The Designers: KesselsKramer’s Adam Morton-Delaney reflects on his first year at the global agency
The Designers delves deep into the world’s leading design studios through a series of in-depth conversations with the individuals that make them tick. For the twenty-fourth interview in the series, we spoke to KesselsKramer’s Adam Morton-Delaney; discussing life as an art director, battling creative paranoia, and his favourite side-projects.
PT Hi Adam! How’s 2022 treating you so far?
AMD If you were to ask the surface-level me this question, I’d tell you I was having a great time this year. This is true – it’s been a fun few months with some great client projects with lots of creative freedom.
But in an interview like this, I want to tell the whole truth because maybe it’s more helpful to readers.
So, if you were to ask the voice inside my head, I’m battling through a little creative paranoia, because I’m really keen to do some new personal projects but I’m too nervous to commit to anything. I’m working on it!
I sent 1342332 emails before finally managing to bag an internship.
PT How did you land your role at KesselsKramer? And what about their work appealed to you?
AMD External me would say I got an email from the creative director at KesselsKramer London asking if I’d think about moving studios, around this time last year. It was a bit of a bolt from the blue, from a studio I used to work for – but one that I was super excited by, so I went for it.
Internal me would confess that there was a bit more to it than that. Back in 2017, I sent 1342332 emails before finally managing to bag an internship in their Amsterdam office on a year out, which was a terrifying and exhilarating experience all in one. It was here that I fell in love with the agency, and their approach, so much so that when I finished my degree I applied for a permanent position and got rejected. But a few years, and a few other jobs later, the London office reached out, and I jumped at the chance to come back.
What I love about KesselsKramer is the ‘twist.’ They take conventional communication, and flip it on its head. For a hostel in Amsterdam called Hans Brinker, they celebrated them as the worst hotel in the world. They showed how you wouldn’t get any sleep, how you’d probably get bitten by bed bugs, and how there’s lots of dog shit in the entranceway. How many other agencies would make that?
PT What do you think you’ve learned since you’ve been there? Is there a lesson or piece of advice that has stuck with you?
AMD I’ve been back here a year now, and there are two lessons that I’ve learnt since rejoining.
Tell the truth, always. This was a piece of advice I was given back when I started at KK the first time, and it’s stuck with me since. I’ve learnt to speak my mind more, but also confess if something doesn’t feel right or I’m struggling with something. We’re a really tight team here and this means we all help each other out if anyone is struggling with something – from ideas to software, to having too many meetings. It’s ok (good, even) to hold your hands up and say ‘wait!’
Try not to eat too many crisps. They make you feel shit after several consecutive days of scoffing.
PT Do you have any favourite projects that you’ve worked on during your time there?
AMD External me would want to talk about some big citizenM launch campaigns. When a new citizenM hotel opens, we do a big installation and one at the end of last year was for their new San Francisco location, so we did a massive projected piece on the hotel, all about how San Francisco is a city for people with big dreams, focusing on a few from the city who are pioneers in their fields.
External me would also want to shamelessly plug another recent project I’m really proud of: creating some packs of sunflower seeds to raise money for the Ukrainian Red Cross appeal. We approached Rebel Rebel, our Hackney florist neighbours, and asked if they’d like to sell some seeds of the national flower of Ukraine, for sowing this spring, and now they’re available in their shop. It’s lovely to go from idea, to design, to final product.
Internal me wants to tell you about more projects, but isn’t allowed. Yet!
I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none.
PT What do you enjoy about being an art director? Has anything surprised you about the role?
AMD External me would say I enjoy the generalist role that art direction requires. Essentially, I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none, and this means I’m able to enjoy lots of different creative tasks: from photography, to graphic design, to doing a little bit of packaging or anything in between.
Internal me would say I’m continuously having a mild panic about not being really good at one thing in particular. Rather, I worry that I spread myself too thin. For example, if I need to do some specialist motion design on a project, I need to work with someone who’s an expert to get it done. And so the worry over whether I need to be better at one particular skill is constant.
PT As you’ve transitioned through to more senior design positions, what’s changed about the way you work?
AMD The amount of work I now have is much larger. So the external me would say I’ve become a lot more organised, with long and detailed lists of tasks, in order of priority, outlining what I need to get done that day, week, fortnight, or month. Not to sound boring, but this means I can get more done, which is the ultimate aim. Then, when the workload is too large, I’m able to work with other members of the team to get other tasks done, and I love working collaboratively, so that’s good.
The internal me would confess that a greater workload has made me more stressed, which means, now and again, I turn into a grumpy old man who gives short answers and sticks his bottom lip out a little too often.
PT Where did the idea to start Peep come from?
AMD The story I tell people is that we were doing loads of slightly boring client work without loads of personal benefit. As juniors just starting out in industry, we were all being given the tiny scraps of work that were no fun, so we wanted to revolt against it with a project which celebrated creativity in its purest form, so the publication we made was about creative play with no client work allowed.
The internal version of this story is the same, but fuelled by too many beers on a Wednesday night after being really bored at work.
PT Aside from Peep, is there a side project that has significantly impacted your practice?
AMD The external version of me would say several side projects I’ve done over the past few years have all been impactful on my practice: New uses for the News, which ask us to rethink the use of newspapers in light of the terrible news about the COVID pandemic; Have a Horrible Holiday postcards which ask us to not go to our favourite holiday destinations because we shouldn’t be flying around the world pumping out carbon emissions; Customised Colleagues which are on-screen attempts to emulate messing around at work, but remotely and on-screen.
The internal version of me would confess that through these side projects, I’m trying to define what kind of creative I am. I’m trying to find a ‘voice’ and the longer this goes on, the more I think this will be a never-ending battle.
I think we have the power, and responsibility, to think differently and affect change.
PT You’ve been open about feeling anxiety throughout your career… is there anything you wish you knew when you were younger? Something you’d tell your younger self?
AMD The external me would say something really profound and probably a bit generic like ‘I wish I’d known that everyone struggled with it.’
The internal me would say anxiety fucking sucks, and it’s ok to just be grumpy with it now and again.
PT What does your setup look like?
AMD Picture of a field of daisies, with a desk in the middle.
The external me would say I wish it looked liked this, but the internal me doesn’t want to confess how it actually looks.
PT Are there any skills that you think are undervalued in the design industry?
AMD The external me would say I think ideas which challenge convention are undervalued, because as creatives I think we have the power, and responsibility, to think differently and affect change.
The internal me would say I think ideas which challenge convention are undervalued, because as creatives I think we have the power, and responsibility, to think differently and affect change.
PT Is there a skill that you wish you had or would like to improve on?
AMD External me would try and think of something really witty to say, like juggling or something.
Internal me would admit that I’m sat here doing an interview for a series called The Designers, and to be honest, feeling a little silly about it because graphic design is something I feel vastly underqualified for.
PT What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
AMD External me would say I’m looking forward to showing some new work for citizenM, and a couple of branding jobs which are almost finished, plus releasing some more self-initiated projects, too!
The internal version of me is really looking forward to lying on a beach somewhere, eating an ice cream and drinking a can of ice tea, neglecting my responsibilities.