40 creative moments that changed culture

No major magazine birthday is complete without a list, so as part of Creative Review’s 40th celebrations, we’ve picked out 40 significant moments from across both high and low culture that we feel have shaped the work that is produced by our audience today

The creative industries – and in fact, the world – have changed so dramatically in the last 40 years that it might feel impossible to pinpoint the exact moments that have led us to the culture we inhabit today. And yet, here we are giving it a go.

Below, we’ve picked out 40 significant moments across both high and low culture that we feel have shaped the work that is produced today by our readers. Of course there are things missing, and you’re going to disagree with many of our choices (feel free to shout about this on social media, natch), but hopefully the list below will at the very least prove an enjoyable trip down memory lane. Have we included your favourites? Let the arguments commence!

1. THE FACE (1980)

In 1980, editor and publisher Nick Logan scraped together £3,500 in savings and launched The Face – the magazine that sparked a revolution in British culture. Art directed in its early years by Neville Brody, the magazine put creativity first and foremost, creating a platform for the best and most promising names in fashion, photography and journalism. More than that, it celebrated the power of graphic design. Brody was given the freedom to question every aspect of how magazines were laid out, and he took to the opportunity with relish, creating hand-drawn fonts and distorted type, and doing away with the existing conventions of editorial design. He’s described the magazine as “a living laboratory, where I could experiment and have it published”. The title was enormously influential on the media of the time, prompting other mags, as well as a host of brands and ad agencies, to change how they addressed young people.

2. MTV (1981)

Launched in 1981, this ‘radio with pictures’ channel – as it was apparently described in the original pitch – single-handedly invented the music video. After its first ad campaign starring Mick Jagger (who was reportedly paid $1 for his hard work), the channel did the 80s equivalent of going viral, as people across the US called their cable companies to tell them, “I want my MTV.” Quickly, record labels were persuaded to invest in big-budget promos to land airtime on the 24/7 music channel, and so the music video was born. Thanks to MTV, the format went on to become a rite of progression for directors of all kinds, as well as an outlet for creative experimentation and provocation.

3. THE HAÇIENDA (1982)

The Haçienda nightclub in Manchester attained almost mythical status in UK popular culture, single-handedly reinventing our idea of what a club can be and its relationship with design. Architect Ben Kelly transformed the former yacht builder’s warehouse, creating a subversive factory aesthetic with black-and-yellow stripes and dance floor bollards. The flyers, designed by Mark Farrow, were equally distinctive, with a sleek approach that was miles away from the cut-and-paste posters of rival clubs. Not only did the Haçienda pave the way for dance venues to follow, it’s been a reference point for a generation of designers. And the owners of the club, Factory Records, were of course equally influential, with Peter Saville’s record sleeves practically inventing the idea of the modern cover designer, and inspiring a wave of young designers to dream of following in his footsteps.

4. TETRIS (1984)

In 1984, software engineer Alexey Pajitnov created Tetris and laid the foundations for the idea of addictive video games. The puzzle-loving Pajitnov never intended to sell Tetris but gave it to his colleagues at the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, who were instantly obsessed with its ever-faster rows of falling shapes. The game was shared further afield via floppy disks, and eventually made its way to software distributors and licensors, who also ended up keeping most of the profits from Tetris. It’s easy to see how this early title presaged a whole wave of mobile games, all reliant on the same addictive dopamine hit that you get from clearing a row of tetrominoes (as the shapes are officially known). The game has been translated to every platform imaginable and remains as obsession-inducing as it ever was.



Ad agencies dream of changing the course of culture, and occasionally they actually do. BBH is one that has achieved this dream, thanks to its 1985 Levi’s Laundrette ad, directed by Roger Lyons. In the commercial, model Nick Kamen strips down to his boxers in the laundrette – to the delight of those watching – in order to wash his new pair of shrink-to-fit Levi’s 501s. The ad attained iconic status, spawning a whole host of parodies. But more than that, it really did have a lasting impact on culture. As well as boosting sales of 501s by a whopping 800%, it kickstarted a new boxer short revolution, after the underwear style was chosen for use in the ad when y-fronts (then the go-to men’s underpants) were deemed too ‘indecent’ by the ad authorities.


At the start of 2020, A-ha’s Take On Me music video hit a billion views on YouTube – a milestone only reached by a handful of pre-90s songs, among them Bohemian Rhapsody and Smells Like Teen Spirit. On its own it’s a great track, but it’s undoubtedly hugely helped by its animated video, overseen by Billie Jean director Steve Barron and animated by Michael Patterson. The single was originally released in 1984 but failed to make much of an impression until the next year, when the rotoscoped video came out on MTV and skyrocketed the track up to the top of the charts. Massively labour-intensive, the film’s mix of live action and animation required over 10,000 drawings, created across four months. Prior to this, rotoscoped illustration of this kind had never been used for a music video. It has achieved a firm foothold in the cultural imagination, and not just with dedicated YouTube viewers: it’s also been spoofed by Family Guy, as well as Volkswagen.


Introduced in 1987 for Nike’s first major TV campaign, Just Do It has gone on to become a rallying cry for the brand – particularly in the light of its recent campaign with American quarterback Colin Kaepernick. According to Wieden + Kennedy’s Dan Wieden, who authored the line, the idea for it came from the last words of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, who pronounced “Let’s do it!” to the firing squad at his execution. Wieden came up with the line the night before the client presentation, as a way of tying all the creative work together and speaking as much to serious athletes as it did to everyone else. Apparently, the creatives and client all questioned if it was necessary, but audiences loved it. And across the last 33 years, it’s come to resonate deeply with Nike’s identity.

8. ACID HOUSE RAVES (1987-9)

A key cultural moment of the 1980s, England’s Acid House revolution saw people gather together in enormous numbers for all-night raves – to the horror of the Conservative politicians of the time. The visual culture of Acid House had a lasting influence on the creative world, with echoes still visible in the graphic design of today. And many will remember the sense of freedom and the community spirit the movement created, which has undoubtedly played its part in today’s creative industry. Even the current events and entertainment industry owes a debt to Acid House, with Secret Cinema founder Fabien Riggall tracing at least some of his inspiration for the company back to the illegal raves that took place around the M25 in the late 80s.

Photo: Gavin Watson

9. PHOTOSHOP (1988)

There’s barely a creative person in the world that hasn’t felt the influence of Photoshop. It’s become a central element of many disciplines, completely revolutionising how work of all kinds gets made. It first came into being in 1988, developed by brothers John and Thomas Knoll – Thomas still works at Adobe, while John is at Industrial Light & Magic. The software’s first use was for the James Cameron thriller The Abyss, with the production team using an unreleased version of the software to edit storyboards. Two years later it was unleashed on the public, eventually earning itself the brand-name-turned-verb status that tech companies everywhere lust after.

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For 28 years, the Berlin Wall served as a border between East and West Germany, physically and ideologically dividing the two. It carried a dark legacy, with many killed in attempts to escape. But it also became a canvas, provoking artists on the West to dodge the guards and daub the wall with graffiti. French artist Thierry Noir – who’s widely credited as one of the first artists to illegally paint it – covered several miles of the structure with artworks, inspiring others, such as Keith Haring, to do the same. Artists had to work fast to avoid being caught by soldiers. In 1989, the East German government relaxed regulations on travel, and the wall began to be demolished. It marked the rebirth of Berlin, as city planners and architects attempted to restore areas left vacant by the wall’s destruction. Artists moved in, taking advantage of cheap real estate in the heart of the city, playing a large part in establishing Berlin’s reputation as a creative hub.

11. TWIN PEAKS (1990)

In 1990, Laura Palmer died and the image of her blue, plastic-wrapped body burnt itself into our collective imagination. Everything about the David Lynch-directed TV series felt appealingly off-kilter, from the Angelo Badalamenti score and neon green typography, to its depiction of the strangeness of small town America. It brought some impressively weird subject matter to the small screen, not least the demonic figure of Bob, making everything else look tediously formulaic by comparison. Ultimately, Twin Peaks opened the door for a long list of other shows – including The X-Files and Lost – giving screenwriters and directors space to be as delightfully bizarre as they liked. It also prefigured the golden age of TV that we’re experiencing now, proving that great-quality storytelling isn’t only the domain of the cinema.


Alexander McQueen was the master of spectacle in his catwalk shows of the 90s. His S/S 1998 show – originally called The Golden Shower before sponsor American Express requested a name change – saw models end the show drenched in yellow rain, while the S/S 1999 show saw model Shalom Harlow rotate atop a turntable like a jewellery box ballerina, as a pair of robots spray-painted her white dress. McQueen treated his shows as pieces of theatre, pulling talent from across the creative industries to bring them to life, and often spending more money on the shows than he did on the clothes. This was fashion through the lens of performance art. “He wanted it to feel like a true emotional experience,” says Ian Bonhôte, who co-directed the 2018 documentary, McQueen. As the designer himself said: “I know I’m provocative. You don’t have
to like it, but you have to acknowledge it.”

13. PLAYSTATION (1994)

Three-dimensional graphics were in their infancy in the 90s, but Sony had a plan to bring them to the masses. Engineer Ken Kutaragi – who would later become the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America – pushed through the PlayStation project, using Sony’s groundbreaking System G graphics technology. When the console came out, it changed everything for gaming, opening up a new world for studios and developers. PlayStation launched in Japan in 1994, and everywhere else the year after, and by 1996 had sold seven million units. It provided a platform for hugely influential titles such as Wipeout, Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid. And the marketing around the console, at least in the UK, was equally memorable, from the bizarre Chris Cunningham-directed ads, to the 1996 Glastonbury cardboard flyer, emblazoned with ‘PlayStation is more powerful than God’, which could be pulled apart into roaches for spliffs.

14. COMIC SANS (1995)

Perhaps the most notorious font of all time, Comic Sans has enjoyed a 25-year reign of typographic infamy – and it’s still enraging designers. The typeface was originally designed for the Microsoft Bob user interface, to appear alongside Rover the dog (a canine precursor to Clippy). Its designer, Vincent Connare, noticed that Times New Roman didn’t feel right being used inside Rover’s speech bubbles, and designed Comic Sans as a replacement. It was created too late to ship with the software, but it made its entry to the world in 1995, when it was released with the Windows 95 operating system. That, along with the arrival of desktop publishing, guaranteed its place in culture. Love it or hate it, it’s remained one of the most recognisable typefaces in the world, used by people everywhere, for everything. And its creator is philosophical about some of the abuse it’s received from the design industry, telling CR that “every designer secretly wishes they had designed Comic Sans”.

15. FLASH (1996)

In the late 90s, FutureWave Software founder Jonathan Gay had an inkling the internet might be popular for sharing graphics and animation. He’d had limited success with his company’s SmartSketch drawing programme, so he decided instead to switch to animation software. Early demos of his FutureSplash animator were “horribly slow”, failing to capture the interest of Adobe at the time, but in 1996, when the software was shipped, Microsoft and Disney started using it. Macromedia bought up Gay’s company, re-christened the project Macromedia Flash, and released it as a free browser plugin. Its potential quickly became apparent, allowing anyone to create animation and, as the software developed, games. The internet was never the same, with Flash enabling creators to alter its entire aesthetic, giving rise to some truly bizarre inventions – online series Salad Fingers being one of them. For many this was their introduction to digital creativity, and despite Flash’s looming obsolescence, it remains a lasting influence on internet culture.

The Simpsons website, 1996. One of the first sites to utilise Flash technology, created with Future-Splash animator


In 1997, Apple raised its glass to ‘the crazy ones’ and fundamentally changed how everyone thought about computers and technology. TBWA\Chiat\Day came up with the commercial, which paired black-and-white imagery of historic dreamers, thinkers and creatives such as Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart and Jim Henson with a spoken manifesto that celebrated “the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes, the ones who see things differently”. In the advert, Apple tacitly aligned itself with these visionary rulebreakers, at a time when the company was struggling – it was popular with creatives, but not so much with everyone else. Steve Jobs apparently hated the first version of the spot, describing it as “advertising agency shit”, but eventually came round to it. Within a year the company’s stock price had tripled, and the campaign became one of the most talked-about of the decade, and far beyond.


Memes have a murky history, beginning somewhat unexpectedly with Richard Dawkins, who’s credited with inventing the term in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. He used it to describe “ideas that spread from brain to brain”, which is as good a description as any of the viral user-generated imagery that dominates the internet. It’s hard to pin down when memes took off, although some have suggested Dancing Baby – a 3D animation created by designer Michael Girard in 1996 – could be the first. Others believe they date back to a pre-digital era, with Thrillist suggesting that Memento Mori, or phallic symbols, could be considered early versions. Online, the movement has given rise to classic imagery such as doge, distracted boyfriend, and success kid, although it’s an ever-changing landscape. Anyone can make and modify memes, and release them to be judged instantly by the internet, making it all appealingly democratic. The most popular rise to the top, circumventing the social machinery that often constrains other creative disciplines. And when it comes to culture and society, memes offer a brutally level playing field. Fail, and you become one; succeed, and you still become one.


There’s a kind of ageless quality to Chris Cunningham’s All is Full of Love video, which despite being made 21 years ago still feels like a glimpse of the future. Björk – who has described the director as a “genius” – approached Cunningham with an idea for a mini film, bringing along a pair of ivory statues of people making love. The brief was for something erotic, but still somehow “hard” and “frozen”. Cunningham cast his mind back to a teenage obsession with engineering and industrial robots, and the film was born. He’s described it as the riskiest video he’s made, unsure if the subject matter and the music would mesh. Things apparently got a bit dicey towards the end, when Cunningham had to put together the “ramshackle” robot shoot with footage of Björk in a blue costume and white face paint. “It really was a disaster up until the eleventh hour,” he says. It remains one of the most memorable music videos ever, and presages Björk’s ongoing explorations of the digital and virtual world.

19. WHASSUP? AD (1999)

In 1999, an advert came along that was so infectiously silly, audiences couldn’t help but be drawn in. Budweiser’s Whassup?, created by DDB, could be described as the first ad meme that was mimicked by people everywhere, and referenced in popular culture for years afterwards. It was based on a short film originally made by director Charles Stone III, featuring a group of his childhood friends, who also ended up starring in the ad. Budweiser continued to capitalise on Whassup?’s success for years afterwards, and Stone even made his own parodies of the ad, giving it a dark political slant that tackled issues including the Iraq war and opiate addiction, as well as sending out clear support for Obama. It’s doubtful if its massive success has ever been replicated, and that’s perhaps because, as former DDB creative director Don Pogany has pointed out, “It didn’t feel like advertising.” True.

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20. EMOJI (1999)

Communication has been fundamentally altered by emoji, which has become a visual language understood across the world. The tiny symbols were first created in 1999 by Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita for telecoms company NTT DOCOMO’s i-mode software. Over the next decade, emoji use spread, with the symbols eventually recognised in 2010 by the Unicode Consortium – the non-profit that oversees international standards for software and text. Since then it’s approved over 3,000 characters, which has given rise to debate around proper representation for women, people of colour, and same sex couples. This ever-evolving language has also been a rich source of ideas for brands and organisations, which have used the symbols to do everything from tackle taboos around women’s bodies, discuss sexism, and raise awareness of endangered species. Kurita’s original set of 176 icons are now part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art collection.

One of the original 12 × 12 pixel emoji drawn up in 1999 by architect Juan Aoki, based on Shigetaka Kurita’s master designs


The noughties saw live entertainment take on new dimensions, as the idea of ‘immersive’ grabbed hold of our imaginations. It was no longer enough to slump in a cinema seat, audiences wanted to be involved in the story somehow. One of the forerunners of this was Punchdrunk Theatre, which was founded in 2000 by Felix Barrett. He describes its work as an attempt to “build a parallel universe” by inviting attendees to step out of the role of audience and onto the stage with the performers. Punchdrunk is known for its lavish productions, which spare no detail or cost to bring stories to life. The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable offered a three-hour journey through a fictional Hollywood studio, while Sleep No More, which recently travelled to Shanghai, was a Hitchcockian take on Macbeth. And when they say it’s immersive, they mean it – with smells, sounds and tastes all coming together to create the experience. Punchdrunk has been hugely influential across everything from theatre to advertising, helping to establish a new category of narrative form.

A performer at the Shanghai showing of Sleep No More, Punchdrunk Theatre’s take on Macbeth. Photo: Yuan Studio

22. TATE MODERN (2000)

In 2000, London’s former Bankside Power Station reopened as the city’s newest art gallery – Tate Modern. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron designed the building, maintaining its industrial ‘envelope’ but completely rearranging the space inside to function as a public gallery. “The new shouldn’t be alien to the old, and the old shouldn’t be alien to the new,” Jacques Herzog said of the design. Louise Bourgeois created a giant spider sculpture as the first commission for the Turbine Hall, the 500ft-long space at the centre of the museum, which would go on to host work by artists including Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei. Through its stunning gallery spaces – many of which are free to view by the public – and its early adoption of video and the web to promote the museum, Tate Modern has played a significant role in the democratisation of the art world and become one of London’s most popular tourist attractions in the process.

23. APPLE IPOD (2001)

On its release in 2001, Apple’s iPod changed how we consume music. Clunky cassette players and skipping CDs were a thing of the past, as listeners clamoured to get their grubby mitts on its sleek white scroll wheel. The brand’s now iconic dancing silhouette ads only helped stoke the enthusiasm. As well as being a piece of exceptional product design, the iPod completely altered our experience of music and albums, thanks to its ability to store a thousand tracks at a time. Two years later iTunes launched, and our relationship with the songs we love had never been more immediate. Everything from the mechanics of the music industry down to album artwork, the advent of streaming, musicians’ connection with their fans, and even Apple itself have been influenced by the iPod’s reign.


In the early noughties, high and low fashion were strangers to one another. Streetwear was one thing and luxury was quite another. But in 2004, Karl Lagerfeld unexpectedly partnered with H&M to create a capsule collection of pieces. Consumers went wild for the collab, snapping up cut-price black coats and stiff-collared tops in such numbers that the entire collection sold out within a day. H&M was taken aback by its success. “To be honest, I thought it was a one-off,” H&M’s former head of design, Ann-Sofie Johansson, told Vogue. The brand continued to capitalise on the high/low collab for years to come, working with labels including Versace, Alexander Wang and Kenzo – usually to frenzied response from fashion fans. It opened the doors for the streetwear versus catwalk crossover we’re all familiar with, giving rise to some truly inspired partnerships.


A man in a chicken suit, doing what the internet tells him, might sound like a bizarre social experiment, but in 2004 it was at the forefront of advertising. Prior to this, brands hadn’t been sure what to make of the internet, but Burger King’s site, part of a campaign to reintroduce the Have It Your Way tagline, became an unexpected phenomenon, racking up millions of hits in just a few days. Banking on people asking similar things, the agency spent a day shooting a man in a chicken suit performing hundreds of different commands, including Riverdance and Walk Like An Egyptian. Ask for anything too naughty and the chicken would tell you off. One of the first campaigns to achieve viral status, it showed brands the creative potential of the internet. “It was a pain in the ass because everybody in every meeting after that was like, ‘give me a chicken’,” says Benjamin Palmer, co-founder and CEO at the Barbarian Group, which worked with CPB to build the site. “We got calls for three years straight about that.”


In 2004, Dover Street Market smashed luxury store stereotypes when it opened its doors in London’s West End. “Beautiful chaos” is the term Rei Kawakubo – who founded the store together with Adrian Joffe – has used to describe its approach. In its early years, you’d enter through a window designed by the likes of Gary Card or Jake & Dinos Chapman, tramp across a concrete floor past a piece of taxidermy and try on your garment in a portaloo. In this enjoyably twisted take on a department store, established labels rubbed shoulders with brand new designers, and luxury houses with streetwear brands. Retail as theatre is no longer a new idea, but Kawakubo and Joffe were some of the earliest adopters, propelling DSM to cult status and sparking a long list of imitators.

27. NATHAN BARLEY (2005)

We might laugh at “self-facilitating media node” Nathan Barley and his dreams of media stardom via Sugar Ape, but it’s striking how prescient this piece of satire really was. Not only did the TV series predict the real-life-meets-drama format that’s become such a key part of entertainment, it also prefigured ideas of influencers, social media and self-branding. Despite being 15 years old, it remains surprisingly relevant. Its writers, Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris, went on to become hugely respected names, while Barley helped unleash a wave of British comedy and satire on viewers.

28. APPLE IPHONE (2007)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the arrival of the iPhone changed everything. It wasn’t, technically, the first smartphone, but it was the first smartphone to create a digital revolution. It was built in secret over a period of two-and-a-half years, by a team that had been brought in from various parts of the company and sworn to absolute secrecy. Steve Jobs introduced the phone in 2007, telling his audience, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” He wasn’t wrong. The iPhone’s combination of slick product design and straightforward UI meant it was an instant must-have. Apps, games, music, the internet, technology, entertainment, social media … these, and more, have all been impacted by iPhone usage. And while many bemoan the newly fragmented media landscape, there’s no denying that it’s opened up a new world for brands and the creative industry.


Advertising is never more enjoyable than when it’s being funny and unexpected, and Fallon certainly achieved this with its Cadbury’s Gorilla ad. The story goes that director Juan Cabral came up with the idea while having a debate on set about the greatest drum solos in history. That night, in his hotel room, Cabral sketched out a short film, but before he could do anything about it fate stepped in. Cadbury briefed Fallon – where Cabral was working as a creative director – to create something that would capture the feel-good, Willy Wonka-ness of eating chocolate, and Gorilla felt like the perfect response. While the ad’s idea may have come quickly, convincing everyone to get behind the sparse, surreal spot took some time. But viewers loved it straightaway, and many an agency since has tried to imitate it.

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30. THE KINDLE (2007)

With the arrival of the Kindle in 2007, it seemed that print really was dead. The assumption was that what happened to music with the arrival of the iPod would now happen to books: why would anyone care about buying actual books now that we could stuff several hundred of them onto a pocket-sized tablet? For a little while, book cover designers must have despaired. However, ultimately the Kindle’s very digital nature prompted publishers to reconsider how they approached print. Books had to become covetable enough to earn themselves a place on people’s bookshelves, and cover design flourished as a result. Designers including David Pearson, whose censored cover of 1984 went viral in 2013, Na Kim and Coralie Bickford-Smith, among many others, were the result. Perversely, the Kindle may even have saved novels from their looming demise. “The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Waterstone’s managing director James Daunt told the Guardian. “Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical.”

31. NETFLIX TV (2007)

Netflix has come a long way from its analogue roots. In 1997, when it was set up, the company sent subscribers DVDs in the post but struggled to grow. Founder Reed Hastings approached Blockbuster to see if it would be interested in a $50m stake in the company, but Blockbuster declined, in what must now seem a disastrous move. In 2007, Netflix introduced streaming and helped take the film and TV industry into a new era. Netflix’s significance on this list isn’t just about the way it pushed forward streaming, however, but also its evolution into an original content creator. Not only has it supported new writing, talent and forms of entertainment – interactive show Bandersnatch being just one – it’s prompted other broadcasting companies to get off their laurels and do the same.


Beijing 2008 is widely acknowledged as one of the most impressive Olympic opening ceremonies. Around 15,000 performers took part in the four-hour-long event, which was held in Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. The ceremony spanned multiple creative disciplines, as well as the entire history of China, taking in inventions including fireworks and moveable type. China reportedly poured $100m into the event, which was overseen by the House of Flying Daggers’ director Zhang Yimou. But while the media wrote breathless accounts, it didn’t escape scrutiny for its allegedly appalling treatment of performers. Artist Ai Weiwei, who participated in the stadium design, also distanced himself from the project. Despite the controversy, the event had a lasting influence – particularly on London’s own Olympics Ceremony four years later.


Adaptive reuse has become a hot topic in recent years, as designers seek to reimagine existing buildings and spaces, preserving architectural heritage and finding more sustainable ways of creating. In 2009, the High Line showed everyone how it could be done, converting an almost 90-year-old elevated railway track into a mile-and-a-half-long public park. The Friends of the High Line, a group of New Yorkers, got together to prevent the track from being demolished, facing opposition from nearby residents. They drew support from design organisations as well as local businesses, and eventually funding from federal and state sources. Diller, Scofidio + Renfro designed the park, in partnership with garden designer Piet Oudolf and landscape architects James Corner Field Operations. The existing self-seeded greenery was left in place, and wooden walkways, viewing points and seats added. The High Line has become hugely popular with visitors (leading to a property boom around it, which arguably threatens some of its charm) and also inspired other cities to consider how they approach public spaces and urban wellbeing.


By the time the noughties came around, there was a certain fustiness about the Old Spice brand that seemed hard to shake off. But Wieden + Kennedy had a plan. Enter Isaiah Mustafa – aka The Man Your Man Could Smell Like. All it took was a seductive “Hello ladies” and an ad mocking the entire men’s grooming category, and suddenly the brand was relevant again. The original spot was then followed by the even more influential Responses campaign, where Mustafa replied to questions from fans with personalised videos. According to the agency, sales of its Red Zone Body Wash doubled within a year. Like Levi’s Laundrette, it’s one of those rare moments when advertising both enters the culture and has the required impact on sales.


The last decade or so has been a difficult time for newspapers and magazines as they wrestle with the ongoing challenges presented by the transition from print to digital. So when the New York Times published its Snow Fall feature in 2012, publishers and designers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. Here, at last, was proof that it was possible to translate the real-life editorial experience onto the internet. It might not look notable now, but its seamless mix of graphics, animation and video – used to tell the story of a human-triggered avalanche in Washington’s Cascade Mountains – was new to readers in 2012. It was new to designers as well, taking six months and an 11-strong team to bring it to life. It pointed the way forward for online journalism, winning both Pulitzer and Peabody awards, and prompting other titles to try to ‘snow fall’ their own content.


The podcast industry has much to thank Serial for. The true crime series, launched in 2014, was a key player in the podcast revolution, reminding listeners around the world just how compelling audio-only storytelling could be. Serial initially went viral with its investigation of the murder of 17-year-old Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. The story was told via a new chapter released each week. Listeners went wild for the formula, and Serial quickly became the most talked-about podcast in the charts. By the end of 2014, the show had broken iTunes records, becoming the fastest podcast to hit five million downloads. Since the show’s release, podcast listening figures have continued to boom, particularly in the true crime category, where many have tried to replicate Serial’s success. It remains a cultural touchstone, having opened the doors for a new wave of audio storytelling.


In 2020, adverts challenging gender stereotypes are pretty much branding 101. But back in 2015, when Always released Like A Girl, people sat up and took notice. It marked a change in direction for female-focused brands, ditching tired old tropes in favour of a conversation around how we perceive women and girls. Leo Burnett led the campaign, working with documentary director Lauren Greenfield to capture real-life people discussing what it was like to run or throw a ball ‘like a girl’. For a category that had spent years hamming up femininity, this was hard-hitting stuff. Like A Girl was hugely influential for encouraging other brands to stop and question how they dealt with gender, as well as establishing a new focus on brand purpose – a topic that has dominated the marketing industry in recent years.

38. FLEABAG (2016)

38 Fleabag (2016) With Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, TV became a moment again. Papers and magazines have dedicated frenzied paragraphs to both the 2016 and 2019 BBC series, which were born out of Waller-Bridge’s 2013 one-woman play at the Edinburgh Fringe. The main character’s frank discussion of sex and relationships put feminism in the spotlight, while Fleabag’s impassioned monologues reminded us of the power of great writing. It was also surprisingly subversive, tackling subjects including female masturbation and anal sex in a disarmingly direct way. If ad agencies needed inspiration for how to connect with their audience, this was it. Waller-Bridge has gone on to work on Killing Eve, as well as the forthcoming Bond film, and her influence is sure to be felt across the creative world for years to come.

39. POKÉMON GO (2016)

In 2016, millions of people were playing Pokémon Go – the app that let users chase down and capture augmented reality creatures, hiding in real-world spots nearby. It was astoundingly popular as soon as it was released, with users stalking the streets in search of rare species. The first day alone saw six million downloads in the US, New Zealand and Australia, causing its developer, Niantic, to put its release in other countries on hold because of server overload. This was pretty good going for a company that had been abandoned by Google just a year earlier (the first version of Pokémon Go was actually released in 2014 as an April Fool’s Day challenge on Google Maps). The app not only got people on their feet and exploring new parts of their neighbourhood, but it brought AR to the masses, showing the creative possibilities of the technology, and the way future entertainment could blend the real and digital worlds with ease.


In 2018, Tyler Mitchell became the first black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover, with his September issue image of Beyoncé in a floral crown. Mitchell, who features as one of our Creative Heroes in this issue (see p124), began teaching himself photography while still at school, after buying his first DSLR and watching online tutorials. He rose to prominence via Instagram before being commissioned by the magazine aged 23 – meaning he’s also one of the youngest photographers to create a Vogue cover. His issue marked a major moment in representation, particularly in an industry that, historically speaking, has been notoriously slow to embrace diversity.

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