Richard Johnson

Graduated – 1992


After graduating Richard worked in London at several Graphic Design agencies including the Partners. He was soon to move abroad and into the world of advertising. For the past 16 years he has been plying his trade on the eastern seaboard of Asia with the likes of McCann-Erickson Hong Kong and Ogilvy Singapore.

In 2005 Richard Johnson became Asia’s most awarded Creative Director. He now has a collection of interesting paper-weights including a D&AD pencil, Gold Clio etc. He’s been fired from agencies twice, been Neil French’s art director, and appeared naked in front of 200 other advertising delegates at the Asian Advertising Awards. He is not a fan of camera phones.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
The Partners. Never be too proud to beg. It worked in this instance.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Preston was great for two reasons:

  1. All the years mixed. This was handy because by the end of the course I only saw Martin and Simon (our lecturers) for five minutes every two weeks. As a result most of the advice and feedback on your work came from the other students.
  2. It was a sandwich course... yeah, yeah, yeah, if all else fails I can always make sandwiches. Hilarious.

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
People smoke and drink much less, which supposedly makes everyone much happier.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
I eat cheese before bed. I’m serious about this. The harder stuff seams to work better. As with all these things you start with Brie and before you know it you’re on Pecorino. Also avoid brainstorms. It’s there that the unimaginative congregate.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The money.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
I’d like to think I’ve been pretty much up for anything anyone has ever suggested.

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Probably demand more from the University itself. Now that students are expected to pay back their loans, surely that makes them the customer. If you fail, ask for your money back.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Tried to work in India.  

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
Ideas. Execution and different media can be learnt.

Any advice for students entering the industry?
Work at Ogilvy for four years. It will make you miserable, but you’ll learn all you need to know. Then go off and have some fun. Alternatively make sandwiches.


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