Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

CreativeMornings London Interviews: Sandy Suffield, Creative Director and author of Things&People


I first came across Sandy – not pictured above – during some expert interviews Sense Worldwide conducted for a financial services client. Somebody had tipped us off to the fact that she was writing a blog about the value of the ephemera that we surround ourselves with. After seeing the delightful Things&People with it’s impeccable presentation of people’s stories about their stuff, we just had to get in touch.

Sandy had a lasting impact on our project and I was intrigued to know more about this creative who lists Pentagram, Time Out, Apple and Nokia on her C.V. Over coffee in the Sense Worldwide loft, we spent a couple of hours discussing the ups and downs of a career in Cupertino, the richness of the mundane, stitching paper bags and her upcoming projects. I knew that if CreativeMornings came to London, I’d have to have Sandy on board.

And here we are.

Sandy will be taking over the amazing space at Forward in Camden on August 5th for our second CreativeMornings London. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have her speaking. You can sign up for the event from August 1st at 11:00 here.

But enough from me, it’s time to hand over to Sandy for our CreativeMornings London interview.

Where do you go when you need to concentrate?
My work room but generally hatching ideas and refining them happens anywhere.

Is it about what you know or who you know?
Both. If you only know people there’s no disguising a lack of ability.

What’s been the most pivotal point in your life thus far?
Graduating with a lousy and deserved 2.2 which compelled me to take a year out making better work and earning money for an M.A. course.

Do you think there’s enough discourse between disciplines?
Probably not, more discourse/collaboration between disciplines that are poles apart would be interesting. Technology has facilitated discourse though, so it should happen more and more. Alex and Will from itsnicethat have a great project called Collaborate which encourages just this.

Can you teach innovation?
Yes. As a rule I think innovations aren’t born out of a single, isolated epiphany (although they might appear to be) but they’re the product of incremental, iterative steps. Much of this process is about thinking critically, this can be taught/honed.

Dollar or Yuan?
The Yuan.

Do you believe in an afterlife?
Don’t be silly.

Negative or positive freedom?
I’ve done some homework here because I didn’t understand the question – if you have negative freedom (ie. are free from external constraints – as examples: racism, sexism) it still might not necessarily help, in that your own internal constraints, (for example: fear, ignorance), might be such that your ability to fulfill your potential is still compromised. So true Positive freedom, where you are free of internal constraints (as much as possible), is I think more important.

Ideal holiday?
A camping holiday in Wales, when I was six. It was a beautiful summer, we borrowed my aunty’s swanky, orange tent which looked like a real house – it had fake beading on the windows and separate ‘rooms’. The following year I was really excited when my folks said we were off to Wales again, it was only when my two sisters and I were in the airport lounge that they announced that we were actually off to California – I burst into tears!

Can you draw?
I think so, my dad was a good teacher. It’s a skill that rusts up pretty quickly though and I don’t do it enough.

Can you draw us a wave?
Do I have to?

Individual or state (or both)?
Err, both? A state that encourages an individual’s freedom to do good versus one that supports rampant self interest. I think draconian measures from the state are sometimes needed, especially where the environment is concerned. Living in US made me appreciate our national health service (even in it’s flawed and under-funded state). I think free health care and well-funded arts are markers of a civilised society and crucially I think this encourages everyone to behave in a more civilised way. However when there are huge cuts threatened I think the influence of the state is brought into question.

Favourite LP?
An impossible question, The National’s ‘Boxer’ has to be up there along with an album from my childhood, Neil Young’s ‘After the Goldrush’.

Last book read?
Robert Macfarlane’s ‘The Wild Places’. Actually Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ but I want to evangelise about Macfarlane.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I was 15, my dad, who was a teacher at my school, took assembly one morning. He walked on stage pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks, he silently unloaded them to recreate Carl Andre’s ‘Equivalent VIII’. The point of the exercise, he explained, was never to doubt the conviction of the artist. It was, at the time, excruciating but in retrospect it was formative – it began a slow realisation that doing something with love and belief is the best footing for creating good work, whether it be in a commercial context or not.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are?
Find what you love, you won’t need to be told to do it, it’ll be a compulsion. Obvious maybe, but try to work with people you like and respect.


Creative Mornings is a monthly speaker series and morning gathering of creative types. Each event includes a 15-20 minute lecture, followed by a 20 minute group discussion. The gathering begins at 8:30am with the topic presentation starting at 9:00am and everyone taking off for work at 10am. CreativeMornings are free of charge and is made possible by Forward and Sense Worldwide.

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