Art, climate emergency & futurism, the MullenLowe NOVA Awards are back in 2021!
Claudia Gusella BA Fashion Design ‘everything is great *’


An interview with Katy Cowan founder of Creative Boom and part of the judge panel at MullenLowe NOVA Awards for 2021, and some of our favourite shortlisted talent!

What sparked your interest in making it your mission to support designers and emerging artists?

It was the global recession and freelancers were struggling everywhere. I’d gone freelance myself in 2008 and suddenly had a lot of spare time on my hands, after losing many clients overnight. I had friends on Twitter who were artists and designers – creativity is something I’ve always loved – and so I wanted to do something to help them. Working in PR and being a qualified journalist, I felt an online platform might work. Its mission was to spark a creative industry boom, hence the name. It was an ambitious project but when you’re faced with such dire circumstances and an economy flat on its face, you suddenly lose any imposter syndrome and just go for it.

What happened next was quite unexpected. Creative Boom took off and became a wonderful community of artists, designers, photographers and illustrators. It was about raising people’s profiles by writing about their work. We also offered tips on graduating, freelancing and growing businesses. At one point, we had a directory and a jobs board. It was raw, organic and quite a different beast to what you see today.

Creative Boom began as a side project and 12 years later, it’s become a full-time venture, attracting six million readers each year and reaching all four corners of the globe. We’ve lost count of how many creatives we’ve helped to support but it’s probably in the tens of thousands.

Jann Choy BA Graphic Communication Design ‘Liǎn’

Given that Creative Boom was created following the 2009 global economic crisis, what piece of advice would you give emerging talent today in the current global economic crisis post-covid?

You have nothing to lose, so whatever you want to do, why not try it and see what happens? Creative Boom started small and was a lifeline for myself and others during the height of the global economic crisis. You never know what’s possible when you begin something new – it’s only when you look back that you cherish how far you’ve come.

My advice to any emerging talent today is, just start something. Don’t allow your inner demons to hold you back. You have your own perspective and voice. Tap into that, as no one else is you. And don’t worry about lacking in confidence; the trick is to have courage – the confidence will come with time and experience.

Lydia Hardcastle BA Performance: Design & Practice ‘FEN (Growing Garments)’

What shift have you seen the Fashion industry in the last year and a half and what are some of your personal values you hope to see more of in the industry?

More and more people are waking up to the way our clothing is made and are opting for more sustainable brands instead of pursuing ‘fast fashion’. The rental clothing market is gaining traction, too. It’s encouraging to see but I feel we have some way to go before the fashion industry makes significant shifts. The shift is happening, just not quickly enough. Consumers will ultimately drive it. It’s up to all of us to think carefully about how and where we shop.

Yijia Wu BA Fine Art 4D ‘Homes on the Move’

Are there key trends you hope to see in the finalists work this year?

A consideration for the planet, their impact and a belief that they can make a positive change in the way the world operates. Designers have so much power to be a force for good. It’s an exciting time for creative graduates.

Jessie Zhang BA Graphic Communication Design ‘Song Light’

In your experience, are there sufficient opportunities available that support emerging creatives in establishing that recognition?
What role do awards such as the MullenLowe NOVA Awards play in this and what alternatives are available to those not receiving awards.

For the most part, it’s down to the individual to work on their PR and marketing.

Just look at any of the successful artists and designers today and you’ll notice they share something in common: a knack for achieving great publicity. My advice would be to be inspired by them: learn how the media industry works and provide everything they need to gain regular coverage in their newspapers and magazines.

Also, blow your own trumpet via social media platforms and share your work wherever possible. And yes, enter awards, as events such as the MullenLowe NOVA Awards play a major role in helping to raise your profile and boost credibility.

Yuhan Huang MA Fine Art ‘Planet Series’
Interviewed by Fernanda Ondarza Dovali founder of Official GLITCH Magazine.

Interviewed by Fernanda Ondarza Dovali founder of Official GLITCH Magazine.

Katy Cowan is the founding editor of Creative Boom, one of the UK’s leading platforms dedicated to the creative industries.


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