How Designer James Sommerville Reinvests in Creative Talent

James Sommerville is passionate about design and building a community of creatives that encourages growth. KnownUnknown, Somerville’s reinvention of the traditional creative agency, is a platform where creatives from across the globe can come together and learn from the best of the best in the industry.

With a career in design spanning over three decades, James Sommerville has become a sought-after speaker and panelist for various design events. He is the co-founder of ATTIK and the former VP of Global Design for Coca-Cola. Sommerville’s latest venture is the platform KnownUnknown, which was established in 2019. In addition, he continues to do consultation work with brands such as Ford, HP, and Google, alongside expanding the KnownUnknown global design community and his mentoring and speaking engagements.

A successful career always starts somewhere, and for James Sommerville, it began in 1986. As a fresh design school graduate, he decided the best way to start a stable career was to launch a business. Low on funds, Sommerville contacted The Prince’s Trust Charity and was granted a seed fund of £2,000 to start a design company. Somerville and his partner launched their design agency at his grandmother’s attic bedroom, and ATTIK was born. From this humble beginning, ATTIK grew to expand to offices in Leeds and London. Eventually, they operated offices outside the UK, expanding to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sydney.

From 2013 to 2018, James Sommerville was the VP of Global Design for The Coca-Cola Company. His work with this company exposed him to the world of large-scale projects for global clients, seeing firsthand how a massive brand scales and builds on the world market. 

Years of experience as an entrepreneur, a corporate designer, and head of a tech startup have influenced how James Sommerville views the growth possibilities for people in the design industry. Having worked with hundreds of brands, from global entities to small and medium companies and startups, he has built a reputation as a dedicated global design leader.

Promoting and representing British design and creativity across the world has earned him recognition from Prince Charles and the Queen. As his career began with the help of The Prince’s Trust Charity, it is incredible how his journey has come full circle after being made the trust’s first Alumni Fellow. He donates to the trust and has been furthering its work throughout the years, serving as a member of its executive board and mentor to rising designers and entrepreneurs.

As a man passionate about design, James Sommerville understands that the way to improve the industry is to help creatives grow and learn. He often talks at global design events, universities and art schools. Somerville has also provided guidance and mentorship to over 50 UK design agencies, further supporting British creativity on the global stage. In all of his speaking and mentoring engagements, the theme is always an unwavering belief in young people and how to innovate the creative sector. 

To further invest in the best creative talent in this new and fast-paced modern world, James Sommerville created the online platform KnownUnknown. It was built to serve as a place where creatives can find coaches, mentors, and collaborators. In addition, this online community aims to foster professional growth through a sense of camaraderie and dedication to the craft. 

With a long and illustrious career that was born out of his grandmother’s attic, James Sommerville knows what it takes to grow a creative agency from the ground up. His experience with design and expanding across multiple markets is an invaluable resource to newer and younger creatives in the industry. He shared, “I will continue to give back to the creative community and hope that I instill a growth mindset in everyone I cross paths with.”

James Sommerville is a renowned speaker, educator, and global design leader. More information about KnownUnknown, the platform he built for creatives, is available on this website. To see more updates about his work, you can follow him on Instagram.


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