Following graduation from art school, Jack Walker entered a competition and won a creative placement at advertising agency FCB Inferno. He remained at the agency for eight years, working his way up to the position of senior art director, responsible for national campaigns for brands including BMW, Barnardo's and Sport England's This Girl Can.
In 2019 he moved to Who Wot Why as senior art director and was promoted to creative director, delivering campaigns for Spotify, Shelter and SkyBet. In December 2021, he changed to the role of design director and is now overseeing the agency's design studio and visual output.
Hello, I’m Jack, design director at Who Wot Why. Over the past 12 years I’ve been a designer, art director, creative director and pizza delivery boy.
You know, I don’t really love the term ‘a creative’, it’s too binary. I think anyone can be creative, you don’t have to learn how to do it, there is no right or wrong answer. Creativity is emotional, it’s a connection, an expression. I’m the kind of person that tries to see it everywhere. A work of art, food, music, clothes, technology. Being creative is all about looking at things in your own way. Using experiences from your own life and finding inspiration in places that mean something to you. I’m the kind of person that gets bored quickly, I’m easily distracted, and never think anything is good enough. Maybe that makes me creative?
I think it’s really important to have outlets that aren’t just what you do ‘for work’. I spend hours working on fake alternative album art as a way of relaxing, which sounds kind of odd saying it out loud but it brings me a lot of joy. Some people might work out, paint, read or write. I like to do this.
A lot of creatives fret over knowing when a piece of work is finished, but for me, it’s easy – it’s when the deadline has passed. Knowing whether it’s good is another matter though. Judging work is always the hardest part of the job for me.
Above anything else, the one question I always ask myself is “did that make me feel something”... anything at all. Was it funny? Shocking? Did I hate it? Did I love it? None of those reactions are wrong, I’m just looking for an instinctive response that goes beyond “technically correct, ticks the right boxes”.
If you manage to get people feeling something, then you’re halfway there. The tricky part is making an audience feel the way you do, or want them to.
From a design point of view it can be really hard to sell creative work. Because creative design usually feels wrong and different. And that’s what makes it groundbreaking. We can push copy around, make logos bigger and try different colours all day long, but as a whole it’s about an emotional connection to the brand or the product.
Creativity is always evolving. If you look at iconic work from the '60s, '70s and '80s, it’s still fresh – great ideas will always stand the test of time, we just have different perspectives and ways of consuming. So while judging creativity has changed, what makes ideas great hasn’t. We’re all still trying to come up with an idea that cuts through and becomes part of the culture.
I think that’s why my favourite bit of work to date is the Spotify ‘Listen Like You Used To’ campaign. We spoke to an audience who didn’t think it was for them in a way that engaged conversation and transported them to a feeling or a memory from their past. We didn’t try to sell Spotify. We sold how they used to feel about music.
A lot written about ‘creative’ habits focuses on routine – I get what they’re driving at, but I see it a bit differently. When I was 15 I had a golf lesson and my tutor told me that for every shot i should “Walk up to the ball, club to the sky, down on the ground, grip, relax, hit”. I’m sure Beckham’s coach said something similar right? It’s the routine that gets you focused.
So for me now it’s a dog walk, a coffee and catch-up with some of the designers and agencies I follow. It’s important, but it’s only a set up. You have to break out of routine and into subconscious to do really interesting things.
The actual work always starts with research, loads of it. Not ads or designs, but culturally relevant things, from music and architecture to films and children’s books. I always try to find inspiration in places that elicit emotional responses. I try to base my initial sketches and colourways on really diverse moodboards. This process can take some time, but it’s a really, really important part of the journey.
Sites like savee.it, Mindsparkle and Visualle are always open in my browser. But books on visual language, colour palettes from Japan, typography from the 1800s and even sites like Foundation or Super Rare are playing a larger role in my workflow these days.
One thing we don’t always talk about is how much the quality of our clients can impact our creative output. The best clients I’ve worked with are always honest, have a tonne of background information ready, and are up for pushing the best creative ideas with you. I like to think whenever we work directly with a client they become part of our team, and that’s exactly what happened with Greenpeace.
I come from an English/Spanish family, and I grew up just outside London. I can’t ever really remember ‘being creative’ as a child, but I know I loved art, puzzles and painting. I think I got that from my nan, she’d always have a craft box open with scissors that cut in zig zags and strange things like that. I was easily pleased.
I found formal education quite intimidating – tests and homework were never my friends. Instead, I’d find myself spending hours on YouTube learning how to use Photoshop so I could make my mates the best MySpace pages you’d ever seen.
That led to me working with some small local bands making posters and album covers. I was 17 and people would pay me to make things look nice and I distinctly remember thinking, is this a real job?!
I ended up at art school but I found learning by myself more rewarding. I honed my craft with a hell of a lot of practice: a lot of time spent studying other people’s techniques and studio websites, following online tutorials and, above all else, putting myself out there and pretending I knew what I was doing. I find the best way to learn quickly is to challenge yourself. Because that fear of failure is what can light a fire in you.
Another thing which can inspire you is having colleagues you respect . When you’re part of a team that feels tight, you want to do better work. You want to impress your peers, and help make your colleagues’ work better. There is no wrong or right way to get there and the hardest part is usually having faith in ideas. It takes a lot of trust to really do amazing creative work.