Robbie Laughton

Graduated – 1989


Robbie is one of the three founders of Calling Brands (formally Dave). He helped launch The Carphone Warehouse’s landline offer TalkTalk, developing CPW’s retail communication throughout 350 UK stores. Robbie led the re-branding programme for Energis and led the engagement team in the merger with Cable and Wireless. He also created a new way for First Direct to talk to existing and potential customers.

Prior to Dave, Robbie was Executive Creative Director at Wolff Olins where for 10 years he led many award winning projects for clients, including the brand creation of Orange, Go Airways, Channel 5 and the re-launch of Egg. Robbie created the name and position for 3 Telecommunications and a global advertising strategy and campaign for PWC.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
Force Design at a time when you got an interview by meeting people in the White Horse near Carnaby St. We did album covers and trendy stuff until it went down in the first of three recessions I’ve worked through. Then went back to Fitch where I did my placement.

Did you do a placement year? If so how was it?
Fitch in Soho Sq. Great time. Learnt loads. Drank loads. Got paid shit loads. Spent loads. Got laid loads. Fantastic time.

What or who inspires you?
Back in the late 80’s I suppose Neville Brody and Peter Saville were inspirational. We all copied them as much as our clients would let us!

And of course Why Not Associates? and later, Tomato. Now, it’s all about keeping your eyes open constantly, observing and taking things in.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Preston had a huge network. It was one of the strongest courses at the time, and the only sandwich course.

Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently at University?
Not really. Pushed it to the max at college re: going out. That worked for you, especially in London when you met people who might employ you. You are there to explore life and to push yourself. Work hard, play harder.

How do you generate ideas? Is it a collaborative or do you prefer thinking alone?
A process really but quite subconscious… when you think about it these are the steps: LEARN. THINK. FORGET. EUREKA! DEVELOP. SELL. When you relax after thinking about something, the ideas flow.

Designers and especially students don’t do enough learning before turning on the Mac. And thinking should be done away from any applications. Using someone to bounce ideas off is great at the right time. No point trying to think of ideas before you’ve all done your homework.

Many creatives don’t realise they’ve got a great idea – or what one is. To be able to spot one when you see one is the key!

You are the founder and Creative Director of Calling Brands. How’s it going?
Enjoying it as much as the first year we set up. Tough year but makes you focused and sharp. No bullshit and no fluff.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Being able to bring people with me, emotionally and mentally. If you can’t then leadership is difficult.

What does the Creative Director of Calling Brands do on a day to day basis? Do you find design time limited or are you still very much hands on?
Hands on yes but not a designer as such anymore. There are many better designers at Calling Brands. My role is to creatively lead teams by generating ideas and making sure the client gets the right answer. Calling Brands is much more than design. I have to lead the company, developing the culture and keeping creativity at the forefront of what we do.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done in your career?
Presented at 10 Downing Street a few years ago when Blair was in office. Went on an absinthe binge with our Orange clients in Tel Aviv, ended up with the army searching the sea for my body. I’m a strong swimmer though. Another time, I stripped naked and walked through the D&AD awards, but then realised halfway through that I was in a Free Masons bash. 

What time do you start and finish on an average day?
At work before 9 and out before 7 but I use the train to think. Also weekends are good to switch off and get a clear head. That allows me to think of things in my sleep! Seems to work… Someone up there feeds me the answers!

Any advice for students entering the industry?
Be enthusiastic and keep at it. It’s tough. Work for peanuts to get in. Be clear about this, offer it blatantly. Companies will take you up – expenses paid for starters. If you don’t want to work in the industry do something else now.


Branding & Advertising - Orange