James Hilton (designer)

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For the rugby league footballer of the 1900s and 1910s for England, and Halifax RLFC, see James Hilton (rugby league).
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James Hilton
Born James Hilton
(1973-05-03) 3 May 1973 (age 41)
Merseyside, England
Occupation Designer, creative director
Years active 1995–present

James Hilton is an English designer based in London. He co-founded the creative agency AKQA together with Ajaz Ahmed in 1995.[1] Hilton attended Southampton Solent University (then referred to as Southampton Institute of Higher Education). He studied Graphic Design OND then HND from 1990 to 1994.


Hilton attended Southampton Solent University for four years. Firstly on a two-year OND course in Graphic Design, followed by a further two-year HND course in Graphic Design. During the HND, two 'live' pitch competitions were run for external clients; a branding assignment for a local company, and an invitation to a sponsored fashion show. Hilton won both and spent much of his second year of HND working on real client projects, rather than course work.

Upon completion of his HND he then applied for a degree in Graphic Design at the same college. He was denied a place on the basis that 'there's nothing more we can teach you. Get out there and start doing something'.[2] Ironically, Hilton was then briefly employed by Southampton Solent University to teach computer aided design to degree students using the colleges first Apple Macintosh computers.


Hilton has said that he's 'never had a proper job'[3] and this is largely due to his joining AKQA almost straight out of college. Hilton became AKQA's Creative Director and together with the other three co-founders[4] (Ajaz Ahmed, Dan Norris-Jones and Matthew Treagus) built the company into the UK's largest independent digital advertising agency. As the agency grew, he assumed the roles of Executive Creative Director, and finally Chief Creative Officer, his current role.

In June 2013, WPP bought a majority stake in AKQA[5] valuing the company at $350m USD.

AKQA employs over 2000 people in 11 offices around the world. It recently opened in Portland, Oregon and Tokyo, Japan.[6]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In recent years, AKQA's work has been increasingly lauded. Between 2005 and 2010, AKQA garnered more than 100 industry awards, including at least one agency of the year award every year. In 2010, AKQA took home Agency of the Year for the second year running at the Revolution Awards[7] and Agency of the Year awards from New Media Age and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In 2009, the company won five separate agency of the year awards, a feat unprecedented in the communications industry. AKQA's work for Fiats "eco:Drive" won them the Cannes Cyber Lion Grand Prix in 2009. In 2011 the agency scooped no less than five Cannes Lions, winning three gold Cyber Lions, one silver and one bronze.[8]

AKQA had previously been named Revolution’s Agency of the Decade (for 1997 to 2007).[9]

When Advertising Age's Creativity magazine created its inaugural Interactive Agency of the Year award (2006), it gave it to AKQA, recognising the agency's "global culture, creative hires and technological muscle." Said the magazine's editor, Teressa Iezzi, "We thought AKQA embodied the spirit of the big-idea-first approach."[10]

In 2010, Creativity Magazine also released their "Creativity 50", a list of the worlds fifty most influential and inspiring creative personalities[11] in which Hilton was named alongside Jonathan Ive and Lady Gaga.

Hilton has also served as a judge for such highly respected industry awards as Cannes Lions, Webby Awards, as chairman for the Clio Awards and as President of the digital jury for Eurobest.[12] He is also an executive member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences,[13] an intellectually diverse, invitation-only organisation whose members include David Bowie, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Branson, and "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening.

In December 2011, Hilton was named as the UK's number one digital Creative Director,[14] and AKQA 'Agency of the Year' by Campaign[15] magazine in the UK, and AdWeek[16] in the US. AKQA have now been awarded this title more times, on both sides of the Atlantic, than any other agency in history.

He is now one of the most sought-after conference keynote speakers on the subject of creativity and inspiration, and is a Visiting Professor at Southampton Solent University.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Hilton lives in Dulwich, South London.

External links[edit]