In Conversation with Paul Meehan

Self employed, DESIGNER-ART DIRECTOR. Yes, I’m a full time freelancer, working with direct clients, projects for agencies and marketing departments.

My business card reads: A village somewhere DESIGN COMMUNICATION Paul Meehan designer- art director

I’m also a resident artist at GASWORKS ARTS PARK insta: @pwmeehan #thewatchmanscabin

Very straight forward career path. Art school late 60’s, studio assistant, junior art director, senior art director, creative group head, assistant creative director.

Small studios, advertising agencies, large multi-nationals – private and public.

Projects and time overseas via: JWT, Y&R, Densu Y&R.

Print, press, TV, radio & online.

Experienced typesetting from hot metal to digital, photography from analogue to digital, television from film to digital and from handcrafted to computer generated.

Most of the larger agencies had the budget to enter awards, so my award days were during the big agencies days, my most awarded were with the small ones.

Who or what inspires you?

The ‘WHO’ range from owners, managers, creative directors, film directors, photographers, illustrators, designers, visionary clients and the creative staff of all agencies. I consider myself blessed to be working in a creative culture, paid to draw, write and produce imaginative communication solutions for short to long term impact. The ‘WHAT’ inspires me bit, is history, people, technology, literature, film, fashion, nature, travel, family and various sub-cultures (graff/street art, surf/sk8te, motorbike/car enthusiasts).

How did you get your first break?

What do I call my first break? The first paying job in an ad agency (Castle Jackson), or the first break as an AD (Lintas); or my first break as an AD in a creative team (JWT)? Then there is my ‘first break’ as a creative director (Joint CD Y&R); or I could consider the ‘first’ as a company director/partner (Box Emery & Partners).

And my last ‘first break’ was as CD for Australia’s largest independent agency (Samuelson & Talbot). The point blank reply is that all these places I have listed gave me an opportunity to express myself, to be the best, to stretch myself.

Tell us what you are currently working on?

Two parts to this question, hope this answers it for you. I’m working on a plan: a 70/30% to 30/70% plan over 5 years. 70% design communication / 30% art, reverse this at the end of 5 years.

DESIGN COMMUNICATION Improve my skills (courses in Small Business Management and Adobe workshops). Back to school for Adobe Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, so I don’t have to rely on anyone else to package the ideas together for these small clients. Plus I can jump in and do new business pitch work for Agencies without disrupting the in-house studio. I’ve targeted small business clients that just drop off the agency radar, such as the start-ups, non-for-profit or med size businesses. I’m advising on branding and communication across all disciplines. Audit the way they walk and talk.

ART Part 2 of the question is my exhibition work as an artist. I’m currently working on my fourth solo show. The body of work comes from my sketchbooks, drawing in pen & ink on paper. The first show developed from my Sicilian sketchbooks, but this current one focuses on Melbourne, drawing attention to the things that we walk past everyday, without looking up. Drawing takes practice, so I’m still doing life drawing, printmaking, photography and painting workshops to improve my knowledge and skills.

Top tips for aspiring art directors?

I’ve held many creative rolls in advertising, but I still call myself an Art Director (visually driven).

Eyes, ears, brain open as you wonder around your community. (If you want to be in advertising, get out of it!) Don’t get stuck in the agency or online, get out to where the real consumer dwells; the supermarket, public events, take public transport (….without headphones!). Don’t just sit in your favorite coffee shop or stick to a small group of friends.

Be true to the produce or service. Better chance to create something that is timeless (I did a campaign for HAYMAN Island in 1984, the work still holds up today).

Seek your inspiration from unexpected sources (typography from street art, photography from sk8te/surf culture, music from sub cultures).

SUPPLIERS Always choose talented people, but don’t expect them to do all the work. Your job is to inspire them, push them, challenge them, lead them. Photographers, typographers, illustrators, directors, musicians, and digital geniuses. Executing your work, is about sticking true to the idea and working hard on it, you’ll be judged by the results.

BRIEFS Don’t just work from the paper brief (good briefs don’t come along everyday) work to know more. Don’t be afraid to talk to the client. Ask how they are going, what they are thinking, seek out their problems or just what their expectations are. I found the best time to talk to some clients is when you’re in production, at a shoot or sound edit or coffee at the nearest café to their work. Don’t just rely on the middle person. Don’t fear the client.


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