From gamer to art directing gaming campaigns
A D&AD Shift graduate tells us how he realised his creative calling was art direction
30-year-old Romaine ‘Chickennessy’ Fagan realised he wanted to be an art director through doing D&AD’s Shift programme with Google, and is now a full-time Creative at Design Bridge and Partners. Before joining the creative industry, Fagan wore many hats and worked as a butcher and in retail, and made music videos. Having now worked with clients like Intel, HSBC and gaming company EFG, Fagan tells us how he got his start as a creative, and how his passion for video games became an asset to the agency he interned at.
What was your route into the industry?
After doing D&AD Shift I entered Shift Select, which is a programme where students from Shift can get experience through paid internships. My first internship was with Design Studio and my second was with Superunion. Shift Select is really good because you get experience in the field, you work on active briefs, and you get to experience what it's like going into a studio every day working full time. Without Shift Select I wouldn't have known that I want to be an art director, and I wouldn't have been able to acquire those skills.
What were you doing before entering the creative industry?
I’ve worked as a butcher and in retail, but I’ve always been creative. In my music video days I used to source locations and props. I wasn’t shooting the music videos, but I was bringing ideas to the storyboard and helping to inform what stories we could tell based on what I’m a fan of. There's a music video out there somewhere called ‘Katana’, which is almost like a samurai movie, and there’s another video that we did, called ‘Selfish’, which was a Sex Pistols story.
During Covid I also started recording and reacting to cool things that I have an interest in and putting it on YouTube. I'm really passionate about games and anime, for example, so most of my content is about that. My videos would range from gameplay or a reaction to a game trailer, to a review of an anime show or review of a game I just played.
What made you realise you wanted to be an Art Director?
I shadowed a lot of creatives during my two internships at Design Studio and Superunion. I'm not a designer myself and my role at these two design studios was predominantly to do research and come up with ideas. I didn't know until maybe two weeks ago that what I was doing was art direction. Now that I use the title it makes sense. I lay down the basis for the work that gets created, research image references and come up with what it should look like. So much of creativity is just referencing.
I also really discovered that I wanted to do art direction at Superunion because the projects I was getting put on were a lot of gaming projects, and I love gaming. I was creating moodboards for what the brands could do, within the construct of the brand guidelines, of course. I really explored and delved into that, and I really enjoyed the process. I'm an avid gamer and that insight was very valuable to a lot of people within Superunion. You've got loads of creatives that know about gaming, but not everyone actually games, and so to have someone that's an actual consumer was very helpful because it helps whatever you come up with be more authentic.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience with D&AD Shift?
I saw an ad for Shift on Instagram. One of my good friends had done it a year before me, and it really opened my eyes to see what it did for him, because it opened up a world of opportunity. I knew it could get me in better places creatively, so when I saw the advert I just knew I had to apply. I didn't think I'd get in, but I did, and it was life changing. We went to so many agencies and we learned so much even within that short space of time, and I've made some really great creative friends and really good connections. I have all the slides that we were given in class, and it helps when I approach projects, because I'll come across something that I might have learned in class and reference those slides. I love Shift, I actually got a Shift tattoo on my leg.
What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced on your career journey?
Feeling like I'm not as represented as I should be. That's something I've always battled with as a Black male, but within the creative scene the lack of diversity is even more apparent — there is a lack of people like me. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel uncomfortable, because I've never been like that. It hasn’t made me question myself, but it’s made me think that if I can work my way up, one of my goals is to to change up the faces we see a bit more, and get a lot more representation. I think it's kind of shocking, because as advertisers or as branding companies, to not have the many faces that you're trying to advertise and market to doesn't make sense to me.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the creative industry?
No one has led the exact same life as you have, so you have things to bring to the table. Bring your authentic self. I’ve taken all my life experiences and I bring that to whatever I do at work, because that unique package is me, and that’s what I can bring to any brand.
You can reach out to Romaine ‘Chickennessy’ Fagan on LinkedIn.
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D&AD Shift with Google is a free, industry-led night school programme for new creatives. If you are over 18 and don't have a degree-level qualification, Shift is for you.