Our first masterclass with the legendary Alex Taylor

Today was our first masterclass with Alex Taylor, and I am totally okay with sharing the fact that I’m still in awe. Not only is Alex an incredibly humble and down-to-earth person who encourages me every time I see her, but her work really makes me feel things, and sadly, not a lot of advertising does that to me anymore; especially since I’ve grown up hating being advertised to… am I in the wrong industry?!

Unfortunately we ran out of time so she couldn’t show us her full body of work, but we did get a detailed look at her process in creating her award-winning ads for the British Army. 

I’ve known about the print-versions of these adverts for a while, admittedly because I googled Alex Taylor before I joined SCA (I’m from a design background and therefore didn’t have a lot of exposure to the advertising world pre-London), however, I’ve never seen them side-by-side with the TV adverts, nor had I actually sat down and evaluated and broke down what was happening within them.

 Sniper, 1997

Sniper, 1997

What I think Alex managed to achieve, was a raw, grittiness within her work, which showed the true extent of what it means to be a soldier, without gamifying or glamorising it, but somehow still making it incredibly aspirational. There were very simple strokes of genius throughout - such as airing an advert at 6am, forcing wannabe soldiers to get up early to get the phone number. I loved how Alex created CTAs and made the viewer become incredibly involved within the adverts themselves. 

Not only that, the art direction was exceptional and so real. The scribbled text, ripped paper and crude photographs really made for a visually stunning and exceptionally emotive piece, and the placement of the contrasting shadow on each put the viewer in the soldier’s place - I literally have so much love for these campaigns!

 Inoculate, 1997

Inoculate, 1997

I feel so incredibly privileged to have just spent a few hours learning about Alex’s inspiration, and the process she went through to produce the British Army adverts. One thing that immediately stuck in my mind was to ‘embrace mistakes’, something I’ve grown very used to in my design background. So often I’d press the wrong button on Photoshop and create a completely new effect, and call it a ‘happy accident’. 

Similarly, Alex told us all about her process in producing the print campaigns for her adverts, and how the little errors actually ended up being the best bit about the design; her excitement is still clear to see about these little mishaps, 20 years on. 

 17 Year Olds Required, 1998

17 Year Olds Required, 1998

I find listening to Alex Taylor really refreshing - I’ve listened to so many people within advertising moaning about how jaded they are by the industry, but I can feel Alex’s passion and she is not afraid to advertise the glamorous side also; the travelling, the parties and the people you meet. Maybe that’s not so true nowadays, but regardless, it’s just exhilarating to feed off Alex’s vibe, and listen to who I consider to be a true legend and role model within the industry, as well as hearing some one say that you can aim for more than just an Art Director - push to direct an advert and always aim for higher.

Thanks Alex, I look forward to our next masterclass!