Keith Grey – 'I have nothing to sell' - D/I Debate  


The impact of joining the industry is always a shock but something is changing, 
an alumni helps us understand what.


D/I Debate - the aim is to engage BA Graphic Design students in current debates relating to graphic design practice. Guest speakers are invited to present and use a variety of formats to encourage student participation. 

Creative Director Keith Gray (CSM BA GCD Alumni) shared a sequence of debates that helped shaped his career.

Julia Fernandez Cuervo - Foundation Show 2016

Keith Grey is an alumnus of the BA Graphic Communication Design course at CSM and has since led a not so singular path in work. In the D/I debate he talked the students through his experiences, choices and consequent reflections since leaving.   

The points made during the debate were bare and honest. The thoughts that we have about entering commercial work, after leaving a cesspool of self-exploration can be jarring, but it's truthfully unspoken of in school or outside of it for that matter. Keith opens up on these thoughts and throws light on the changing environment in design. Here are a two debates taken from the discussion:    

#Debate 1 – why am I ****ing doing this?  

Leaving education often meets with a feeling of unpreparedness, of whether you're committed to doing a project or if you really know what you want. Keith put forward how these feelings can often impact creativity negatively, limiting it and leaving a feeling of dissatisfaction in ourselves.  

Arguably, this feeling has manifested itself into an adventurous wave of startup activity, of doing it ourselves and flipping the finger to the account man. But perhaps, as design slowly crosses disciplines it will become harder to discern Graphic Design in its ability to filter noise as part of problem-solving from the personal nature of pure art. Design may become just as personal.  

#Debate 2 – does this feel right? 

Not always.  

As Keith told the story of how an idea at one point became a broken camera and led to an uncomfortable conversation with a producer, the debate amongst students became a question of whether he regretted his actions, looking back. The answer, no, in our opinion at THE CROSS+NG, opened a box of worms in some ways. Shouldn't industries who hire creative talent, be prepared for the creativity? Is it justifiable for everyone to follow a brief or does the brief ebb back and forth with the brainstorming? 

Sometimes, a brief or project or client won't feel right. The struggle of creativity is a tale told over the centuries but today, it is evidently in the hands of those who choose and their decisions will mould the future role of design in commerciality.  


As the debate went on, Keith spoke of how his career was never singular and could never have been. It jumped from one aspect to the next in an effort to experience creativity or life from more than one angle; the rise of the generalist-specialist and the request of hirers for candidates to be multi-faceted is one side of the same coin. People are in a place to choose what they want and in the age of information access, they can.   

To paraphrase Keith there is nothing to sell to students, on the topic of the world of work because it's as open-ended as they're willing to be. But perhaps, as the times change and creatives pushback against briefs, projects and choices, a new process will emerge in the relationship between designers and commerciality; one that encourages a collaboration in more areas and disciplines across the assembly line.  

See a recent interview story on Future Design here.