Creating truly original work: Expert tips for students graduating this summer

This summer, MullenLowe Group is continuing its partnership with Central Saint Martins for the eighth consecutive year, sponsoring its annual Degree Shows and presenting the MullenLowe NOVA Awards for Fresh Creative Talent.

Paolina Russo, BA Fashion Knitwear. Image courtesy of MullenLowe

Paolina Russo, BA Fashion Knitwear. Image courtesy of MullenLowe

Amongst the judges are some of the industry's biggest names, brands and organisations, including Jose Miguel Sokoloff, Laurence Green and Naomi Troni from MullenLowe Group, Niek de Rooij and Nipa Shah from Unilever, Catherine Ince from V&A East, Tom Jacobs and Nick Tacchi from Sloggi, Cathy Lomax from Transition Gallery, Ali Hanson from It's Nice That and jewellery designer Hannah Martin.

From 1,300 graduating students, just five MullenLowe NOVA Awards are presented to students whose work represents "truly original creative thinking and execution". The shortlist has been announced, and the winners will be revealed during a ceremony in London in early July.

So what are the judges looking for? And what makes work truly original and exceptionally creative? We spoke to the judges to dig out some tips for students graduating this summer.

Believe in yourself and your work

"Fundamentally believe in what you are doing," says Jose Miguel Sokoloff of MullenLowe Group. "What you’re doing is important. Sometimes people will not recognise it, sometimes we may not even see it as judges, but you have to believe in what you’re doing, and you have to keep on doing it."

Wise words that remind us to believe in our own work. To have the confidence to stand by it when others might disagree. Be prepared to fight for what you believe is right and why you think it's worth consideration.

Be authentic

Original creative work and thinking will lead to the recognition you deserve. Be authentic in everything you do. Listen to your gut and stick to what you believe is right.

"Don’t ever start distrusting your creative instincts," says Tom Jacobs from Sloggi. "This is important. Throughout your career, you will hear people challenging you and maybe even giving you the feeling that what you're thinking and how you are creative is not worthwhile. I believe you need to stay true to what you believe is right as there are people out there who will value what you do and see your thinking as great as it is."

Spread your wings and delve deeper

"Don’t get boxed in," says Niek de Rooij from Unilever. "Sometimes, in some of the stories we’ve heard when we’ve asked students, 'how would you like to develop the work? Would you like to do more with it?', we hear things like, 'Going into art exhibitions or going into galleries.' I would say, think big, think broader and make sure that those ideas can travel broadly to as many people as you can find."

With this advice in mind, don't just find inspiration in the obvious places. Explore the world, expand your horizons and seek inspiration from as many different and unexpected places. You never know what might spark an idea.

Open your mind to new ideas

From her own experience of judging the MullenLowe NOVA Awards, Catherine Ince of V&A East was reminded that you have to always be very open-minded and to embrace ideas wherever they come from.

She explains: "I think having time to look at the work that’s being made and to talk with the students about what they’re doing reminds you of what’s going on in the world and what concerns students today. They’re responding to what’s happening in society, and they’re finding their own way and developing new products and putting ideas out there to enable them to think through big or emotional challenges. Being open to new thinking and responding to context is critical."

Don't assume you have all the answers. And never think your opinion is the only one. Talk to others and find different perspectives. By being in tune with the world, you'll create better work.

Once again, this year the winner of the MullenLowe YourNOVA Award will be chosen by you! It's your chance to get involved and vote online for your favourite piece of work that made it to the MullenLowe NOVA shortlist. Voting is open now and will close on 2 July. For more information about the MullenLowe NOVA Awards, visit

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