How to Think Like a Top 1% Creative

April 24, 2024
4 min read
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The greatest designer I ever met was the son of a travelling salesman.

He was a visiting lecturer on my university design course. He would analyse our work and give us sound, creative advice. Students laughed at him when he came to critique our work because he would always wear these odd little hats. It pissed me off.

When I first met him I had no idea of the impact he’d have on my career. He was a top 1% creative. You might have missed him in the crowd.

He made me realise one big idea:

Advertising can do good in the world

What makes him a top 1% creative is his view of the world. He had a firm believe that the role of a designer is to make the world a better place, to create dramatic change, through advertising, design, etc. He was a small, quiet man who was easy to miss.

Not in a shouty, worthy way, but a deeply caring and human way. It’s amazing to think of the impact he has had on me. It gets me fired up thinking about it.

Top-tier creatives see the big picture and give a damn. Here's what sets them apart.

Believe in Something

They have unshakeable convictions and a framework to guide their work.

For Ken, it was a commitment to go beyond consumerism.

It’s not simply about giving over our skills to shift product, but to explore culture, learn more about each other and become more about the world around us. Yes, advertising needs to sell, but it can do so by doing good at the same time.

Silence Get’s the Job Done

Often, they're the quiet ones. They don't brag; they put their heads down and do the work. When they speak, you better damn well listen.

They are often the smartest person in the room.

Put Principles and People Before Profit

They'll turn down soul-sucking corporate gigs, choosing to support causes and independent thinkers instead. Ken sabotaged a meeting with IBM’s UK CEO, who thought it best they didn’t meet.


He focused his efforts on small and medium-sized businesses, arts bodies, charities, political groups and housing associations.

Independent thinkers and startups exist as clients at all sizes.

Channel Your Frustrations

They channel their anger over the world's problems into powerful work. Ken's iconic anti-nuclear campaign posters hang in the Design Museum. That's real impact.

His outlook was distilled in the manifesto he delivered at a meeting in 1963 of the Society of Industrial Artists (SIA). Sitting at the back of the hall and frustrated by the discussions taking place, he wrote out the first draft of what was published the following year as First Things First.

The document called on designers to question their role in the new burgeoning consumer culture that was monopolising the profession.

It’s on Wikipedia, in Design Week and the Guardian.

Become known for something.


They walk the talk. You won't find a top 1% creative just wishing for change; they're out there creating it. The easiest way to get noticed is to act. Put something out into the world that upsets the status quo. Provoke. Suggest a better way.

So What Does All This Mean for You?

Let's be honest – most advertising is complete bullsh*t.

It’s badvertising. And it gives good advertising a bad name. It interrupts when you’re trying to concentrate. It annoys you by following you around the internet. It tries to trick us into buying stuff we don't need.

No wonder people hate it.

But what advertising can do good. And not always in a worthy, look at me way.

You don't have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to change the world. Ken came from humble beginnings. He made a dent in the universe by following his convictions and creating work with a deeper purpose. His campaign for nuclear disarmament hangs in the Design Museum in London

You could be like him.

I believe anyone can make it into the top 1% of creatives. All it takes is a willingness to see the world differently.

The change starts with a creative mindset that sees the world differently.

Want to dive deeper into this disruptive thinking mindset shift?

Join my email list, Adhacker if you want to learn more about becoming a top-tier creative.

The post How to Think Like a Top 1% Creative  first appeared on Medium.

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I am a creative director and product designer based in London. I have helped companies like Google, Meta, Netflix, Mercedes-Benz, Burberry and Nike create extraordinary brand experiences.

More about me


Every Wednesday I share the best in creative, tools, resources, updates and crucially real insights on how the top 1% of creatives think.

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