2 Minutes With ... Alex Normanton, Global Brand Experience Lead at Reckitt

On George Michael, DOPA and 'Guinness Surfer'

Alex Normanton is global brand experience lead at Reckitt. In this role, Alex drives category growth by translating design into meaningful brand experiences and sustainable innovations. Earlier, Alex worked for agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi, MassiveMusic and Design Bridge. 

An advocate of sonic branding, he believes that audio language should be considered by designers and marketers in the same way as visual and verbal language. It's no surprise then that he chose a podcast as the medium for his passion project, DOPA, which fuels conversations around creative wellness.

We spent two minutes with Alex to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Alex, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

Originally from Halifax in West Yorkshire (Northern England for those outside the U.K.) I now live in Loosdrecht in the Netherlands, around 30 minutes from Amsterdam. I love being close to the city, but appreciate being on the doorstep of beautiful lakes and forests.

How you first realized you were creative. 

I was always a bit of a daydreamer, I still am. I like to use my imagination and dream big. It was my mum that spotted I had some potential to be a graphic designer and creative thinker. I think at the time she probably didn't realize the full extent of what that actually meant.

A person you idolized creatively early on. 

Mark Farrow. I was introduced to his work early on at college, particularly his design for the highly collectible Spiritualized album, Ladies and Gentleman we are floating in space. Designed to look like a blister pack for medical tablets, it was the first time I'd seen people playing with what CD cases could be. Apparently the idea was sparked from a comment by Justin Pearse (Spiritualized's front man) in the first meeting, who'd said that "music is medicine for the soul." Design built upon insights is a powerful tool.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life. 

Being recognized as having the potential to be a graphic designer by one of my teachers. Being believed in gives you confidence and I'm very thankful for that encouragement as it has fundamentally scripted my life. It's given me lots of amazing experiences and a long-lasting career.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

Jenny Holtzer. I've always had an affinity to bold typographic headlines that provoke a response and tell a story. Jenny's work continues to inspire and propel messages into new realms. I'm particularly fond of her type projections onto buildings, which allows for a series of elevated meanings to be added through the local context in which they are seen.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring. 

A Man Called Otto, starring Tom Hanks. It's beautifully shot, scripted and Hanks' effortless acting tells the story of a widower who lost his wife in a tragic accident. Through numerous suicide attempts (to join her in the afterlife), the power of human connection and ultimately "doing life together" enables Hanks to turn his grief into life-giving opportunities to the people around him. Warning: you might shed a tear or two watching this film. 

Your favorite fictional character. 

Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. He represents a purity of character for always striving to do the best thing. However he is half human, which means he has moments of selfishness ambition. A character which showcases the complexities of the human heart with animal instinct. 

Someone or something worth following in social media. 

Alec Tear. An amazing typographer, lettering artist and designer based in Amsterdam but originally from the U.K. Alec continues to work for some of the biggest brands on the planet. His work contains beautifully crafted conceptual ideas that feel relevant, timely and resonate. 

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally. 

The Corona Years: a time that enabled me to reset, reimagine, refuel and work on a proactive idea that I'd had in the back of my mind for a while (see the project I'm proud of below). 

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

George Michael: Listen without Prejudice—Remastered Album Launch. Fan or not, the message of the album remains as relevant as ever. We created the campaign using a number of words and statements that often provoke prejudicial reactions—like "addict" and "convict"—before revealing their connection to George himself. We wanted to challenge viewers to confront their own preconceptions. From recollection, this was the first silent :30 TVC that was used with dramatic effect to highlight the power of his music and legacy.

A recent project you're proud of.

DOPA (The Department of Pro-Activeness). A podcast I created (and host) which fuels conversations around creative wellness. On the last episode I chatted to Jason Kempen. creative director at Qindle. A really interesting conversation with a straight-forward approach. "Sometimes it's a really useful exercise to embody the attitude of pragmatism. Not every project can be award-winning. Sometimes, you just need to do a really solid job."

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

Walter Campbell and Tom Carty. I first came across the work of this creative duo in my graduation year at university in Newcastle upon Tyne. They have been responsible for some of the most iconic advertising work ever created. Guinness' "Surfer" is as timeless and iconic as the day it was created in 1999, and deemed to be the greatest British TV ad of all time. It made a lasting impression on me as it uses the power of suggestion and abstract analogy to denote the minutes of waiting to ride that perfect wave and drink that perfect pint.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

Design Studio's work on their rebrand of Center Parcs. So often we are judging and critiquing other people’s creative work on a blog, press release or online case study. But recently I stayed at one of Center Parc's locations in the Netherlands with my family. The brand is starting to roll out across all site locations and is already making an impact. The work resonates, is meaningful and injects modernity, playfulness and an expressive use of color and humor into the experience. The logo is so simple but also super smart—love it.

Your main strength as a creative person. 

Navigating through complexity by breaking problems down—and trying to have some fun along the way.

Your biggest weakness. 

Caring too much about every detail and being too involved. It's hard to let go sometimes but it often promotes a better outcome. Believe in the people around you, lean on your team and their skills.

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Being outside, enjoying nature, the weather, seeing my kids happy, being on my race bike and playing music. Apologies, it was difficult to just pick one! 

One thing that always makes you sad. 

Seeing injustice in the world. Probably because my full name means "keeper of humankind" so it's inherent to my DNA.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in design/advertising.

I'd like to think that I'd be playing jazz piano somewhere in a bar in New Orleans. Failing that, probably a police dog handler—random, I know!

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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