Adrian Kilby

Graduated – 1985



After graduating Adrian joined Michael Peters & Partners straight from Preston and worked on rebranding Top Shop. Over the next few years he worked at Bowes Darby Design Associates, set up The Chase London as Creative Director with Edwina Olins and finally in 1994 he flew solo, founding The Formation Creative Consultants Europe Ltd, which was instrumental in creating the Pret A Manger brand.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
I was offered a full time job during my placement at Michael Peters & Partners, which I accepted and took up once I graduated.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Absolutely and for these three reasons.

  1. The quality of the degree and the way it taught me to think.
  2. The reputation the degree carried within the industry.
  3. The fact that the placement was such a well organised part of the course with connections at all the top London agencies. I can directly attribute the start of my career to the four year sandwich course at Preston.

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
More authoratative but less generous. More highly regarded but less extravagant. More challenging but less fun.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
They are a mixture of images, ideas and experiences I have stored in my subconscious that I then combine with a structured thought process and an ability to imagine in pictures and in three dimensions. I prefer to create alone and then share my ideas with my team.

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Nothing, strangely enough. I enjoyed every moment. I already had a strong self-discipline and work ethic which served me well through all four years of my degree. My six months in industry taught me shortcuts in technique but most importantly reinforced the importance of a good idea, and that even the most ambitious of concepts can be realised.

I also fell properly in love for the first time – so what’s not to like! What it also clarified for me was the importance of being taught by ‘relevant’ tutors, ie. those who still had a tangible connection with the industry. I have found through my own lecturing experience this is still very highly valued by the students.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Being my own boss and knowing I have the ability to draw something on a sheet of paper (old school I know!) be it a brand identity, restaurant design or hotel interior and have it realised into an actual physical presence on the high street.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Experience, risk taking and an authority that comes with being confident in one’s ability and knowing the depth of one’s own self motivation and resource. By running my own business I also believe that I share a genuine affinity with my clients, who entrust me with both their money and their vision to create, nuture and develop their fledgling concepts into robust, successful brands. This is reflected in the long term nature of my ongoing client relationships – some of which span over twenty years.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
The sublime: Parachuting out of an aeroplane with my entire staff, to celebrate our first birthday. The ridiculous: Dressing up as the Pied Piper (resplendent in tights and pointy hat) for a national press call in aid of a children’s charity.

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
Wit, inventiveness, and confidence. A unique or unusual way of thinking, attention to detail and the ability to self criticise. The rest – the technique, the spit and polish, can easily be taught. Oh, and £50 stuffed into the back pocket of their portfolio.

Any advice for students entering the industry?
isten and learn, but be confident. Put yourself forward when opportunities present themselves. Operate just outside your comfort zone and be prepared to work incredibly hard. Remember, the pencil is still mightier than the mouse and everything starts with a great idea.


Branding - Pret a Manger