High-end conceptual creative; the past, the present, the future

Dive into an interview with Creative Director Alister Tickle to learn about his career, tap into his extensive experience and discover how he sees the future for high-end creative.

In an increasingly digital era, what does the future have in store for creative conceptual design?

One person well placed to answer that question is Chalk + Ward’s Creative Director Alister Tickle. Alister joined Chalk + Ward back in 1999. He has 20 years under his belt working with leading local, national and international brands such as P&O Cruises, WKD, Wiltshire Farm Foods, Mole Valley Farmers, Co-op, Age UK, Enterprise Inns, Michael Caines, Hunter Stoves, and DS Smith amongst others.

Valued by Chalk + Ward clients for his collaborative and strategic approach, Al packs a winning one-two combination as someone who is both commercially astute and a conceptual thinker. He is a true exemplar of our full-service methodology.

Alister Tickle

What do you love most about your job?

Ultimately, I enjoy the process and coming up with fresh ideas. Every job is unique and offers its own set of distinctive challenges, so the parameters are constantly changing and, with it, our approach. As a member of Chalk + Ward’s Creative Team, it’s both empowering and challenging to work collaboratively with the team. The work always changes and evolves.

How did you get into being a designer?

I always wanted to do something creative but went about it the hard way – my initial path was more zig-zag than straight line. By that, I mean I didn’t go straight to university. Most agencies don’t tend to employ designers without a design qualification, so I ended up working in reprographics. This gave me an extensive knowledge of print and the requisite time to build a portfolio. Luckily, Chalk + Ward, known as HHC Chalk & Ward back then, saw something in me and gave me a job as a Junior Designer and Artworker. I realised pretty quickly my shortfalls as a designer. I set about attaining my design qualifications at Somerset College of Arts and Technology, which involved college every Saturday for a considerable period of time, whilst also working full time. This was hard work but I was determined and it eventually paid off.

directors in board room looking at designs
chalk + ward staff in boardroom

What was your career path to Creative Director?

So, I started as a Junior Designer and Artworker, but once qualified, I progressed to Mid-Weight Designer and from there I was promoted to Design Manager and Senior Designer, a role I held for a long time. This entailed art directing, undertaking the role of lead designer on client projects as well as co-managing the Creative Department with company co-founder, Giles Ward, and allocating work to the team. I was then asked to join the management team which gave me the opportunity to understand the business in its entirety. In March 2018, I was promoted to Creative Director.

How would you describe the culture in the creative team?

I think the creative director can guide the culture but it’s fundamentally created by the individuals. We have a great balance of skills and personalities, each with their own sense of humour! Everyone contributes on all levels and there’s a collective energy to everything we do. We have a very relaxed approach and are always on hand to help each other out and offer ideas with a lot of banter. So, if I had to choose one word to describe the culture I would say ‘fun’.

creative team in office
tablets and laptop

Chalk + Ward are a full-service agency. What makes working on integrated projects so exciting?

Clients benefit because we can ensure that a brand message or campaign runs consistently and seamlessly across different media and communication channels. This gives us a great insight into how we represent a brand’s values and message and we work closely with the other departments at Chalk + Ward to achieve this. Working across different media opens up a variety of creative avenues which we can pursue, be it TV advertising, video content, social media or print. Each discipline represents an opportunity.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

There are so many, but off the top of my head, Hanlons Brewery would be right up there. We were appointed to create a new brand strategy which included a full revamp of the brand’s image, renaming, website, pump clips, bottle labels, promotional literature, advertising and van livery. I go into pubs *ahem* regularly, and still see our handiwork!

Creating a new brand identity, look and feel, is one of the most rewarding projects to work on. Shaping how a brand presents itself and directing the implementation over different media is immensely satisfying and gives you a real sense of pride. Obviously, branding a brewery also has its added bonuses and rewards, like the launch party!

hanlons beer bottle design

What does a typical day in the life of a Creative Director look like?

As Creative Director I am overseeing the creative process. I take a broad view of the creative for each project – where each piece fits and how it can evolve. I’m there to ensure the creative product we produce is on brand, on message and is the absolute best it can be. I’m constantly pushing for our creative to work harder and I try to create an environment where people can enjoy doing what they do and feel they can challenge the brief in order to produce better work.

How do you foresee creative in the future and how the role of a Creative Director may evolve?

I think there will always be a place for creatives and conceptual thinkers. Creative people are needed to keep marketing fresh and innovative. I don’t see this changing. However, how people are used and how their skills are deployed will change as the market evolves. 20 years ago, 90% of what I did was advertising with the other 10% split over TV, branding and brochure design, etc. Now, I am required to consider all of the above plus digital and social media and so on. There are so many different channels to reach your audience so everything is more targeted. Understanding your audience and how best to reach them is imperative.

As these channels evolve and grow the role of Creative Director will also need to evolve. Planning and understanding the different channels and the creative possibilities will become more important. The most complete Creative Directors will know how best to utilise each channel to achieve the maximum effect whilst ensuring they keep a cohesive and consistent message.

lympstone manor brochure
strategy post it note

How important is your work to clients in terms of the success of their overall brand strategy?

It’s critical to get it right. There’s never a time where it’s not important to get branding less than 100% correct.

What tips do you have for aspiring designers looking to get into the industry?

Live and breathe design. Become absorbed in design, analyse and understand everything you see on a day-to-day basis and don’t be narrow-minded. Open your mind and your appreciation of what makes the design work and appealing to different genders and ages. By opening up to as many influences as possible you will become a more rounded creative.

You will always have a style and taste but the most effective creatives are commercially aware and can put personal tastes aside and consider what works best for the end user.

colour chart
marketing agency meeting

What advice do you have for those suffering from creative block or who are looking to refresh their branding and packaging?

Pop in for a chat! Our clients can always expect the highest level of service from our account management team. They are regularly complimented on customer service, but this goes beyond niceties. Our approach is to become entrenched in our client’s business and fully understand how best to promote them and ensure their message is targeted.

The most successful client relationships are the ones where the client fully trusts us and we are able to work collaboratively. We become an outsourced part of their team and this allows us to be frank and challenge where required and steer the brand or campaign in the right direction.

What's the secret of your longevity?

The work constantly changes which challenges me creatively. We spend the majority of our life working, so being in a rewarding and fun environment is crucial. Chalk + Ward are most definitely that.

I love working together with the clients and our team to create meaningful and lasting results.

To find out more about our branding expertise, visit our branding page.