Oriel Davis-Lyons


Once upon a time, I was a chef. But after realizing I much prefer to cook without people screaming at me, I managed to find my way into advertising. A decade later, I’m a Creative Director who’s worked at Droga5, R/GA and now Spotify. I’m also the founder of ONE School, which is the first, online portfolio school for aspiring Black creatives started in partnership with The One Club for Creativity, the world’s leading creative organization for the advertising industry.

How did you become involved in socially responsible communications and why do you believe design can be an effective tool for this goal?

I’ve never been able to separate the causes I care about and the work I do because I believe we have a responsibility to use the privilege and influence we’re given to do good. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to do this across a lot of different issues and campaigns throughout my career. Like writing a song for mental health or creating a new approach to gun violence awareness or, of course, ONE School.

I think that, while art and music and film can exist at the extremities of culture, advertising will always be the mainstream. So, when cultural trends and societal issues that were once taboo or fringe start showing up in advertising it sends a message to the world about who we are and what we value as a society. The ability to normalize progressive stances is our greatest tool. So if I’m not trying to do that, I feel like I’m only doing half my job.

Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does 2021 present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?

The last year and a half has put an end to the idea that great creative work can’t be done remotely. The big question is will agencies and clients try and impose an old and dated system onto a new and changing world? Are we just going to take everything that was toxic about the way we worked and do it from home? Or, do we seize this chance to completely reinvent the relationship between creativity and commerce? That possibility is what excites me most right now and the only thing holding us back are the people with a vested interest in keeping things as they were.