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New Talent

New Talent: Bex McNally

Boys and Girls art director on finger paintings, her time in New York and working on Three Ireland’s rebrand

New Talent: Bex McNally

Dublin born and raised, Bex McNally has had a passion for art ever since she was a whippersnapper. From finger painting to photography, she had an eye for detail that she honed at The National College of Art & Design. 

After a year out in the Big Apple, Bex returned to her hometown to join Boys and Girls as an art director, working on brands such as Nissan, 48, Danone, Neutrogena, Rabo Direct, Skoda and Three Ireland.

LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Bex to find out what inspires her.


LBB> Where did you grow up, and how did creativity impact your formative years?

Bex McNally> I was born and raised in Dublin. As far back as I can remember, art has been a big part of my life. As a kid, painting and taking pictures were my favourite things to do. The tree house at the end of the garden which I claimed as my art studio was filled with finger paintings!


LBB> How and why did you end up becoming an Art Director?

BM> When I was 16, I did work experience in an advertising agency, and found the industry fascinating. My brief was to create a juice bar and design a poster for it. The juice bar was called ‘Quench’ and I’ve kept the poster to this day. 

What I loved about studying Media Fine Art in NCAD was collaborating with other artists with different strengths to create something unique and beautiful. Collaborating is a huge part of art direction. This industry provides you with the opportunity to work directly with people from such an array of different backgrounds, from designers, illustrators and photographers. To create as a diverse team, means no two finished products are the same. You can see this from some of the projects I have worked on for 48 [mobile network]. We set up their first Snapchat account and created a pop up shop for the brand. It’s nice to make work that is outside of TV, Print and radio.


LBB> You spent a year working in New York before returning to Dublin. Creatively, how does the US and Ireland differ?

BM> I left for the Big Apple four months after my first advertising internship in Dublin. Creatively, at the time, I felt the US was quite ahead of its game at the digital end of things. But I was at the start of my career, so everything seemed like an adventure. It was certainly challenging, often I felt like I’d been thrown in the deep end, but I’m grateful for the experience now as it’s what cemented my determination to pursue this as a career and see what more I could learn in Ireland.


LBB> You recently worked on the Three rebrand. Can you tell us a bit about the project?

BM> I was the art director on the new Three Business Campaign this year. It was a great creative challenge as we were working with our new brand guidelines and colour palette. The art direction behind this campaign was about highlighting the business sectors that Three helps: construction, hospitality and retail. As these sectors are so broad, the execution had to be minimal for it to work. We used simple objects that illustrated each sector. We worked with a super talented photographer, James Day, and together worked out the best angles to create a visual pattern and an element of perspective. We chose nice block colours to make the objects stand out. That’s actually what I love most about the print campaign - its strong bold colours.

LBB> And I love the Nissan Mother’s Day work. Can you tell us a bit about that?

BM> One of the main reasons I got into this industry was because I loved the art of a simple idea, no matter how big or small. That’s what I aim to create on any brief I work on. My creative director Laurence always talks about the ‘sea of sameness’ - know what work the brand’s competitors are doing and then do something different. There was such a tight turn around with this brief so we had to use these limitations to our advantage and think of something simple that could be done in-house. I think this Nissan Mother’s Day ad is a perfect example of a simple idea that was playful and fun, and also stood out against other car brands.

LBB> What projects that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?

BM> The more I work in this industry, the more that answer changes. I’ve had some great opportunities this year to expand my repertoire, in particular my more recent projects.


LBB> Who and what are your inspirations?

BM> I’m in great admiration of Jessica Walsh, who started Ladies Wine and Design. Any woman who takes action to get more female representation in the creative industry gets my vote every time.


LBB> When you’re not working, what do you like to do with your downtime?

BM> I’m currently collaborating on a couple of personal projects. One of which has to do with something weird and wonderful. I’m reluctant to give it away just yet, but I’m hoping to have a little exhibition very soon… (watch this space!)