- Course studied:
- Graphic Design
- Year of graduation:
Entrepreneur Andy Cooke is the Integrated Art Director at the Swiss-based global leader in international education, EF, and founder of three businesses in Stoke-on-Trent. He continues to work remotely on his Staffordshire investments while managing his team in Switzerland directly under the education provider’s Global Chief Creative Officer.
“The opportunity to move to a strange, foreign land and work amongst some great thinkers in a global company, and to be high up in the chain, came late in 2017,” Andy explained. “Since the move, I’m still directly and heavily involved in the ongoing ventures I have in Stoke-on-Trent, working with my business partners and teams to push all the endeavours forward. Only my teaching role at Staffs, on the Advertising and Brand Management award, came to an end after four years.”
As a Graphic Design graduate from Staffordshire University, Andy started his teaching role after going self-employed and setting up a design studio with fellow Staffs graduate Alex Farrall in 2011. Since then, he’s also been involved in street culture business Entrepreneurs, restaurant Klay Pizzeria & Bar and graphic design studio Weather.
Andy is originally from Rugeley, in Staffordshire, where he attended Fair Oak High School and Aelfgar Sixth Form. He then chose to study Product Design at Staffordshire University, based on advice from his sixth form tutor, but found the course didn’t suit his interests. After three years, repeating the second year twice, he switched to Graphic Design.
He said: “At the time, I was interested in graffiti and hand rendered letterforms, producing posters for local punk shows in the city. I saw the work a good friend was doing on the Graphic Design course and could see the parallels, so I begged my way onto the course, and got in by the skin of my teeth.”
During his time on the course, Andy sought out work experience opportunities and internships. “I racked up weeks and weeks of intern time at independent design studios in Manchester, London and Nottingham – as well as giant outfits like Saatchi & Saatchi,” he recalled. “Without that experience, I’d never have had the confidence to start the snowball that ended up in me securing my first full-time role in London before graduating.”
Andy had created a self-promotional mailer as part of a final year project and distributed it to employers across the UK. The mailer landed him a 6-page talent feature in the now defunct Grafik Magazine, which was seen by a recruiter looking for a Junior Designer. Andy later landed a job at boutique advertising agency Erasmus Partners.
As a Junior Designer, he worked on branding, packaging, editorial, web design and more for clients including Coca-Cola, Tetra-Pak and Puma. He left the company a year later with his Creative Director; the pair working together for five years on projects for Pelé Sports, Samsung and Coca-Cola. He also set up MayNinth, a design studio in Manchester, with Staffs friend Alex.
After wrapping up MayNinth in 2014, Andy worked with creative agency RareKind founder David Samuel in their new Manchester office as an Artist Agent. He was also working at Staffordshire University at the time and began his entrepreneurial endeavours by launching the first of his Stoke-based ventures.
Hanley-based business Entrepreneurs began as part retail store, which is now closed, alongside a gallery, screen printing workshop and legal graffiti space, all still in operation. Shortly after setting up Entrepreneurs with fellow Staffs graduates Rob Fenton and Tom Edwards, another opportunity arose to start a business in Hanley’s developing Cultural Quarter. He launched Klay Pizzeria & Bar with friends Georgie Stanway and Paul Wainwright.
Andy also then established his graphic design studio, Weather, in 2016, where he employs four others across design and web development. They work for a roster of local and international clients. A year later, he joined EF and moved to Switzerland.
“Taking the role at EF meant potentially displacing some of the ongoing ventures I have in Stoke-on-Trent but, for professional development and personal reasons, I decided to move abroad,” Andy said. “As well as continuing to work on my various endeavours, I have my second authored book coming out in Spring 2018, named Graphic Design For… which is being published by Prestel.
“The confidence to be able to do this effectively all stemmed from my time on the Graphic Design award at Staffordshire University. I’ve ended up living inside a picture-perfect postcard region of the world, working with people from around the globe, while being involved in other businesses 800 miles away with some of the best friends ever. The past few years have taught me to take every day and every opportunity as it comes.”