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News > Alumni Spotlight > Dan Biddulph, Art Director

Dan Biddulph, Art Director

"I feel I owe it to myself to say this - given the chance again, I'd not necessarily have gone through university. Experience is everything in my industry."

Current Job Title & Employer

I am currently the Art Director at The Sunday Times Magazine. The country's most read newspaper supplement and the first colour supplement ever produced in this country - it began circulation back in 1962. As the Art Director, I am responsible for the aesthetics of the magazine - the all-round design, typographical treatment, colour, photography, illustration etc. It's an amazing job which has taken me to some incredible places. Recent highlights include an appointment at number 10 Downing Street, where I had full access to the whole place, including the Prime Minister's private living area (I'm not sure many 'normal' idiots like me have managed to worm their way in there. It's a bit of a shame who I found sat in there too!). I've had the chance to meet movie stars, musicians, world leaders and even the odd dinosaur (I once went behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum - it was incredible). 

Dame Alice Owen’s Class of....

Class of 1993. The wonderful Dr Tony Asher was my form tutor for the majority of my years. He was ace.

Brief description of your path after Owen’s.

Following the sixth form (art, pure maths with stats, geography (the last of which I dropped after a year due to being told that I had an unconditional spot on the art foundation course I fancied)), I went off to Middlesex University to study visual communication design. With the foundation year added, that came to four years. As final year students, we scrimped and saved for a gallery space to display our work and then we hounded every creative agency or publisher we had ever heard of and begged them to take a look at our largely pretentious designs. 

I was pretty lucky. A guy from a book publishing house left his card pinned to my area of the wallspace, and within a week I was working on a set of children's encyclopedias for Disney. It was an amazing first job. Not only did I design the most incredible content, but I also trained up as an offical Disney colourist (who knew such a thing existed?). The proper artists would draw the outlines of whatever I requested (example: Mickey and Pluto floating through space), then I would paint the colour on.

Beyond this, I decided to work my way into magazines. I started on TV magazines - there are about a thousand of them and I reckon I worked on them all at some stage. I then got offered a job on Heat Magazine. It was a new title and it absolutely flew. It was a real rollercoaster but one that I eventually decided it was time to jump from.  

From there I went into a more grown up and luxurious sector of publishing: Vogue, GQ, Esquire, Newsweek. That brings me up to now. I've been here at The Sunday Times Magazine for about six years I guess.

Did your time at Owen’s inspire any particular skills or attributes?

I loved the art dept at Owens. It was small and cosy and it felt like home. I could relax there. Mr Gazard was great fun and Ms Drown was just so wonderfully nurturing. This made me aware that I couldn't follow an academic path. I learned how to paint and draw but the biggest skill was communication. I started to discover how to talk about art, plus I learned how to communicate through my art. The art room was also a hub for huge amounts of fun, alongside conversation. There aren't many subjects that encourage chat during the lesson but art was always one of these and I am certain that it has played a huge part in my communications skills. 

At this stage, I feel I owe it to myself to say this: given the chance again, I'd not necessarily have gone through university. Experience is everything in my industry and I have never looked at qualifications when employing somebody. It's all about attitude and portfolio. Friends of mine who left school after GCSEs were established designers long before I graduated. If you have the passion, a can-do personality and an obvious talent for design, that can take you a long way very quickly. To reiterate though, you must have the talent!

Favourite Owen’s memory?

Oh god, too numerous to mention! Something brilliant happened every single week. Sports days, ski trips, French exchange, geography field trips, fashion show and mates - so many amazing friends - many of which I still see regularly. I guess I'm pretty old now but when I am put back in a room with my old school mates, I'm young again. 

I have a recurring dream that I am about to sit my final pure maths A-level exam in the morning. That's a memory I'm keen to forget.


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