“I ignored my conscience and wrote a TV ad for Thatcher’s government…”

Dan Radley, previously executive creative director at StartJG, has joined NB Studio to head up brand strategy at the consultancy. We talk to Radley about clever street signs, having his ideas stolen and why he is apparently one of “ten reasons for Labour’s downfall”.

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When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

As a three year old, I watched the Telecom Tower being assembled with my grandad Frank. He told me he was having it built especially for me. Ever since, I’ve wanted to make something as astonishing as that – possibly not quite so phallic.

What was your first job? 

Junior copywriter at JWT with art director Davy Tennant. Our first ad was an animated commercial for Bran Flakes inspired by computer gaming. Our boss “commandeered” it, famously turning it into Only Smarties have the answer. Early life lesson.

How would you describe what you currently do?

I solve communication puzzles.

What has been the biggest change in design since you started?

Social tools have taught us how to collaborate. It used to be all about my idea; now it’s about our idea, which is much healthier.

What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?

The BBC’s brand narrative. I genuinely loved the brand, so it was written on pure emotion.

What is your favourite project, that you haven’t worked on?

I like this street sign a lot.

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What was your biggest mistake?

Ignoring my conscience when writing a TV ad for Thatcher’s government, later cited as one of “ten reasons for Labour’s downfall”. These days I prefer to use my powers of persuasion for good, not evil.

What is your greatest ambition? 

I’m driven by the belief that the next brief will be the best piece of work I’ve ever done. 

Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?

My father, Chris Radley, is inspiring – he’s currently drawing an entire graphic novel at the age of 79.

What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?

Be fascinated in people.

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