10 things I’ve learned in 10 years working as a creative at IF

Laura Walkerdine is celebrating 10 years with IF Agency. Joining as an artworker in 2008, Laura has played an integral role in the creative and commercial success as the IF Agency has grown to be recognised as an award winning creative agency in the North West.

As Laura, now Creative Group Head, celebrates her 10th work anniversary she shares 10 lessons learned in 10 years working as a creative here at IF.

10 things I’ve learned in 10 years working as a creative at IF

ONE: There’s always something interesting in each brief

Same old job keep landing on your desk? Or have you been asked to come up with a genius way to sell something so boring even you 'the creative' cannot muster enthusiasm for it?

Try and find the interesting thing about it. Look it up on Wikipedia, find a blog about the product from a true enthusiast, or ask your friendly client services team to find out a an unusual USP for the product. ANYTHING to evoke some sort of good will towards the item. Because, if the person trying to sell the item can’t find the joy in it, you won’t be able to make any customers excited about it either.

TWO: Be intensely curious

If I don’t know the answer to something, that’s it, I need to find it out. (Obviously not nuclear fusion or unsolvable maths problems.) But why something happened… why that thing over there does that thing… or why that other thing was designed like that… or, or, or why a word or phrase means something.

One of my mottos is 'it’s better to have found out the answer and forgotten it, than to have never found out the answer in the first place’, (this curiosity also makes me pretty good at pub quizzes). I find it’s handy to be able to draw on a wide and varied pool of information, it makes linking creative ideas easier, faster and results in a better use of time.

THREE: Be nice to Freelancers

There’s a reason you get freelancers in to do a job – and generally it’s because they have a very specific skill-set that nobody else in the building has… and you never know when you might need use of that very specific skill-set again in the future. So don’t ignore the freelancer in the corner, make them tea, treat them like an actual human being and you’re off to a great start. Because the next time they’re trying to work out which agency they want to work for, they’ll opt for the friendly group of people who actually know their name.

FOUR: Keep your chin up

It’s really, really easy to get pessimistic and cynical really, really quickly in this industry. We know all the tricks of the trade. We know how scary the world is. We know that everybody is tracked every minute of the day. We dissect everything and are inclined to see the bad in everything. But d’you know what?? We work in advertising… we come up with ideas and make normal boring things look pretty. And sometimes we get to work on a project where we feel we’re actually making a difference on the world. That’s not a bad way to spend your day is it?

FIVE: We aren’t saving lives

Seriously, we aren’t. When you’re about to go full Hulk because the Account Manager doesn’t share your vision... about to smash your Mac into the wall because the client wanted to change one word in your perfectly written headline, or decide to punch a wall because the Creative Director doesn’t think you’ve nailed the proposition in the brief; just repeat this mantra.

*I am not a Doctor, I don’t sew parachutes for a living, I’m not required to perform 15 hours of brain surgery, I’m not sending human lives to space. I make things look and sound pretty for a living*

SIX: You don’t have to be good at everything

I used to get pretty hung up that there were areas in the creative spectrum that I didn’t excel at. That I lacked killer attention to detail, that I didn’t know how to code, that I was rubbish at drawing, and didn’t know my RGB’s from my HEX codes. The thing I’ve learned is that you can’t be everything. There’s a reason there are so many disciplines within the creative industry – and it’s so that you don’t have to be a jack-of-all-trades. You just need to find someone who IS good at the things you aren’t. We’re not solo sprinters, we’re a relay team.

SEVEN: You don’t have to be just one thing…

This sounds like the opposite of the point above but this one is a bit more aspirational. I started at IF ten years ago as a Junior Artworker, and I was convinced that being a Designer wasn’t going to be possible because of my skill-set. I was then absolutely positive that conceptual thinking wasn’t within my remit because I struggled to link copy with image – and yet I became a creative.

I was notoriously rubbish at creative writing in my youth and felt my chances would be hindered when establishing myself as a more senior creative but that’s no-longer an issue. I look back now and wonder why I ever felt the need to put myself in so many boxes. Sometimes I think we just need to stop drawing boxes around ourselves, boxes only belong on spreadsheets.

EIGHT: I’m a great person to sit next to at a dinner party

Having worked on everything from automotive, to restaurants, to adhesive tape, rugby, police, fashion, food, kids entertainment, paint and everything in between, you learn facts, figures and inside information about absolutely EVERYTHING. Once you pair that up with your general curiosity about everything (see point two); you’re making for a pretty knowledgeable well-rounded person. There need never be an awkward moment of silence over the cheese board again.

NINE: You never stop working

Luckily I don’t work at one of those agencies that chain you to your desk 24 hours a day, slowly draining you of life, soul and happiness (*shout out, IF is actually a pretty awesome place to work). BUT just because you’re not at work, doesn’t mean that you’ll stop working.

Watching TV ads you’ll be dissecting brand propositions, when enjoying a film you’ll become acutely aware of camera angles, film grading and lighting tricks. You’ll chuckle to yourself when you realise the typeface one company used for funeral homes is the same typeface another company used to advertise holidays. It’s like you’ve got a secret world that’s running in parallel to the world everyone else lives in.

TEN: You have to love your team

My Creative Director and I often joke that we’re effectively married to each other. We’ve spent 9 hours a day… for 5 days a week… over the last ten years together, totalling to nearly 24,000 hours in each other's company. When presented with figures like that, you have to REALLY like someone.

And it’s the same with the rest of the team; we work so closely together that you can’t dislike each other. It just doesn’t work. So you could find a new recruit who has a great big tick next to every qualification, skill or award win; but if they do your head in, it’s a no go!

Given all that, I think it's safe to say Laura and IF have both grown up a lot! Here’s to the next decade working together!