Close-up: Live Issue - DDB's head of art prepares for the challenges of global print

Justin Tindall will run art set-up in a less traditional way, Rachel Gardner says.

Justin Tindall, the new head of art at DDB London, is under no illusions as to the challenge that lies ahead of him.

The agency has fashioned some of the industry's most exceptional print work over the past five years - most of which has been produced by Tindall and his creative partner, Adam Tucker - and established itself as a regular winner at the major advertising awards ceremonies.

Now, rather than creating award-winning work, Tindall has the somewhat unenviable task of sustaining a heritage of delivering fantastic ads.

"It's something of a poisoned chalice," he admits. "Surely there's only one way things can go, after a period of such success. And I don't want to be known as the man who did that."

Tindall replaces Mark Reddy following his departure for McCann Erickson last month. But in contrast to his predecessor, there will be no opportunity for the newcomer to devote his undivided attention to heading the art department.

Understandably, DDB is reluctant to do anything that will reduce the output of Tindall and Tucker, so the talented pair, behind advertising including Volkswagen's "elepump" and "lifeguard" for Marmite, will continue to work together on briefs.

The effect will be a less hands-on head of art, with the onus put back on art directors and copywriters to improve themselves.

But Tindall, who also wants to become much more heavily involved in the way the agency presents itself visually, believes that this will benefit the creative department in the long term.

"I want to allow all the teams room to breathe and take responsibility for their own work," he says. "My role is to nurture them, but people can't develop and grow if someone is always standing over their shoulder telling them what to do. They need to be able to make their own mistakes."

He takes up the position at a time when the job is no longer about quality control and simply approving print work to see it gets out of the door.

Traditionally, heads of art may be thought of as wacky characters who sit on the creative floor and shout at account men, but they are also among the unsung heroes of adland. They sweat and toil over the smallest detail to polish an ad into a potential award-winner.

The production, art buying, illustration, re-touching and studio schedule are all elements that will come under Tindall's jurisdiction, although, in its simplest form, he defines his new role as "making sure all of the print work that comes out of the building is as good as it can possibly be".

Reddy concurs with this, describing the purpose of his tenure at DDB as being "to encourage the creative spirit for iconic, powerful image making".

However, the position Tindall is taking up is less traditional than the one Reddy walked into more than six-and-a-half years ago. Reddy believes this is due to a dramatic alteration in the creative nature of advertising over the past decade.

"The image is being reclaimed," he says. "All agencies are getting involved in much bigger international pieces of business. Ads might need to run in six or even 12 countries. Often, we cannot overcome the idiosyncrasies of language, but a powerful image can break down barriers, while also working better in the domestic environment."

Print work is no longer just concerned with the double-page spread or poster. There is a demand that agencies be more diverse, while more and more pressure is put on the timetable.

Couple this with the fact that when budget cuts take hold, craft is the first thing to go, and it is easy to see how being a head of art in 2004 has taken on a new dimension.

Malcolm Poynton, the executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, agrees that the role has become a lot more significant in recent times because of the need for European businesses to have a cohesive look and feel.

He says: "Print is increasingly getting the attention of big clients. I think heads of art are best positioned to reduce and crystalise everything down to its most powerful form, and make sure agencies tread the fine line between design and advertising.

"They are there to find new ways of getting work out while making sure the standards are kept."

Jeremy Craigen, the joint creative director at DDB London, explains that when they realised Reddy was leaving, there was no question as to who would take over from him.

He considers Tindall a natural choice, partly because of his slightly obsessive nature. Craigen says: "He's slightly anal, which is actually a very good quality to have as a head of art. He has an attention to detail that a lot of people don't have and that shows in his work.

"But I think it's important to be a good ad man, not just a good designer. Some heads of art can just be concerned with the design side, but Justin has a good eye for advertising.

"He doesn't forget what the fundamental objective of an ad is - to sell something."