Read our new manifesto

The dreamers: Simon Manchipp on why 'weird works' when it comes to design creativity

As part of a series celebrating the people behind big creative concepts – the industry’s dreamers – Gillian West catches up with SomeOne founder, Simon Manchipp, who favours the weird rather than finding inspiration in everything.

To say you can find inspiration everywhere is “really flipping unhelpful,” according to SomeOne founder and executive creative director Simon Manchipp. Instead, he looks to the “weird” to inform his approach to design.

Starting his career in 1993 at Identica, Manchipp was made partner at HHCL two years later and in 2002, funded by HHCL, he set up NoOne with David Law and Laura Hussey. After deciding to go independent, SomeOne opened its doors in 2005 and now counts Cancer Research UK, WorldPay and the Glenlivet amongst its clients.

With more than 20 years’ experience working in branding, design and advertising, Manchipp is no stranger to being called on to share insights with other designers and recalls a particularly eye-opening meeting with the in-house design team of Iceland where he waxed lyrical about the streets of London, diversity and the “phenomenal remix culture” we can all learn from.

“There was a hushed silence after the speech and then one small voice said, ‘That’s all very well but our view from the office is a field. Our landscape consists of a car park and a motorway. How are we supposed to find inspiration from that?’ Thing is they were right. It’s going to be push to be inspired by a car park,” he laughs.

“I worked with them for two months to show them how more lateral thinking, weird stuff, really helps inform a more interesting approach to design work.”

As executive creative director at SomeOne Manchipp says this lateral thinking is what he uses to inspire the agency’s team, encouraging them to have interesting experiences and to approach challenges with openness and enthusiasm.

“Vanilla might be the nation’s most popular flavour but to create something to challenge it, timid, dull steps will not work,” he explains. “Weird works when it comes to inspiring not only your own creativity but to develop creative work that will disrupt and stand out from the crowd."

The luxury sector is one that understands this, according to Manchipp, with brands like MB&F and Alexander McQueen continuing to embrace the weird and create work that is memorable.

“The watches coming out of MB&F are astonishing. They don’t look like watches but they have a devoted and growing following,” he says. “Alexander McQueen’s ground-breaking show at the V&A has broken all records and has, no doubt, inspired a new wave of fashion designer. Luxury is investing in creative work that helps define its own brand methodology, its own operating system, and its own parameters.”

Of his personal interests outside of work he says the idea of hobbies seems “a rather forced endeavour” as his work in the creative industries has seen his professional and personal interested become “intertwined.”

“I used to think my lack of hobbies was due to being too busy professionally to get into stamp collecting,” he jokes. “But my work takes me to the places others would call hobbies – photography, sculpture, music, film, collecting, writing, theatre, travel – it’s all in a week’s work.”

With technology increasingly impacting on creative endeavour, our ability to do more with less resource has created both an inspiring and maddening trend, according to Manchipp.

“It’s increasingly hard to figure out what the hell a company does,” he says, reflecting on SomeOne’s experience as Cancer Research UK’s lead brand agency.

“Our output has covered a diverse portfolio so broad, traditional branding agencies would fail to recognise much of the work as branding; everything from new product development to fundraising to internal communications. It’s a trend we’re seeing more and more of: organisations, products and services all coming together for a broader range of challenges… it’s bloody exciting.”

Even with a diverse client portfolio at hand, he tells us the agency keeps a running tally of missed opportunities penned by the agency’s designers. “It’s brutal and definitely not for this article,” he teases, citing WHSmith, Virgin Atlantic and Facebook as brands he’d most like to work with.

Manchipp points to those who “bring people together” as the most inspirational, highlighting Phil Jones, Lynda Relph-Knight, YCN and Glug as prime examples.

“We could all be home watching a movie, but instead we are out with others learning, thinking and drinking.” Anyone who’s managed to survive a decade in advertising or design is inspiring, he adds – “the first 10,000 hours, they are tough.”

The Drum’s newest awards scheme, The Dream Awards, will recognise the big ideas behind the UK’s best creative campaigns. The deadline has been extended to Friday 14 August.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis