Since he won a New Blood Awards Pencil in 1999, Ben Lambert went on to co-found the brand design agency PB Creative, which creates packaging for global brands such as TRESemme, Lynx/Axe and Toni &Guy. Lambert talks to us about how winning a New Blood Pencil elevated him above his peers, prepared him to enter the industry and opened his eyes to the world of brand design. He also shares his creative career advice for advertising and design graduates.
What do you do and where do you work?
I’m co-founder and creative partner at brand design agency PB Creative. As creative partner of PB, I’m ultimately responsible for the creative output of the agency.
What was your journey, from entering New Blood Awards to where you are now?
I entered New Blood Awards as it was an optional module in my second year at Loughborough University where I was studying Industrial Design. In 1999, the awards were sponsored by what was then British Steel and the brief was for Whiskas cat food. Ironically, I have a distinct mistrust of cats. After leaving university and winning my New Blood Pencil, I worked at a small product design firm outside of London and then moved to Futurebrand as a middleweight designer for a year. After Futurebrand I moved on to JDO for 7 years as a senior designer moving up to design director and then in 2010, I set up PB Creative with my friend and business partner Pete Hayes. It was our 10th anniversary in 2020.
How did New Blood Awards help you get there?
The key thing that New Blood Awards did was to open my eyes to the power of structural brand design. When studying at university there were very few product design-led brands out there. Dyson was perhaps the exception putting industrial design at the heart of the product’s aesthetic. Ultimately it introduced me to the world of structural packaging – I had always had an aptitude for graphic design but didn’t know how to combine the worlds of 3D and 2D together. Entering the structural design brief is probably why I‘m where I am today.
What is one thing that New Blood Awards gave you that you couldn't have gotten anywhere else?
New Blood Awards is an accolade that is well known and highly valued in our industry and is such a powerful prize to win. It is universally recognised which means that if you have a D&AD Pencil you are elevated above everyone else who simply has just a degree.
What do you think is valuable about participating in something like New Blood student awards at the beginning of your career?
For me personally, it gave me a taste for competition. Looking back, participating almost felt like being part of a pitch. It was really exciting; you don’t get that feeling of adrenaline from the day to day of a degree course.
As someone who employs people, what do you look for in a young creative?
Without doubt I look for passion as well as a curiosity and a willingness to learn. I also look for honesty. Honesty in the sense of being brave enough to say what you think. Not arrogance but just having the confidence to stay true to your beliefs.
The briefs in New Blood Awards respond to real clients with real challenges to solve – what do you think is the benefit of this for someone starting out?
It is the realisation that eventually you’ll have to work in a commercial environment, and it challenges you from a technical and a viability point of view. Degree courses can sometimes be inward looking so New Blood Awards gives you the opportunity to face the reality of the real-world head on.
As the creative industry is ever-changing and responding to new technologies, how would you recommend a new creative keep up to date with the needs of the industry?
You have to understand the specific challenges for the job at hand. You can’t keep up to date with every emerging technology and sometimes new technology is not the answer, it’s just another channel to deliver the big idea. I’d advise being an expert on the challenge you have in front of you at the time, being curious ‘in pockets’ and keeping any new technology relevant. Ultimately don’t use new technology for new technology’s sake, ‘Focused Curiosity’ is what I would suggest.
What challenges do you think young creatives are facing right now?
I believe that the biggest challenge facing young creatives right now is how multidisciplinary design has become. There is a danger that you become a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none'. This is both a challenge but also the biggest opportunity. I would advise choosing the field that you believe you work best in and then use divergent disciplines to elevate ideas and communication of that idea where appropriate. You should be an expert in your own field but aim to have a repertoire of skills, but ultimately it's knowing when to use the right tool for the job – a sketch can be as powerful as an animation, it all depends upon the desired outcome.
This multidisciplinary approach has blurred the lines and designers now find it harder to say who they are and what they do. The design landscape is now much more fluid – more exciting as a result but a bigger challenge for youngsters looking to articulate their expertise into a role.
Do you have any advice for entry-level creatives looking to become a creative director someday?
I’d say stay open to learning, acknowledging that at the top of your career triangle you can still learn something every day if you stay curious. Remain humble. I’d also say always be kind, understanding that our industry is as much about people as it is about the work. From a leadership point of view, understanding people and how they work is key. People buy people and it’s important to nurture how they work.
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