Bruce Duckworth, finishing up his year as D&AD president, co-founder of Turner Duckworth sits opposite me, talking fondly of his discovery of album covers as a kid. He’s been very good to me, three times meeting to talk, so I could interview him. One of those times, I had failed to press record in my excitement. It tells you about his character that he stuck around for a repeat interview as I simmered with red cheeks. It’s not like he hasn’t anything better to do.
Bruce is one of a number of highly respected people I’ve had the joy of meeting throughout my career. It’s almost a rite of passage to place a handful of people on a pedestal for the things they’ve created, often because they did so in a way that was so unique to them, in a way we aspire to. I pasted their work to every bedroom wall, every college workspace, yearning so badly to get into this industry that you go through a range of emotions; huge highs and adrenaline rushes with even the tiniest step towards our goals.
But the love of the work of others does not stop with those we’ve heard of. The very mindset of inexperience can cloud our own self-worth. There’s two ways to look at that. One is that it is healthy to lack unshakeable confidence in our work at such a formative stage, to do so would risk ego and complacency creeping in. The other is to understand that we, the lesser known can be just as important as those with vast experience can instill a self-belief that will carry us past the inevitable knocks along the way.
These days, on my pin board and saved web pages tab are almost as many samples of work by people you’ve never heard of as there are widely recognised masterpieces. I have numerous guests on the show who are just out of education, still in it and even a ten year-old boy who sells his drawings at school. Even if I were to tell them, show them, they’d probably click into some default mindset that I had pulled this stunt to make them feel good.
As time goes by, you start to realize that all that truly matters is the work, the idea and execution. It also matters who did it, what stage they’re at or what their story is, of course, but without those crucial keystones, the rest becomes irrelevant. No matter how great, we all start somewhere.
Bruce Duckworth explains the utmost importance of allowing each new generation the space to create better work than his in order to stay ahead as Turner Duckworth. You can see the love of creativity and innovation in his eyes when we discuss the new talent emerging from this year’s crop of graduates. Many of the students look intimidated or overwhelmed when they talk to him on degree show night, in their best clothes, parents hovering in the background, all proud. But anyone smart enough to have achieved as much as Bruce is wise enough to see past reputation and accolades. Spend long enough in the game and the rush of seeing something fresh, original and individual is the ultimate high.
My work in media brings me into constant contact with the next generation and I make friends, contacts and gather new ideas with each encounter. None of them believe it when you compliment them. Why would they? I’ve been in their shoes and it feels like such a far-fetched fantasy when you try to envision yourself working full time in an industry so full of glowing examples of what creativity looks like. But the answers are already there, inside you and those of us who are here now, maybe even pinned to your workspace. When we see examples of those who have created something powerful, we know it, immediately and there are no rules about the time that may take.
Ben Tallon is a freelance illustrator, author of Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries and host of Arrest All Mimics, the Original Thinking and Creative Innovation podcast.
He works with WWE, EMI, Channel 4, The Guardian and The Premier League among others.
Want to hear from Ben? His recent podcasts will resonate with freelancers and creatives looking to hear from likeminded leaders in the industry. Visit: https://soundcloud.com/arrestallmimics