Top Dogs in Digital Design Talk Obstacles & Innovation

Every month, The Dots take it offline and collaborate with a different creative powerhouse to put on a Portfolio Masterclass. The number one aim of this is to give creatives of all levels a chance to connect with one another and industry leaders (acting as the evening’s mentors) as well as get their portfolios reviewed.
Last month, we hosted a Digital Design, Motion Graphics and UX/UI Masterclass at AKQA, the global forcing house of ideas and innovation. Naturally, we couldn’t leave without taking away some golden wisdom from leading senior creatives...
We caught up with an inspring bunch made up of AKQA's Creative Directors Suki Heather, Pedro Eloi, Paul Ostryzniuk, Nicole Chen, the CD of Virtual Reality at Framestore, Resh Sidhu, Hello Muller's Founder Tom Muller and Neil Cummings, Creative Director, BBH ZAG.
Read on for more priceless advice from our conversations which touched base on big ideas like innovation, widening access and obstacles to success.

What will it take for new creatives to innovate your industry?

Pedro Eloi (AKQA) “I believe that this industry is being driven by technology and social media nowadays so the magic happens when you use these to bring an unexpected angle into the work you’re creating. Use the tools you know in a different way to create something fresh!”
Suki Heather (AKQA) “Always be open minded, progressive and interrogative in your thinking. Have the ability to collaborate with different disciplines. If you stay in your own box, it’s fine, but you won’t create anything new. Think Airbnb x Google.”
Paul Ostryzniuk (AKQA): “Don’t think of things from a design point of view, but instead from a problem solving point of view. The most effective creative is driven from a clear understanding of the problem in the brief. A pretty solution might not have the best impact. It always comes down to the brief. The brief is the north star you should always be chasing".
Neil Cummings (BBH Zag) "Refuse to be pigeon-holed. Don’t be in a bubble or the filter effect of the design world where everyone sharing the same things on social and looking in the same places."

What was the biggest obstacle you faced getting to where you are today?

Nicole Chen (AKQA) “Transitioning from designer to creative. I was previously mostly art working, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. It took 4-5 years to get out of that”
Pedro Eloi (AKQA) “ The biggest obstacle for me was the lack of opportunities to show what I’m capable of. It can become quite frustrating and even make you doubt yourself when you struggle so much to get into the creative industries.
Suki Heather (AKQA) “Labels and stereotypes are a frustration like designer = pushing pixels, like “women who don’t know anything about football” like “men don’t know about beauty”... it’s okay to be different, push expectations and what you’re expected to be. Go beyond your own capabilities!
Tom Muller (Hello Muller) For me, time and making choices was an obstacle. Sometimes, you can’t do everything you want to do; you have to pick an avenue and a direction to go down. I’ve always been full time with freelance on the side. I never have the time to do everything that I want to do! So use your time wisely. Make conscious choices and see them through and try to be flexible in long term planning”
Neil Cummings, BBH Zag “ I think an obstacle for many is confidence. I moved up quickly through Wolff Olins because I was confident and I was seen as somebody who could deliver on big ideas. This is because I talked with passion and enthusiasm from an interesting standpoint. It makes you memorable/stand out. People feed off it. You don’t have to be as smart as the smartest person in the room!”

Resh Sidhu: “Obstacles are things we think are there and convince us that we can’t do it. It didn’t stop me, it drove me. Turn that fear into a positive. From fear, comes courage. Fear people’s opinion too much. Whatever I created, if I created it with passion, it would be good. Don’t allow others to knock your confidence - let the work speak for itself”

What do you think can be done to widen access to the creative industries?

Pedro Eloi (AKQA) “ I believe that young creatives should get out there and make as much as they can with the resources they have. If people see you doing cool stuff, you’ll eventually get hired to do what you’re already doing on your own” Suki Heather (AKQA) The industry is getting better at diversifying skillsets, background and experiences. I would like to see agencies, independent bodies and the government talking about this in an open way. More discussion is important! Talking about it and investing in it!
Nicole Chen (AKQA) More networking is important, it’s been such a strong point of how I’ve got to where I am now. No matter how Junior or Senior you are, be a sponge. Constantly adapt to your surroundings. What you’re doing is subjective, not saving lives. Keep working hard, and learning stuff.

On Nicole's note, keep your eye on the ball with networking events. Keep checking here to spot our upcoming Portfolio Masterclasses. Meanwhile, soak up all of this advice and smash the next steps to where you want to be in the world of creative work.

Team Credits

Suki Heather

  • Creative Director
  • AKQA

Project Tags


  • AKQA


    • Design & Creative
  • helloMuller


    • Design & Creative
  • Framestore


    • Animation & VFX

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Suki Heather
Creative Director