Trefor Thomas

Graduated – 1991


Trefor is one of the UK’s most awarded creative talents, having received over 40 national and international awards, including six Cannes Lions. He’s also a frequent award show judge and has twice judged The Cannes Advertising Festival and the D&AD Awards. He has worked throughout Asia, Australia and EMEA on some of the world’s biggest and best brands and for some of the world’s most creative advertising agencies. Trefor is currently Creative Director at SapientNitro.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
My first job was with Lambie Nairn & Co. I was fortunate enough to be offered a job on the back of my placement by the legendary Martin Lambie-Nairn.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
In every way (with a couple of exceptions, we can talk about those another time), it gave me the grounding I needed and learning that if you trace it back, is still relevant to how I work today. The simplest way of putting it is that it ignited a passion for creativity that is totally necessary if you want to do what we do.

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
Beyond all recognition I would say. There are big changes every couple of years with almost real-time updates as we go from day to day. A lot of folk will mention the key waves of change in creative output or interaction but that’s only part of what we need to consider. Behavioural, societal, how marketers operate, what makes today’s brands successful are a few others that all play a massive part. Beyond that how long have you got?

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
Pretty much everywhere. I prefer both collaboration and isolation when coming up with stuff, just depends on what the task or challenge is. Depends on who needs to be involved at the start and what team needs to be built and brought up to speed later. No two challenges are the same so you have to remain open to different approaches, at least for the kind of agency we are. Different strokes for different folks I’m sure.

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Had more fun with the work and been more collaborative. Now I spend as much time as possible doing projects I really want to do, with people I want to work with. Knowing that’s one of my goals now I just wish I’d started with that in mind earlier.

What’s the best thing about your job?
My job. I still love it 20 years on. Tried to give it up once, managed about three months.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Graft, luck, stamina, talent and patience. Probably in that order.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
That’s a tough one. Not particularly unusual but definitely challenging was moving to China as an ECD with no concept initially of what a good idea for the Chinese market was. I woke up pretty quick to the concept of good ideas are only good if they’re relevant.

Any advice for students entering the industry?
If you really want to get in the industry bang as loud and for as long as you can on the door. If that fails dive through the window or start digging a tunnel.


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