When faced with heavyweights, we as students are often amazed when the intimidating image of an award-winning advertising master is actually a nice, down-to-earth person. Alex Taylor is an advertising goddess in her own right, one that knows she is, but is humble enough to not need to say it. Being ill the week previous I wasn’t able to come to her first talk, and when coming to her second one, I knew how behind just one afternoon away had left me. There is no nonsense with her, everything is meticulous in her explanation: “Art direction, any piece of art direction, must be justifiable. You must be able to give a reason for why you directed anything in anyway, and it must support the idea.”
And, of course, she is right.
Everything from spacing, to scamping, to layouts through to experimentation with media, everything must be thought through and planned. We creatives often forget that there is a craft to what we do, and it is only through constant practice that we start becoming proficient in it. Alex is the best example of this, she is always working to find out what kind of art direction works best for the idea. It’s not about pretty pictures or banging typefaces, it’s about getting the idea across in a way that people won’t forget. One afternoon with her changed my entire thought process in regards to art direction and thankfully it was for the best.
At Bucks today we were fortunate to have one of the industry’s most acclaimed art directors to give a masterclass in art direction, Alexandra Taylor. The day started with a exercise into the history of advertising, demonstrating to us the importance of having a sound knowledge of the industry we are going to work in.
Prior to the day Alex asked us to bring in our favourite press advert. As we found out it wasn’t about why you thought the advert worked well but to test you to see how much research you had done into the making of the advert.
Alex then took us through some of the industry’s most prestigious art directors and asked what makes a great art director? Common answers included “love what they do and not view it as work” “have passion and hunger to never be fully satisfied and look to always improve”. I also learnt a new attitude called ‘the new page’ by Helmut Krone, the famous art director who came up with the legendary mould breaking Volkswagen ‘Lemon’ and Avis ‘2nd best’ press campaigns. Which was about having the intention to always do something different that challenged the existing conventions of what an advert is meant to look like and stopped the reader from flicking straight passed it.
Alex then took us through some of her D&AD award winning campaigns including work for the British Army, which till this day the line ‘Be The Best’ and idea of challenging the viewer, is still used.
After lunch we were critted as if Alex was the head of art in an agency and we were her art directors submitting work. The brief that Alex had previously given to us was to re-art direct a Chevrolet press campaign. My campaign rendition was chosen in the final 3 because of the way I had adapted the photography to give it a more dynamic feel and sense of energy and speed. This earned me a nomination for the 2013 Tomato awards with Harriet Ronn also being Nominated and Yu Tang winning the prestigious Tomato Award.
We were then shown how some of the best industry art directors tackled this challenge and learnt some interesting techniques including Graham Fink’s recommendation of enlarging a photo until it becomes pixels which creates an unpredictable layout to free you up to then form a design from.
Overall, a really interesting day which we have learnt some valuable industry techniques about art direction. Thank you to Alex for coming into Bucks Ad School to teach us.
In December of last year the Second and Third Year had an intensive D&AD Masterclass session with Alex Taylor.
This was again, another ‘kick up the backside’ moment for a lot of people. But we like this. We know it’s a good thing.
We were inspired by her massive array of work on brands such as Silk Cut and The British Army. The day culminated with a look at a brief she had set us which was to re-art-direct a very mediocre campaign for Chevrolet.
What we didn’t know, was that some of London’s top Art Directors (including herself) had also done this brief.
After seeing the results of the top Art Directors our heads were held very firmly in our hands. With this sense of embarrassment over our own work when compared to the professionals, we were filled with inspiration to go out into the world and make better art directors of ourselves. Thank you for your priceless lessons in art direction Alex.