Posted 29 June 2023
Mention Christopher Medford
Interview by Lyla Maeve

Christopher Medford walks us through his move from graphic design to skate-influenced art direction

Art director Christopher Medford’s career journey shows that it’s more than okay to change your path. After roles in graphic design and post-production left him feeling “stagnant”, he attended a year-long programme at the prestigious art direction and copywriting School of Communication Arts 2.0, which he still considers “the hardest thing [he] has ever done in [his] life.” But he’s certainly reaped the results from the challenging curriculum – including creating significant industry connections, as the place where he netted an art direction role at ad agency Mother. With influences ranging from rave culture to niche subreddits, Christopher chats with us about his mission to amplify UK bass music, as well as why he always prefers reaching out to senior creatives directly instead of filling out forms.

Christopher Medford

Christopher Medford

Job Title

Art Director, Wasserman



Selected Clients

GambleAware, Costa, The Out, Department of Industrial Trade

Previous Employment

Creative Art Director, M&C Saatchi (2021–2023)
Creative Art Director, Mother (2021)

Place of Study

BA Illustration and Graphic Design, University of East London (2010–2014)


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I am a creative first and an art director second, so in a nutshell, I creatively solve problems for companies, governments and brands. [This can mean] anything from breaking into new markets, to inventing new and unique ways to inform people about old issues.

Recently, I’ve been creating experiences and convincing brands to spend more time with community groups – because traditional advertising doesn’t work on the younger generations anymore.

“In my work, I creative solve problems such as breaking into new markets and inventing new and unique ways to inform people about old issues.”

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
I’m heavily influenced by street culture and the UK rave scene. From graffiti art to skate videos, I absorb huge amounts of content and try to inject little bits of it into everything I do. I’d say my work tends to be quite grunge- and grime-influenced, reflective of city life and youth culture of the past – very reminiscent of old skate videos from Alien Workshop or Supreme.

Recently I have made it a bit of a personal mission to include UK bass music in pitches (where appropriate). I really see it as an under-appreciated genre, despite its rich history; many of these forgotten sounds deserve a moment in the limelight and the opportunity to be experienced by a new generation.

I’m also a huge film and documentary enthusiast, and take influence from the works of [directors] Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, The Hughes Brothers, Fernando Meirelles, Charles Stone III and Louis Theroux.

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
Yeah. I definitely feel you need a little training, or at least a good understanding of ways of working. Advertising can be fast paced, so being capable of the basics gives you a huge advantage.

There is a learning curve to being professionally creative. Before I became a creative, I was doing a lot of creative things: designing clothing, making flyers and even running social channels for small brands. All these things have helped to form my creative identity and been assets in [helping me develop] my ability to create new and unique ideas. Subsequently, going to a portfolio-building course helped to channel my creativity and taught me how best to present my thoughts.

What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
I loved working with Raw and Badlands to create the short film All The Little Things (above), which aimed to raise awareness of racism in the workplace and the impact it has. I am extremely passionate about being able to shine a light on some of the common traumas within the Black, Asian and minority diaspora – which made making the short film even more fulfilling.

How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
I made the career switch about three years ago from post-production broadcast editing and compliance [to being a creative], as I was feeling like I was stagnating in the position. I took some time off work and applied for a spot in the School of Communication Arts 2.0 [SCA, an art direction and copywriting school], where I was offered a scholarship for the year.

[The programme] was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, but I am eternally grateful for the support I had with building my portfolio and the chance to make connections within industry. My first opportunity came from a connection I made at the school with an ECD [executive creative director] at Mother. With her advice and mentorship, I was able to start my career.

“Through the School of Communication Arts 2.0 programme, I had support building my portfolio and the chance to make connections within industry.”

GambleAware print campaign, 2022
GambleAware print campaign, 2022

How did you go about landing your first clients?
I got my first break during the pandemic via an unconventional method. SCA was holding evenings with different ECDs [executive creative directors] from the industry via an online portal. During one event, it was Susan Hosking from Mother agency. I managed to get a link to attend this meeting, even though I wasn’t meant to – and soon as I entered, I saw the other people in there were being a little shy. I took my moment and asked her if she would look at my book and give me some tips and tricks to improve it.

She then reached out to me for an opportunity to join a new agency within the Mother family called Other (now called theOr), working under its ECD and founder Kyle Harman-Turner, on a very weird and unorthodox brief that she thought that my partner and I would be suited for. This was an amazing opportunity, and the fact that we had been noticed for our work and everything that I had learnt had paid off was such a confidence booster.

My advice? Reach out first. There is no shame in self-promotion, but there is a fine line between being proactive and becoming a little annoying. I have always reached out to ECDs and talent managers directly, just because a conversation gets more personality across than any forms I have ever filled out.

We are all human, face masks which Christopher illustrated for charity Create Not Hate’s anti-racism campaign, 2020

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
It has been a baptism of fire. There is no greater way to learn but to be thrown into the deep end and learn on the fly. My biggest challenge, however, has been learning to pick the right battles.

When I first started, I tried to get myself onto every brief. But after a while, I realised that it was the wrong approach – I was stretching myself too thin and wasn’t giving enough thought to any of my ideas. I have found that tactically choosing briefs that play into my strengths has helped me build confidence and a creative identity. Sometimes you need a little longer to perfect your craft before taking on clients and briefs that are outside of your comfort zone.

We are all human, face masks which Christopher illustrated for charity Create Not Hate’s anti-racism campaign, 2020

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful to your work or career, what would they be and why?
1. Reddit. It has been the number one tool in my box when looking for cultural insights. On Reddit, the levels of oversharing are second to none; it is a great way to get information on niche subcultures in society and just understand what people are thinking and feeling. But it is a mega-rabbit hole, so be careful!

2. It's Nice That and Creative Review. These two magazines are my go-to for discovering all the other things that I may not come across in my day to day.

3. Going outside. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from just leaving your desk and going to check out an exhibition or film. Just remember to take notes when the ideas start flooding in.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
You gotta be your own cheerleader and self-promotion is a good way for people to remember you. If you’re gaining traction on socials, it will be noticed – and companies will want you to apply this to their brands and clients.

“If you’re gaining traction on socials, it will be noticed – and companies will want you to apply this to their brands and clients.”

Work for The Out, 2021
Work for The Out, 2021

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I’ve found that the more creative and fun the work, the less money you’ll make. It is worthwhile taking on passion projects outside of work hours just to beef up your portfolio, or for charitable causes to give back to the world.

Be careful of burning out, though. You need to rest in order to do good work. We need to experience the world in order to be creative, and I’m sure everyone knows that the best ideas just pop up when you aren’t even thinking about it. Let your subconscious do the work sometimes!

If your day job isn’t paying as well as it should, I would always recommend moving to a different agency to negotiate a better salary, instead of breaking your back on a second job to pay the bills.

Hot sauce made in place of cred decks that the team would normally send to clients after a pitch, 2020

Have there been any courses, programmes, initiatives or access schemes you have found helpful?
The School of Communication Arts 2.0
; it’s probably the best ad school in the world. They have the blueprints to turn you from creative dabbler to a professional, with great masterclasses from the likes of [strategist] Uri Baruchin and [art director] Alex Taylor. Plus, they’ve won pencils [awards] from D&AD for six years in a row.

I would also recommend any D&AD masterclass – there’s nothing better than being taught by the greats in industry, even if it’s a little pricey.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Every agency is like a different tribe: they all have different work cultures and it can be difficult to adapt. You may like the work they do, but the structure might not be right. Just make sure you find the right tribe for you and everything else will flow.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Do research on campaigns; collect all the ones that you love, find out who made them and when they did it. If they’re still in the industry, reach out and start conversations and ask them about the work they’ve made, how they did it, where the inspiration came from. Talking to people in industry and making connections will take you a long way.

You miss all the shots you don’t take, and the worst that’ll happen is rejection, which is minor.

Mention Christopher Medford
Interview by Lyla Maeve