Adam Ellis

Graduated – 1994


Upon graduating Adam worked at brand specialists Ziggurat where he spent five
years with them before joining Coley Porter Bell in 1999 which led to the role of
Design Director. He has recently set up his own company – The Cabinet Agency,
specialising in brand design. Adam has accumulated many creative awards including D&AD, Design Week, Donside Gold, Mobius Gold and Design Effectiveness.

He has been a D&AD judge and has written many design focused articles for journals such as Creative Review, Graphics International and Marketing. The final feather in his cap was creating and running his very own award winning brand “Scoop” a boutique ice cream van, so if you want a posh 99 you know where to go.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
My first job was at Ziggurat Brands, a Post-it® note was stuck on the notice board in the corridor at Preston, it was right in the middle of degree show panic but myself and fellow partner in crime Simon Pendry (now Creative Director at pi global) thought what the hell, no pain no gain. We did a one dayer to London had our interview, raided Paperchase and were back in the blink of an eye. We both got the job and spent five happy hazy years there.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Absolutely, there was a sense of real camaraderie, and standards were high. The fact that you had such a long placement meant your time management and scalpel skills were bob-on ready for your degree show.

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
I think there’s far too much jumping on the Mac before your doodle happening, don’t get me wrong I love the Mac but I can’t help but feel that magic is often lost from brain to pencil.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
I’m a big visual sponge and my ideas come from a brain full of stuff collated over time… or the ever trusty vault of scrap books, I just love designing alone or in a gang, it’s all good.

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Nothing, I loved all of it and wouldn’t change a god damn thing!

What’s the best thing about your job?
Travel and adventures, being in a project based industry is joyfully unpredictable, one minute you are in a Russian chocolate factory the next you’re talking sex toys in Soho… variety is definitely the spice of life.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
It’s taken me ages to work out but I believe it’s about being an appreciator of design as well as a creator. Not many people in other walks of life get the pleasure we do out of purely enjoying a whimsical observation or sly piece of visual wit.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Jumping off the worlds highest bungee jump in New Zealand in the name of graphic research… Ahhhhhhh!

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
Infectious enthusiasm, articulate story telling and a wish I’d done that feeling in my gut.

Any advice for students entering the industry?
Compose your final book like a design annual rather than a disparate collection of projects and if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again.


Branding - Aromatherapy Associates


Packaging - Cadbury Buttons

Branding - Scoop