Oh, hello Si! How’s it going? Are you having a good week so far? Hello Glug! I’m excellent. We’ve just bought a new studio. So I’m excited about how it will inspire how we work and become a permanent home for us all.
Let’s start easy, shall we? For those Gluggers who’ve never heard of you, who are you and what do you do? My name is Simon Dixon, and I’m the Co-Founder, with Aporva Baxi, of DixonBaxi an independent brand agency based by the River Thames in London.
As I run/own an agency it means being responsible for a lot of different things; Finding clients. Strategy. Creative Direction. Some business etc. However, the thing I think is most important is creating the space for others to be as creative as they possibly can be.
Our team is about 30 people, and we are lucky to work on some fantastic projects. So I think about the important things like; How we can be better at what we do. How we improve. How we make the studio a great place to work. What drives us creatively and what work would challenge us. What we’d enjoy doing.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing now, then? I was home educated, so I had a slightly unusual entry into the industry. From an early age, I knew I wanted to do something creative as a career, and I was lucky to be allowed to experiment. As I wasn’t sure precisely what discipline, I went to a provincial college and tried photography, art, animation, illustration, printmaking and drawing comics until I hit on graphic design as a way to combine several disciplines.
As my course was a pretty underwhelming, I began to feel a need to learn faster and experiment more, so three of us started a small agency in our final year to produce commercial work. This kickstarted a fairly fast entry into the industry and a self-motivated approach to developing my career. I was really into the idea of learning by throwing myself into challenging situations.
I’ve always loved how technology liberates the creative process and have tried to push at the edges of new ways to work. I embraced the transition from classical design [including hot metal!] to working on Apple systems to more open platforms. So from a pretty simple design background and basic training, I now work on very complex and technically challenging projects. Ones that mean I have to be on my toes and continue to learn. Which I love.
Have you had any mentors along the way of your career so far? If not, why not? I’ve always embraced a self-taught approach to my work. As I mentioned, I had a quick start and found it exciting to move through the gears quickly from pure design and typography to trying motion, directing, strategy, digital, writing, large brand projects, business strategies and beyond.
The kicker though is I have worked and collaborated with very, very good people. Often far more talented than I am. So it has stretched me. I think the better the person you work with, the more they are likely to challenge you creatively.
If you were to give your younger self-advice on what to go for or think about when you’re just about to step into the industry, what would that be? The first is always create work that makes you proud.
Then I suppose it would be there is no shortcut to being excellent. What we do is a craft, so hard work and practice pay off.
Also, work the way you want to work. Don’t let others tell you that there is a correct way of doing things as there isn’t. Creativity is personal. It’s a passion. Do it your way.
Don’t work just for money. It will hold you back and dent your creativity.
Be restless and don’t settle. A career is long [hopefully!], so constant development and wrestling to improve are vital as you begin to get a handle on your work. Okay kills good and good kills great. So don’t settle.
Sometimes it's important to say no. What you decide not to do defines you as much as what you choose to do.
And the final one is a favourite: only work with awesome people! If you do, whatever you do will be better. Not forgetting that includes your clients.
Apart from working… What do you get up to in life? Got any exciting side hustles or passions to tell us about? I’m currently writing my second feature film. The aim is to direct it next year. So hustling to get into the film industry is my passion. My directorial debut premiered at the Tribeca Festival in 2016, so we have taken the first step. Now it is about seeing if we can do it again and raise our game. The next film is a phycological thriller set in China so it should stretch us creatively!
If you’re running low on inspiration, what do you do (or where do you go) to get this back on track again? Great question. I can always walk around the studio, and the team will have something going on that gives me a lift. Seeing their talent in action gets me out of a funk.
I often listen to music and sulk a bit. Then tell myself I'm stupid and an idea often pops into my head. I rarely look at external inspiration as I fear it will influence me too much. So optimism [balanced with a healthy dose of cynicism] that it will be OK is the key. After so many years of working you pick up the habit of pushing through. So there is a kind of pigheaded quality that I know I’ll get there.
Ok, so let’s get a bit dreamy, shall we? If you could swap job with anyone in the industry, who would this be and why? To be honest, I am fortunate in the control I have in my current job. I love it. That’s the lovely thing about having your own agency.
I think something outside design/branding would be more interesting. Don’t tell anyone but in the quiet moments, I dream about winning an Oscar.
And… If you were given the opportunity to move anywhere without having to apply for any visas what-so-ever (and we’d sort the packing for you) — where would you go? If I were starting again, and it was about lifestyle, then it would be Berlin and NY. Both have an edge I like. That said 80% of the work we do is international, so I travel a lot and have been lucky to work in some fantastic places already. For example we’ve just spent time in China on a recce for our film. So it is part life experience, part work and part inspiration. We get a huge burst on energy from these types of trips.
However the truth is where I work is important but I’ve found who I work with is far more vital. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find like-minded folks who I’ve shared dreams and challenges, successes and failures over long periods. That has been far more important than where I’ve been.
Ok, and last but not least! Please give a link shout-out to 5 pieces of inspiring/epic/awesome work that you’ve stumbled upon recently:
– I love what Unit Editions are doing. I think it will become an essential archive.
– I enjoy Lundgren+Lindqvist. Superb craft.
– I saw the Pussyhat Project at the Beazley Designs of the Year and was impressed.
– I also loved Nathan Smith and Sam T Smith’s Me + Eu project.
– Ryuichi Sakamoto – Rage Soundtrack is an excellent album as a soundscape for writing scripts. He’s incredibly gifted.
This articles is part of our Glug Profiles series – a series of interviews aiming to highlight journeys and insights from creatives, makers, doers and cool cats from all walks of life in the creative industry, and the world. Get in touch with Malin if you'd like to take part: firstname.lastname@example.org