Showcased in today's issue of our series is Eliza Williams, editor of Creative Review, the British magazine that aims to inspire, inform and stimulate debate across the fields of advertising, design and visual culture worldwide. A long time Epica juror, she shares her vision on the creative industry in the UK and her approach to trade press journalism.
What inspired you to become a journalist and how did you get into the profession?
I always liked the idea of writing but I didn't have any contacts in journalism and couldn't see a route in - at that stage, perhaps even more than now, it was a case of knowing people to get jobs. So I started out working in book publishing and got a job at a small publishing firm. By chance, they launched an arts magazine while I was there and I got involved in that - once I got that initial foot on the ladder I was able to build a career in writing about the arts, advertising and design, but it was slow going at the start!
What’s your role at Creative Review - and what are the latest developments there?
I'm editor at Creative Review magazine, which is owned by Centaur Media. I've been working at CR a long time - about 17 years - but have only been editor for the last four years, so it's been a big shift in the past few years personally. Our primary focus is digital - we have a website which is a mix of paywalled and free content - but we also publish four print magazines a year, run a yearly award scheme, as well as a podcast and events. The events have mainly been virtual since the pandemic, which allows us to reach an international audience with them, but I'm hoping we'll have some in-person events again soon too.
What essential qualities and skills do journalists need to thrive in today’s media landscape?
It's mostly the same as it's always been - you need to be tenacious, curious, and work fast and to deadlines. The difference now is the pace is so much faster, teams are smaller, and you need to be across stories globally.
As a member of the Epica Awards jury, how do you approach evaluating and selecting the best creative work from around the world?
I look for work that makes me feel excited, hopefully a bit surprised, and want to tell people about it. It's harder than ever to make really unusual, ground-breaking work but when you see it, it's great.
How important is the relationship between journalism and the creative community, and how can it be further strengthened?
Naturally I'd say it's very important! Journalists are a way for the creative community to spread their news and opinions and to reiterate the importance of the creative industries in wider society and life, which in the UK at least is somewhat under-recognised right now. In terms of strengthening the relationship, I miss the days when there was more time to spend with the people you were writing about and do studio visits etc. Now most magazines or newspapers are made by very small teams which have to cover a huge amount so there's not as much time to spend on individual stories. So we could do with more time and resource but I can't see that happening anytime soon!
What are the most memorable campaigns or creative projects you've covered and what made them stand out for you?
I've been lucky to interview lots of people I've admired over the years - if I was going to pick just one it would be George Lois, who died earlier this year. He was a real trailblazer in both advertising and graphic design but also a really engaging, funny and entertaining person too. We had a great conversation and he was very frank about his views on the industry today - something that doesn't happen often now.
How d’you stay informed and updated on the latest trends and developments in the creative industry?
The usual ways - reading newspapers and magazines; talking to people; building strong relationships with PRs. Good PRs are vital to journalists now.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the creative industry today – and how might it be addressed?
Investment and funding and access to creative education. In the UK, the creative industries are currently very under-appreciated by those in power and this leads to less experimental and exciting work being made, and also less diversity in an industry that is already pretty undiverse. Also, the recent talk about AI is both fascinating and scary - this will undoubtedly lead to new opportunities that might be hard to imagine right now, but will also change jobs enormously too.
What role do you see journalism playing in promoting and advocating for diversity and inclusion within the creative industry?
Journalists can call for change from those in the industry and offer a vital platform for those who are less represented.
Who are your role models or mentors in journalism and the creative world? And what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
I've been lucky in having a number of editors and bosses in my life who have supported me and given me opportunities over the years, which has been vital to my career progression. I can't really highlight one piece of advice, but they have always challenged me to do better, and step out of my comfort zone, and this has led me to be able to do things that would once have terrified me. It sounds like a cliché but it's important to face your fears and accept that sometimes you'll mess it up but that that will lead to better work in the future.
In the UK, the creative industries are currently very under-appreciated by those in power and this leads to less experimental and exciting work being made, and also less diversity in an industry that is already pretty undiverse.