David Gilligan

Graduated – 1992


Dave has worked in branding for over 20 years now. He has travelled the world working for both Landor Sydney and Landor London, Brand Union, Bostock & Pollitt and Pauffley. He was also Executive Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi Design in London and is now working freelance.

His career highlights include: Shortlisted Design Week Benchmark Awards 2008, Finalist Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) 2002, Distinction AGDA 2002, Design Distinction IdN 2002, Commendation AGDA 2000 and winning the pitch for the new Premier League identity.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

What are your memories of studying at Preston?
My memories of Preston are very fond ones. I remember I lived on spam toasties for three months once, as my flat mate went to the supermarket and came back with 15 tins of spam and 15 tins of beans! Now I think I have a gluten intolerance because of it. I never won anything at college apart from a five-a-side football tournament. We were the first Graphic Design team to do so in 20 years! George Hollingworth was so proud. We did have two wingers though, but one went back to Napoli before the tournament even started, and he was our best player!

As well as football, I also remember playing a lot of tennis, table tennis and pub golf every lunch time! I lived the furthest away from college than anyone else I knew (Penwortham). It was £14 per week including bills. The house looked like the Psycho house in the film and it definitely had a few psycho’s in it, including geese in the garden that went for you twice a day, on your way out and your way in! Also, I rememeber laughing all day and all night as practical jokes were rife. Good, no great times. 

How and where did you secure your first job?
That depends, there are two answers really. My first ever job in design was in a tiny studio off Shaftesbury Avenue. It was a job I got as part of my placement year. They had no computers and lived in the dark ages of design. I hand rendered type and worked up some dodgy layouts for a few weeks until a good friend of mine rang up and told me he had landed a dream placement at Williams & Phoa. I was jealous to say the least, but also made up for him and it meant we could share a flat together as the one I was currently in was so small I could touch both walls at the same time.

Then he told me he had lined up a great interview at Thumb Design, I’d never heard of them, but they were an established design firm in Islington and supposedly one of the pioneers in bringing Macs into design in London. Anyway, he said he couldn’t go, so I went instead! They were slightly perplexed when I said my name was David and not Jimmy but I got the job and haven’t touched a Rotring pen ever since. I was there about a year and learned an incredible amount.

Did anyone ever ask you what degree grade you got?
In short no. That is purely a personal goal and is placed in the bottom drawer with my graduation photograph. But the fact remains that because I pushed myself, my book was strong enough to get a job but not a First. I got a 2:1 and was chuffed.

Who’s work has inspired or influenced you the most?
At Preston it was my friends around me and the students in the years above me, oh and Vaughn Oliver. Now it’s Frost.

How has the industry changed over the years?
Computers are the big difference. Now it’s the combination of creativity and your knowledge of technology that defines you as a designer.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
I never turn off, which is good and bad! Design is ubiquitous so you can’t ever get away from it. Therefore, if you immerse yourself in it and surround yourself with it you are constantly surrounded with answers. Also, the answers are always found in a well written brief, you just have to look hard enough and then think lateral. Get from A to B to discover C then do mood boards which takes you to D and E.

And I prefer thinking alone, but after that it’s best to open it up and see where it goes, as I’m always up for the twists and lucky mistakes! Also, be inquisitive and ask lots of questions until you find the right question! Then once that question is answered you’ll have a full understanding and the answer will be on a plate.

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Good question. Ask more girls out to start with and learn more computer skills.

What’s the best thing about your job?
If someone would have told me at school that there was a job where any business could come to you, tell you all their problems and then you have to fix them I would have gone into graphic design there and then. So, I guess the best thing is learning about all these industries from the inside. Then to crack an idea and project these companies intelligently to the outside world is hugely satisfying.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Urm… I used to design Black+White Magazine. It was a cutting edge and cult art/ fashion/ photographic/ design magazine which just happened to have beautiful naked women on every other spread! Some of the photo shoots were unusual to say the least!

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?

Any advice for students entering the industry during the recession?
Believe in yourself and work harder than the next person and you’ll be fine.

Any other advice?
Think of Graphic Design as a lifestyle and not a job, and use it to travel the world.


Branding - British Handball


Football Sponsorship Identity - Guinness