The return of the hovering art director: Nejc Prah visualises a day in the life of four art directors


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It’s Nice That has partnered with Adobe Stock on a series of articles that examine and celebrate the role of art directors and creatives across the industry. Over the coming weeks we will be providing an insight into what makes them tick, how they can help you to develop your career and what it is they do all day…

For the next instalment in our hovering art director series for Adobe, we asked four art directors from around the UK to get personal. Ken Kirton, co-founder and creative director at Hato; creative director at ManvsMachine Curtis Baigent; Beth Wilson, co-founder at Warriors Studio; and designer at Wieden + Kennedy Olivia Charlesworth, let us trace their every step with an activity tracker. We then asked graphic designer and wunderkind Nejc Prah, one of our 2017 Ones to Watch, to turn these into a series of psychedelic infographics.

Have a nose into their working days below…

Ken Kirton, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Hato

I get up at around 5 and do some work at home, go for a run or the gym and then head into the studio for 10 when everyone else arrives. It means that I have my own time at the start of the morning when my mind is fresh and my day breaks up as I change environments. As long as I’ve done exercise in the morning I’ll be a lot more efficient for the full day and often find working through the evening a lot more productive as well. Which always surprises me when I get up so early! I think a work balance isn’t about the number of hours you work but understanding where you get your energy from. For me that’s being with my wife, catching up with friends and doing exercise.

I make a smoothie in the morning when I get up made with oats, banana, spirulina (I still don’t know what this is) and whole bunch of other powders that I’ve been told are good to take. Then a fresh juice after going to the gym: both are great for maintaining energy levels.

The rest of the day I spend in meetings with new or existing clients as well as reviewing project developments and initial concepts.

I’m hoping that in the evenings I’ll be able to finish at 6 and pick anything up in the morning, but lately there’s been a lot of awards ceremonies with D&AD and Creative Review.

Our team at Hato are stress free, work’s meant to be fun and encourage play, if it’s stressful then something is either wrong or you’re about to go through a steep learning curve. However if I do end up stressed I’ll usually have a minute or two of stillness and regroup my thoughts. Generally coming out of it ready to tackle the problem with a clean slate and enthusiasm.

Lunch times are great at the studio. We all eat together around a small table and one member of the team cooks for the group. Justin from Hato Press recently cooked up his best curry yet which definitely put everyone in a good mood for the afternoon. These studio interactions are important for Hato – there is a real natural buzz when you cook for others and share food, plus it keeps us socially active.

I think music or sound helps frame a space and connect people together. I’m not sure if a communal sound helps the wider team though so a lot of us have our own headphones when we need to go in deep with our work and focus.

"I think a work balance isn't about the number of hours you work but understanding where you get your energy from. For me that's being with my wife, catching up with friends and doing exercise."

Ken Kirton, co-founder and creative director at Hato

Curtis Baigent, creative director at ManvsMachine

I don’t have too much of a set routine during the official working day. I try to keep it flexible so I that can respond to things dynamically as they come up and keep things feeling fresh and exciting.

Early morning routine for me is super important however. I like to get a lot done before I get to the studio which sets up the foundation of my day. Pre-studio time, I try to make sure I’ve gone for a run, or done some figure drawing, or attempted to increase my currently non-existent Italian proficiency. Following that I make sure I’ve gone through emails and set a plan of what I need to do when I get there. It sets me up nicely to just roll with whatever else may follow. That morning I went for a quick run. Running always makes me feel really focused; it’s amazing how many times I’ve come up with design solutions or that plan of attack that I had been struggling with the day before while out there plodding away.

I tend to walk everywhere that I can, so the largest spikes in activity almost always come in the mornings and evenings, with a little spike around lunch. I’ll always choose to walk over taking public transport whenever possible, even if it means adding another 30 minutes to my travel time. I’ve always loved it. Walking slows down the fast pace of life and allows me to notice and take in people and things that I may not ordinarily register. For me it’s just time set aside to daydream. I’m lucky in that I get to walk to and from the studio every day – I’m only a 20 minute stroll away.

The more stressed or busy I am the more I make a point of getting out and going for a walk or a run. It puts things in perspective for me, a kind of defragmentation, allowing me to come back fresh focused and energised. On the day that I tracked I saw that I’d taken 1,674 steps to reset like this, after a particularly involved client call.

Music has an immense effect on how I feel at any given time. Even when I’m not actively listening to it or thinking about it I’m always subconsciously and emotively picking up on it. It’s also not just the individual songs themselves that have an effect. The ebb and flow of a playlist or sequence of tracks can make a big difference too. At 17:29 I noticed that I felt particularly tired and serious, before realising that the psych track I had been listening to had gone off on a 15 minute dissonant freak-out. I clicked next and instantly felt revitalised due to the contrast.

"On the day that I tracked I see that I’d taken 1,674 steps to reset after a particularly involved client call."

Curtis Baigent, creative director at ManvsMachine

Beth Wilson, co-founder at Warriors Studio

Everyday can be different, whether it’s working from home or in the studio, until 7 at night or 3 in the morning, however, the average day of work is around 11 hours. We tend to work Mondays and Fridays from home, as we often achieve more working separately two days per week, this also saves time and money on travel and keeps everyone in a sweet mood!

Chilled in bed, checked emails, social media and Whatsapp ‘Team Supreme’ group chat messages. Shower! Drove to the studio – around 45 minutes – smoked two fags and listened to Smooth Radio on the way. Got a pastrami special sandwich (pastrami, gouda, gherkins, slaw, sweet chilli mayo) from Piece (Glasgow’s Gourmet Sandwichmongers – raising the humble sandwich back to greatness since 2008) and a can of juice (Diet Coke) around 12pm, ate lunch, caught up with James and Victoria and started the working day!

Studio time: worked on a variety of Warriors and GDFS projects. Few scattered breaks for a smoke, toilet, glass of water, two Kit Kat Chunkies. The 2nd Kit Kat Chunky at 8pm should never have happened, but this was the starving point of the evening and we still had work to do, so Kit Kat to the rescue. Before the Kit Kat Chunky, the activity levels and concentration were waining due to the rumbling stomach and lack of energy.

The largest spikes in activity were both before and after studio time (in work). There is no activity recorded during my time in the studio. This makes sense because we literally sit at a desk for hours upon hours. The most walking I do is walking outside for a smoke, to the toilet and for a glass of water. Quite frightening actually! There was no activity recorded during my time in the studio. Forgetting about the data, the more stressed I get, the more likely I am to take increased breaks, go outside, go for a smoke, sit on the toilet etc. I often find that when I need to think things through, brainstorm ideas, find inspiration, this is best done by taking a break from the desk, being outside or wandering the building our studio is in. We are based in SWG3, a warehouse complex in Glasgow’s West End. Being stuck at the desk can often be uninspiring!

We share a large open place space with other designers and everyone has headphones in for the majority of the day due to the variety of musical tastes and nobody wants the DJ pressure. As soon as everyone leaves, Warriors get the Smooth Radio up full bang for a desk boogie to some classics from the likes of Sade, Tina Turner, Gabrielle, Whitney, Texas etc! Music is a great way for me to concentrate, a de-stresser and makes the day more enjoyable!

Ate a McChicken Sandwich in McDonald’s carpark, arrived home, ate three tangerines, watched a Vice documentary on the UK’s Scariest Debt Collector, went to bed and read an hour of Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress. Boom, shattered!

That, in a nutshell, is a very average day in the life of Beth Wilson.

"The most walking I do is walking outside for a smoke, to the toilet and for a glass of water."

Beth Wilson, Co-founder at Warriors Studio

Olivia Charlesworth, designer at Wieden + Kennedy

In a typical day I’ll cycle in, eat some marmalade on toast, choose some music to listen to and then design some stuff at my desk or go to any relevant meetings for projects I’m working on. Types of projects and workload here at W+K vary so there’s no set routine after that. Oh! Apart from on Tuesdays where we have the POWWOW, the design team have a coffee together and catch up on what we’re working on that week.

I cycle in in the morning because I know that the physical activity gives me piece of mind. It’s the only place exercise can fit in my day. I can become restless if I’m at my desk for too long so I like to get up and change the environment where I work. Unsurprisingly the largest spike in my day was on my way in when I cycled – then it all went pretty much downhill from there.

Music definitely has an effect on my productivity. The music I listen to at work often reflects the work mode I’m in: sometimes it’s more expressive and playful, sometimes it’s more systematic and repetitive. I find it incredibly hard to concentrate when I don’t like the music around me.

"Unsurprisingly the largest spike in my day was on my way in when I cycled – then it all went pretty much downhill from there."

Olivia Charlesworth, designer at Wieden + Kennedy

This article was produced in partnership with Adobe Stock. Adobe Stock gives you access to millions of creative assets from directly within your Creative Cloud apps, so you can spend more time designing and less time searching.

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