Lifetime Achievement: Neil Godfrey

What made Neil Godfrey so special? His former partner at CDP, Tony Brignull, explains why he is D&AD’s most awarded art director

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I saw Neil’s work before I ever met him and I fell in love with it. It was extremely beautiful and perfect. He was the acknowledged master of art direction. Every art director, every account executive, every client knew that when Neil did something it was right.

He felt that whatever he did must make the advertisement more readable. So, when I wrote a good line, he would make it better, when I wrote an ordinary line, he would make it good, when I wrote a great line, he would make it wonderful.

He would never do anything for effect. When he set a headline it was so that it would read better, not so it would look good. Having said that, he worked very hard to make his work look good. I remember him cutting up type and re-assembling it so that it would work perfectly with a headline.

He just has a perfect eye, he is stylish in every respect but there is nothing flashy about him. He takes his time, doesn’t rush things and everybody just trusted him.

There’s a temptation among art directors to play infinitely until they create beautiful works of art that don’t necessarily contribute to the understanding of what you are trying to say, indeed they often detract from it. Neil would never do that.

Every art director in London would look at his work and try to imitate it. Only one or two managed to get close to it. His layouts weren’t a work in progress, they would be exactly what we’d end up using.

He was a quiet perfectionist, everything he does is beautiful, nothing is there for show. My overriding memory of Neil is that no-one ever challenged his art direction when it was done.

The above is an edited transcript from a filmed interview by D&AD. See the final film on the CR iPad App

Neil Godfrey
02 John Webster
03 John Hegarty
04 Walter Campbell
05 Craig Allen
06 Axel Chaldecott
06 Bob Isherwood
08 David Horry
08 John Gorse
08 Tony McTear