AKQA Sweden leads visit SEK for creative inspiration - SEK


AKQA Sweden leads visit SEK for creative inspiration

SEK and AKQA have been in tight cooperation since 2021. In May we welcomed our colleagues from AKQA Sweden in Finland. During the two-day visit we heard what AKQA’s Talya Pulver-Lindqvist, Sam Andrews, and Lasse Lindström think about creativity and marketing today.

Creative ideas are always expected from marketers. What inspires you and how do you make sure to come up with new brilliant ideas?

Talya, Group Strategy Director at AKQA Sweden: The people I work with inspire me. Diverse ideas come from diverse experiences: that’s why I seek conversation with those I haven’t spoken with and put myself in situations I wouldn’t normally find myself in. Learning is the greatest hobby of my life and I hope I never stop doing it. Creativity is innate to all human beings, but it can also be a very delicate thing. At AKQA our ambition is to keep creativity alive: we use our imagination to make an impact on the world. 

Sam, Executive Experience Director at AKQA Sweden: Good design is design that has intent. That’s why creativity for me comes from understanding the purpose of something. You have to connect your designing to a brand’s customer and makes their lives better. Once you connect those dots, a purpose will come through and open new creative spaces to play with. 

Here’s one example working with automotive brands. Electric cars are gaining popularity, but people might have doubts about reaching charging stations. Instead of thinking about “how can we sell an electric car” we might want to start designing a service that solves this problem and connects people and charging stations. The intent is clear – and that’s where both customer value and creativity live.  

AKQA has many clients with major projects. How do you navigate it all in your day-to-day work? How do you get things done and deliver the highest quality? 

Talya: You must trust people. A lot of work gets done in this “heads down” space where people focus on their special areas of expertise. But to form a big cohesive picture, you must let people and teams intermingle. We have a lot of blended teams and people with many talents. We have creatives who think strategically, strategists who think creatively, and project managers with UX understanding. We want to have the mindsets of a student and a teacher and be open to share our insights.  

Sam: I encourage my teams to ask questions: how can we solve something? How do we collaborate with others in the organisation? What can we design that’s compelling, interesting and engaging? My team loves to sketch and prototype solutions, test them with the customer to see if they work, and then iterate the idea. I think the recipe for what we do is about taking design and bringing it extremely close to the people who will use it.  

All of you have worked in different countries. How working cultures differ across borders? 

Sam: I moved to Sweden for the opportunity to work in a new market. I’ve noticed there are deep-seated values in the Nordics. In work it translates into a clear, human sense of design that’s very connected to Scandinavian values.  

Talya: I completely agree with Sam. I come from New York – a place where you live to work. Sweden is the opposite. I appreciate the work life balance we have at AKQA, and I believe it’s similar across Northern Europe in general.  

Sam: Here the level of representation is also refreshing. In Nordic business many women are in the lead. I worked with major brands in Britain for years – it was rooms full of men, all the time. In Sweden, I’ve had a great opportunity to build inclusive, diverse teams from the ground up. 

Lasse, Senior Account Director at AKQA Sweden: I can vouch for representation as well, because internationality attracted me to AKQA in the first place. In our Swedish studios it’s probably a 50/50 split between Swedes and people from elsewhere: there’s Brazilians, Canadians, Brits, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Japanese colleagues. I moved to Sweden about six years ago. My Swedish wasn’t great but things quickly improved, and people here have been really understanding of my finnsvenska.  

Some creative ideas can challenge the client. How do you get clients on board with your most visionary work? What you’d like to see more of from clients? 

Talya: Business incentives for doing the right thing are growing: we’re moving towards a green economy, finding circular ways of doing things, and applying inclusivity in messages. I hope that more brands become brave with their purpose, and as creatives we need to match this direction. We might want to question briefs and help our clients see the potential in ideas they initially write off. Our job is to encourage, even if it might make the client a little uncomfortable at first. 

Lasse: Sometimes the best way to help clients make decisions is to help them see the outcome of great work. It requires education, support, and even therapy of sorts: clients need tools to find the right mindset. Change can be scary, but when a client gets into the idea of testing faster and learning through failings, it becomes the new way of doing things. Sometimes you need to find that one person on client’s side who’s brave enough to take things forward and has the power to do it. 

Sam: Also consider the time your idea needs. If you really believe in an idea that responds to a current event or a trend, client’s bureaucracy and democracy might get in your way. When you have a great responsive idea, your only option is to encourage to client to act fast. 

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