AKQA's Senior Art Director and founder of Justified Magazine, Josh Ogden, discusses the value of personal projects and working abroad.

What did you study at university, and why?

I have a degree in Visual Communication, which is the result of me being very indecisive and changing my mind a lot at the time. 

I didn’t really know if I wanted to pursue photography, architecture or finger painting. In my second year, my tutor at the time suggested the Visual Communication course was as broad as you make it. 

It was perfect, as I was totally obsessed with Bauhaus — like most creatives — but it was more to do with how they believed that design was one discipline: architects were designers, designers were photographers, architects were typographers etc. They believed it was counterproductive to refine yourself to one practice. So, I felt like a student of this mindset, which was great, as my portfolio reflected a cross discipline interest. 

"One of the crucial skills of being an art director is finding your own visual references"

AKQA Paris: House 99

During your time there, you founded Justified Magazine. What opportunities has this brought you, and what do you perceive the importance of personal projects like these to be? 

Justified started purely because I was surrounded by great photographers, who were much more talented than I was, and it was incredibly satisfying to curate the works and put them onto a printed page. 

Six years later, that hasn’t really changed — I still work with Will, and we chat almost daily about which photographers are doing interesting things, and if they should be featured etc. 

But what I have realised in the last year, is that one of the crucial skills of being an art director is finding your own visual references. If your taste is off or you're not up to speed with creative trends, your work is going to fall flat. This is what Justified allows me to do — find, talk to, and learn about the practice of incredible photographers who are based all over the world. Which, I think, makes my own references richer.

"It's ok to ask how to do the simplest things. If you don’t ask, you don’t learn"

AKQA Paris: Eurostar

You were picked straight out of university by AKQA. Tell us about your first job — what were you doing and what was the most valuable lesson you learned whilst there? 

I started at AKQA London. It was a bit like a baptism of fire: "New D&AD student of the year joins AKQA". I felt under pressure to do great work within the first 20 seconds of arriving — pressure mainly put on myself. 

I realised quite quickly that I didn’t really know a lot, but that’s ok. No-one expects you to solve the world within the first month of your first job (even though I thought people expected me to). 

It's ok to ask how to do the simplest things. There is nothing worse than feeling you can’t do something, and if you don’t ask, you don’t learn.

But most importantly I learned that being humble, and trusting yourself, carries you along way. Smile as well (at least once, one your first day).

In 2015 you moved to Paris with work — what do you love most about Paris and what opportunities has working abroad brought you, which might not have otherwise occurred?

I feel that if you get an opportunity to strip everything away, your old life, friends, comforts, language you can focus slightly more on what your goals are. I was lucky enough to get this with Paris. 

I wanted to build a portfolio of work that I was proud of, and three years later I’m well on the road to achieving that. 

Although, it's a life long project to be honest and you can learn a lot about yourself along the way. My sense of humour is incredible in the UK. In Paris, I have a lot of work to do...

"Most importantly, trust the voice in your stomach... He or she is always right"

AKQA Paris: House 99

As founder of Justified Magazine, and now as Senior Art Director at AKQA, what does a typical working day look like?

This is the hardest question to answer... Typically, I guess just lots of pretending to speak French, pretending to understand French, a few black coffees, listening to Bonobo, a few meetings, creative reviews, a few hours on Photoshop. Then leaving, and pretending to be French. Then it all starts over. 

And looking back at your journey so far, what words of wisdom can you offer to those aspiring to work in this field?

Try to have fun, be humble, don’t be a dick, and keep your work as broad as possible — especially at the beginning. 

Be as open as you can to learning new practices, and be as open as you can to new travel opportunities. A new city for a year or two will be the best decision you can make. Most importantly, trust the voice in your stomach... He or she is always right. 


AKQA Paris: Chanel
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Justified Magazine
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Justified Magazine


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