A New Angle: Naresh Ramchandani is using his latest role to push for a more responsible industry
The D&AD president, Pentagram partner and climate activist sees every creative brief as “an invitation to take the world apart and remix it”.
- Jenny Brewer
- 26 January 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
A New Angle is a new editorial series that aims to give a platform to creative industry changemakers who make it their mission to disrupt the status quo. Each week we’ll chat to a person or team doing important work in the sector, making it a fairer place, championing vital causes, supporting underrepresented groups and tackling pertinent issues facing creatives everywhere.
This week we chat to Naresh Ramchandani, a designer with an enduring dedication to fighting the climate crisis through his environmental non-profit, Do The Green Thing. He also happens to be a partner at Pentagram, and in October 2020 was appointed this year’s D&AD president. He tells us how this new role marks another chapter in his mission to change the system from the inside, using the power and influence of the design industry to slowly, but surely, create a better future for everyone.
It’s Nice That: What is your mission, and what about the creative industry are you hoping to change?
Naresh Ramchandani: It’s important to say that I haven’t come in with a personal mission that’s radically different to D&AD’s. The reason I was excited to become a trustee a year ago is that D&AD was already looking at the issue that really matters to me, namely how creative excellence today means creativity that’s not only great for the brief but for the world we’re all part of. That’s the conversation that D&AD is already having that I’d love to help develop and advance.
INT: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to this point.
NR: I went to school and was swotty and did pretty well at my exams, then disappointed my mother and father by failing to study law or medicine and opting to study English and American literature instead. I left university enthralled by what words and ideas could do, and was lucky enough to get a job in advertising. At HHCL I learned about creative disruption, at St Luke’s I learned about comms for social purpose, at Karmarama I learned about creativity that worked across media, and now at Pentagram, working alongside my ridiculously talented partners, I’m learning about the interplay between design and language. And for the last 13 years, I’ve also worked for our environmental non-profit Do The Green Thing, putting a lot of the things I’ve learned into practice for the most pressing cause of all, the climate crisis.
INT: What are the major challenges you’re facing, and why?
NR: The climate crisis is the biggest one in my mind. We’re running towards a point where we’ll soon cause irreparable and immeasurable harm to many communities and species around the world. Some of the damage is coming from citizens and what we’re choosing to buy and how we’re choosing to live. Most of it is coming from companies and industries who are intent on making the most amount of money they can as soon as they can regardless of the wider impact of their actions – and that includes many companies in our industry. Basically, our economy is set against our sustainability. Creativity can’t solve this but it can play its part and be a more responsible industry, pushing the wrong kinds of consumption less, pushing the right kinds of consumption more, calling out the villains, bringing down the deniers, raising the heroes and change-makers, helping to design a more positive future.
INT: How are you tackling them?
NR: The climate is not the only challenge right now. There’s the question of diversity and ensuring that our studio and creative department compositions and outputs are as rich and varied as the society they’re part of. There’s also the question of opportunities for next-generation creative talent who are facing a pandemic-induced recession which, let’s face it, won’t be helped by the wonderful idea called Brexit. I’ve been discussing how to approach these issues with D&AD’s team and trustees including last year’s president Kate Stanners and next year’s president Rebecca Wright. Forgive the horrible phrase, but there are no silver bullets to any of them. But keeping them top of mind, bringing in some expert provocations, discussing the subjects properly and letting younger creative talent into those conversations too – all of that strikes me as a pretty good process.
INT: How can the creative industry help your mission?
NR: For me, great creativity has always been an act of idealism and an expression of hope. I’ve always thought that every creative task or brief is an invitation to take the world apart and remix it into a more meaningful, more positive version of itself, and boy do we need that now. We find ourselves in a time when a climate crisis is looming, social inequality is widening, identities are dividing us, loneliness and mental health issues are rife and when our politics has little authority and even less accountability. Whether it’s a site for an insurance company, a Christmas commercial for a department store, a look and feel for a cafe or a placard for a climate march, every creative expression we put into the world is a chance to tackle some of life’s problems and make things a little better.