Kelly Thompson

From designing for ESCADA to speaking for Nintendo, Kelly knows the ins and outs of the creative world


Small town New Zealand: simple, beautiful and boring in all the right ways. At least that’s what creative Kelly Thompson says of growing up there.

“[It] was at times a little boring, but I think the simplicity of it was grounding and encouraged imagination. I was interested in creative hobbies [and] I always found making, building and drawing so fascinating and rewarding.”

Her rap sheet today includes collaborations with the likes of CoverGirl, Nintendo, Mimco and Nike, although she never had a firm career plan. Kelly trialled a few different trades – photography and art direction – before finding her sweet spot in illustration at The Jacky Winter Group.

Akin to the simplicity of her NZ upbringing, Kelly explains: “Illustration is my long-time favourite and I am sure that the simple pleasure of pencil-to-paper will always be near my centre.”

But her love of photography still plays a role in her design.

“I am always a sucker for a beauty brand. When I landed the perfume campaign and packaging for ESCADA’s summer fragrance, I jumped around my house naked like a crazy person (I read the email in bed, hence the nudity). I think being a fashion fan, working as a photographer and then for a while as a makeup artist, all swirls together and finds me very enthusiastic when a beauty client or fashion client comes along.”


While it’s a far cry from a beauty brand, Nintendo asked her to be an ambassador for their New Art Academy game in 2012.

“The main aim of the ambassadorial role was to help Nintendo appeal to a creative audience and also break from the ‘gamer’ stereotype. I never expected my work would translate into projects like this, but it really makes you realise that the possibilities are endless.”

To her surprise, the crossover was pretty seamless.

“The game, although digital, utilises a lot of practical art processes. So along with being entertaining, it also taught translatable concepts, which I thought was really great. I was chosen because they wanted someone who worked in a traditional manner (all of my work is hand-sketched on paper), and also because I had a lot of experience in hosting classes and public speaking.

“Public speaking is all about connecting to people. If you don’t feel confident that’s okay, just be yourself. People like real people. It’s also important to remember that the audience is there for a reason, and part of that reason is to listen to you, so you must have something interesting to say,” she encourages.

That might be easy for some, but it may seem impossible for others. Kelly’s top tip from her own public speaking experiences: “Remember to breathe. If your voice is funny at the start, talk slow, think about what you’re saying, pause and breathe. Once you get your breath right you’ll be away.”


Breathing goes hand-in-hand with Kelly’s favourite way to recharge herself and her creativity.

“Some people don’t realise that what I do is a full-time job, only with more hours than a usual full-time job, so recharging is hard! My recharge currently comes from reformer Pilates. It has helped me so much, not only with the physical issues that come with drawing all day, but also the mental exhaustion that comes with having the creative switch turned to ‘on’ at all times.”

She’s also learning to become more selective with the jobs she takes on, but there are no signs of stepping back.

“I really can’t imagine not having a brain full of ideas, goals and desires,” says Kelly. “I just feel like I’ve got a lot in me, and not much time to get through it, so better get on to it. Let’s do this!”

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