What do graffiti penises, terrifying puppetry, and claymation skulls have in common? They're all highlights in the impressive career of Matt Dunn, who has recently worked with Amazon Music to bring its Christmas advert to life.
The London-based art director has already racked up an impressive CV since graduating with an illustration degree in 2014. After cutting his teeth by working as a graphic designer at a law firm, Matt has since worked with the likes of Wieden + Kennedy London, Mother London and Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Besides high profile clients like Amazon, he has also worked on campaigns for Kraft Heinz, Specialized and Xfinity. And to top it off, he's also been a D&AD Awards judge and Masterclass speaker.
Now working at Droga5 London, one of his most recent projects saw him working across a range of creative disciplines as he art directed Amazon Music's Christmas ad. To learn more about this amazing campaign and to discover how drawing graffiti condoms led to the work he dreamed of doing, we caught up with Matt about his impressive career so far.
For those who don't fully know, what is an art director and what do they do?
Art directors are visual storytellers. They have an eye for design, and they have a vision for a project or campaign's overall look and feel. It's why you'll usually find people in this role who have a background in the visual arts, like illustration, graphic design and more.
In the advertising industry, art directors work as a part of a team with a copywriter, and we come up with creative solutions to a brief, which we present to creative directors before it goes in front of a client. Thereon after, that's when the craft begins, and the magic happens.
You started as a designer in a law firm? How was that?
Kicking off as a designer at a law firm is not a perfect starting point by any means. But it was a starting point, and it was where I found myself after graduating with an illustration degree back in 2014.
There is still something to be learned in places of work where you might not fit in. And the biggest learning curve for me during that time was that it showed me the type of work I didn't want to be putting out into the world.
How did you get a job in advertising after that?
It was a giant leap for me at that time, as I had two one-month placement offers after leaving my full-time job at the law firm. Quite the risk, but I followed my gut, and it was during my second placement I was offered a job, following a successful pitch for new business.
Shortly after, I started exploring the idea of a side hustle. A concept that eventually became a hugely popular campaign for the NHS.
The idea was to cover existing graffiti penises with spray-painted condoms to raise awareness of the risks associated with unprotected sex. The campaign was covered worldwide, in a list of the national and international press, like Vice, Buzzfeed, Men's Health, The Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Mashable, Bored Panda, The Independent and more.
It opened doors for me at other advertising agencies like Wieden+Kennedy and Mother London. From then on, I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with some charming, talented people at some advertising agencies in both the UK and the United States.
Prior to Droga5 London, you were in San Francisco. Tell us more
Before the lovely David Kolbusz and Shelley Smoler brought me into Droga5 London (where I'm currently working), I worked at Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, California – for a couple of years.
It was awesome to work closely with Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby on high-profile campaigns for Specialized Bikes and Kraft Heinz.
It was also an eye-opening experience to learn about West Coast culture in America. Even though San Francisco looks quite big in pictures, it's pretty small in person, with different pockets of culture around every corner, which is both a good and bad thing. A good thing because places are a stone's throw away and a bad thing because there's only so much inspiration you can pull from until you've already seen everything it has to offer.
What lessons did you bring from Goodby Silverstein & Partners to Droga5?
I was fortunate enough to work under Wes Phelan and Matt Edwards at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. These guys were great. They taught me a lot, but one lesson, amongst many others, was this: "Good decision. Bad decision. No decision. Making a bad decision is better than making no decision. Of course, we all aim for a good decision but be at peace with the fact that a bad decision takes courage. No decision, on the other hand, means late nights and a lot of needless wheel spinning. Believe in yourself and your decisions and others will believe in them too."
There will be times when things don't go to plan too, but losing or failing isn't a setback. It means you have an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
The word 'hustle' has gained a bad rep of late. But do you think hard work pays off?
Personally, I think putting your time into anything will always pay off. By giving yourself a long-term plan of the journey that you want to go on and sticking to it, while knowing that most of the time, things won't happen overnight, but over time things will get better.
There will be times when things don't go to plan too, but losing or failing isn't a setback. It means you have an opportunity to become a better version of yourself, learn specific weaknesses you may have, then figure out that you can turn them into your strengths. Now that's not to say you won't hit another rough patch further down the line, but next time you'll be better prepared to when you meet that opportunity again.
There's always a dose of luck, right?
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" – this quote, by Roman philosopher Seneca, should remind people that we will always make our own luck. The difference between lucky and unlucky people, we've all seen before, is all in our perspective. Change your perspective. Change your "luck". So, no, there's no dose of luck – just preparation meeting opportunity.
How was it working on Amazon Music's global Christmas ad?
It was fantastic to be part of such a monumental labour of love from a lot of super incredibly talented people like David Kolbusz, Dave Wigglesworth, Ed Redgrave, Jules Hunt, Tom Elias, Callum Raines, Heather Cuss, D5 Design, D5 Tokyo, Blink Ink directors Stevie Gee & Essy May and many many more.
Everyone involved in the global campaign was all masters in their craft, who elevated it beyond what I thought would be possible in the amount of time we had.
What advice would you give to others hoping to become an art director?
Be nice, trust your gut, soak up as much culture and inspiration as you can and always keep trying. You've got this.