Seven ages of a creative: Alice Tonge

After a two-year break from advertising, former head of 4creative Alice Tonge has a new role at Apple. Here she shares her thoughts on the state of the industry

For this special project, we talk to 12 creatives and designers aged 19 to 87 about their experiences in the creative industry, their hopes and dreams, the changes they have witnessed during their career so far, and what further developments they hope may come in the future. Here we talk to Alice Tonge, former head of 4Creative and now group creative director at Apple

Alice Tonge grew up with a fashion designer mother and an architect father, and jokes that she was “always destined” to have a creative career. “I remember being really fascinated by the giant yellow pencils my parents’ friend had on his bookshelf,” she says.

After studying graphic design at Brighton University, and landing her first role as a junior designer at Big Active, Tonge realised that maybe design wasn’t the path she was meant for. Hours spent poring over the D&AD Annual were a testament to her love of adverts and concepts, and she started building up a portfolio that would help her move into that world.

To help with this, she made use of a workshop space run by NABS, which still supports the ad and media industries. “I waitressed in the evening to earn extra cash,” she tells CR. “I was a pretty hard worker and I liked having money in my pocket, so sometimes I’d be running two evening and weekend jobs at the same time to make cash for myself.

“NABS had this free workspace in Soho, and you could go to a physical building, use their desk phones, printers and advertising directories, and there was a whole bunch of friendly staff. I’d go there every day, as if I was going to work, and set myself up in a desk space and work on my portfolio to try to make it better. Because I came from a graphic design background, I didn’t have any traditional adverts, and at the time you needed proof of advertising thinking.”

Top: Photograph by Ewen Spencer, shot for Channel 4’s launch campaign of teen drama Skins; Above: Alice Tonge