Simon Higby

Graduated – 2002


After graduation Simon moved swiftly into advertising working for McCann Erickson – London, The Works – Sydney Australia and then on to Sweden and DDB Stockholm. He was recently ranked amongst the top three Art Directors in the world according to the 2010 Big Won survey. His awards haul includes a Titanium Lion, a Cannes Grand Prix, nine other Cannes Lions, a Eurobest Grand Prix, 10 other Eurobest statues, D&AD, Two Gold eggs (Swedish awards), DDB’s highest accolade The Bill Bernbach Award, three Webby Awards, the grand award at the International Effectiveness awards plus awards at every other major show.

Simon was also recently picked out by Creativity Magazine as being one of ten creatives to watch. Simon is currently Creative Director of DDB Copenhagen – creative agency of the year in Denmark.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

Did you do a placement year? If so how was it?
Yeah, I did a placement year in London. First at FutureBrand with Stuart Barron, great bloke, and then at The Partners. They were both design jobs which were great fun and helped me a lot, but above all helped me confirm that I was more suited to advertising.

Who or what inspires you?
Tough question. Probably the people who you are surrounded by. If you have good people around you, you all inspire each other to do even better stuff. Be that by talking about interesting stuff or doing work that is of such a level you just have to get up there. I think Preston really epitomised that for me. We had some talented people there who inspired in a friendly but competitive atmosphere.

How do you generate ideas? Do you have a process that you follow each time or is it more impulsive than that?
I always try to find a really solid insight that solves the problem logically before setting to work on any executions. For the me the best work is made at that stage. Great executions just follow if your stategic thought is good enough. Plus, I always think you ought to be able to explain your solution in two sentences, no more.

You are currently Art Director at DDB in Stockholm. Could you summarize your role within the team and any day to day responsibilities?
I work mainly on VW. Liaising with the clients, presenting to clients, working on the big ideas, ensuring that all work coming out of the agency is on brand and up to standard.

You have also had spells in London and Sydney. How does the working culture differ between the three cities in your experience? Do you prefer one over another?
The working culture in London and Sydney is pretty similar really, but I would say Sweden differs a lot. It’s a lot more of a flat organisation, with a lot more discussion amongst the team in terms of what direction the campaign should take. Both cultures have their benefits but I do like the Swedish way. I always encourage all our team to have an opinion on what matters. After all an engaged person who feels ownership of a project is much better than vice versa.

Has there ever been any cultural/language difficulties whilst working in Sweden?
A small language barrier to begin with, but that’s just something you take on the chin and get yourself to language classes. Now it’s no problem at all.

Would you recommend travelling and working abroad to further your career?
Yes I certainly would. The UK is a great place to work, with some amazing people and agencies there. But why not go overseas? Gain some inspiration, open your mind a bit, learn another language, even learn to surf. We are so blessed in this job that we can turn up with our books and get a job anywhere. Do it.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Hard work. Simple as that really. Even if you have talent, you have to work hard to develop it, and to make your ideas happen. I also try to set targets for myself. For instance, I try to get two book worthy pieces out every month.

What’s the best and worst thing about your job?
That it’s a twenty four hour job. That’s both good and bad.

What time do you start and finish on an average day? Do you switch off easily?
Get in about 9am. And roughly finish about 7pm on average but find it tough to switch off. Which isn’t usually a problem, I enjoy thinking.

Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently at University?
No, not at all. I loved Preston, I have some great memories and I am still proud of some of the work we did in those days.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Yes definitely. It has opened doors for me of course. But most of all it was, and I hope still is, a course that put the idea above style. The idea is what matters and I thank Ron Bray and Andy Bainbridge for instilling that into me.

What do you look for in graduates and their books?
I look for books which have something really unique about them. I’m not so interested in the nicely finished stuff, I look for books that show a level of strategic thinking.

But most of all I look for the people. Are they a nice person? The founder of DDB, Bill Bernbach noted that you can teach people many things, but you can’t teach them to be nice. So, be nice and have a good book, and you’ll be fine!

Finally, any advice for students entering the industry?
Just get out there and get doing ideas. If you have a good enough book everything else will take care of itself in the long run.


Ambient Advertising - Coca-Cola & McDonald's

Big 'n' Juicy Advertising - McDonalds

The Fun Theory - Volkswagen