A career creative in design and advertising, I started out back in 1987, straight from college, as not much more than a tea boy at a design studio in Bournville. Spending more time in school wasn't for me. Since those very different times, I've seen this industry routinely turn itself inside out every few years and remained part of it continuously. From drawing boards to laptops; brochures and leaflets to websites and emails; from advertising to more and more and yet more advertising; from gut feel and long shots to big data and AI. I’ve spent my career working for small to medium-sized agencies in the Midlands for local, national and international clients of all shapes and sizes. I've conceived ideas and followed them through to be every kind of output imaginable – from beer mats to national TV campaigns and everything in-between. I do like to think I make a pretty decent cup of tea but, since those humble beginnings, I’ve worn lots of different hats: setting up and running artwork studios; orchestrating successful pitches for international clients against world-class competition; designing and project managing enterprise-level web builds; devising and curating complex brand roll-outs for public and private sector organisations; co-founding and nurturing a successful creative agency from nothing; being Creative Director of an agency with offices on opposite sides of the world and I’m always ready to try on something new. Most recently, I’ve discovered I’m a fairly handy speech writer. It's a journey, no doubt about it, and latterly it feels as if the industry resembles more of a science than anything approaching art. But it's the art that drew me in, and it's the art that keeps me interested. The projects here are my favourites of the ones I can remember and still have access to. Some entries are all my own work, some are the output of creative departments I have curated. They all demonstrate my creative aesthetic. I'm not attached to an agency or studio any more, I'm a gun-for-hire, as they say. A very good friend I used to work for said to me when we were discussing this move “Why don’t you just be Steve? That’s what people like about you.” So here I am. If you like what you see and here and want to talk about a project, give me a call on +44 (0)7881 955493 or email email@example.comLocked Pro Plan feature
Curator and arbiter-in-chief of creative output for this burgeoning agency with offices in Bromsgrove, UK and Brisbane, Australia. Superdream is a full-service communications agency on a quest to defeat normal. We exist to excite our clients and challenge what they think is possible. Driving traffic, conversions, footfall, engagement and exceeding expectations as a direct result. Superdream. Defeat Normal.
A senior creative role at this energetic and growing Birmingham-based agency with digital excellence at its heart. I brought my three decades of industry experience to the table, helping a young, eager team to continue exponential growth and generate brilliant go-anywhere ideas.
After leaving Wallis Tomlinson in 2003, I freelanced for a while. Before long, most of that work was with two other WT alma maters, so I threw my hat in their ring and became partner in new creative agency, Unsuitable. The company was owned and run by creatives. We had no 'suits' so we were 'Unsuitable'. A unique positioning that seemed to rub certain people up the wrong way. We gathered pace, working with Lend Lease, Sandwell Council and Subaru UK. The shift to digital changed how we needed to operate and, in 2007, we set up a sister digital agency. After much debate, we called this agency One Black Bear. Why? A long story I won’t bore you with here. At the time, it made sense to annex digital clients with scepticism as to whether ‘conventional’ agencies could excel digitally. We also had autonomous digital clients who liked that OBB were ‘specialists’ sitting on their roster of other neatly pigeon-holed companies. Good job too. The downturn bit like a vice in 2008 and digital saved our bacon. Stressful times, I wouldn’t care to repeat, which altered my outlook forever. We recovered slowly and grew our IM Group work. Isuzu and Great Wall Motor added to an expanded remit for Subaru. National Express, Marketing Birmingham and Honda UK also walked in the door. The advent of social media made us think and, in 2012, Shadow Giants came online. Leveraging social as a powerful and unique channel. Gaining momentum, National Express signed as our first serious retained client on their bus and coach business. Ground-breaking work for NHS Trusts helping to recruit nurses also kept us busy. About this time, Unsuitable rebranded as The Unagency, but being a digital standalone had ceased to be relevant. So One Black Bear became our ‘front-door’ and Unsuitable/Unagency faded away. So after 12 years, why pack it all in? Mainly, the desire to get back to being creative. Running a business, you end up wearing lots of hats. Some of them fit. Some of them really, really don’t.
I initially joined Wallis Tomlinson with the remit to establish a Mac-based artwork/design studio facility to eliminate the cost of buying this resource in. WT had a good creative reputation and seemed like a proper ad agency with an emphasis on producing award-winning creative work. Meeting the Creative Director, Geoff Tomlinson, at my interview confirmed that this was a place I wanted to work. I met my future wife by the coffee machine at this interview too. I said 'Hello', she looked at me, puzzled, then walked off. Charming. A pressure-cooker environment with some fantastic characters down the years. For a few of them, it seemed like we could rule the world! Winning regional, national and international awards was a regular occurence and we turned out some splendid work for clients like Subaru, Hyundai, Minolta, Bryant Homes and Rightmove. I was officially appointed Head of Design in 2000 and relinquished management of the Studio. I also became more and more client-facing, not only taking client briefs but also presenting my work to clients either one to one or to groups. Straddling the Britpop era, they really were ten rocking years, but recession and an ill thought-out acquisition by Palmer Hargreaves in Leamington Spa eventually ripped the heart out of the agency.
Set up studio from scratch. Wide range of duties from PMT camera operation to designing full-colour brochures. Desperate to escape my wrong turn to Cheltenham, I had an interview at Alliance and at the Army Careers Office on the same day. After securing the position, I had a fantastic 12 months or so here doing all sorts of cool stuff. This was my first exposure to a properly run ad agency with hundreds of black and white ads needing to be despatched every week to publications all over the country. Clients like Bovis Homes, Apollo 2000, Vauxhall and Computeach kept everyone very busy.
Set up studio from scratch. Produced a wide variety of print and multimedia-based design work. A very odd place run by a very odd man. I handed my notice in after six months with no job to go to. Not my best career move but, hey, it's all experience. I did do my first bit of advertising creative work here though. It was for a Husqvarna hedge trimmer.
I joined Hurlstons before finishing my college course as a 17 year old. On Victorian-era wages, learning from the teapot upwards, it was truly the bottom rung. Grounding in all traditional and Mac studio practices; PMT camera work, base board finished artwork, specifying typesetting, marker visuals, photographic retouching, assisting in the in-house photography studio and many other tasks for household name clients like Austin Rover, Cadbury and Mira Showers. It was all very draughtsman-like back then - pens, pencils, set-squares, drawing boards... but soon enough, Steve Jobs and his cute little computer would change all that. Surrounded by truly gifted, dedicated and lovely people, I couldn't have asked for a better start in the industry. Sadly, a failure to take the digital 'bull by the horns' killed Hurlstons... which is a crying shame.
B/TEC National Diploma in Graphic Design (Merit)