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Creativity Squared: Being an Optimist with Will Lanham

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Notepad’s lead designer discusses his calm and inquisitive personality, how he gets a project started and his parents influence on his work ethic

Creativity Squared: Being an Optimist with Will Lanham

Will is a senior graphic designer renowned globally for his work. The winner of two D&AD yellow pencils, Will is an expert in visual communication, branding, and motion (but he’s so humble you wouldn’t know it). He also cares so much about rugby that he starts sweating if England are playing. 


I would describe my personality as Calm & inquisitive. I love the idea of taking emotion out of decision making and I always ask a lot of questions because I get annoyed when I don’t understand the subject matter.

I am an optimistic person, but I do appreciate seeing things for what they are. So in a way, not sugar coating the reality of everything that is happening around me.

When it comes to thinking of creativity as something innate or as something you learn, I find it’s a little of both! Some people are born creative, and some people have to work really hard for it. I do think it is something that can be taught, it’s just a way of thinking really. If you practice creative thinking every day, soon you will just start to approach all problems with a creative mind set.

I love what I do, but I prefer to draw inspiration from different sources. Music, architecture, sport - these things inform my creative thinking as much as looking at recent successful branding projects.


To be able assess whether an idea or piece of work is truly creative, the criteria will always change with every project. Brand designing has such a varied mix of attitudes and pre conceptions - from clients and the design industry. Just because an idea/execution has worked for a certain brand in a certain market, doesn’t mean it will be transferable to another. And so you have to come at every project with as few preconceived ideas as possible. It does make it hard to judge if something is as creative as it could be, but as long as clients are happy, and we feel as though the brand has progressed from where it once was, it is - in my eyes - a success.  

A lot of the current criteria for assessing what is and isn’t a creative triumph seems to be based on the design trends of today. It is important to ignore short term trends where possible and instead look towards the future. All brand design work needs to be future proofed somehow, and designing to the tune of what’s ‘hot right now’ only means the work will age poorly. 


When beginning a campaign or creative project, I always start with a lot of research and conversations, making sure we (the design & strategy team) are all on the same page. Clarity is something that is underrated and overlooked. If you can gain clarity from clients for teams, you’re onto a winning start.

To help gather and integrate ideas, we use Figma extensively for creating stylescapes and sharing research and ideas. 

Starting every brand identity project afresh is actually such a simple and powerful thing you can do. To truly see the hidden potential with an identity project, you need to forget what you already know. Usually our conceptions are built up on biased opinions (subconscious or not). Looking at the cold hard facts in front of you - without any bias - will allow you to create something original.


Growing up, my work ethic came from my parents. My parents both worked in the NHS before retiring several years ago. They started work early, and finished work late. They didn’t leave until the job was 100% finished. They were consistent in their efforts and always always saw the positive side of negative situations. I think growing up with two parents that always put in maximum effort drove me to do the same. Thanks mum & dad! Explains why I’m so tired.

When it comes to honing my craft, I spent a long time not understanding a lot of things. Not understanding computer programs, not understanding why certain things were appealing to me, not understanding how to get from A to B. Not understanding how to cook well!! I hated that. So I honed my craft from learning as much as I could and never stopping. I love learning things, and your craft is honed along the way.

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Notepad, Tue, 05 Apr 2022 12:35:41 GMT