Advertising Master: Paul Arden


As a designer, you are expected to be novel, to create, to design; not to replicate. This industry is possibly one of the most competitive in the world; quite often it is easy to settle for mediocrity. In this article I hope to put in plain words my thoughts on going against the grain and always pushing the barrier on each project. After all, as I say, what’s the ‘worst that could happen?’

The late Paul Arden was a significant figure in advertising, having worked as a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi during the pinnacle of their advertising might. He was involved with many of their high profile clients and was behind some of Britain’s most unforgettable advertising campaigns.

Throughout this article I’ll be referencing two books written by Arden, ‘Whatever you Think, Think the Opposite’ and ‘It’s not how good you are, It’s how good you want to be.’ I would strongly suggest getting a copy of each as they are incredibly inspirational and will certainly change how you work and respond to future briefs and problems.

They aren’t lengthy or complex but probably the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Psychological, inspiring and matter-of-fact, these books encourage you to reach out for your dreams while at the same time giving you tools of observation that will be useful to you whether you’re in graphic design, industrial design, new media or photography.

An anecdote from ‘Whatever you Think, Think the Opposite’:

There is a story of a professor who was bathing in the river Cherwell in oxford, at a place called Parson’s Pleasure, in which it was the custom to swim naked.

As the professor got out of the pool a punt of undergraduattes glided by, whereupon he grabbed his towel and wrapped it round his head.

The twist in this story is an unlikely way of thinking. The professor solution to the problem was innovative and cleaver.

Arden makes many references to breaking the rules, making bad decisions and taking risks. By going against the grain you will come across something special. Take for example, Dick Fosbury, he was an Olympic high jumper that instead of turning his body towards the bar, he turned his back on it. As a result he set a new world record, the technique has been named after him and is now the standard for jumpers.

Above all, what I learnt from Arden was that you should always tackle the norm with those crazy ideas that you thought would never work. Be willing to take risks even if the stakes are high; because when it comes down to it, it’s those who are willing to persevere in the face of adversity that will go on to achieve great things. You are in control of your success, nobody else is.

I hope this article has interested you and hopefully inspired you to do great things.

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