I have been creating things for as long as I can remember, it must be in the genes as the whole of the Bigger clan are creative in one form or another. I can still remember as a small boy, sitting on my father’s knee and being taught to draw aeroplanes or ships or animals which was in a sense quite a privilege as my father was one of the post war commercial artists and worked in London for an international advertising agency during the swinging sixties when art was really fresh and exciting.
My father was an art director for Lintas, a subsidiary of Unilever, one of the great forces in advertising in their day. Being part of Unilever meant opportunities were available worldwide so when a post became available in Africa my father accepted the position with no hesitation. It is for this reason I spent a good deal of my childhood in East and later, West Africa.
What shall we do now?
After leaving school I had no idea what I wanted to do so I ended up working in the wine trade for 4 years in a small family business run by the charismatic Giorgio Koflach and his son Enzo whom I drove mad with my complete youthful incompetence and lack of common sense. It was great fun and I learned a great deal about wine but my interest in art couldn't be contained so I enrolled in an art and design course in the crumbling West Sussex College of Art and Design.
A couple of years later I was let loose and found a freelance job in Presslink Media, a tiny, Burgess Hill, West Sussex ad agency run by two ex-London agency salts. All this was well prior to the Apple falling from the technology tree so automation was pretty much non-existent apart from Agfa PMT cameras and photo-typesetting. Everything was hands-on so processes took an age but it was great experience and a good opportunity to learn the business.
On the south coast, the list of agencies I worked for grew and grew until I ended up in a new, fresh, exciting agency called ‘The Advertising Bureau’ based in Hove, East Sussex. This was a turning point for me as the agency was extremely lucky to have two of the most talented designers I have ever met in the form of John Powner and Neil French who introduced me to a completely new way of looking at projects and made highly creative design look effortless. The agency also was fortunate enough to have a young Vince Frost join and this added a new dynamic to the team as he was a whizz with the magic markers so our concepts started to look really good and won lots of business in the ensuing months. This phase came to a close due to economic pressures when a complete team comprising of a copy writer, an account manager and myself were ‘let go’ which in some respects wasn’t such a bad thing in that it spurred me on to try my hand in London.
London at last
In the mid eighties, London really was the ultimate creative party, the place all designers aspired to. It was a city of opportunity and the chance to meet other like minded individuals with a passion for design and create stylish pieces of work with the emphasis on beautiful typography. The first studio I worked in was ‘Ron Baker Design’ based in Clarkenwell which was a pain to get to coming from south of the river. Essentially, the studio provided creative support for key ad agencies and one of the first jobs I worked on was a sales incentive for Woolworths, then still a high street store. It was at Ron Bakers that the next phase started to evolve. The studio was a mass of various free-lancers and regular staff and also those that rented desk space and one of those individuals was a young artist by the name of Ian Boardman who never seemed to have time to blink as he was so busy. I got a call from Ian one day saying that he had set up his own studio and wanted to know if I had some time free to do some artwork for him, of course I jumped at the chance and worked with him together with another artworker, Kim in his studio above the ‘Tin Pan Alley Club’ in Denmark Street, just off Charing Cross Road. This was a fabulous location, right in the heart of London with a distinct musical association. Denmark Street was also the original location of Return to the Forbidden Planet comic store.
The pace was relentless, the work was interesting and above all, you could see some of it in your local supermarket at the weekend. This was the alien world of sales promotion, offers on tubs of margarine, Ferrero Rocher thankfully prior to the ambassador getting his hands on them and After Eight mints to name a few. This period provided me some of my most cherished memories, it was just great fun. The recession of the late eighties was another turning point plus Macs were really starting to make inroads in the industry so I made the decision to leave London and return to the south once more.
Life after London
I worked for a short time in Falmer Publicity, a small Brighton agency right next to the Royal Pavilion in an old 30’s office block with a rickety lift that creaked and groaned as it climbed it’s way to the 5th floor. My eventual exit lead me to another design company a little further along the coast in Lewes producing work for the pharma industry mainly. I also started acquiring clients of my own and eventually did very little free-lance work but that was to change once again with a call from Ian Boardman. He had been asked to put a creative team together within Unigraph, a print management company based in Old Street, EC1. The company had some really top notch clients one of whom was Lloyds Bank and they had the opportunity to start producing all kinds of projects for Seagrams, Lloyds and Nat West Bank. Other clients included BT so the calibre of work was really high and additionally Ian was still working for other promotion agencies so we also worked on Teachers whiskey, Britvik and a few other top brands. This lasted a couple of years and in the meantime, my client base was slowly growing to a point where I decides to open a studio closer to home in Crawley and that was the birth of Abstract Creative and the purchase of my first Mac.
The rest as they say is history and I have been on the local south scene ever since. This was due largely to the impact of the Mac within the creative industry, changing it beyond all recognition which I believe is not a bad thing although the learning curve was oh so steep for some of us and unfortunately for others insurmountable.
So here we are now in Rustington, helping small to medium businesses achieve better things which is gratifying. The standard of work is high and the variety of tasks is wide especially when it comes to the digital arena which offers fantastic new opportunities to be creative, exciting times with endless possibilities, glad to be a part of it.