From a young age Lauren Atkinson spent most of her spare time drawing and writing. “I was inspired by my dad who is an incredible artist,” she says. “I loved watching him sketch out scenes and create incredible likenesses to people we knew in his portraits.”
Growing up just before computers and the internet became so prominent in everybody’s life, she had no choice but to use her imagination and be creative. On reflection, that’s something she’s thankful for. Maybe it’s part of the reason she’s now ended up a senior art director at Momentum Worldwide.
Before her family had a computer in the house, Lauren spent her time designing magazines, writing stories and illustrating comics, by hand. She knew she wanted a creative career from childhood, but it wasn’t until she studied Visual Communication at college that she got into the specifics and realised her passion really lay in graphic design and art direction.
“I remember being so inspired by my college tutor, who had famously created iconic album covers for bands such as Happy Mondays,” she says. “He encouraged us to explore design from its barest forms, using collage and photocopiers to create typography and layouts. I was drawn to this hands-on approach, and the tactility and personal touch that comes with that style of design.”
Lauren took that passion further, studying Design & Art Direction at Manchester School of Art. And it was here that she fell in love with design that goes beyond simple aesthetics. “I loved that the course didn’t just focus on making design that looks good but also creating designs and campaigns that meant something. I was always really interested in the conceptual side of a project, the storytelling and the reason behind it.”
Her first glimpse into creating brand experiences was during university, when she worked at a popular radio station as an event assistant. Hosting fan experiences with popular music acts and even organising music concerts on fans’ streets, it was here that Lauren learnt a lot about what goes into putting on events like that, from a production and organisation point of view.
After interning at various creative agencies in Manchester, she started her career at Momentum Worldwide as a junior art director – an agency where this understanding of brand experiences is central. In the early days she worked in a team with a copywriter creating dozens of retail activations for brands, including creating an award-winning AR treasure hunt, which was one of the first activated in UK retail. It felt too good to be true, she says. “I remember thinking this is too much fun to be a job right?”
Being part of a global network also provided the opportunity to expand Lauren’s horizons. She spent some time early in her career in New Orleans at a think tank Momentum had created with various other IPG agencies. “The idea being that they hired creatives from less traditional ‘ad creative’ backgrounds and tasked them with answering live client briefs,” she explains. “It was a hugely inspirational experience and working alongside diverse creative minds, in one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world, was a life changing experience, at least professionally.”
Nine years later, career highlights have included working on an interactive “Bandersnatch style” video with Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, creating a virtual school trip to an Alaskan rainforest during the pandemic with Microsoft, and recently getting to pitch for one of her dream clients. On the side, winning a Drum Chip Shop Award for a Stranger Things activation idea, was a fun highlight (“we just need to win Netflix as a client now,” she adds).
In her day-to-day work, Lauren is most passionate about “creating great ideas that are relevant to the brand audience, not the team making it,” she says. “I think simplicity really is key, the best ideas I’ve had, have come from a one-page brief. Ideas can get lost in over-complication, and when you look at the most iconic work in the industry, it always has that one, simple golden nugget of a great idea and a super clear narrative.”
Although social media has its downsides, Lauren couldn’t do her job without it. “It helps me to constantly research audiences in real time, what they are talking about, what is trending,” she says. “I find popular culture fascinating. I downloaded TikTok purely for work purposes. But don’t expect to find videos of me dancing on there.”
Mentoring young, emerging talent is something Lauren wants to make sure she prioritises – a couple of years back as part of a Momentum partnership with a local University, she joined a panel on the topic of ‘breaking into the industry’ as well as hosting a branded crit night for the students, called ‘Crit Chat’ – a speed-dating type portfolio crit, where they helped students to refine their portfolios and practice presenting their work. “It was rewarding to hear how much it helped the students, and best of all they really enjoyed the process,” she says.
In her spare time, Lauren enjoys creativity “in all forms,” from film photography to designing and drawing. “I find inspiration in a variety of different creative outlets.” And she makes sure that she holds onto the joy of creativity.
“When you’re working as a full-time creative, I think it’s important to find time to be creative just for the fun of it, or for yourself, because that’s probably why you got into the industry in the first place. Because you simply loved to design, draw, or write in your spare time. Not everything outside of work has to be a side hustle, sometimes it’s nice to just flex those creative muscles without a needed output.”