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Opinion and Insight

Jose Miguel Sokoloff on the 2018 MullenLowe NOVA Awards

President of MullenLowe Group’s Global Creative Council on how students no longer live in a 'bubble'

Jose Miguel Sokoloff on the 2018 MullenLowe NOVA Awards

Photo, left to right: Jose Miguel Sokoloff and NOVA Award Winner Yajing Hu

MullenLowe’s NOVA Awards is a platform for graduating creative talent to have their work recognised by industry leaders. Running for eight years, the awards are run in partnership with leading London university Central Saint Martins, with winners selected from the final degree shows of students studying across art, design, fashion and performance. From 1,300 graduating students, 14 are shortlisted with just five MullenLowe NOVA Awards given out to students. 

This year, judges from MullenLowe Group were joined by their clients from Unilever, Sloggi and AkzoNobel, as well as chief curator of V&A East, Catherine Ince, London artist, curator and director of the Transition Gallery, Cathy Lomax, and former Central Saint Martins student and leading jewellery designer, Hannah Martin.

To get further insight on the winners (which you can see here) and trends seen this year, LBB’s Addison Capper picked the brains of Jose Miguel Sokoloff, president of MullenLowe Group’s Global Creative Council and chief creative officer of MullenLowe Group UK.


LBB> What were the biggest trends that you saw in both the entries and the winning work? 

JMS> My number-one takeaway is how connected and how close to reality the students really are. It used to be that university and college was a bubble, that you kind of lived in this academic world taking care of reality once you were out of college or school. Now, I think reality is part of academic life and there’s not a single project that we saw that’s not completely related to life. None of them are just academic exercises, none of them are academic dissertations, they are things related to societal trends and they’re trying to solve real world problems.


LBB> Were there any factors that particularly surprised you? 

JMS> How much everything is being questioned by these kids. 

Yajing Hu’s ‘Heartbeat’


LBB> What was it about Yajing Hu’s ‘Heartbeat’ that made it stand out amongst the rest of the entries? 

JMS> The simplicity of the work really stood out, but even more so was how powerful the work was without being over-complicated. It had a very theatrical, dramatic feel but at the same time was incredibly simple and sincere.


LBB> Are there any other pieces of work that you’d like to give mention to? 

JMS> All the shortlists were outstanding and I wish we had more prizes to give!

Veronika Fabian’s ‘Chains For an Average Woman’


LBB> Entries to the NOVA Awards vary massively in style and medium - how do you tackle this as a judge? 

JMS> I gravitate to what I find surprising and the work that resonates with me at a deep human level. Art, after all, is a humanities subject and all disciplines can make you feel something different. For example sometimes the architecture you see out there makes you feel nothing, but in the CSM degree show the architects amaze you and surprise you. 

Paolina Russo’s ‘A Love Letter to my Hometown’


LBB> This is the eighth edition of the MullenLowe NOVA Awards - how have they evolved in that time and what are the mains aims of them today?

JMS> I think the beauty of the MullenLowe NOVA Awards is not that the awards themselves have evolved, but that the work has evolved. The work we judge is completely different to the work we saw years ago. It comes from the same school, from the same disciplines, but if you look at the projects from eight years ago compared to them now, you see how much the world has changed and how different these kids are.

The aim all along has been to support fresh creative talent and give students a platform for recognition, and it’s great that we can continue to support these students. 


Cybi Williams’ ‘Untitled’


LBB> Any parting thoughts?

JMS> I think this year’s work was the best year ever. Do I say that every year? Yes I do. Do I mean it every year? Yes I do.
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