Through the eyes of an art director: two decades with DG

February 22, 2017

By: Jess Crandon

1994 was an impressive year. It saw The Lion King, Forrest Gump, and Four Weddings and A Funeral hit our screens. We all made six new best friends in, er, Friends. Oasis released Definitely Maybe (and Blur released Parklife too). There were 67 mobile phones per 1,000 people in Britain, and they were about the size of your head. Sony launched the first PlayStation, changing gaming forever. And we lost Kurt Cobain.

But we gained Paul Harvey. In 1994, this fresh-faced graphic design graduate strolled into the DirectionGroup offices, unaware that he was about to embark on a life-long career here.

It’s 2017 now, and the world is very different. The latest box office smashes are set in worlds we’ve been to before, and loved: Star Wars, Harry Potter, the ocean (Finding Dory, duh). And we’ve lost more musical legends than we’ve gained. We all still binge-watch Friends, but binge-watching is actually a thing these days. Mobile phones now number 1,184 per 1,000 people – but yeah, they’re still the size of your head. Gaming is going through another huge change, and this time it’s virtual reality.

A lot changes. But we’ve still got Paul Harvey. And he’s here to shed a bit of light on DirectionGroup then – and DirectionGroup now.

So, Paul, what was DG like when you first started?

Well, I had hair back then!

The biggest thing was that we only had one Mac in the entire office [– half the office has just gasped, swooned, fainted, gone pale, etc. etc.]. We sketched out most of our ideas – then would meet clients face-to-face to discuss, or fax them the sketches!

There wasn’t any email, no Facebook. People just relied on fax machines and phones. And we all fought over the Mac at lunch, trying to check our Friends Reunited pages.

Paul is way too modest to say, but he was one of the driving forces behind getting more Macs and changing the way we visualised work.

*embarrassed silence from Paul*

Technology is changing everything – what’s been the biggest change it’s had on design throughout your career here?

Tech has changed pretty much everything. We still do a lot of sketching on paper, but the pace is a lot faster, and thanks to new tech, we can be way more sophisticated. And it makes us stay aware. We’ve had to evolve and grow faster than ever to stay ahead of what’s possible.

Suddenly you can do so much more. You can push ideas harder and further, and you can create amazing material. It’s exciting. And I think the best stuff is still to come – augmented and virtual reality is going to let us create some mind-blowing campaigns, in both B2B and B2C.

And what about the B2B industry – how has that changed?

It’s a lot more human now. Companies are happier to take a more relaxed, informal tone. We love making tech sound people-friendly, and it’s great that the majority of B2B marketing is going that way too.

Strategically, it’s a lot more pull than push. People want to read or watch more content now, and they want it on-demand and through more diverse channels. And as a business, we’ve taken on a new breed of person – people who are more scientific, and work with data and digital channels. This has been an interesting learning curve, learning how to work with these people and how to combine their work with our creative solutions.

Loads has changed. Is there anything here that hasn’t?

For sure. We had great ideas back then, and we still have them now. In fact, I’d say we have even better ones now, as we’re exposed to much more inspiration.

Because no matter what tech you’re using, or whether you’re using pen and paper, without those great ideas, a campaign is nothing.

Imagination and curiosity are still so vital in our jobs. Being able to have great ideas – and have them quickly – is key. And how that idea is rolled out, well, the possibilities are endless now.

And I can’t forget to mention the people. No matter how much DirectionGroup changes, one thing stays the same: we always have brilliant people working here.

And to finish off, what have you been most proud of since working here?

Blimey, there’s loads.

At the moment, Hive is a massive buzz. The packaging and retail point-of-sale campaigns were award-winning, and that’s always an amazing thing to be part of. It also gave me the chance to work on the brand when it first started to form, and I’ve been able to see it grow into the beast it is today!

Back at the start of my career, I loved working on projects for Disaronno Amaretto and Microsoft.

I got to direct shoots with some big names. To name a few, Sir Steve Redgrave and Jamie Roberts for projects with 3M and Panasonic. And when we did the launch material for Panasonic’s 3D TV, we did some awesome work with Avatar – and won more awards for it.

One incredible experience was doing the awareness for one of the first huge, global, live-streamed concerts. Madonna was playing, and it was for MSN. We did everything from Madonna-themed hats, to desk drops at the MSN offices.

So, there we have it. Two decades with DirectionGroup, courtesy of an art director who’s been here longer than ‘Friends’ has been on TV. A lot has changed, like the number of Macs we have, in case anyone was worrying. But a lot has stayed the same. We still have awesome clients, talented employees, and inspiring campaigns. And we still love great ideas more than anything.

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