Andy Howell

Graduated – 1994


After graduation Andy spent 5 years at The Partners in Farringdon before taking a year out (and 33,000 miles) to circumnavigate Australia. On his return he had a four year stint as a Senior Designer working at the identity specialists Wolff Olins followed by seven years at Interbrand, working his way up to Executive Creative Director. In March 2010 Andy co founded his own company, The Clearing with some colleagues from Interbrand.

During his career he has worked with some of the world’s most iconic brands: British Airways, Telefonica, McLaren, The National Lottery, Orange, V&A and Warner Bros to name but a few.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
I managed to get an interview (and subsequently a job) at The Partners off the back of my London Degree Show. Thanks mainly to Stewart Devlin (top guy in the year above), who did a good PR job for me.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
There were many benefits to being a Preston student – not least discovering that long hair wasn’t my coolest look! Career-wise, the design community in London had long held Preston in high regard for the quality and innovative work the students were producing, so it felt great to be part of that. This reputation definitely opened doors for me as I ventured into the big wide design world.

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
Thanks to the likes of Apple, Nike, Pret, Innocent etc. businesses now understand the financial impact of great design. As a result, design is now on the agenda in the boardroom not just in marketing departments. What does that mean for designers? It means clients are investing more in creativity, so designers get to work on much more exciting projects now and get rewarded much more for it. 

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
A bit of Art History wouldn’t have gone amiss. Knowing a few pervy fantasy artists didn’t really set me up with the knowledge to impress.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Feeling rewarded when I’ve finished some great work and having the opportunity to collaborate with some of the most talented creative minds in the world across all media – from film makers and sculptors to writers and illustrators.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
A. I’m annoyingly competitive.
B. I just put my head down and get on and do what I love doing.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Going for a spin in a £300k McLaren supercar wasn’t an average day in the office.

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
I’m looking for content, not just style; anyone can copy the latest cool looking thing from ‘It’s Nice That’. Don’t start with a style in mind; start with the problem and it will take you somewhere much more interesting. Don’t always look for the most serious solution to a problem, either – I like work that makes me smile.

Any advice for students entering the industry?
Being able to design well is only part of being a designer. From my experience, designers generally do themselves a disservice by underselling the thought that goes into their work. The design process is often intuitive and introspective. “It just feels right,” isn’t going to work with clients.

Most of the people you’ll talk to about design won’t be designers; their minds are generally logical and rational. I think if designers are going to get paid fairly for their input, they’ve got to be able to talk about the effectiveness of their work. I could go on.

Also, go for broke in terms of employers when you graduate and aim for the best name you can put under your belt at all costs. They’ll provide you with the best opportunities to build a great portfolio, which will help you keep moving up.


Branding - The National Lottery

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