Georgie Mack, the business development director at product design company IDEO, and Tom Evans, a creative director at TBWA, are two individuals whose outlook and approach reflect the change in what it means to be a creative person working in a creative business.
The pair, selected by the headhunter as A List Contenders, are regarded as outstanding examples of people who understand the importance of adapting and broadening the industry’s offering.
In their respective ways, Mack and Evans are answering the needs of clients demanding more than mere advertising.
This can mean not only finding the right products — even designing them if necessary — but also devising the marketing strategy and the creative execution.
Not surprisingly, Mack and Evans are the kind of multitaskers who can find working in mainstream agencies frustrating and limiting. “Agencies don’t understand people like me,” Evans claims. “We tend to get pigeonholed.”
However, LIZH consultant Nicky Badenoch puts the pair at the forefront of efforts by the industry to engage more upstream with clients, with product design providing the link between them. “They may come at it from different directions but they have a lot in common,” she says.
If there is a consistent theme to Evans’ career it is a perpetual restlessness. He quit an agency job because he found himself becoming jaded, and left a senior role at a high-street retailer when production and administration began suffocating what he does best. And although he is now happily ensconced at Being, he has an arrangement that allows him to spend one day a week on personal projects that enable him to stretch his creativity.
Nick Grime, a LIZH partner, says: “Being looks like the perfect place for Tom, who had to wait some time for the right job to emerge. Agencies hadn’t arrived at the place where he wanted to be. He was ahead of his time.”
Evans, 39, knew he wanted to be a designer before he’d even reached his teens. As a student at the London College of Printing, he was fascinated by the emerging internet phenomenon and how it could link technology with creativity.
He quickly found a natural home at the graphic design agency founded by Malcolm Garrett, famous for his work with music artists such as Peter Gabriel and Duran Duran. His London studio was the first of its kind to go totally digital in 1990.
“I fell in love with the work they were doing,” Evans, who produced a CD-ROM version of the D&AD Annual during his stay there, recalls.
In December 1999, with his friends Roger Thelwell and Tom Adams, he founded the digital agency Mook, whose key clients included Reebok, Sony PlayStation, Diesel and Mars.
Seven years later, Mook became Nitro’s second UK acquisition. Evans remained at the creative helm when Nitro was sold to Sapient, working on a number of Unilever brands including Wall’s, for which he helped develop a machine that offered ice cream to anybody who smiled at it.
A dramatic change in direction followed and he joined the fashion retailer Jack Wills as brand communications director. Although the job eventually proved insufficiently stimulating for a creative, Evans made up for the deficiency by launching Bleep Bleeps, an online operation offering products to help mothers-to-be.
At Being, which was born from a merger between Tequila and Agency.com, his efforts are heavily focused on the Four Seasons luxury hotel group.
“I’m quite agnostic in my creative output,” Evans says. “Whether its graphic design, product design or digital communication, I have respect for all of it.”
For Georgie Mack, is wasn’t so much a light-bulb moment, but more a period of growing enlightenment. And it happened in the unlikeliest of pla
ces — Budapest.
As the client service director of DDB’s agency in the Hungarian capital, she was enjoying the freedoms that came with operating at arm’s length from the network’s centre.
Tasked with growing business across the region, she learned the importance of getting close to her clients’ businesses — and of often coming up with far from conventional solutions to solve their problems.
It was a defining experience for the Hampshire farmer’s daughter who read literature at London University and who, at one time, seemed destined to pursue a conventional advertising route with account management roles at McCann Erickson and M&C Saatchi.
Budapest changed all that. “Coming back to the UK, I was keen to find something that would be far more involving rather than just receiving a conventional brief,” she explains. “And IDEO is a very different and fascinating place.”
Although its roots are in product design, IDEO has evolved to help companies innovate by using design thinking to solve increasingly complex business challenges.
Mack, 42, clearly thrives in an environment where extensive research is seen as key in the design of a new product or service, and where ideas can become tangible very quickly.
LIZH’s Grime says: “Not only is Georgie very impressive and with lots of proven experience, she also talks the language you have to learn if you want to change the agenda.”
Mack cites the passion for her work — and her determination that it should help enrich the lives of those it touches — as her motivation.
Recently, IDEO’s “Tag your bag” programme for Oxfam that encouraged people to register when they dropped off items at an Oxfam shop, raised an estimated £3 million for the charity.
It is this kind of initiative that inspires Mack, and explains her particular interest in the application of design in the healthcare sector and the needs of an ageing population.
“I’m passionate about creating positive impact through design,” she says. “There are so many ways in which design can make a difference: in services for the ageing population, for example; in the patient experience in a hospital; in services to make people more active through the work place, or in services beyond the compound for the pharmaceutical industry.
“Design thinking can help make people’s experiences more intuitive and simple. That’s what drives me.”
First published in collaboration with Campaign on 17th Jult 2013 at part of our A List contenders series.
Update 1: Tom departed TBWA to found BleepBleeps, the company that builds connected products to make parenting easier.
Update 2: In May 2014 Georgie became the Managing Partner of the innovation company Made by Many.