From grad to creative director

The career path of a successful creative

Andrew Paterson is creative director at Embrace a sector-focused integrated, communications agency. In his blog he shares a bit about how his career has panned out and offers some advice on working as a creative.

Having initially studied Geography at Bristol University, not the normal starting point for a creative, I then changed tack and enrolled at the School of Communication Arts which was run by John Gillard and D&AD which focussed on ideas, communication and empathy. From this grounding point I’ve since held the belief that ‘the idea’ is the key to every project, and how it is expressed should vary according to how the audience interacts with the brand or product. This spurred me to learn about lots of different disciplines such as environmental design when working at Designhouse, advertising at Saatchi and Saatchi and HHCL, packaging at Coley Porter Bell, and moving image and digital at Lambie Nairn. Branding and brand ideas have been the thread through all of my jobs and each experience has enriched the other, giving me more tools to work with.

In my current role as creative director at Embrace I have brought all of these facets together by working for brands across design, digital, and advertising for clients such as JP Morgan, National Trust and Shakespeare’s Globe. At a time where design agencies are creating ads and ad agencies are winning awards for design this is where all these experiences are helping me to express the complete brand world.

Major Players has placed me three times in my career for permanent roles, so it’s even more satisfying to have worked on their new branding. I’ve benefited from their understanding of what made me tick and where I would flourish.

So my advice in a nutshell is:
  1. Don't conform to one particular discipline and search out exposure to different facets of the creative world. This has helped me develop and improve from being a keen graduate to progress to become a creative director. Be an expert but also a generalist.
  2. The more diverse your experience the more resource you can call on, and the more differentiated and fresh you will be, so don’t be afraid of doing some freelance work to broaden your horizons and explore new ways of doing things.
  3. Take heed of other peoples advice but follow your own star and don’t be afraid of not conforming to the norm. Speak out but listen first.
  4. Some people might not understand it or agree with you but try to foresee where your chosen field is going and then search out the best people to work with and learn from. Learn from everyone, never stop acquiring knowledge.
  5. And most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously. Stay grounded and practice professional humility.