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How’d You Get In: Nick Law

Posted on March 12, 2012 and read 4,680 times

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The uncanny talent required for playing rugby, the beautiful scenery of wild Australia, and the eccentricities of a psychopath mentor.  What do they have in common?  Absolutely nothing. But put these in a figurative blender (a really big blender) and you get Nick Law. Leading the Nike account is only the tip of the iceberg of Nick’s achievement. He’s won many international awards, including a Titanium Lion and a Grand Prix Cyber Lyon at Cannes, and a D&AD Black Pencil. Nick was also named one of Creativity Magazine’s “Creativity 50” for his creative influence. After an arduous road that you have to read to believe, Nick is now renowned as the Chief Creative Officer for R/GA North America, and it’s all because his mentor never could make him cry. So, how did Nick Law get in?

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NickLawart Howd You Get In: Nick Law I was a feral and feckless high school student whose talents were well hidden. There were only two things that I could do with anything approaching proficiency. I could play rugby and I could draw. As any slack-jawed 17 year old knows, there is no future in drawing; it’s pointless and effete. That left a short brutal life as a professional Rugby player as my best option.

Until I found out that a friend’s father made a tidy living as a “commercial artist.”  He had a posh house, a shiny car and a nice firm handshake. So instead spending my twenties smeared in mud and hanging out in men’s locker rooms, I went to a technical college and learnt how to use a T-square. Technical colleges in Australia during the 80’s were essentially trade schools. No Arcadian quads full of dreaming academics, just a mob of plumbing, hairdressing and graphic design students toiling away for a cheaply printed certificate and quick transition into the workforce. After two years hunched over a drafting table, I left, keeping my family degree-free for yet another generation, but with a job.

My first job was at a three-person graphic design studio led by a wide-eyed psychopath with a reputation for exacting work and making designers cry. To convince him that I was his man, I turned up to the interview having designed a whole identity system for one of his existing clients. He was hardly impressed with the work but thoroughly impressed that he couldn’t make me cry. I worked under his scowling eye for two years, perfecting the manual tools of the day and learning how to distinguish between good and inspired. Other young designers arrived full of promise, but left exhausted, beaten and dispirited. Almost all were more talented than me, but none of them as resilient.

I left the job for London fearless and with a beautifully crafted portfolio. I got a job at Pentagram, with the legendary Alan Fletcher, and then a few years later sullied all credibility with my designer colleagues by joining the advertising agency DMB&B. In 1994, I moved to NY where yet again I hopped between design and advertising before falling into the dot com hysteria in the late 90’s.

In retrospect, I had the perfect first job. There is much to recommend a maniacal mentor with impossible standards, and a childhood getting the snot beaten out of you playing rugby.




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