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The Best Art Direction Tips from Peter Mould

In more than 30 years in advertising, Peter Mould has amassed over 150 mentions in the D&AD Annual, including a whopping 8 Yellow Pencils. We figured he must have a few tricks up his sleeve, so we asked him to share the secret to multiple award winning art direction. The D&AD Pencil winners below demonstrate how to craft brilliant adverts for press or outdoor. 

I’ve worked in advertising and design for over 30 years, and what motivates me is the unique opportunity we have every day to excite and engage new audiences. 

There is nothing more rewarding than creating a piece of work that the audience wants to spend time with, that stops them in their tracks.

Great art direction and design has the power to do that.  

Whether they like the product itself after that, is really beyond my control. But to grab someone’s attention for a few seconds is what I always aim to do.

And there are many ways to achieve this. Whether it’s a great piece of typography, amazingly crafted illustration, pure design, or choosing the right photographer. It all ads up to making great work – work that makes an impact, in the first 2-3 seconds.

Illustration

The Nabs campaign is a great example of this – working very closely with the team, I set out to create a look that felt completely fresh and of the moment, with Art direction that would catch your eye and make you want to look out for the next ad in the series. 

The ads were based on industry in-jokes and insights about each agency featured. The extra care and attention that went in to expressing the personality of individual agencies really paid off. Whether it was CHI working late, or Folk Tunes from Fallon. It was a lot of fun to work on and I had complete trust from the creative team that resulted in something different.

The Crafts of Advertising: Pete Mould
Nomination / Art Direction / Poster Advertising / 2010
The Crafts of Advertising: Pete Mould
Nomination / Art Direction / Poster Advertising / 2010

Typography

Having the trust of the creative team is vital. As a head of design you really are the third member of a creative team. Volkswagen Independent Film was a classic example of this. At the time I worked with a young team called Steve and Danny, they had a brilliant idea for Volkswagen’s ‘See Film Differently’ campaign, using car insurance claims from famous films. They asked me to make it as authentic as possible. 

As a result I went to great lengths to achieve this for them; making sure that the typeface on each execution was correct, and was the right cut for that year, spaced and printed as it would have been, on the right paper. Luckily Steve’s dad had some green striped computer paper from the 80s. I also remember walking around with the forms in my pocket to age them so that they would look even more authentic. I was incredibly proud to help the team make every ad the best it could be and to help them go on to win the first of many awards.

The Crafts of Advertising: Pete Mould
In Book / Art Direction / Press Advertising / 2010
The Crafts of Advertising: Pete Mould
In Book / Art Direction / Press Advertising / 2010

Photography

The Harvey Nichols ‘Must Have’ calendar campaign is another example. It started with Justin Tindal and Adam Tucker asking what a Harvey Nichols calendar would look like. Once they’d refined the idea we got together and set out to make it happen. James Day shot everything, including getting one image in a work colleague’s toilet to achieve that extra level of authenticity. 

The next step was to pull everything together. Working with retouchers on 30 shots per execution took weeks to produce, but it was worth it. The campaign did rather well over the next 12 months. 

Pete Mould: The Crafts of Advertising | D&AD
Cat / Yellow Pencil / Press Advertising / Magazine Press Advertising Colour / 2006

Of course when most people look at an ad they don’t necessarily notice that level of detail. But deep down in a different part of the brain they do register if something is out of place. And this can be the big difference.

Pete Mould: The Crafts of Advertising | D&AD
Toilet Paper / Yellow Pencil / Press Advertising / Magazine Press Advertising Colour / 2006

Ideas

Over my career there have also been those ads where you have to know when to leave it alone; those are usually the ones where the image itself does all the talking. Some images are so powerful, like ‘King Kong’ for Polo or ‘Pants’ for Harvey Nichols, it’s best to simply give them the space they need to work.

Pete Mould: The Crafts of Advertising | D&AD
Pants / Yellow Pencil / Art Direction / Individual / 2003
Pete Mould: The Crafts of Advertising | D&AD
King Kong / Yellow Pencil / Posters / Consumer Posters - Individual Pavement (Sidewalk) / Adshel / 2005

And this is where a still image for me is different to film. In that very moment, every single detail has to be perfect. Every image is a frozen moment in time and there is nowhere to hide.

My advice, therefore, to anyone who wants to get in The Book is this: if you have a great idea, a truly great idea and you have put the hours in to get there, make sure you put the same love and attention into crafting it.

Great craft can be the difference between being easily forgotten and being something people want to spend time with – between being in The Book, or not. 

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.
 

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