The secret of Alex Taylor’s Art of Art Direction By @christinems_

By Christine Smith


The secret of Alex Taylor’s Art of Art Direction

I feel so lucky. At SCA we have so many incredible mentors with all sorts of skill sets and every single day you learn something new. 

This year we’ve been even luckier than ever before. Not only because we have so many amazing masterclasses on future technology, copywriting and idea generation, but because one specific person can teach you something no one else can. Advertising history, discipline, art, fashion, and the greatest fundamentals of how to become not only a good but a great art director. This can’t be taught by anyone – so the fact that we are SO honored to learn all of this from the Chanel of advertising is more than I can ever ask for. 

Of course, you know who I’m talking about (It’s in the headline), but I still feel like she deserved to have a royal presentation. If you don’t know who she is, shame on you and keep reading. 

Alex Taylor is one of the greatest advertisers I have ever met. She is specifically known for her famous British Army ads and her Silk Cut ads, where simplicity, perfection and passionate story is at the heart of annoyingly clever campaigns. She used to work at Saatchi & Saatchi, as Head of Art and as Creative Director. Now she’s a D&AD president and is the first female recipient in 52 years who’s won the president’s award for “outstanding contribution to Advertising”. Alex has been awarded over 200 entries in D&AD, several gold lions and best overall tv ad at Cannes.

Not only is she in every week to help us with our books and layouts but also to give all of us that extra kick of inspiration that makes everyone say: “One day I also want to walk around in a pink Prada suit and trainers and know that I’ve achieved what I wanted from my career – being the best art director”. 

Very few people are as lucky as me, so, therefore, I want to share some of the golden secrets which Alex has taught me so far.

Here it comes; The art of art direction.

  • Never do the same twice
  • Do not have a specific style 
  • Diversify all your solutions
  • Break patterns and your laziness
  • Which elements can be taken out?
  • Give everything a reason to be there
  • Don’t make the elements fight
  • NEVER place the logo in the bottom right corner 
  • Can the logo/strapline become one unit?
  • Break the rules
  • Remember the tone of the brand
  • Scamp before you make anything on your mac
  • The style should never take over the idea
  • Iteration/thumbnails is key – Don’t ever settle for just one solution
  • Get over the pain barrier of not having any ideas – keep pushing yourself
  • Make it stand out from everyone else 
  • Look for proportions in the photo
  • Can the image be different?
  • Find some lines in the pictures and use those for the rest of the design
  • imperfection is interesting. Too perfect can become boring
  • White space is good – in fact, a lot of space can sometimes drag you in
  • A little odd is good
  • Body copy can be separated and used as a “headline”
  • If you make a campaign of three posters, make them all look different but with a clear link 

Another important thing Alex said is “collect things”. Find beautiful things, collect them in a box, online, under your bed or whatever fits you. You never know what you might need in the future and it only makes your job easier and your life more fun. 

If you want to impress her, there is only one book for you to start reading NOW: “Helmut Krone. The Book. Graphic Design and Art Direction (Concept, Form, and Meaning) After Advertising’s Creative Revolution.”As Alex would say “You can’t become a great future creative if you have no idea of the history, influences, and background of why advertising is as it is today”. 

The last thing I want to say is also how “calm” her masterclasses have made me personally. 

I now know that I’m not the only one never feeling 100% satisfied by my work. I’m not the only one crying about how everything around me should look perfect. I’m not the only one having the constant desire to explore new visual stuff and experience new things. I now know that’s what might be the right spices for me to become not only a good art director but a great art director. At least that’s always been my mission. I will now start to collect even more than I did before. And to Alex: THANK YOU. 

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