How I Got Here: Forest Young

Wolff Olins’ first global chief creative officer discusses his circuitous path to creativity, and why he believes failure is the secret ingredient for success

Forest Young’s career has spanned an impressive range of disciplines, including work in the realms of branding, user experience, interactive and traditional graphic design. He’s had pieces exhibited at multiple museums around the world, been recognised with a long list of industry awards, and has just been named Wolff Olins’ first Global Chief Creative Officer.

However his trajectory hasn’t been straightforward, as he reveals. Forays into the worlds of medicine, acting, and even hotel management all preceded his creative career, which Young says has taken something of a circuitous path. Here he tells CR why failure has been such an important part of getting him to this point, and makes the case for “a weird career path of tumbling and tumbling”.

The family influence I started doing artistic expression – painting and drawing – at such a young age. I can’t even remember the first time I picked up a pencil, crayon or paintbrush. It has to be three or four. A lot of people in my family are artists and painters, and I admit that I took for granted – the amount of people that were comfortable expressing themselves in form. My aunt would create something out of wood, and put it on the wall, and I thought normal people did that. My uncle, who was a police officer, did criminal sketches when he wasn’t painting and was part of the San Diego design community. So I was drawing and painting, and probably took it for granted. A lot of the time when something comes naturally to you, you don’t understand that it’s significant.