CREATIVE DIRECTOR, THOUGHTMATTER, NEW YORK NY
Made in England, transplanted to New York 12 years ago, and now a newly minted citizen of the U.S., Ben is an award-winning creative director whose sleeves are rarely seen rolled down. He developed his hands-on approach over the course of more than two decades working in a cutting-edge branding agency environment. Ben has worked with a diverse range of global and local brands, including The Football Association, UMBRO, The Breakfast Club, P&G, Unilever, Jet.com and Heineken. More recently with ThoughtMatter he set his sights on a wide range of cultural institutions, not-for-profit and community focused-organizations.
ThoughtMatter has always been focused on partnering with companies that drive social progress and collaborating with clients that value positive change. Having embodied this mindset from its start, the firm truly stands out for having social impact baked into its core. ThoughtMatter was caring before it was cool.
Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.
Joining ThoughtMatter in 2018 turned out to be a huge milestone and shift in focus for my career. I already had a wealth of branding agency experience delivering a high level of design and craft to some prestigious clients. Still, I asked myself, could I be doing more? Working day-in day-out for some bigger CPG clients, you know there are only so many combinations of on-pack violators you can come up with or ways to position a tomato on a pack.
The shift I craved was from a designer to watch to a socially responsible designer to watch.
Take one look at our client list and you can tell from the types of projects we take on that we’re at our best working alongside clients that shine a light on unmet needs in society. I am not only the Creative Director at ThoughtMatter, leading the work and setting the creative bar, but am part of something meaningful that can have impact at both a local and national level.
We’re not trying to announce that design can save the world or solve all its problems, but when you can see it helping people and making an impact it makes you happy to do what you do. Projects I am proud of like Harlem Empowerment Project, The Mama Foundation and Archer & Goat give me a real creative buzz. Being a longtime Harlem resident, those projects empowered my local community for economic growth and social strength. To me, there is nothing more satisfying.
Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?
Over the last few years more and more designers have embraced the fact that through their practice they have a real opportunity to effect change. For me, having now spent several decades in the industry I truly understand the power I wield as a design leader — and with that power, the responsibility I inevitably hold.
The future for me became more about fostering the next generation of designers and building a team of diverse talent that reflects the world we now live in. I have always thought of myself as a team player. But the penny really dropped once I realized just how important it is for our people to have a leader, someone to set the tone and vision, motivate and inspire, and be the gatekeeper to open doors for others.
As we move into 2023 we have a real shared purpose, pride in the work we create and the clients we delight.