Freelance creative Peigh Asante on music, making documentaries and jump-starting his advertising career
Despite completing a two-year foundation course in graphic design and advertising, creative Peigh Asante found himself following a different path after graduation. Putting the idea of agency life on hold, he signed a record deal and dove into a two-year tour before eventually settling back down in London and putting his studies to work. Carrying his love of music with him, in 2016 Peigh joined The Kennedys, Wieden + Kennedy’s creative incubator programme, and was thrown in at the deep-end with a live brief for XL Records. He quickly learned to navigate client projects, with projects for Rough Trade and TK Maxx. Keeping his creative gears in motion, Peigh also co-founded Swim Dem Crew, an inner-city swimming club that promotes the power of community and mental wellbeing through social events and unique content. Here, he shares details of his budding music career, making documentaries and explains why embarrassment is better than regret.
Recording Artist (2009–2012; present)
Swim Dem Crew (co-founder) (2013–present)
Wieden + Kennedy London (2016–2017)
Virtue, Vice (2017–present)
FD Graphic Design and Advertising, University Of Bedfordshire (2007–2009)
Rough Trade, XL Records, Maynards Bassetts, ASOS, Google/Android, Adidas
How would you describe what you do?
Essentially, my job is ideation-based. The main objective is to help brands build campaigns and my task is to communicate the brand in the best way possible.
What does a typical working day look like?
Typical working hours are 9am to 6pm, but don’t expect to leave at 6, and if you do, don’t expect to stop thinking about work. Being a creative is a round-the-clock job, no matter what field you’re in. You’re constantly drawing inspiration from the world around you and scribbling stuff down – you’re never really ‘off’.
What do you like about working in London?
I love working in London because everything is within reach, you’re only ever one phone call away from the thing you need, and almost anything is possible.
“Being a creative is a round-the-clock job, no matter what field you’re in.”
How does your freelance work usually come about?
A lot to freelance projects usually come about through word of mouth or recommendations. Nine times out of ten, if you’ve done a good job for a client, they’ll come back for repeat business or they’ll recommend you to someone else.
How collaborative is your work?
Traditionally, advertising creatives work in a team of two people – one copywriter and one art director – so naturally there’s collaboration. I love this way of working and try to collaborate as much as I can. You can learn from each other.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Filling in timesheets! I don’t think anyone likes doing that! In all seriousness, the least enjoyable aspect of my job is not having any work on. It’s funny because when you’re slammed with work you’re like, “Ah, I need a break, I can’t breathe.” The minute you get some downtime and there isn’t any work, you’re banging your head against a wall begging to be busy – what a cycle! That’s why it’s important to always have a personal project on the go – it keeps you sane during moments of uncertainty.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Four summers ago, some friends and I started Swim Dem Crew, an inner-city swim club who believe in the power of the community. The club is an on-going project. We’re continuously looking at ways to make the brand more visible and swimming more inclusive.
We recently made a documentary depicting the humble beginnings of the crew and our relationship with mental health. We were hired to deliver a week long, learn-to-swim programme at a wellness festival on Obonjan Island in Croatia. It was a great opportunity to make some content and produce a film.
Initially, I didn’t know what the film was going to be about, I just knew it needed to happen. While negotiating timing and payments with the festival, I inquired about who was doing their videography, and to my surprise, they didn’t have anyone that week. I recommended three videographers, all of whom I knew personally or had worked with in some capacity. The festival ended up choosing Ruby and Boya, which was perfect because I had the strongest relationship with them. Then we built a schedule that worked for the festival and us, and the rest is history, as they say. Everyone worked so hard on the film and I love them for it. It was shown at the ICA this month, which is pretty exciting.
What skills are essential to your job?
One skill that’s essential to this job is articulation. The better you are at communicating an idea, the more chances you have of selling it.
Are you currently working on any side projects?
I’m in the middle of writing an EP and really enjoying the process, as I haven’t done it for a while. It’ll be released on 15 June.
What tools do you use most for your work?
A lot of our time is spent building decks in Google Slides or Keynote. Photoshop and Premiere Pro are my ‘go-to apps’ for creating mockups or helping proof of concept.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was around 11 or 12, I remember telling an elder woman in church that I wanted to be an architect. That’s probably my earliest memory of vocalising what I wanted to do as a profession. I never followed that path, but I do remember thinking loads about it until my late-teens, when music took over my life.
What influence has your background had on your choice of career?
I’m from a West African household and my parents were always keen on more academic professions like medicine or law. They weren’t so receptive of a career in the creative industry and there was some friction. I’m not really sure how I’ve ended up here, but I like it.
“My parents weren’t so receptive of a career in the creative industry. I’m not really sure how I’ve ended up here, but I like it.”
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Even though I did a foundation in graphic design and advertising, I never had a chance to give it a second thought. As soon as I graduated I signed a music publishing contract, and spent the following two years writing, recording and touring.
What one step helped you the most at the start of your career?
Before I got hired as a full-time creative at Wieden + Kennedy London, I was on a seven month incubator programme called The Kennedys. We were chucked in at the deep end. It was the best experience – a baptism of fire, if you will. I highly recommend it, and any other similar style programmes for anyone trying to get into industry.
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
One of our first briefs as Kennedys was to make a music video for XL Records and one of their artists, Powell, an electronic DJ and producer. We did everything from concept development to production, shooting and editing. We dealt directly with the client and it was the first time any of us worked this way. It was a case of learning by doing and it really helped me develop as a creative.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
One thing I’ve learnt along the way is that clients never really mean what they say or say what they mean. That’s why I’m a big fan of planners and strategists; they are good at deciphering client briefs and giving you exactly what you need.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
I’m still relatively new to this industry and learning on the job. I don’t think I’ve met my biggest challenge yet, and I definitely have many more mistakes to make.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
When I was at university, a creative at Mother came in and gave a talk about their job. They spoke about a project they were working on for a dairy brand and how they decked out a room with fake grass and cow sounds to help their ideation process. I wasn’t sure how sincere they were being but it sounded cool. Needless to say, when I entered the industry, it was more post-its than fake grass.
What would you like to do next?
If I’m completely honest, I’d like to get into making documentaries. The one we did for Swim Dem Crew really gave me a thirst for it.
Could you do this job forever?
I could definitely do this forever, but maybe in a different part of the daisy chain – whether that be ideation, producing or directing. As long as I’m making stuff, I’ll be happy.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
Should I stay in advertising, the natural progressive route is from creative, to creative director and then executive creative director.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a creative?
Never stop asking questions, no matter how silly you think they sound. Embarrassment is better than regret – remember that! Be visible, keep making stuff and stay busy!
Interview by Arielle Bier
Mention Peigh Asante