Chris Harrison – Creative Director – So, What If… Blog

Probing the creative mind #6 Chris Harrison

The sixth in a series of posts hoovering up the juicy bits from the minds of creative people. Copywriters, Art Directors, Creative Directors, Graphic Designers, Photographers, Illustrators, they’re an odd, mysterious bunch – or are they? Introducing Chris Harrison, Creative Director and Graphic Designer.

So Chris, tell me about where you work and what it is you do.
I work in Brighton at the rather imaginatively named ‘Harrison Agency’. We’re a branding and design agency. On paper I’m the Creative Director, but you can also add to that credit control, project manager, stationery monitor and IT person too. I try and bring a little creativity to all the roles!

What first got you into a creative career?
When I was a kid, I found myself staring at a tin of Quality Street one day and thinking I’d quite like to be the person who puts the pictures on the outside. Fast forward to 1991 after graduating from art school, I landed my first job at Saatchi & Saatchi, working on branding and packaging projects. I never did work on the Quality Street brand – the closest I got was working on the doomed rival to the Cadbury’s Creme Egg, the ‘Mars Egg’, with ‘Marv the Rapping Rabbit’ as its mascot. No wonder it bombed!

Bizarrely, my first work placement was at Saatchi & Saatchi, working on Quality Street. How did you land your first job with them?
After art college I set myself up with a series of work placements. At each agency I’d ask all of the senior designers to write down the names of their friends in other agencies. Armed with their names I’d work my way through the list, and rather cheekily say “so and so said I should call you, he/she said you’d probably be interested to see my portfolio!” It worked. One name on one of the lists was a Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi Design. I called up using my line, got an interview and then got a job. It was a case of right place, right time. They’d been reshuffling and there was space at the bottom – I slotted in and stayed for 6 years.

What’s your go-to starting point to get the creative process moving?
Panic. Followed by an acute sense of “Who do I think I am to be taking on such a challenge?”. Then I’ll start to read something, anything. I read reports, interviews, reviews, anything to get the inspiration started. When I look back at the projects that were the most effective, all of them started with an idea that sprang out of something I’d read.

A few years ago I did a project for London Sinfonietta – a campaign for their upcoming season of concerts. I started by reading an Arts Council report that said that London Sinfonietta were “hard to love”. To me that sounded like a negative just waiting to be turned into a positive. Long story short, we came up with the idea of “uneasy listening” for their campaign, based on the idea that London Sinfonietta aren’t for everyone, but for those that “get it” it’s a thrilling experience. To support the ideas we morphed exotic bugs with musical instruments.

Chris Harrison – Creative Director – So, What If… Blog London Sinfonietta

Who have you worked with along the way who has influenced you?
My first boss, Georgina Urwin, at Saatchi & Saatchi was a huge influence. She had a way of cutting straight to the heart of a brief and verbalising really inventive solutions. She taught me to visualise ideas in my head before committing anything to paper. She was bold with her thoughts and her design aesthetic too, and I like to think I’ve carried that on in my own work.

What ingredients make up the ideal client?
After an enormous budget and complete creative freedom(!), I’d say a good level of open communication, trust, and a shared creative vision. Trust being number one.

Tell me one thing you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to other creatives.
After 26 odd years in the business I still feel like I’m learning myself! I was thinking the other day that one important thing that has taken me a long time to learn is to chill the fuck out about client work – all aspects of it. Winning it, keeping it, doing good work for them, pleasing them, disappointing them, etc etc. I carried a lot of anxiety about “getting it wrong” in the early days of having my own business. Since I’ve lightened up I’ve enjoyed it more and done better work. So maybe the advice would be: “don’t be too hard on yourself”.

What three pieces of work do you wish were in your portfolio?
Damn, that’s tricky! I love the work of Jean Paul Goude, a French designer, art director, illustrator and photographer. His work is a lovely mix of disciplines and then applied to print, moving image and environments.

Chris Harrison – Creative Director – So, What If… Blog Jean Paul Goude

A more tangible answer might be anything by Peter Savile (maybe New Order’s ‘Low Life’ album artwork?). I also love James Victore, a US designer, illustrator and artist – maybe I’d choose one of his ‘Disney Go Home’ protest posters. And also Paula Scher, a fantastic graphic designer who’s also a partner at Pentagram NY. I’d put all of her work in my portfolio, but if I had to choose one project, it’d be the work she did for the Public Theatre in NY. Paula Scher is a genius.

Chris Harrison – Creative Director – So, What If… Blog Saville, Victore and Scher

What’s your favourite piece of work from your portfolio?
Our 2010 season campaign for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The idea came from a self portrait photographic project I was playing with that used colourful gaffer tape (that sounds narcissistic, but it was before ‘selfies’ had a bad name). Anyway, I showed the client my self portraits and pitched the idea of shooting the orchestra members in the same way. They loved the idea and it became a really successful campaign that went viral (again, this was before brands tried to force campaigns to go viral – ours happened organically). It earned the orchestra tens of thousands of pounds in free media. For me, it was a perfect mix of three things I love: graphic art, photography and whimsical ideas.

Chris Harrison – Creative Director – So, What If… Blog Saville, Orchestra Age of Enlightenment

What one thing would make your job easier or better?
I think more time away from screens. Technology has helped the industry to move on in lots of great ways, but I’m not sure that staring at a screen is the best place to do creative work. In fact, I’m certain it isn’t. I try and turn it off or turn away as much as I can. We’ve tweaked our working hours, too. Inspired by the Swedes, we now work a six hour day: 9.30–4.30, giving us a little less time at our screens and a little more time living our lives, and it’s had a very positive impact. We’re just as productive as we’ve always been, if not more so.

If you weren’t a Graphic Designer, what would you be?
A photographer and a member of Magnum. If you put me on the spot I’d like to be Elliot Erwitt or Harry Gruyeart, please. Either will do!

Thanks Chris. It’s really refreshing to hear that you’re addressing the work/life balance thing rather than just paying lip service to it. I hope the experiment continues to pay dividends. Oh, and keep on reading!

Visit the Harrison Agency Website
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn
Harrison Agency on twitter
Harrison Agency on Facebook
Chris’s Instagram page

You can read more creative mind probing here

Scriptwriter and Producer: Mick Sands
Graphic Designer: Riz Jaffer
Photographer: Alex Bamford

Art Director: Mick Brigdale
Photographer: Stephen Ambrose

Jonathan Wilcock, FreelanceCopywriter AND Content Writer.

Am I a copywriter or a content writer? Yes!

Let’s run this one up the flagpole

I’m in an industry that loves jargon and acronyms. They make us sound a bit mysterious and clever.

The buzz that’s been around for a while now is CONTENT. More specifically, there’s a swathe of twaddle on the web concerning the difference between the job of a copywriter and that of a content writer.

Same but different or different in a samey kind of way?

The Internet will tell you that there is a massive difference between the two. I have even read that the difference is almost as great as apples and bananas.

I am, and have been, a copywriter for my entire career. Many of my peers would tell you that that means I couldn’t possibly do anything else (or at least, not be particularly good at anything else).

Well, the fact is, I am also an Art Director, Concept Creator, Illustrator, Photo-Retoucher, Creative Director, Workshop Facilitator and Blogger. I’m also pretty good in the kitchen and behind a drum kit, and I got my map reading badge, but as I don’t get paid for any of these skills I won’t bang on about them.

Although clients come to me for all of the above creative disciplines, I seem to be spending more and more of my time writing for a living. But does that make me a copywriter or a content writer (or some kind of loveable mongrel)?

Open the box

We love to put people in convenient boxes, so what shape boxes does the almighty Internet tell us we need to put content and copy into?

Here is the sort of thing that you’ll find repeatedly if you Google ‘What is the difference between a copywriter and a content writer?’

“Copywriting is the art of selling people an idea, brand or ideology. Content writing is the art of creating content.”

“Copywriting means writing for the sake of promotional advertising or marketing. The purpose of content writing is to entertain and entice the online audiences so they stay longer on websites and engage with the brand.” Whoever originally wrote that one must be well miffed, because the exact same words come up time after time (and sorry, but here they are again).

Here’s my favourite: “A copywriter is a professional whose job is dedicated to producing copy, which is usually, but not always, shortform… a content writer can be anyone… not necessarily a professional writer, but someone who produces content.”

Most articles I’ve read, talk about shortform v longform copy, storytelling v optimising copy for search engines and ideas generation v journalism. Many start off by telling you that you’re deluded if you think the two disciplines are the same, go on to point out the differences and then grudgingly admit that a copywriter can also be a content writer (rarely, if ever, the other way around it seems).

Copywriter or copycat?

If you can be bothered to do that Google search, you’ll find that the vast majority of blog posts on this subject aren’t written, they are ‘curated’. I keep coming across the same sentences, paragraphs and even complete posts on different websites, the ‘authors’ can’t even be bothered to re-work them to put their own spin on things. To me that’s not content creation or copywriting, at school this was called copy-ing. By the way, I reckon if you want to be a curator, you should get a job in a museum; it would be so much more fun.

It’s all bananas

Not everyone reading this will agree with what to me is an indisputable fact – a good copywriter can also be a good content writer, because guess what, it’s not a case of apples or bananas, it’s more like selling the idea of a banana or selling an actual banana – they’re both ultimately extremely banana-y.

Shortform or longform, online or offline, if you aren’t able to entice, entertain or inform you’re not really any kind of writer, in a professional sense.

I’m probably risking a public lynching here, but I think ‘Content Writer’ may well be Emperor’s new clothes. “Ooh, look at me in my ermine-trimmed cloak and silk britches, I’m a content writer dontcha know.” (Mummy, why is that man at the cheese counter showing his bottom off?)

Argue all you like, but you can’t argue the facts

Fact: Clients pay me to come up with creative ideas. They also get their chequebooks out for headlines, strap lines, web copy, brochure copy, advertising copy, blog posts, video scripts, twitter campaigns and emails.

Fact: I’ve worked for Advertising Agencies, Design Agencies, PR Agencies and Integrated-Creative-Digital-Experiential-User-centric-Marcomms Agencies  – I can feel another blog post coming on.

So am I copywriter, content writer or contentoppitywriter (there you go, stick that in your marketing jargon pipe)? Well you can call me whatever you want, just call me! 07703 563241

Read more about Freelance copywriting, content creation and wordsmithery here

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Probing creative minds – Stephen Ambrose

Probing the creative mind #5 Stephen Ambrose

The fifth in a series of posts shaking a stick at the minds of creative people. Copywriters, Art Directors, Creative Directors, Graphic Designers, Photographers, Illustrators, they’re an odd, mysterious bunch – or are they? Introducing Stephen Ambrose, Photographer.

First off, congratulations on the recent AOP award wins. You must be well chuffed!
I know, I still can’t believe it.

So, tell me a bit about where you work and what it is you do.
I’m a photographer and my office is at home. I generally work on location in London and beyond/worldwide. I like to photograph people.

Were the AOP awards for your portrait work?
Both of the awards from the AOP were for one of my portraits (Non-Commissioned Portraits Single – best in category and a Discovery Award).

What first got you into photography?
My Dad was a keen amateur photographer and I was always fascinated with cameras. Then my parents bought me an SLR when I was 13 and my passion started there. I was discouraged by a careers advisor at school and didn’t think about photography as a career until I went to night school, where after two years, my tutor persuaded me to go full time back to Uni.

What did studying photography give you that just getting out there shooting couldn’t?
The course I did was very commercially focused towards advertising, design and fashion so it gave me knowledge of the industry and contacts. I’d say if you’ve got some sort of ‘in’ to the industry and your photography is outstanding, then just carry on shooting and get recognition from competitions and exhibiting your work.

What’s your go-to starting point to get the creative process moving?
Weirdly my mountain bike. There’s something about flying through the air in the woods on two wheels that frees the mind. Then it’s looking at what my peers are doing, what’s going on in my local area and further afield, depending upon how the finances are looking.

Who have you worked with who’s influenced you?
As a photographer’s assistant, I’ve worked with some of the best photographers in the country: Adam Hinton, Nick Georghiou, Andy Glass. My biggest influence has been Adam Hinton. I’ve worked with him for 12 years on loads of worldwide advertising campaigns, which has taught me the industry and how the collaborative process with creative teams works.

Any interesting stories shooting abroad you can share here?
We were on a shoot for the Ecuadorian tourist board with a TV crew. We did a week in and around Quito then we flew to Guayaquil. TV crews have very expensive camera gear, basically £100,000 in a box, so the production company and tourist board decided that we should be escorted by the ’Tacticas Especiales’ or GOE ‘Special Operations Group’.

We were met at the airport by a SWAT team with automatic weapons and escorted to our three crew vehicles, and were blue-lighted out of the city by three SWAT vehicles. Then once out of the city, two vehicles left us and three of the team stayed with us for the rest of the shoot. The funny thing was that we (the stills crew) had to try and escape from them every day as we were trying to capture a relaxed paradise, which was quite difficult with guys carrying automatic weapons following you around.

What ingredients make up the ideal client?
The most important ingredient is trust in the creative team. Art Director, Copy Writer and Photographer.

Tell me one thing you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to other creatives.
With regards to personal work, do it for you and no one else.

What three pieces of work do you wish were in your portfolio?
When I was at uni I studied the Vietnam war photographers and ‘Reaching out’ by Larry Burrows is a stunning portrait of the hell of war, as is Don McCullin‘s ‘Shellshock’. I also studied the American ‘Dust bowl’ photographers of the 1920’s and Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant mother’ was and is still a huge influence.

What one thing would make your job easier or better?
An agent.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be?
A fork lift truck driver. It’s what I used to do. An older colleague once said to me ‘if you’re not careful you’ll still be sat on that forklift in 20 years’.

Thanks Stephen. At this rate, you may need a forklift to pick up the hardware the next time award season comes around.

Visit Stephen’s website
Twitter @steambrose
Instagram @steambrose

Checkout the first in this series – Probing the creative mind of Mick Sands, Writer/Producer

Copywriting monster – Jonathan Wilcock

We’ve created a copywriting monster

Internet + Idle Hands = copywriting monster

The digital revolution is a wonderful thing. It gives us, the people, the opportunity to be heard. Unfortunately it also gives non-designers the chance to design, and non-writers the chance to spray their ill-constructed rants all over the place. Yes, we’ve created a massive copywriting monster that’s taking over the online-iverse.

Having said that; YouTube comments, weird forums, blogs and social streams are a rich source of the truly bizarre. For any word lover (purists please look away now), this circus of the gross, preposterous and poorly educated is a gold mine. Here are a few corkers that I’ve found whilst dredging the stagnant backwaters of the Internet:

The new philosophers

“i rly like the cover of the album, it looks very monumental and yet very futuristic and melancholic..and music…pfff it squeezes out diverse emotions while being consumed…i like the 2nd song the most…it kinda reminds me of some post apocalyptic technological era,it reminds me of me walking alone in this jungle of steel and strict lines,lurking to find love…”

“KLOCK HURRICANES TIME EMIT CLOCK HURRICANES TIME EMIT RAINBOW SIX INXS KHALOTEKKWINGEDKINGEDHURRCANES”

“What if Emma Watson+My Little Pony=(Daenerys Targaryen÷Earth)×Stephen Hawking=German Banana=YouTube?”

“They knew exactlly how to manage music buziness and markerter supozitoire suckers!!! Every single and every keys of sound are or  is connected  to reality of monster CREATIVITY!!!! love them!!! And pleas keep burniing some….Art is all, All is Art …”

They’ve used English to create an alien language:

“joh diz shitz like mking me wana move like eish , oi jahhhhhhh”

“i bet thay had a schrpt riters metting the moth befor the show stars and tuns fo rehrsals”

“Barny is bola kuku fart”

“it’s like that sometimes five sometimes it is 10 piquiry piquire”

“ZGW ZAW tray hamster ham wisps Lif”

Some have virtually given up using actual words:

“IM CRYI G O LKST IT AT TBE FUCJJG SYNOHUM ROLLS”

“Hh.?. Uy”

“bdvb xgcdcSrcrhcz gvdg glutinous, Xerox 7”

“Fnaffkfkääffflspūssydbekfeb”

Ok, so Dr Johnson is probably turning in his grave, but I can’t help enjoying this butchering of the English language. As a tribute to all the Internet trolls and 3am web junkies, and with sincere apologies to the master waffle-trawler and dissector, Dave Gorman; here are a few poems made from a patchwork of the finest detritus found whilst rummaging around in the slimier bits of the web:

SAD POEM
Make me wanna hurt myself

on a sheet o cardboard
It’s so poopy
The green one scares me
she has like the little creepy eyes
dogs or puppys can’t swim
tOo maNy wUrdz
Go away please
I can’t take anymore of this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HAPPY POEM
i like babybus

I like it very
I Love Rock Frogs
I Like music
I love it even thou I am 57 (fifty seven).
My mother is a doctor
I be doctor
I’m proud of my self
Judith Chalmers bought me here.

ANGRY POEM
Delete yourself

yuck grrrrrrrr
Trash,trash,trash,trash.
You stink
You naughty cat
no one treats the Pharo like that
go watch strictly you mor on

END OF WORLD POEM
Is anybody’s else eyes sweating??

My brothers sick
kicked oxidised
Mr noodle is wet wet wet
What about angels
When Shade is throwing shade

CONFUSED POEM
Why sheeps ? 😉
Why do people even trust that animal?
It’s not even a animal!!
why is there a moon up in the sky
what am i doing in here..
what is a baby crying
probly thinking “why just why”
how did I get here
robot???

WEIRD POEM
I’m batface

you read this sentence twice
Daddy pig his head his head when upside down
The yoghurt
lease make ore
The funny rhoticity of Non-Rhotic.
hello hello I’m Christian
I am now… trascended.

EXCITED POEM
waaaaaaaaaaooouuuuuuuuuuwww

jumping jumping jumping jumping jumping jumping jump
Oh my gush
Ooh Johny Johny….
better than a thousand teudhrtwffgdbftreetygf
Vroom Vroom Chugga Chugga Click Clock!

Thank you to everyone who unknowingly contributed to this blog post. Keap onn kkopyriting y’all lol ubaubaub!!!!!!!!!!! lmao bruh.

Read more about copywriting here:

Choosing a freelance copywriter
Copy Editing – get to the point
Freelance copywriter – passing the copy test

And here’s Dave Gorman performing a ‘Found Poem’ on double-yolk eggs

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk