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Breaking into the creative industries via Graham Fink and hacking Behance

5 min, 13 sec read
14:30 PM | 8 May 2014
by Jim Compton-hall
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Ricky Richards' journey into the creative industries is anything but traditional. After tiring of checking boxes for university projects Ricky spent much of his third year doing freelance design work. One Behance hack later and he became one of the highest ranking London creatives. From there his story took him gate crashing a trip to London, chatting to Graham Fink, winning a Clio award and working at various cool places such as State, AKQA and Wieden+Kennedy before starting Vixenkick (where Ricky is the conceptual part of the team and art director). 

We caught up with Ricky who kindly told us his story. Be sure to have a read. There's a lot to learn from how Ricky broke into the design, advertising and film industries.

Where it all started

I guess my story started back at uni. I studied design and multi media at Worcester University. I went there because it offered me the sporting opportunities as well as design. I later found out it was at the bottom of the good uni guide for my subject, which made me work harder.

"I decided to... differentiate myself from other students."

I was becoming frustrated with how every project seemed to be a case of ticking boxes to get a grade. I decided to concentrate on freelance design work in my third year as a way to differentiate myself from other students who only had spec work. I set up a portfolio on Behance which at the time was in it’s infancy and began to land work so I put more time into it. 

I began to realise the directory worked by ranking people based on their appreciations and that the higher up the ranking you were, the more exposure you got. I worked out that by resetting my IP address I could push my own button multiple times. While in lectures I continued to refresh my IP getting hour long chunks of appreciation pushing a couple of times a day. Within a week I was on the top page for London creatives and freelance work started to pour in for branding and advertising projects. Shortly after sharing the technique so other people could take advantage of it, I received a message from Scott Belsky [the founder of Behance] telling me I had highlighted some of the major flaws in the site and they soon closed the loopholes. 

Breaking into London

One of the illustration classes at uni had a trip to London book fair. I went to see the lecturer about getting on the trip despite not being on the course. I realised that we were close to finishing uni and if I didn’t start my search until I graduated I’d be competing with a lot more students from top universities.

I used the trip as a free coach to London and pre-arranged to meet some studios about the possibility of a job. I snuck off from the coach and got changed into smarter clothing in a public toilet before attending my interviews. The studios were impressed with my determination despite still being a student and offered me a 24K job to start the day I finished uni.

Meeting Graham Fink

Six months later I moved to do the branding for a web start up called State, started by Jawbone founder Alex Asseily. I was a designer but I was determined to make the switch to art direction because I was more passionate about ideas. I liked the fact I had to learn stuff as opposed to just working up visuals.

“He told me I should have used the opportunity to throw everything I’ve ever done in front of him… it was a rookie error.”

I began creating mock campaigns for the clients I most wanted to work for. I had one idea for a set of Coke Chairs that I attempted to pitch to Coke directly. I hit a wall of corporate hierarchy and I knew it wasn't going anywhere. So I showed it to Graham Fink. Graham liked the idea and asked me to meet him. We discussed the chairs but he told me I should have used the opportunity to throw everything I’ve ever done in front of him. I swore I had a folder full of ideas for different stuff and he was surprised I hadn’t brought it. It was a rookie error.  [image:3873]

Making Christmas

I had an internship lined up at AKQA and while there I would work all day and then stay behind a few hours every night to work up ideas. I came up with a simple idea for a Coke Christmas poster and because AKQA didn’t have it on their client roster I sent it to Graham who loved it. We were approaching Christmas so within a few weeks it had been created. I was just finishing my internship when I got the news it had won a Clio award. It was the same year that George Lois won lifetime achievement which meant something to me because he was one of my design idols.

Pursuing passion

AKQA offered me a job, but as a designer and I knew that wasn’t where my strengths were. I turned down a 30K job at 22 and my parents thought I was crazy. I later worked at Wieden+Kennedy. We worked most days from 9am untill gone 11 at night and by the end a four month stint, all we had created was a Tesco print ad and a youtube banner for the new Hudl launch. I was again frustrated with how slow the process was.

Founding Vixenkick

I had been introduced to a director who was doing his own thing and making amazing progress considering his age. We met up a few times and realised our skillsets complimented each other. We decided to break free and have since been producing music videos and commercials under the name of Vixenkick.

I continue to work as a designer and art director but push directing and concepting as my main focus. It’s definitely been a crazy few years but I have finally found a path where I feel like I’m always learning and pushing the boundaries (and be rewarded both financially and creatively).

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