Q&A with Tea Uglow, creative director of Google's Creative Lab Sydney
Ahead of the launch of diversity focused masterclass, Rare, which will be part of the D&AD Festival, one of the program’s creative leaders and trainers, Tea Uglow – who is a creative director of Google's Creative Lab Sydney – offers her creative experience ahead of participating in the project.
What has being a 'rare' creative meant to you?
I’m new to this. For years I was not a 'rare' creative. I was a completely normal creative, white, male, straight (‘ish), parent with de rigeur hoody, stubble and techno-babble. I’m neurodiverse, but that has always been something I masked, and trans, although I didn’t come out until my late 30s.
What kind of challenges have you had?
I am utterly amazed at the indignities of being blindly spoken over or ignored, it’s just stunning if you have never experienced it. Also being stared at, or condescended to when I melt-down or spiral out in public. But I am lucky to have found safe places, with incredible people who have created a space where I can bring the functional parts and the dysfunctional parts and not be judged.
The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.
Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.Sign up
Any stories from the 'frontline'?
Nothing pithy. Mainly it has been odd to watch this skew towards my existence rather than work. Like this article.
I was raised in a feminist tradition, but only quietly engaged, and when I spoke out I felt uncomfortable, that it was not my place to speak for others. Now my view is that the best thing I can do is be visible. Be a visible trans, queer, faceblind, neurodiverse creative with mental health issues - but ideally with nothing to report except, the water is fine, you can succeed, you can thrive.
How have you found your own way? Any mentors?
So most of my career has been ‘normal’, or, shall we say, privileged. I recall the privilege of being pushed to lead, of being groomed to succeed, of being listened to even when I had no idea what I was really saying, and that breeds confidence or arrogance, or both. Most people who have employed me either allowed me to ‘find my way’ or showed me the exit. The person who has allowed me to have the career I have, and been the most formative influence on me is Andy Berndt, who founded the Creative Lab at Google. He and my other colleagues over the last decade have enabled the most extraordinary and peculiar work.
Has being 'rare' influenced your view of creativity?
Because I’m talking about the same projects, even when I was the furthest out of my mind and deconstructed, and generally unsure if I would ever find my way back. I knew that the ideas had always come from one place, so there must be a “me” somewhere to build around. My ideas about creativity and have evolved but it is the only thing that has been consistent for me. I’m still that person(‘ish) only now I have labels.
What defines your creative style?
A lack of definite outcomes. An unhelpful complexity of thematic structures. A urgent and enthusiastic use of tangents and obscure metaphors.
What stories do you like to tell with your work?
I talk A LOT. I have a lot of stories - in fact all of everything is just a story, and an ever-changing, twisting, morphing amalgam. So it’s hard to try and choose. On the other hand, my team yawn and start to eye-roll when I talk about non-linear, non-contiguous narratives. Or how sound is more powerful than sight. And I talk about quantum physics too much. I also like to tell my starters that I arrived at Google in 2006 to do a one month gig, part-time, making ppt decks for a Google Sales team. I had never used PowerPoint, and I didn’t understand Sales: ie. don’t expect every opportunity to look obvious, or glamorous, or worthy.
Any advice to those who are rare creatives?
I wrote a disclosure doc that is so helpful I put it on my email signature. It helps set a context for people with information about me before I go into a space and if people choose not to acknowledge my context then I don’t want to work with them. That’s practical advice for RARE creatives. At the more aspirational end of the advice spectrum:
1. Surprisingly often, the person who exhibits the most confidence will be entrusted to deliver, regardless
2. The most effective insurance for a project is to make it for people in the organisation who can’t fail
3. Do what they want you to do, and then some, until the ‘then some’ becomes what they want you to do.
Make sure the ‘then some’ is stuff you like doing, and not the stuff you hate. Common mistake.
More about RARE and how to participate can be found at the specially developed website.