Adam Ellis is an award-winning creative director at branding agency Elmwood, in London. He was originally from Stratford-upon-Avon.
What’s a typical day?
I get woken-up by my daughters at 7am, my partner and I share childcare. It’s like Operation Ellis every morning, with making breakfast and last minute homework.
We’re a project based industry, so in a typical day I’ll sit down with designers and review a concept, depending on what stage of the project we’re at. I’ll look at the designers’ ideas, work on the pitch process, illustration and day to day designing. The last thing I do at night (after a glass of wine) is check my iPhone for any potential disasters from the day.
What inspires you daily?
I’m a design sponge. If I see a wonky road sign, personalised stickers on a bike or if I’m walking around the streets of London I’m always looking for inspiration. Stuff you absorb from around you manifests itself in design. I collect scrapbooks and I’m a magpie. I read Monocle magazine and The Cool Hunter for digital. I get inspired really quickly, with an injection of trend or a feature. Collette in Paris is also really inspiring - it gives you a jolt of beautiful, manicured retail which is refreshing in a brand.
What’s your favourite city in the world?
I love London and New York. The Ace Hotel in New York is so cool - it oozes hip, shabby chic. It’s a beautiful grand old hotel with graffiti on the walls and everything has been curated, from the scratches on the tables to the Fire Exit sign which says ‘someone exits, someone else begins.’ I adore London though - it’s constantly re-inventing itself as a City. I love restaurants such as Mark Hix, The Tram Shed and the Cock & Bull, they have real character. There’s a real artistic community in London, a mash-up of people and it’s always eclectic, things happen. I adore Golborne Market on a Saturday. It’s at the back end of Notting Hill, a bric-a-brac market with artisan, vintage products on display.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Deadly fish Fugu in Japan. Only certain trained chefs can cook it. A client took us to a rare food restaurant and it’s a bit like foodie roulette, if a chef prepares it wrong and doesn’t cut out the right glands it can be deadly. It’s definitely the most exciting thing I’ve eaten.
What’s the biggest campaign you’ve worked on?
One of the campaigns dear to my heart was re-designing Cadbury’s chocolate buttons. I remember eating them as a child, so to be part of their history was amazing. The idea behind the brand itself I found really interesting, kids centric but then lots of adults eat them too, so the task was to create a design to appeal to both adults and children. We opted for a doodle, a universal graphic design language, and I won a number of awards as a result of the re-brand.
What’s the most memorable campaign you’ve worked on?
Creating the brand identity for an island, namely Inishturkbeg, just off the south coast of Ireland. I had to create the identity as a playboy retreat, alongside the branding for produce such as whisky and salmon. When someone arrives on the island they are greeted by a brand logo etched into stone by a Stonesmith which I designed - this was a defining moment for me.
Who is your career inspiration?
I have always been inspired by Sir Terence Conran. He elevates design beyond a discipline. When I visited Habitat in its day, it was a bit like a Nirvana for me. The average house is better because of Sir Terence. He elevated the craft and made it an important voice.
Is there anything else you’d still like to achieve?
I’m a real foodie so I’d love to design a really beautiful restaurant, from the concierge to the cutlery.
How do you relax?
I never relax, my hobby is the industry. I love the arts though, visiting galleries and exhibitions and I love Café Racer motorbikes. It was my love of Café Racers that inspired me to set up Dirty Quiff, a new mens’ grooming brand aimed at bikers. The branding was inspired by James Dean and Dirty Martini’s.
What’s your personal style?
I’d say my style is biker with a vintage shabby chic twist. I really like vintage t-shirts, ones that you can’t just get off the high street. I don’t like it when you see people in the same t-shirt as you. I layer it with a smart velvet blazer, which balances it out and team with Desert Boots, a watch and sunglasses. My signature piece is always sharp hair.
What watch do you wear?
A Bell & Ross Phantom, I love it because I like touching a brand that has some story attached to it. It also takes a few views to see the real detail and the engineering. On first glance it is black on black and then you steadily realise it is a Bell & Ross. It’s not too bling-y or showy. True to its name, the Phantom, you only realise what it is if you’re in the know. It’s a discovery.
What’s the best hour of your life?
Aside from the birth of my children, it was in Cape Town watching the sunset. I was in Camps Bay drinking cocktails and it was almost a theatrical experience, it was incredible – a prickly hair moment.
What’s your favourite hour of the day?
8-9pm - wine o’clock - when the girls have gone to bed and I can switch off and contemplate. It’s a nice zone you get into.
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