Optimism, Elvis and reinvention: 'What we've learned in two decades of DixonBaxi'
DixonBaxi founders Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi are celebrating two decades of running their London agency. Here, in an exclusive with Creative Boom, they share what it's like to be self-determined and creatively fulfilled while ignoring what the industry tells you to do.
DixonBaxi was born 20 years ago with a list of things we would and wouldn't do: we would define our own destiny, be ambitious and embrace change; we wouldn't bullshit, be afraid or believe our own hype. Everything but that list has been reinvented at least twice. And we'll undoubtedly reinvent it all again.
That's what it means to be self-determined: to reject convention in favour of finding a better way to do things. It takes guts to stick to what you believe in, especially when an entire industry is doing something else. It pays off, though. For us, that's meant working with brave-minded brands like Hulu, AT&T, British Land, History and AC Milan.
We got where we are by refusing to stand still. By welcoming change and using the things we learn to adapt. The following is a distillation of some of the most important lessons from the last two decades. We hope it fuels your creative evolution.
Hire people, not CVs.
To make amazing work, you need a team of people who understand your vision and have their own perspective to add to it. Skills can be taught; perspective can't. Build your team based on who they are and how they think, not on their resume.
Every career comes with challenges. Get in the habit of showing up positively, especially when it's hard. You have to bring all you are to everything you do, or there's no point in doing any of it.
Embrace change, then adapt.
You will get things wrong. You will be challenged. You will be pushed. Welcome all of it. Give yourself the freedom to change direction, and you'll be much more comfortable with uncertainty. Recognising when to adapt, and having the confidence to do it right, is the difference between being good or great at what you do.
We're always learning.
You can learn from every experience. Keep a relentlessly open mind and remind yourself that creativity isn't complicated - if you do the work to break down the creative barriers you face, you'll come out the other side having learnt something.
Let your values guide you.
Brilliance comes from believing in the work you're doing. Figure out what you believe in and prioritise work that supports it. Have the courage to curate your opportunities: saying "no" to one thing allows you to do something else.
Work should expand your life.
Travel. Meet new people. Savour every project by diving into it headfirst (like when we lit fireworks in the desert with Elvis for Five USA or got to know New Yorkers by chatting to people on the street with Samsung). Some of your best work will come from the experiences that unfold when you do.
Start at uncomfortable.
Imagine a 1-10 scale, 1 being evolution and 10 being revolution. Make sure you exist between 5 and 10. You'll land closer to 1 than you started, but by beginning with big ideas and a level of invention that feels ambitious and uncomfortable, you'll still end up making great work.
Don't find it. Invent it.
If you rely on design for inspiration, you'll never create anything new. Turn to experiences or other art forms as a way of staying culturally connected. Then reimagine the way things work; use your perspective to create a new way of doing, experiencing or thinking about things.
It takes time.
A career is a lifelong thing that takes hard work and a lot of patience. Too many people either don't put the time in or just give up. Don't let the world's need for instant gratification derail your journey. Stay true to the things you believe in – don't do work you don't want to do - and in 20 years, you'll look back fondly on all that you've done.