Mick Brigdale Art Director at St Lukes

Probing the creative mind #4 – Mick Brigdale

The fourth in a series of posts poking around in the murky minds of creative people. Copywriters, Art Directors, Creative Directors, Graphic Designers, Photographers, Illustrators, they’re an odd, mysterious bunch – or are they? Introducing Mick Brigdale, Art Director at St Lukes.

Hi Mick, thanks for taking part in this series of blog posts. Stretch out on the couch and we’ll begin. First, tell me about where you work and what it is you do.
I’ve been at St Lukes for nearly 4 years – technically I’m an Art Director, but I write a lot of copy, do a lot of presentations and look after some of the junior teams.

What first got you into a creative career?
Failing everything practical at school. They said – “perhaps Art College would be his sort of thing. But please, not here for A levels”.

What’s your go-to starting point to get the creative process moving?
A positive attitude is the only place to start. Whatever the brief (and I’ve seen some horrors), there’s no point in starting it if you don’t believe you can get something good out of it. It might not be the most creative end-result sometimes – but even then I’ll learn something from the process.

So, have you ever rejected or refused to work on a brief?
Only once – I was working on the Tambrands account (Tampax) and they asked me to redesign the insertion instruction leaflet. It just wouldn’t have turned out well.

Who have you worked with along the way who has influenced you?
Everyone. That starts with my Mum who had the idea that got me my first job. You take what you want/can from the inspiring ones (too numerous to mention by name) and you leave as much as possible from the assholes (again numerous in this industry).

What ingredients make up the ideal client?
Trust, trust and trust. Can’t do anything well without it.

Do they need to meet and trust you, or is it enough that they trust the agency?
It’s certainly easier to relate to people when you deal with them face-to-face. We once had a Korean client who we dealt with on conference calls. She sounded so aggressive – we were terrified every call. We eventually met her on the shoot in Cape Town – she bounded up to us with the biggest smile on her face and said hello, and how nice it was to meet us at last. She said it in the same abrupt tone we were used to on the phone – but in a split-second we realised that’s just the way she spoke. She’s still a friend today. So, I don’t think it’s essential to meet, but it helps.

Tell me one thing you’ve learned that you’d like to pass on to other creatives.
Always have an opinion (but it’s OK to change it).

What three pieces of work do you wish were in your portfolio?
Southern Comfort – ‘Whatever’s Comfortable’. As single minded as a TV ad can be. You don’t get more comfortable than a portly guy whose comfortable in budgie smugglers, with 70’s hair, strolling down a beach in bad shoes. Brave too.

Honda ‘GRRRR’ – who wouldn’t want it in their book?

I saw a spec book years ago and the first scamp in the book was a poster for Atrixo hand cream. It was simply a picture of (once-famous glove puppet) Sooty wincing, and a pack shot in the corner, Still makes me smile.

What one thing would make your job easier or better?
More time spent doing stuff with real people. How can our work resonate with them if we spend 10 hours a day online in a Soho office? Fresh ideas and perspectives are out there…

If you weren’t an Art Director, what would you be?
I’d love to own a gallery – but I’d struggle to sell anything I like.

Mick, it’s been a pleasure. Look forward to bumping into you on the streets of Soho, hunting down your next idea.

If you enjoyed this, why not try probing the creative minds of:

Alex Bamford, Photographer
Riz Jaffer, Graphic Designer
Mick Sands, Writer/Producer

Music and creativity – Jonathan Wilcock So, What If… CreativeChoonz

Music and creativity

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

So spake Duke Orsino of Illyria, in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Poor old Orsino, as if anyone could sicken of love or music. At the risk of getting a little too poetic, music is everywhere – a gentle breeze in the trees, the lapping of waves, the morning chorus; it’s even there when you’re queuing to pay for a bag of spuds in the supermarket.

Music and creativity

I love music almost as much as I love a perfect silence. Since the age of nine, it has been a massively important ingredient in the growth of my inner man/boy/thing.

When writing, I love a background of ambient sounds and mellow beats with the odd full-on bit of bonkers hardcore stuff to shake everything up. I’m not big on lyric-heavy tunes, as other people’s words have a habit of getting in the way of mine, but get the mix right and I find my work-level increases 10-fold.

Is it just me, or is there any proof regarding the correlation between music and creativity?

This article about music and concentration on The Independent’s site says that ‘Listening to music has been shown to cause the release of dopamine…’

Another article on Psychology Today is pretty adamant that music fuels creativity.

If you want to dive really deep into the subject, Dr. Simone M. Ritter and Sam Ferguson recently published a huge scholarly paper on the subject. If you want the quick version (spoiler alert), they say that “…listening to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music that elicits positive mood and is high on arousal) is associated with an increase in divergent thinking…”

Whatever the scientists say; besides tea, toast and a vivid imagination, music is one of the most effective weapons in my creative arsenal.

So what was on the menu today?

Amuse Bouche: Stone Flute by Herbie Mann – deeply chilled ’70s mellow jazz – hints of Blaxploitation with waves of freeform, ambient treacly sexiness.

Starter: Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe – subtle flavours of early 20th Century jazz noodlings, expertly blended with a rich tapestry of orchestral gorgeousness.

Main course: Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – an expertly prepared dish of fresh, organic sounds, dressed with a light four-on-the-floor air.

Pudding: Derelicts by Carbon Based Lifeforms – laid-back melange of Tangerine Dreaminess and Vangelis-type vibes, smothered in reverb and delay.

Cheese board: an eclectic selection comprising The Chemical Brothers’ Block Rockin’ Beats (creamy), FX by Black Sabbath (indulgent), Deadly Deep Subs by Dillinja (pungent) and The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds (smooth).

Coffee and brandy: Ambient 1: Music for Airports by Brian Eno – matured for almost 40 years, this is the ultimate indulgence.

If you feel inclined to share your ideal musical background mix to inspire creativity, please drop me a line at jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk – it’s always good to try out new recipes.

For more on creativity, read this post on copywriting.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Jonathan Wilcock freelance creative – getting creative with pumpkins

Getting creative with pumpkins


As a freelance creative, it’s important to have time to ‘play’.

Staring at a Mac screen and thinking about serious business problems all day will eventually suck the very soul out of you. Imagine only ever eating dry crackers. Oh how you’d long for a bit of cheese or the odd pickled onion now and again. Possibly a bit of an extreme analogy, as many of the projects I work on allow me to be very creative, but you get the gist.

Several moons ago, we were coming up with ideas for a Halloween-themed mailer. The final solution involved delivering pumpkins to prospective business owners, asking them to carve them and send in photos of their finished masterpieces to enter a competition.

What better way to persuade them to tap into their inner Henry Moores and Barbara Hepworths than having a go myself.

I spent the best part of a day up to my elbows in pulp and seeds. It was the perfect excuse to let my imagination run free and be creative for creative’s sake. No wonder nursery-age kids spend so much time smiling and laughing.

My advice to every freelance creative; switch off your computer every once in a while, get the plasticine, sticky-backed plastic, glitter and paint brushes out, and go for it. The work you do in your day job will be all the better for it.

Happy Halloween.

For more on creativity, check out this series of posts, ‘Probing the Creative Mind’, starting with Mick Sands

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Freelance Copywriter – should I work for free?

Freelance copywriter – passing the copy test

As a freelance copywriter, when was the last time I was asked to do a copy test? Let me think… probably never.

That was, until last week when I received an email from another freelancer:

‘I met with the client this morning. He has asked me to set a little task to determine the tone of voice he is after… In essence he wants his points made into a conversational tone that is understandable. He therefore would like you to “Describe what shark tastes like?”, in no more than one paragraph. He is looking for a style that injects some life into a dull subject.’

There is so much debate amongst the creative community about working for free or doing free pitches. As a freelance copywriter I fully support the ‘sorry I don’t work for free’ school of thought, but the client wanted just one paragraph and what a brief – I couldn’t resist.

How would a vegetarian know what shark tastes like?

I’ve never eaten shark and never will, but then again I’ve never taken a pregnancy test, installed a fire alarm, done a gym workout or owned a cat, but that’s never stopped me writing about these and a squillion other alien subjects.

So, as ever I set about the task with gusto and within a few minutes I was immersed in a new and exciting sharky world. Yes, the client only asked for one paragraph (a bit like tasting one olive before buying half a kilo at a French market), but I got carried away.

There are so many different angles I could take – do I like shark meat or hate it? Am I talking to non-fish eaters or preaching to the converted?

Against my better judgement, I ended up writing six versions.

Ranging from just one snappy paragraph (the actual brief) to mini food blogger-type pieces, the love of writing got the better of me. I’m a freelance copywriter, give me a break! So, what does shark taste like? Here’s what I sent back.

What does shark taste like? The long, fairly balanced, but ultimately pro version for foodies:

The poor old shark gets some pretty bad press. Not just because of Steven Spielberg’s ‘70s cinematic masterpiece, but because many people simply don’t like the taste. However, before you reach for another sea bass, let’s give this much-maligned creature another chance.

Firstly, you can’t eat any old shark. Mako, thresher and dogfish (yes, they’re sharks too) are the most popular species with aficionados. How you prepare the meat is also hugely important. Many non-shark lovers complain that it tastes of ammonia. Well, that’s because sharks pee through their skin and if not pre-soaked, admittedly it can be a bit iffy.

Hopefully I’ve not put you off at this stage because if treated with a bit of TLC, shark can be absolutely delicious. It’s great battered and deep-fried and perfect for kebabs, but here’s how to prepare the best shark steak ever:

Trim off the skin, soak your steaks in cold milk, cover and leave overnight in the fridge. Pour away the liquid and pat the steaks dry before marinating in soy sauce, minced garlic, sea salt, black pepper, chili powder and fresh thyme. Cover and leave for an hour or two, then brush the steaks with olive oil and place on a medium-hot griddle or barbecue for about 5-6 minutes on each side. You can tell if the steaks are done when the meat is opaque but still moist and flaky.

So, how does it taste? Well it’s meaty (without being chewy) like tuna, but much more delicate in flavour; like a subtle version of cod. If you’ve ever had swordfish, it’s similar, but shark isn’t quite so dense.

What does shark taste like? The shorter version for someone who’s not keen on fish, thus needing some persuasion:

Shark is enjoyed the world over for it’s meaty texture and subtle flavour. At just 102 calories and containing only 1.1g of fat per 100 grams, it’s also a much healthier option than chicken, beef, lamb or pork.

Deep-fried, cut into steaks or turned into yummy kebabs, shark is so versatile and such great value you’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried it sooner.

Shark, like tofu, takes on the flavour of herbs and spices beautifully. Marinate and grill with your favourite veggies and in a matter of minutes you’ve made one of the tastiest meals imaginable. Simply put, this is the fish that non-fish-eaters love to eat. Bon appetite.

What does shark taste like? The short, pithy version that tells it like it is:

In the wrong hands, shark tastes downright disgusting. Heavy with ammonia and tough as old boots, it can be just as bad for your palate as it was for Chief Brody in Jaws. However, if it’s fresh, soaked overnight and marinated in soya sauce and spices, shark steaks offer a cheaper alternative to swordfish. It doesn’t taste of much, but like many sources of protein, it’s how you cook it that makes all the difference.

What does shark taste like? The somewhat cheeky, chatty and very pro-shark version:

You know what people say about any meat they’ve never actually eaten  – “it probably tastes like chicken”.

Firstly, let me tell you that shark is nothing like chicken. The shark is the undisputed monarch of the ocean, the stuff that legends are made of. Chickens are funny little feathery things that scratch about in the dirt!

If you’re a shark virgin, you’re in for a treat. Fire up the barbecue and get ready for a meaty, man-sized mouthful with all the flavour (but half the fat), of pretty much anything else you might be tempted to throw on the grill.

Is that greasy burger as packed with vitamins, minerals and Omega-3? I don’t think so. Does that sausage have such a healthy, ocean-fresh flavour? I seriously doubt it.

A word of warning: if you’re planning on catching your own shark, be careful or it’ll be telling its friends how you taste.

What does shark taste like? The massively positive version from a shark evangelist:

Have you ever eaten shark? If you haven’t and you want to give it a try, then may I suggest you give Googling ‘what does shark taste like’ a very wide berth.

If I’d let the web tell me whether or not I was going to like the taste, I’m pretty sure I’d never have had the pleasure of savouring a juicy, freshly barbecued shark steak on a Caribbean beach, washed down with an icy Red Stripe. Mmmmm…

As you might have guessed, I love shark. It’s not as beefy as tuna and not quite as dense as swordfish, but it gives both a run for their money. It’s low in calories and fat and it’s ridiculously versatile. Kebab it, serve it battered with chips or for purists like me, keep it simple with a citrusy or spicy marinade and put it on the BBQ.

However, if you really want to know whether shark is for you, you’re going to have to dive in and find out for yourself.

What does shark taste like? The ‘never again in a million years’ version:

So, you’ve never eaten shark before? Well brace yourself, because you’re heading for stormy seas. The first and only time I‘ve eaten shark was in Florida. The sun was going down, we’d found a delightful fish restaurant – Boon Docks on the west bay of Panama City Beach. Then I went and spoiled everything by ordering one of the worst meals of my life.

The skin was so unforgiving, by the time I’d battled my way into it with a steak knife, I felt like I’d actually wrestled the beast ashore. Then it got a whole lot worse – the taste and texture! Think dry pork, but with the porkiness replaced by a muddy mix of urea, mercury and salt. How something manages to be both flaccid and tough at the same time is beyond me.

Of course, it could have been the chef’s fault, but this was a famous seafood joint that everyone was raving about. Either way, my encounter with a shark left me traumatised; I will not be entering the water again.

Freelance copywriter or mad man?

So I’d broken the ‘don’t work for free’ copywriter’s code, ignored the fact that the client only wanted one solitary paragraph and spent far too long on something that wasn’t helping to pay the bills. And I’d enjoyed every minute of it. I was starting to have doubts, had I gone ever so slightly mad?

Then yesterday I received another email:

‘I’ve heard back from my client who said… “it’s gotta be Jonathan:)  A very good effort and showed versatility and thinking about it from different angles”
So the job is yours!’

Now, I won’t be making a habit of doing copy tests or free pitches (and I definitely won’t be eating shark), but where there’s mutual respect and a great creative challenge, anything’s possible.

For more on copywriting, read:

Freelance copywriting, content creation and wordsmithery

Website copywriting

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk