Adam Chan, Regional ECD of Bonsey Jaden

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As part of the effort to ICAD Design Days to stimulate deeper discussions with the design community on the nature of being a design professional and the values of our work as a collective, we reached out to various industry practitioners and stakeholders, seeking their perspectives on a series of thought-provoking questions on current issues in relation to the core values professionalism.

Adam Chan, Regional Executive Creative Director of Bonsey Jaden shares his perspectives with us.


What should the relationship between the academia and the industry be? How are we able to bridge the gap between what the academia is producing and what the industry is demanding (skills/traits/attitude, etc.)?

Ad people are weird creatures. We obsess over insights. We question the littlest of details. We get depressed when the work doesn’t run. (Sometimes, depressed when it does run.) We oscillate between love and hate with everyone around us. And at the end of the day, doing one great thing is never enough. It’s a high-pressure industry built around creating stories that matter. Every day.

Giving young talent a taste of that obsession is the most important thing to prepare them for life in ad land. Yes, of course, without a shadow of doubt, academia and the industry should be joined at the hip. But to do what exactly? I think it’s more than modules and briefs. It’s to transfer passion to the people who actually have the moxie to do something with it. Start with passion. Ignite that hunger. And all the skills and wonderfully weird attitudes will follow.


What does “multidisciplinary” mean to you? In your practice/industry, do you think it is more important to be a “generalist” or a “specialist”, and why?

Bit of a trick question, this one. I think there’s no one specific answer. I hope that isn’t a cop out. But I see it like this. When you are starting out, fresh into your career, don’t be a generalist. Work like heck to make sure you master your craft, whether it’s writing, design, client managing, whatever. Be single minded in being damn good at what you’re supposed to do. There will be time to get a hang of everything else. Till today, I still have no idea what a PO is. I’ll get to that one day.


How has your industry incorporated ethical practices, if there are any? Do you think ethical responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the artist/designers or the client, or both?

Ethical responsibilities are a massively wide topic to cover. Ethics come into question at every single stage of what we do. It’s in costings and pitching. It’s in intellectual property. Even changing the logo to exactly the size the client requested. Is there one specific party responsible for it? I can’t imagine a scenario where that would be the case. Having said that, the leaders should show the way.


Are the nature of awards and competitions still relevant today and why?

Yes. Lol. Can I leave it at that? Ok fine, here goes. Ad people, more often than not, are insecure wrecks. Me included. You bare your soul coming up with ideas and stories. You put it out into the world. People love it or hate it. And if they love it, that’s one form of validation. But when your peers (the people who probably don’t want you to win because they’re insecure themselves) can’t help but admit the work you did is good, it’s all the sweeter. Do I need to visit a shrink to work through some issues? Probably. Is it healthy? Maybe not. I don’t know. But like any competitive field, competition drives us. It forces us out of our bubble. Have your work stand against all the work out there and see how it stacks up. And maybe you disagree with the outcome. (Tends to happen a lot when the result is unfavourable.) Maybe you wholeheartedly agree. (Pop the champagne.) Either way, I bet you, you’re going to feel that visceral, guttural feeling – that next time, you want to do better.

At the end of the day, if the process makes you want to do better work – hell yes, it’s relevant.


What do you think is important for the arts practitioners/designers of the future to think about and challenge?

A worrying trend I’m seeing in the new crop of talent, is that the majority of them come into the industry and behave as though school’s out. Truth is, school is always in session.

To be fair, I don’t think anyone comes in thinking they know everything, i.e. “Please hire me as a CD and let me run the place.” But most young creatives have a passive learning mindset. It’s the idea that the more they do something, the more they learn. It isn’t wrong. It’s just slow.

But if your mind never left the classroom… experiencing all the content and stimuli around you starts to feel different. You start to get inspired by everything. However, when you like a funny ad, and don’t bother to scrutinize why it’s funny and what it’s trying to convey … that’s when you develop a dangerous habit. You become numb to learning the psychology and techniques of what works well. You don’t ask questions like why a comedian used a particular callback or why a cinematographer chose to do a certain continuous take.

And we all know it. The industry is ever evolving. The Tik Tok of today will be the Myspace of tomorrow. The only bulletproof lesson kids can have, is to love the process. Love learning what’s out there. I guarantee you, you’ll be bloody great if you do.