Conor Brady has devoted the better part of his career to steering ideas across digital platforms. He's currently chief creative officer at Interpublic-owned Huge, overseeing the agency's creative teams across the globe. He lends his talents to a number of multinational accounts, ranging from Audi to Ikea to Unilever.
Previously, he was CCO at Omnicom Group's Organic and creative director at both the London and New York offices of Razorfish. And while his current preoccupation is digital, his love for design is an integral part of his creative DNA, which you'll see in this edition of Creativity's "Six Things" series.
1. Music and maps offered escape from the political turmoil surrounding his youth. He grew up in South Armagh, Northern Ireland -- known as "Bandit Country" -- at the height of The Troubles. But only later did he realize it wasn't normal to be searched by armed soldiers on the walk home from school -- let alone for them to show up at your house in the middle of the night without a warrant. Luckily, to take him away from it all, Conor discovered design when he was 14, through Peter Saville's iconic album covers for New Order and Joy Division ("Closer" -- which depicted Christ's entombed body, and whose release unintentionally followed the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis -- stopped him in his tracks). Maps portrayed a bigger world than Belfast, and he still collects them (his favorite is a watercolor of the Amalfi Coast, painted as the artist sailed down the shoreline, which he calls more of a "narrative" than a traditional map).
2. He could have been an Olympian. He was on the Irish Olympic cycling team but missed the 1996 Atlanta Games because of a torn tendon in Belgium weeks before the Opening Ceremonies (one of his biggest life regrets). He tried to go pro for a year in Europe, but realized quickly that it would only work out if he juiced. That was that, though he continued to race for Ireland as an amateur into his mid-30s. Now, he thinks and designs on his bike, on the open road. On average, he cycles up to 300 miles weekly (see him in his gear above) and his inbox is full of emails sent to himself from the side of the road with ideas for creative projects.
3. He got his ass kicked by Man Booker Prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri. Conor designed the first hundred or so book covers for Vintage Paperbacks, including for Okri's "The Famished Road." The author wasn't just a literary heavyweight -- he had boxed all through his youth, and like Conor, almost became an Olympian. When Conor mentioned he had boxed growing up in Belfast, Okri suggested they spar. Conor hadn't boxed in 15 years, which became clear the next day when he was "schooled" in a London gym.
4. He was in the studio when Sinead O'Connor recorded Nothing Compares 2 U in three ethereal takes. Like his childhood idol Saville, Conor designed album covers for many years. The gig gave him entrée into the world of musicians, including the studio, where he'd show up to present album artwork. He says that usually recording studios are hives of activity, with technicians focused on their dials and levels instead of the actual performance. But During O'Connor's recording, everyone was "riveted," motionless and rapt as the beautiful singer, raw from the relationship with her mother, did her thing.
5. He loves photography and his Leica M9. The camera is digital, but the rangefinder slows you down and makes you compose, think and take time to look at what you are capturing. Conor also appreciates the M9's heritage as the go-to for war photographers and calls it "the classic reportage and documentary camera." (Incidentally, Conor has an old photo of him as a ten-year-old standing with British soldiers and struggling to hold up one of their M16 assault rifles).
6. He's in awe of writers, starting with his wife, a copywriter. Conor says that, even more than painting and photography, writing requires "something completely from within." He says he probably developed this respect for writers during his book cover design days. Besides his wife, his favorite writer is Kurt Vonnegut, whose note thanking Conor for his cover design of the Vintage paperback edition of Slaughterhouse Five and four of his other books hangs on his office wall.