. Continually refining ways to channel new concepts, Toby puts his best work down to collaboration and letting go of worries.
Junior Creative, 18 Feet & Rising (September 2016–present)
Freelance Junior Creative, Grey London (2016)
Creative, Ministry of Sound (2015)
Creative Placement, DLKW Lowe (2014)
Design Intern, Bow & Arrow (2013)
Creative Placement, Fabula London (2013)
BA Graphic Design, Falmouth University (2010–2013)
How would you describe your job?
I try to come up with as many ideas as I can, sometimes for clients, sometimes not; we’re encouraged to spend time on personal projects and share the things we’re up to, things we care about, silly things, funny things, anything. As a junior I think the most important thing is that you turn up every day with a sack-full of energy, and throw it at as much stuff as you can.
What does a typical working day look like?
I get up, walk straight out the door and cycle five miles to work. My ideal working day is full of surprises, which is handy, as I’ve never had two days the same since joining the agency. There’s always quite a few things going on at once, so you have to learn to prioritise. My work takes place anywhere, I like to move around when I’m thinking, I think it’s good to mix it up. Making happens at the desk with the laptop and loud music. And my working hours vary, which is great; I don’t like routine.
How did you land your current job?
18 Feet organised a competition to find young single creatives. It involved answering a brief set by the agency, then coming in and working on a live project for a day, before presenting work to the team. I just tried my best to turn up with big energy and present something I’d want to make, nothing too safe. They invited some of us back in for a placement and it all went from there.
How collaborative is your role?
Very – since I started at the agency I’ve worked with everyone here. Getting things trapped in your own head is the worst; talking to everyone makes everything better and easier. Many brains are better than one.
“I think the most important thing is that you turn up every day with a sack-full of energy, and throw it at as much stuff as you can.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Filling out time sheets is probably the least enjoyable aspect (although they are very important for us all getting paid). The best thing is getting your teeth stuck into a fresh brief. Riffing ideas is a really great feeling, there are always so many possibilities.
What skills are essential to your job?
People skills. Good relationships make everything better and more enjoyable. If you can’t speak honestly and openly to the people you work with, it’s going to be 100,000 times harder. Also, presentation: you have to be able to convey an idea with your voice, face, eyes, hands, feet, knees; every part of yourself.
What tools do you use most for your work?
A Macbook pro for reading and coming up with ideas, my phone for notes, the Notes programme, Word, Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, a notebook and A4 layout pad, a marker pen and a clicky biro (it’s nice to fidget).
Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance?
If you love what you do, there doesn’t have to be a balance, because it’s all good. Obviously it’s important to look after yourself, get rest and see people, but if you don’t love it you’re probably doing the wrong thing.
Inside 18 Feet & Rising’s London-based office
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I never really knew, I was quite a Peter Pan as a child, I didn’t want to grow up. My parents taught me the only thing that really mattered was happiness. What you do doesn’t matter, as long as it makes you smile. That was good advice.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
The Falmouth course was heavily weighted in conceptual thinking, so the transition over to advertising felt like a natural move.
What were your first jobs?
My first glimpse into the creative industry was on a design placement at Bow & Arrow [a creative growth consultancy]. They were great, really talented and all so hard working. I learnt so much in a short time.
“It’s really hard when you’re a student to know exactly what you want to do, but you never know until you try.”
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
When I was at Bow & Arrow, they suggested I might be more akin to advertising. I’d never really heard much or thought about it before that. They got me a book called The Advertising Concept Book, which was a great place to start. I think it was probably a nice way of saying that I wasn’t what they were looking for, but it really steered me in the right direction. The whole experience made me reassess design in the commercial world, and if it was right for me. I think it’s really hard when you’re a student to know exactly what you want to do, but as with anything you never know until you try… That's the best way to find the right thing. I just knew I loved ideas, and bringing them to life. After Bow & Arrow, I went and found a creative partner and started knocking on doors.
Was there an early project that helped your development?
I’m still at the beginning of my career, so I learn tons from everything I do.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Teaching my brain to worry less when trying to think. I reckon it’s the worst form of procrastination.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
I had no idea what to expect or how good it would be, but it’s definitely a lot better than that.
Could you do this job forever?
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
Make more and get better at everything. You can take it as far as you want. That’s the really exciting thing about it.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a creative?
Stop worrying. Ask loads of questions – most people want to help you. Learn how and when your brain works best, then go for it. Don’t stop looking [for a job] until you find somewhere you love.
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on 18 Feet & Rising.