2016 MullenLowe NOVA winner Sarah Craske, Biological Hermeneutics

Sponsored / Miscellaneous

MullenLowe Group’s Global Creative Officer José Miguel Sokoloff on judging CSM’s degree shows

London art school Central Saint Martins is name-checked the world over as a creative incubator, bringing to life the industry’s best known talent and counting the likes of Stella McCartney and Jarvis Cocker as alumni.

Flying a flag for the school’s bold, brave and best creative thinkers is marketing communications agency MullenLowe Group, which this year returns to Granary Square for the seventh time to sponsor CSM’s final degree shows and run its own competition in the form of the MullenLowe NOVA Awards.

Sifting through the work of over 1,300 students, course tutors are currently in the tricky process of nominating 40 stand-out students from the 20 courses taking part in Show One and Show Two across fine art, photography, art, science and more to be announced on 25 May. Then, from that list of 40, five prizes will be awarded by a panel of judges which will this year include It’s Nice That alongside industry experts, chief curator at the design museum Justin McGuirk, celebrated artist Mark Titchner and president of MullenLowe Group’s global creative council José Miguel Sokoloff. There will be one MullenLowe NOVA Award winner, two runners up and a Unilever Sustain-Ability Award winner. A people’s choice award will come in the form of YourNOVA, where people can get involved and vote online for their favourite piece of shortlisted work.

As MullenLowe get ready to judge the long list of students who have caught the attention of the course tutors at CSM, we spoke to José Miguel Sokoloff to get the inside scoop on the judging process.


2016 YourNOVA Winner Lucie Davis, Contemporary Jewellery

Tell us about the relationship between MullenLowe Group and CSM.
We’ve had a long relationship that has been going on for more than seven years and I think it’s mutually beneficial. We get to see first-hand the amazing thinking that Central Saint Martins produces and the great, fresh, interesting ideas that come out of all disciplines, have conversations with the students to better understand their thinking process and then reward the best of those ideas which is tremendously enriching. Central Saint Martins and their students have the opportunity to present their work to a wider industry audience and gain experience and exposure.

What continues to excite you about the degree shows?
I think what excites me most about the degree shows is the thinking. These are young, brilliant minds, top of their class, who tackle different problems or different questions and they come up with incredible solutions or points of view that you’ve never thought of. It’s very refreshing to be in contact with these people. Something that happens very regularly in the professional world is that you start working and you lose contact with all of these young people. A lot of people who are in my position often try to get a teaching job just to stay in contact with what’s going on at a grass roots level. For us, the degree shows at Central Saint Martins keep us in touch with the best emerging creative talent.

What do you look for when judging?
I want to be surprised. I always want to be surprised but I also look at the craft, I look at how people worry about how they finish their work because it’s very common that we stop at the question or that we stop at finding the answer but then don’t craft it elegantly. It happens in maths and it happens in everything. You have to reach a beautiful conclusion and Central Saint Martins is fundamentally a visual school. You have architects, you have fashion designers, you have artists, you have scientists. If they manage to make their solutions elegant and beautiful, it gives a lot of power to the work.

Have you gone on to work with any of the former students?
Not directly but I know that we have been inspired by their work and some of the previous winners have gone on to work in the advertising industry. One student even set up his own digital agency. After our people have been to the degree shows, seen the work and interacted with the students, I have recognised some of the thinking coming back to us in forms of advertising. Other MullenLowe NOVA winners have gone on to have successful careers in areas they studied and have said that winning the award gave them the confidence to apply their thinking beyond the educational environment and the prize money helped them to continue with their art and embark on new projects.

You can see the work for yourself at Central Saint Martins. Degree show one is open to public 24th-28th May, and degree show two 21st-15th June. For further details visit

View the shortlisted work and cast your vote for the YourNOVA winner from June 26th

Follow the latest news and announcements on usual channels using #MLGNOVA #MLGYOURNOVA #CSMCOME.


2016 YourNOVA Winner Lucie Davis, Contemporary Jewellery


2016 MullenLowe NOVA Runner Up & Unilever Sustain-Ability Award winner Maria Gasparian, Ceramic City