Blog – Archive
Email is great. But it’s not without its pitfalls.
We can think of a few occasions when we’ve offended someone when we hadn’t meant to and vice-versa.
So we were wondering if all system fonts should have an extra cut which can be used to better communicate sarcasm or irony?
(We’ve used the lovely KURSIVSCHRIFT, here.)
Thoughtful were invited to make a presentation at the 4 Designers Conference, at the Odeon in Leicester Square on Monday.
It was lots of fun and we’ll stick some more pictures up shortly.
What’s more important is to say thanks to lots of people who made it possible for us to be there.
Thoughtful thanks go to Patrick Baglee of Navyblue for inviting us to speak. Natalie Emden, Miriam Benger and all crew from Euro Study Tours. The tutors and students who laughed (and groaned) in all the right places. John and Chris from Stockport College who helped us on the day. The students of Stockport College for allowing us to test out our presentation on them. Nick and Garth from Hammer & Tongs. And last but certainly not least Paula Scher, Adrian Shaughnessy, Greg Quinton, Jonathan Baldwin, Michael Wolff, James Corazzo and Michael Johnson who all kindly gave us their time and offered the students lots of valuable advice and insights into the design industry.
Thank you everyone.
The Thoughtful car has finally been sent to the scrap yard in the sky.
Here’s two shots from the 2008 accident:
If anyone knows a male driver of a silver Vauxhall Vectra Saloon with a bit of damage to the front near side of the car, who would have been on the M62 at 11.30am, driving from Manchester to Liverpool, please let them know we’d like a word (as would the Police).
Hey, let’s be careful out there.
Co-founder of the DO LECTURES, David Hieatt has written an inspirational piece for the Do blog. If you feel the same way as we do after reading it, please pass it on:
The path of a Doer.
Set yourself a goal.
Set yourself a deadline.
Define success at the start.
Make a plan to make it happen.
Build a team to help you.
Get the team to sign up, head and heart, to the plan.
Understand there will be hurdles, barriers. Accept them. But defeat them.
Work each day toward getting things done. A little can do a lot.
Keep the end goal in your mind at all times.
Understand the importance of your energy. Your stubbornness. Your persistence.
Half way through a project is always the lowest point. You are neither at the start, nor at the end. Energy dips, morale is low. Have a day off.
The next day remind yourself why you started it in the first place.
Focus. Focus. Focus. But focus on the most important thing.
Tell the world what you are doing.
Tell the world your deadline.
Celebrate progress. Any progress.
Never give up.
Look back at how far you have traveled. It will surprise you.
It will also tell you that you are closer to your goal than ever before.
Then one day, after many, many days, you will complete your goal.
You got there in the end.
Your words and your deeds are one. Most people in life are just talkers. But you are a doer. Well done.
by David Hieatt.
We’re 8 days into January now and most people will have already taken up (and given up) their New Year’s resolutions. We were never really any good at sticking to them to be honest, but 2010 is a fresh start for Thoughtful so we have made some of our own resolutions for this year, and we’re going to try and make some of them happen. We’ve had a huge weight taken off our shoulders as you may have read about in our Christmas Speech 2009, so there’s no reason we can’t focus on them.
– DO LESS. ACHIEVE MORE
– Ask more questions
– Make an innovative idea happen
– Take more risks
– Create something we own
– Learn something new in design (and away from design)
– Try and strengthen my weak areas
– Learn a new skill
– Take some things off the back burner
Hello and Merry Christmas.
It’s exactly three years to the day since Thoughtful was born.
We weren’t too impressed with last year’s Christmas speech. We rushed it as we were working on other projects until late on Christmas Eve – our apologies.
This year we started it early. We’re writing these first few lines on Boxing Day 2008 to be precise so hopefully it will make for a much more interesting read.
We’ve always wanted our Christmas Speech to be an honest account of our year in business. We think there’s value in telling you what mistakes we’ve made and how we can improve as a business with the intention it might help other people in the same situation as ourselves. We take the lead from companies like howies and innocent who draw back the curtain on their business to show everyone how they work – both good and bad.
So if you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin…
Thoughtful vs The Recession
One subject we held back on talking about last year was the £80,000 business loan which we took out in January 2007 in order to get Thoughtful started. We did so for a number of reasons, the main reason being we were still paying it off we and didn’t want to ruffle any feathers over at HSBC Towers because these guys had the power to shut us down – which we’re sure they would have done had we not been prepared for the year ahead.
So our main goal for 2009 was simple: pay off the loan. Forget a shiny new website, forget entering design awards, just nail the loan because after two years of working seven days a week, we hadn’t really passed the start line in business.
James likens it to the Great North Run – as he placed himself in the middle pack for the race, he started so far back it took him half an hour of running and dodging people just to reach the starting line. By the time he started the race he was knackered and fairly downbeat, which to be honest is how we all felt at the start of 2009.
As a business our problem is two fold:
1. We don’t charge enough for the work we do.
2. The time we devote to a project out-weighs the budget.
So in our first two years we were spending a lot of time on projects which didn’t necessarily have the budget to cover that time, and in some case there was no budget at all. This isn’t a revelation to us, we’re not the kind of studio that wants to churn work out in order to feed the machine or let a project fall short of what it could be simply because the client hasn’t got the budget to cover the extra hours needed to turn something good into something great. As far as Thoughtful are concerned, if the client is as passionate about the work as we are then money doesn’t enter into it. And hopefully that’ll be the way we will continue to work.
Of course, that way of working brings with it its own set of problems as the lion’s share of any money we were generating was going straight to the bank to cover the repayment on the loan, the hefty interest on the loan AND an interest payment to the DTI for securing the loan (in our first two years we paid over £25,000 in interest alone). But we always met the repayments, paid suppliers on time then paid ourselves a sort of wage with whatever was left.
When the CREDIT CRUNCH hit things changed. The moment it seemed the worlds financial system was in meltdown we knew the bank would come KNOCKING ON THE DOOR FOR THE REST OF THEIR MONEY and sure enough they did.
But like true boy scouts we’re nothing if not prepared and sensing the coming storm we agreed amongst ourselves to channel all the money from several large pieces of business straight into paying off loan. It was tough, but on Thursday 13 August 2009 we were delighted to say that through a combination of hard work, talent but more importantly some very Thoughtful clients we paid back every penny (plus interest) in just over two and a half years – a huge difference from the 10 year repayment plan we had originally agreed.
We know it’s easy to bemoan the evil banks but we recognise it was a bed of our own making and if we could have set up Thoughtful in any other way we would have. But as we’ve mentioned before on day one we had NOTHING, which meant we needed a fairly large safety net for the first 12 months.
The whole experience of dealing with a bank has been a valuable one. With hindsight we can see how the loan added extra pressure in every area of our business. It’s an odd situation – the loan was the only reason we were able to set up in business AND the reason why we could never get started as a business.
The moral of the story is simple: A borrower nor a lender be (if you can help it, that is).
Or perhaps: A bank will give you an umbrella when the sun is shining but will ask for it back when it starts raining.
We guess it’s the price of an education and it’s a huge weight off our shoulders. We can now think about taking on staff and slowing things down (just a little).
Talking about an education…
Our most innovative project of the year was a collaboration with Stockport College which we called THE THOUGHTFUL SIX.
Like all good ideas the Thoughtful Six project was painfully simple – rather than the students trying to find a work placement in lots of different agencies, the agency does the work placement within the college. We were surprised it hadn’t been done before in the UK.
Having said that we’re guessing not many studios could simply up sticks and move their whole operation into a college for just 12 months, even if they wanted to. We did it for lots of reasons:
– we wanted to be the first to do this
– to give a few students an opportunity we never had
– we were being paid a small fee
– but most of all (and for want of a better phrase) to get out of our comfort zones.
We’re far from being some cutting edge collective but we do recognise the value in trying new ways of working. We like to think of it like being an aerial…you’ve get to be out there to pick up something new. Which means we travel light, each of us owns a 17″ Macbook Pro and an iPhone – that’s it. We see routine as the enemy which is why we have no set offices, no big reception sofa and no library, we don’t even own a foosball table. That’s not to say we don’t have days when we’d love to sit on a big comfy reception sofa and have someone bring us a Cappuccino but right now we go to Starbucks for that.
The seed for this experiment was planted in our heads way back in March 2008.
Our first contact with Stockport College came through an email from design tutor, James Corazzo, inviting us to make a presentation to a group of second year design students. Our meeting coincided with a frustration James was feeling about student placements, the quality control of a work placement and how to better serve his students – as a lot of universities in the area have strong links with several design studios and will only take students from those courses.
Our first conversation centred around working with a small group of students on a live brief funded by the GMSA which provided a ‘real world’ experience from within the college environment. Whilst we all agreed it was a great idea, one day a week wouldn’t really give them the experience of being in a studio everyday and seeing the good, the bad and the ugly. So we went back to Stockport College with a more Thoughtful proposal… we’d close down our studio, pack up our D&AD Annuals and move into the college full time.
Before the move we visited the college for one day a week from August 2008, observing how the students work, behave and interact with each other with the intention of choosing six students who would be right for the project – one student described it as a 3 month interview. It was a difficult decision to make as there were lots who could have made it but in the end we chose Amy, John, Lauren, Ed, Carrie and Chris.
If it helps other students out there to know why we choose them, the answer is ‘attitude’. We needed to be sure we had six students that would get on and work together as a team. Creativity or being ‘the best’ didn’t come into it and we guess that being able to listen, learn, muck in and fit in with an established creative team is at the top of every prospective employers list when looking at a graduate. It would have been a disaster for everyone involved if a problem had developed between a student and Thoughtful which could have backfired onto our business and ultimately our homes.
Just to make the point again, we could easily give you the names of a dozen more students which we could have chosen. If we had the capacity (and the energy) to take more on then we would have. There was some real talent in that class.
The project began in earnest on January 8th.
It wasn’t the ideal start and we quickly realised we had stepped into a very different world to one we’re used to. Our studio was still being painted which meant we couldn’t get in it for two days and the student’s Macs were locked in a room waiting for someone to load them up with software.
Overall, it was really hard and rewarding work and with hindsight taking on six students was too ambitious, especially for three guys that could just about look after themselves. More often than not we’d spend a full day with the Thoughtful Six then have to go home and catch up by doing another full days work, simply because the students were pretty raw and needed constant attention. But that aside it was a wonderful experience, that’s not to say there weren’t any bad days – MARCH 6TH sticks in the mind as one of those days.
One of the most interesting, unexpected and rewarding aspects of being within the college walls didn’t involve the Thoughtful Six at all but rather Thoughtful and design tutor, James Corazzo.
Prior to the project our dialogue with tutors only extended as far as small talk before or after a presentation – there was no meaningful contact at all. If you would have asked us 12 months ago what we thought of design tutors we would probably have said they are out of touch or protected in the cosy bosom of education. And the working class chip on our shoulders would have lead us to believe tutors don’t work hard – not like us ‘real’ designers, anyway.
In fact, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Our whole thinking about design education was challenged through talking and listening to James Corazzo, design tutor and brainchild behind the Thoughtful Six project, as well as SARAH TEMPLE from LCC.
In terms of a war, tutors are able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers in the trenches as well as view the battle from the top of the hill. This gives good tutors a unique and expansive view of the world and how design and their students fit into that world. Perhaps us industry types should try to join them at the top of the hill once in a while?
We realised that perhaps it’s okay that design education isn’t some boot camp for the industry where every student is drilled into preparation for a job. Because, guess what? We’ve learnt not every single design student really, really wants to be a successful designer and it’s us industry types which wrongly assume this. A vast majority of students find themselves moving into areas where creative thinking isn’t confined to visual communication and their design degree is just the first step into a wider business world. It has to be true, just LOOK AT THE FIGURES.
And as for working hard, well – we can tell you that the whole project was conceived, arranged, implemented and managed out of hours or as extra workload.
We feel extremely proud about what the Thoughtful Six have achieved in such a short space of time. Each one of them has developed and excelled in very different areas and we’d recommend any one of them to a potential employer. For this reason we feel the project has been a success.
Mel Spooner and the Thoughtful Six at the THE Awards in London…don’t they all look smart.
It was also a success in the eyes of others too, with the project nominated for the TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION AWARDS, in the ‘Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiative’ category, and being shortlisted for a BBC Innovation Award. Unfortunately the Thoughtful Six didn’t pick up the Times gong, but just being in the running told us the project had some impact. We’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed for the BBC award which has yet to be announced.
There’s so many people we need to thank for making the project happen but we need to give James Corazzo and Mel Spooner the biggest of Thoughtful thanks. Both are talented, dedicated and inspirational educators to be around – Stockport College and their students are very lucky to have them. Their tireless efforts made sure the students and Thoughtful got the most out of the experience. We can’t say for sure if there are other tutors out there like them but if there is the future of our industry is in safe hands.
We’d also like to thank Laura, Dion and Greg at D&AD for their time and support, Mark at CR for shining their spotlight on the project and everyone who kindly contributed to the blog.
Not forgetting Amy, Carrie, Chris, Ed, John and Lauren. We hope you got as much out of the project as we did and we’d like to thank you for your patience and boundless enthusiasm.
Our only disappointment about the project has been the reaction (or lack of it) from other tutors within design education. James Corazzo would argue that the change in the Thoughtful Six has been profound so clearly the project has some value. James would also argue that in education its people are more reflective and it takes time for any ripples to move out. We’d argue that in our industry time is one thing you don’t have.
The big question is ‘would we do it again?’. The short answer is ‘Yes’. To say ‘No’ would mean the project hasn’t worked when clearly it has (in our eyes at least). Is there anything we’d change? Yes, lots – being within the college walls also brought with it its own set of problems not just in terms of the mindset of the students but also the practicalities of how to run a business when you’re being asked (nicely) to leave so security can lock up (on one occasion Chris got locked in the college). Or trying to fit a project around the student’s mid-week Critical Studies. But this is all part and parcel of trying out something which has never been done before and it’s a small price to pay when you see what can be achieved with six students who didn’t know how to make a pdf twelve months ago.
And now we’re at the other end we all have a clearer idea on how to make this model work better and benefit more students.
We’d whole heartedly recommend other design studios engage with their local design college or university. Yes, the stakes are high but so are the rewards because we found nurturing new talent feeds a part of the soul which money or awards can’t.
Trouble in paradise?
Perhaps it was the general mood of the nation, coupled with being tired all the time and watching every penny go into paying off the loan quickly which led to our first ‘SOME KIND OF MONSTER‘ moment in February. Clearly we’d been trying to take too much on at once, while not doing enough to keep all the plates spinning. Something had to give, and one day things came to a head.
There are no gory details really. Voices were raised, fingers were pointed but it made us realise that we didn’t communicate enough with each other. It seems daft because there are only three of us, and we’re in the business of communication. We now don’t let things stew as much and can be quite blunt with our criticism of each other at times, but hopefully it’ll help keep us all singing from the same carol sheet.
Just an observation: David and Clare at howies described their business like having a baby. You are the parent. You watch it try to walk. You pick it up when it falls. No one cares about it like you. No one frets like a parent. We’d like to add to that list: Tired all the time. Irritable. Never go out.
The other six months of 2009
It’s not just the pennies we’ve been watching this year but also the hours spent pitching. And by our calculations we’ve spent just under six months producing work for pitches during 2009, which is quite a shock. Fortunately, we won far more than we lost but it could easily have been a different situation.
We’re not going to start preaching about free pitching. It’s never going away, besides it would be hypocritical for us to do so and like most studios we can see the argument from both sides.
We’d be very interested to hear from other people about free pitching during a recession. Have you found you’re pitching more and against more agencies for smaller chunks of business? In business terms we’re new to this game and don’t really have any frame of reference.
To wrap up
Having never run a business through a RECESSION before we weren’t too sure what to expect this year but it didn’t take a genius to know we needed to be disciplined and prepared to roll up our sleeves a bit further – we’re expecting 2010 to be just as challenging as the cut backs from 2009 kick in and we move into the second half of the much feared W-shaped recession.
But if the thought of this tough economic climate lasting another twelve months depresses you this Christmas Day have a look at this wonderful post by MICHAEL BIERUT, it’s an article which we drew a lot of strength from because it highlighted the lessons we were learning to survive the downturn are exactly the same lessons on which to run a design practice in the good times.
So even though we’re still in the worst recession since, well, ever, we’re very pleased with how things have gone this year (although one Managing Director described us, amongst other things, as “ALL ARSE AND NO SUBSTANCE“). We started projects for the British Council, COI, Nesta, Soil Association, Tate Liverpool and the Royal Mail, as well as continuing our relationship with D&AD, howies, Liverpool Biennial and innocent. And we’re going into 2010 on a solid footing – loan free, money in the bank and with several really exciting projects to think about.
(We won’t show you any work we’ve done this year just yet, as we want to get it all up on our website very soon.)
Finally, we couldn’t go without giving some Thoughtful thanks to those people who have supported us during a tough 2009 and helped shape our year. In no particular order:
Mel, James, Lynn, Ian, Gary, Amy, Lauren, Carrie, Chris, Ed, John, Tony, Chris Chad, Glenn, Michael J., Greg Q., Sarah T., Richard S., Tony D., Mark S., Dion, Laura, Rhiannon, Mat W., Andrew K., Alex, C3 Imaging, Griff, Ed, Alistair, Jemima, Jennifer, Ian, Mat M., Antony, Paul, Sally, Lewis, Lorenzo, Benedict, Adrian S., Patrick B., Paula S., Allen W., Audrey, Adrian, Kevin, Mark, David, Clare, Ade, Laura, Andy, Rowena, Dan, Kate, Mike, Pat, Andrew, Nous Vous, Kev, Mike and the Super Furry Animals.
And not forgetting Tracy, Emma and Laura.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Have a very merry Christmas.
Here’s an idea we had last Saturday when THIS happened. We’ve found a spare minute to quickly visualise them based on THAT GREAT TEVEZ POSTER.
And our fave, although more criptic…
Disclaimer: This is a concept that is in no way connected with Manchester City Football Club.
It’s the NEVILLE BRODY D&AD PRESIDENT’S LECTURE in London tomorrow night at Logan Hall. It’s set to be a good one with Adrian Shaughnessy present to ask Neville a set of questions as part of a discussion, and CREATIVE REVIEW ALSO GIVING THEIR READERS THE CHANCE TO SUBMIT THEIR OWN QUESTIONS to the man via TWITTER, which is a nice touch we think.
We’re not going to be able to make it tomorrow, but would have loved to, as at the end of the talk the audience will be invited to hold up one of two flash cards to let Brody know if he is a Genius or Wanker.
It’ll be interesting to see the result.
We thought that the flash cards are somewhat restrictive though, and lack the opportunity to be a bit more expressive towards Neville. He may be a bit of both, none at all, or something else.
So we’ve done a bit of a mashup of the two to give any attendees a few more options on the night.
If you want to be more polite than saying ‘wanker’, you could use…
Or if you think the man has the ‘X factor’ there’s a card for that…
If you just don’t ‘get’ him at all…
Or maybe you just want to go for a drink with Neville. If so make sure he sees this…
We were sad enough to think of loads this morning, but it’d be dull to give too many away.
Can you think of any more mash up flash cards for Neville’s talk?
If anyone is going to the talk, and thinks a mash up card may give a better description, please do one, and if you take a picture of the card at the talk we’d love that.
Thoughtful joined Doh Boy at the Rise of Real Bread Conference, held at St Anne’s College in Oxford this weekend.
The conference brought together bakers, farmers, scientists, writers, campaigners and retailers to look at the food supply chain behind Britain’s mass-produced bread to ask whether it could be improved. And whether natural bread be made accessible to all?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘real bread’ is only for the rich or those with time on their hands but it’s an important issue. We learnt how majority of Britain’s bread is highly processed – packed with additives, enzymes and fat – designed to be as cheap as possible with the emphasis on shelf-life rather than nutritional content and flavour.
Bee Wilson, food columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and author of SWINDLED: FROM POISON SWEETS TO COUNTERFEIT COFFEE – THE DARK HISTORY OF THE FOOD CHEATS was hugely entertaining. Bee described how in medieval times bread was a serious business. Any baker caught trying to cheat customers would be punished by being dragged around the community on a sleigh with the offending loaf of bread tied around his neck… Bee suggested it should still be the case.
The crowd not only got to see a great performance they also got to see James splitting his pants trying to get a better view of the band on stage.
Thoughtful thanks to Gill Nightingale, Laura Buckley and Rob Lister at Nation. And Daf, Gruff, Huw, Cian and Guto… have safe trip to Dubai.
We attended a D&AD President’s Lecture last night as part of the LIVERPOOL DESIGN SYMPOSIUM. It’s one we’ve been looking forward to for a while as we haven’t been to a Michael Wolff talk before. And everyone we know who has would tell us how it brilliant they are. Well, they were right. Is was that good.
We had to think back afterwards to how many hour-and-a-half auditorium talks we’ve been to before where there wasn’t any visual content projected onto a screen. The answer was none. Last night’s talk was done in Q&A format with CREATIVE REVIEW’S Patrick Burgoyne, and was more about Michael himself than the work he’s done. And for that hour and a half, the audience seemed to hang on his every word. We know we did. He came across like a kind of spiritual guru, sharing knowledge with his followers. Who needs fancy visuals?
A lot of what Michael talked about was the need for common sense, value, simplicity and a human approach to design, and life in general for that matter. We won’t go into too much detail, as the talk was filmed by Dion at D&AD so we’re sure you’ll be able to see it yourself online very soon.
What was nice to see last night was the large Manchester presence. The task of getting Manchester creatives to events outside their own city has been described in the past as ‘incredibly difficult’. They must have been told how brilliant a Michael Wolff talk is too.
Thoughtful thanks to Michael for sparing a few moments at the end to chat to us.
Today we’re at Sainsbury’s in Romiley, Stockport doing our bit for the INNOCENT BIG KNIT. We were here at 6.30am warming up for a 7am start. The idea is to do 100 by the time the store closes at 11pm. After a slow start the needles are warming up nicely. We’ve been getting some good advice along the way off some of the lovely customers. It needs a Nanna’s touch.
Yesterday we were talking about the Stirling Prize, the shortlist, who won and the fact you had all these famous architects in one building at the same time.
This got us thinking about those little plastic people found in architects models and thought it might be interesting to produce a set of miniature famous architects in this way. We thought it would be funny to have a miniature David Adjaye or a miniature Zaha Hadid standing talking to each other in a model made by Foster and Partners.
As well as a miniature set of figures of great architects from the past, for example: Sir Christopher Wren, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Perhaps this idea could be taken in the opposite direction?
The excellent RADFORD WALLIS created ‘Bob’ as part of a visual identity to promote 16 Palace Street, a premium office space in Victoria, SW1. Perhaps life-sized models of these famous architects would make a great addition to an exhibition?
If anyone knows of a good model maker, please drop us a line. Thanks.
Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.
Thoughtful took a trip to the FRIEZE ART FAIR in Regent’s Park, London (identity by the brilliant GFT). We were blown away by the quality of the work on show and the size of the crowds.
Frieze Art Fair only runs for 4 days and ends this Sunday. If you’re in the area, we’d recommend you check it out
We had tons of entries for the Studio Culture book so we decided to draw two names out of the tombola, they are: Richard Weston of Belfast and Shawn James Seymour from Japan. Congratulations to you both.
Thoughtful thanks to everyone who entered and thanks for taking the time to read our blog – we really appreciate your support.
We’ve got another tombola competition coming up soon… to win a Tate Liverpool Colour Chart smart code poster, so we hope you’ll keep coming back.
Wednesday 4 November
7pm – 8.30pm
LJMU Art and Design Academy
Off Brownlow Hill
Tickets are £13 for D&AD members / £15 for non-members.
We attended the launch of a new book titled: Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio at the Haunch of Venison in central London.
Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio provides a unique glimpse into the inner workings leading graphic design studios such as BUILD, EXPERIMENTAL JETSET, FUEL, SPIN and 4CREATIVE.
In a series of interviews, the mechanics and processes of building and maintaining a studio are laid bare. Studio Culture is a fascinating book for those with a hunger to know how ‘others do it.’
We have a limited edition copy signed by both Tony and Adrian to give away. Just send your name, studio or college address and email to email@example.com
We’ll put all the names in our tombola and draw out a name on Wednesday 14 October.
After visiting the excellent Haunch of Venison gallery in London last week, we had an idea for a kind of art concept. The idea centres around galleries, and how they’re often very minimal, but architecturally very interesting. Especially when they’re stark white, like the picture below.
On to the idea. We’d take a gallery like this, with lots of passages, nooks and crannies, and fill it with blank canvases, plain white statues, ceramics and sculptures. All of which would be laid out how you’d expect in a gallery.
Then we’d put together a guest list for a preview night. On the night as the guests arrive, we’d kit them out in full paintball gear.
The guests would then be put into teams and and invited to take part in a paintball game.
The gallery, as expected, would get totally covered in paint (from all the poor shots)…
…and hopefully, so would all the canvases, sculptures, ceramics and statues.
They would become artworks as a result of the paintball game.
The gallery could be left to dry and opened for public viewing, and the art auctioned off afterwards.
If you’re a gallery owner with a keen interest in paintball, or think that Jackson Pollock was a genius, get in touch with us. It’d be fun to see this happen for real.
We’re delighted to announce the Thoughtful 6 project has been shortlisted in this years Times Higher Education Awards in the Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiative category.
A big pat on the back for Principal, Lynn Merilion, as well as Mel Spooner, James Corazzo, Ian Parkin, Gary Spicer and Keith Alcock from Stockport College for making the project happen.
We’d also like to thank Laura, Dion and Greg at D&AD for their time and support, as well as Mark at CR for shining their spotlight on the project.
The winners will be revealed at a gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London on 15 October 2009.
Yesterday, we were reading a BLOG POST over at NDG that reminded us of ANOTHER POST we’d read back in 2007 from Johnson Banks’s blog about the creative designs found on manhole covers in Japan.
Well, not to be outdone by the Japanese, it seems that in Britain there are people employed in making drainage covers who also want to show a bit of artistic flair. Over here we call these drain covers grids.
We took a 3 minute walk around the block and discovered quite a few variations, and made the link between designers and the grid. The ‘Wi-Fi’ one’s pretty cool.
Ok, they’re never going to win a beauty contest compared to those manhole covers, but it’s good to see design implemented in objects with such constraints.
For tons more creative takes on manholes and grids, HAVE A LOOK AT THESE on Flickr.
And if you see any good grids yourself, take a pic and send them over, we’d like to see them.
Thoughtful will not be held responsible for any accidents involving holding expensive cameras and/or camera phones over drainage covers.
A part of the THOUGHTFUL 6 project involved Carrie, Ed, John, Lauren, Amy and Chris creating a ‘rough guide to the creative industries’. The rough guide is a resource for
14-19 year olds interested in a creative career in the North West.
Whilst we’re putting the finishing touches to it we thought we’d share with you a great interview Carrie and Lauren made with Pat Carroll.
Pat Carroll is a graphic designer, illustrator, image maker, painter and partner in design studio, CENTRAL STATION. He has worked with FACTORY RECORDS producing iconic images for Happy Mondays and Black Grape.
Central Station is a critically acclaimed creative team made up of Pat, his brother Matt and Karen Jackson. The sleeves Central Station created are seen as some of the most vibrant and bold designs commissioned by Factory.
Can you describe a typical day at work?
Long, generally. I mean we’ve always worked long hours, because this is what we do because we really enjoy doing it, we do it because we love doing it, we always have. So we don’t always connect it with the word work, because a lot of it is sort of fun and pleasurable at the same time, so we don’t kind of clock off really. I think that most people who are into creative thinking don’t clock off generally, they’re always thinking about stuff, always wrestling with a sort of a thought or an idea, so it’s kind of just a long day that just wanders here and there.
Why did you choose to work in the North?
Well originally when I finished my studies I went down to London, I lived and worked in London for five years. While I was at college I went down to London and I went round all the record companies. Well as a kid, I’ve always wanted to design record covers, there’s always been kind of little dreams that you kind of carry from being a kid and because we’ve always had music in the house, records, my brother had a collection of over three or four thousand albums in the house, so I went down to all the record companies while I was a student and at that time they all had art departments and I used to go down, spend time and let people know I was around. Fortunately as I was finishing college, one of the art directors of Phonogram records was setting up his own design company and he’d seen my work, I’d taken my portfolio down and we got on really well and he asked me if when I finished my degree if I’d come and work with him in his new studio, which is what I did and as a result of that I spent five years in London.
But, I work with my brother, at Central Station it’s me, Karen and my brother Matt and we’ve always kind of had this burning ambition to run our own design company and we knew we wanted to set that up in Manchester, we knew that we needed the experience to do that. So the work we wanted to do at that time was in London, so we all ended up working in London. I lived and worked there for five years, working on a whole range of things. But when we set up Central Station, we knew we wanted to set that up in Manchester, we wanted to live in Manchester. The Haçienda had just opened, so that played a big part in why we wanted to be back in Manchester and we like living in the North and we like the people in the North, not that we don’t get on with people in the South. A lot of the work we do today is based in London or it’s just around, we do a lot of work in Australia, but we like working in Manchester.
What qualifications do you have and what did you study?
I finished school and at sixteen, I did a foundation in art and design and after that I studied at a graphic design course and I eventually finished with a degree in graphic design, that’s what I specialised in.
What was you first job?
First job was working on a Boomtown Rats record sleeve and sort of as a young kid leaving college it was pretty exciting meeting Geldof, who at that time was a really sort of enigmatic and charismatic character, so it was pretty good.
Have there been any low points in your career?
Probably a low point in our career and also in Manchester’s history was when Factory Records went bankrupt. On a personal note, we were left owed quite a bit of money, but we were more bothered about the fact that such an iconic Manchester institution had hit the wall. You know, it’s no surprise to me that people are still interested and talk about Factory Records and what it did and what it created and what its kind of done for Manchester as well. So that was a low point.
What advice would you give a young graduate who wants to follow in your footsteps?
I’d advise them to be prepared to work really hard and that’s something we’ve always done, we’ve always put enjoyment and having a good time up there alongside working hard and like I said at the start of this conversation we’ve always worked long hours. We’ve always worked long weeks, there’s been months on end when we’ve worked right through a seven day week and sometimes we’re only getting two or three hours of sleep a night during those periods, so I’d say that you’ve got to be prepared to work hard, you’ve got to know that it’s something that you’re really interested in and passionate about, otherwise you’re going to find it tough. I think as well, that during the time that you do spend on your course and your study that you should try and use that period to become as confident as you can about who you are and what you’re doing, because confidence plays a big role in the world of creative thinking, that’s for sure.
What has been the highlight of your career?
There’s been loads, probably too many to bore you with, but obviously we’ve had certain aspirations as kids. We paint and we draw and we’ve had an exhibition, the first exhibition we had was at the MANCHESTER CITY ART GALLERY and we always had ambitions to exhibit our artwork in there, because we used to go there as kids and be amazed at this incredible place and that was something we always aspired to do, so we achieved that, so that’s a highlight. We’ve had other shows and other exhibitions that are similar kind of highlights. We always as kids, we’ve always watched films and telly and stuff like that, so we always had aspirations to produce film titles, because we were always pretty blown away by the stuff that we saw from the fifties and sixties and seventies, that sort of stuff. We’ve kind of achieved that, we’ve done TV titles and they’re the kind of things that you set yourself little targets and little goals and you hope that you’re going to hit some of them and we’ve been fortunate enough to hit most of them really. You know, only little personal things, but they’re the highlights.
What is your favourite Happy Mondays album cover?
Well, there’s a story behind all of them and there’s a time and a memory, so they’ll all kind of change on a day-to-day basis depending on what mood you’re in. But I suppose the best answer to that would be ‘BUMMED’, which was a portrait, a painting we did of Shaun. It was painted at a time when we were working on our first exhibition, ‘Hello Playmates’, which was a series of portraits of British radio and TV stars, and the commercial work we were doing had given us the space and financial freedom to spend more time working through the night on our own sort of fine art projects and paintings, so we were working on that at the time we were doing ‘Bummed’ and the painting we did of Shaun was a similar style to what we were doing for the exhibition. The crossover between our own particular personal interests, crossing paths with our commercial work was brilliant.
Thoughtful thanks to Pat Carroll for his time and Paul Lavin for filming and editing the interview.
The smartcode 6 sheet posters for Tate Liverpool’s summer exhibition Colour Chart: Reinventing Colour, 1950 to Today have been printed and should be going up any day now.
The idea behind the campaign is the belief that a modern gallery can do more than just hang pictures on walls and throw open their doors. Audiences can be engaged with the artworks in new and exciting ways.
The campaign uses smartcodes made from cut up colour chart swatches. These codes not only deliver the ambience of the exhibition they also link potential visitors to video clips of the works on show via their mobile phones.
And although the idea has an attachment to paint and painting there is also a connection to the digital artists on show, such as Cory Arcangel and Angela Bulloch.
If you haven’t got a smartcode reader already you can download the free i-nigma reader to your mobile.
Go to www.i-nigma.mobi on your mobile. i-nigma will automatically identify your handset type, download and install the i-nigma reader.
iPhone users can download the free NeoReader app from the App Store – it only takes a moment to install.
(We found the NeoReader app works better with datamatrix codes than the Barcode app.)
The video is free to download but standard mobile internet charges may apply.
Colour Chart: Reinventing Colour, 1950 to Today runs until 13 September 2009. It’s a fabulous exhibition for all designer types with an interest in colour be it fashion, graphics or architecture. And oddly enough youngsters would love it too.
Thoughtful thanks to Christoph Grunenberg, Jemima Pyne and Ian Malone at Tate Liverpool for allowing us to film the gallery. Chris Chadwick and Wes Storey for being as helpful as ever behind the camera. And digital darlings Que Pasa who worked with us on delivering the video content using their Mobrool platform. When it comes to delivering a mobile campaign, you’d be hard pressed to find a more creative, flexible and friendly team.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to have been invited to the second Innocent AGM. Like many, it’s been a hard year for them losing money for the first time since they started the business 10 years ago. In difficult times they had to make some difficult decisions, one of which was to secure and fund expansion (much to some peoples displeasure). However, with this they seemed to have steadied the ship and are now moving forward.
I had a good day, met some good people and drank some more than more than good smoothies. I also got to taste some new products they’ll be launching later on in the year.
New friends I made were Matt who runs operations over in Paris and Ted who’s in charge of the website. I finally got to meet with Rowena, who did a great job as compare. Had a good chat with Dan about squeezies, football and life (business and personal).
The main things I took away from yesterdays get together (and ‘a book about innocent’ I got from the guys) was never, ever give in, no matter what people tell you. Always believe in yourself and don’t forget those who have helped you along the way, as it’s all about the people.
Richard, Jon, Adam & Rowena telling me the football scores as disappointing as they were!
Howies are coming to town.
The Manchester sample sale will be held at:
Triangle Shopping Centre (Next Door to Unique Boutique)
Thursday 2nd – Sunday 5th April
Thursday 2pm – 8pm
Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sunday 11am – 4pm
If you’ve ever been to the Brick Lane sale you’ll know there’s loads of great gear to be had at a great price. You’ll also know to be there early, too.
We’re really busy at the moment with the Thoughtful Six project so unless we win a Black Pencil in the next few months we probably won’t be making any posts.
If you have a moment you can read about the Thoughtful Six project HERE.
James, Chris & Stuart.
The Thoughtful 6 project is finally up and running. We’ve moved our offices into Stockport College, and it’s all going swimmingly so far.
We’d like to thank Mel Spooner, James Corazzo, Ian Parkin, Gary Spicer and Keith Alcock from the College for making this happen. And not forgetting our 6 new designers, Amy, John, Lauren, Ed, Carrie and Chris. We’re really looking forward to seeing how you develop over the next 6 months.
There will be lots of updates on the Thoughtful 6 blog throughout the project, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as it goes along.
We know we’re coming late to the party on this one but it’s so good we had to blog it.
Created by Taylor/Thomas, (WWW.TAYLORTHOMAS.CO.UK) Bubblesnaps allows you to add animated speech bubbles to your pictures. You can upload images from your desktop or grab them from your Flickr account. Brilliant.
PENCIL: 45 Years of Creativity from the D&AD Annuals opens on Tuesday 20 January at Urbis (with a launch party from 6-8pm), and runs until Sunday 15 March. If you’re interested in attending the launch party, email SIMON.ROUSSEAU@DANDAD.CO.UK
PENCIL is an exhibition of outstanding creative work in design and advertising from the D&AD Annuals 1963-2008, specially chosen by the D&AD Presidents for each year over that period.
You can find out more about it here WWW.DANDAD.ORG
Hello and Merry Christmas – again!
It’s Christmas Day and exactly two years since we set up in business.
There’s no denying it, it’s been the toughest year of our lives in every respect. And much tougher than year one. We’ve never worked so hard or travelled so far in all our working lives. We’ve had days when we can’t believe our own luck. And days when the sound of an email pinging-in sends a shiver down our spines.
But after two years we have a greater understanding of each other and recognise the personal sacrifices we make each make in order to keep Thoughtful moving forward and a roof over our families heads.
It’s fair to say we spent the first year making lots of mistakes, trying to build relationships as well as trying to work out how to run a business. This year we got down to doing a bit of designing.
Last year our Christmas speech had lots of words, this year there’s lots of pictures.
We’ll start with our biggest and most favouritest project of the year:
For ten weeks every two years Liverpool is transformed into the most amazing gallery of new art, showcasing the best contemporary artists from around the world. This year the theme was MADE UP – an exploration of the artistic imagination.
We love the LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL project for lots of reasons: the client was great to work with, the galleries were great to work with and we ended up with a great piece of work – which reflects what a team effort it all was. But above all that it was a project which highlighted what’s so great about the business we’re in – learning about new stuff.
This was a huge project for us which involved delivering the festival catalogue, advertising, visitor guide, venue dressing and city signage.
We only ever had one approach in mind from the beginning, which involved working with Mat Maitland at BIG ACTIVE.
As MADE UP encompasses many different guises, artists and venues, rather than try to boil all this down into a single image, we wanted to take what MADE UP could be in the opposite direction. Which is why we wanted to work with Mat – Mat’s unique cut and paste style fitted perfectly with the brief and Liverpool Biennial.
Check out that fit…
The MADE UP theme isn’t just in the content but also delivery – 48 sheets and 6 sheets were ‘made up’ from their individual elements. This poster was built up over several days so commuters saw something different each time they went past.
To make sure things ran smoothly, Thoughtful moved into the Biennial’s office full time to work on the project.
Here’s Paul and Stuart having just signed off the catalogue reader.
And here’s the MADE UP animation projected from FACT.
FACT ANIMATION from JAMES GRAHAM on VIMEO.
Animation by digital darlings BUBBLE.
Mat’s illustrations even made the back of a bus look good.
There’s a great piece of advice in Paul Arden’s book ‘IT’S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT’S HOW GOOD YOU WANT TO BE’. It goes ‘If you want your work to be great don’t put it in the hands of other people’ – wise words, indeed – which is why so much of our time this year was spent up ladders, cherry pickers and lamp posts.
Here’s James with his squeegy in Tate Liverpool at 10.30pm.
Here’s James with his squeegy out again in FACT.
We need to give a special mention to Mat (piccy below) and Greg at Big Active. They’re not just talented guys, they’re also passionate, professional and flexible. We were hugely impressed with their desire to keep pushing what MADE UP could be, which was a very difficult task. At the time we didn’t know what shape the artworks or the overall show was going to take. So we looked to reference the artists either by their signature style or by what they had proposed to create for the Biennial.
D&AD membership mailer
One of our first jobs was for D&AD. We were asked by D&AD to produce a membership benefits pack which could be mailed or handed out at events.
Writing by our fifth Beatle, Lindsay Camp.
Even though D&AD were delighted with the results we couldn’t resist showing you the idea we really wanted them to go with… it’s all in the brief.
We could also show the Membership benefits in Lego too, such as offers on Design Week, Creative Review, Phaidon Books, money off Apple products, exclusive wine, a free copy of the Annual and much more.
SEIZED! is the national museum of HM Revenue and Customs. Held at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, SEIZED! allows visitors to enter the unseen world of Revenue and Customs and find out about the dangerous world of smuggling. Here’s how we promoted the museum.
Baby image by NICK VEASEY.
Howies Low Impact Advertising – test 1
HOWIES are smart enough to realise that everything they do, screws something up. There is no perfect clothing company. They want to be honest with themselves and with their customers about that.
What they are doing at howies is trying to find ways to lessen that impact.
So shouldn’t their advertising be low impact, as well? (At least in one sense.)
Here’s Chris preparing the boards for our first Low Impact Advertising test.
Have you spotted the obvious mistake yet? We did, but only once we had stuck all the letters down.
MWNT BEACH – SOUTH WALES from JAMES GRAHAM on VIMEO.
MWNT BEACH – STU SURFING from JAMES GRAHAM on VIMEO.
Making marks in the landscape like this isn’t a new idea, but it is when the medium becomes the message.
This is Pool Farm in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.
It’s been converted into a number of high-spec offices.
We were asked by Stanian Architects to advertise the project. After a few discussions with the client, we convinced them to go with an idea that avoided printing 1,000 brochures and building an advertising site in the middle of the countryside.
Opposite the development is the Thelwell viaduct – 60,000 vehicles pass over it every day on their way too, and from Manchester.
These are the exactly the people this development is aimed at.
We did a ‘Channel 4’ and positioned a 20ft inflatable arrow between Pool Farm and the Thelwell Viaduct. So anyone passing would get the illusion of a 120 ft balloon over the development.
Photography by MAT WRIGHT.
Whilst we were at Pool Farm we stumbled upon something which could help us with the Low Impact Advertising idea…
One project we really liked but never came off was for a environmentally-friendly, low-impact hotel, which we named Lo’tel.
Some non-work related highlights from the year included judging D&AD Global Awards and Student Awards…
Stu judging the Graphic Design category
…visiting Fruit Towers for INNOCENT’S FIRST AGM – a truly inspiring bunch of people with equally inspiring offices. Getting tickets for Russell Davies’ INTERESTING 08 – never have we felt so flat-footed in all our lives. Watching the speakers made us realise how quickly our business is changing and how we need to change the way we work and think, or be left behind.
On the down side, we got our arses slapped by another accountant, we got shafted by one client because we never got a purchase order, and whilst delivering some work, James and Stuart were involved in quite a nasty car crash just before Junction 1 on the M6 (not our fault).
But it didn’t stop James ringing around 20 overnight couriers from his hospital bed to make sure the work (in bubble wrap above) was delivered on time.
As far as the year ahead goes, well it’s going to be tough for everyone which means we’re going to have to tighten our belts a further few notches, so there won’t be any champagne lunches or competitions entries again in 09.
But there are plenty of interesting things in the pipeline for us.
We’ll also be starting the new year by going back to College.
Before you say anything, we know!
Each of us at Thoughtful owes a huge amount to the people who helped us early in our careers. And we intend to repay that debt by doing our bit for the next creative generation. Which is why we’re very excited about this next project.
Stockport College has signed a partnership agreement with the BBC, ahead of the corporation’s move to Salford in 2011. The partnership will help to identify new talent, focus on learning and development, build relationships within communities and develop clear pathways into the BBC and the wider industry.
Thoughtful was asked to go into the college for one day a week to help a group of 2nd year graphic design students produce a book on ‘How to get into the creative industries’. The students get a live brief to work on and the BBC get a publication which they mailout – everyone’s a winner.
(Currently Stockport College doesn’t give their students the option of a sandwich year. It means their placements have to be done in their holidays – which isn’t ideal for the students as the longest placement they can do is around three months. Generally they’ve been struggling to find jobs when they come to leave, as they have little or no agency experience.)
Whilst we all agreed that this was a great idea, one day a week wouldn’t really give them the experience of being in an agency everyday and seeing the good, the bad and the ugly. So we went back to Stockport College with a more Thoughtful proposal…we’d close down our studio, pack up our D&AD annuals and move into the college full time.
So we start our term in January, and have a team of super-keen young designers. We worked with the whole class over a number of weeks to gauge who would be right for the project. It was a tough decision to make as there were lots who could have made it, but in the end we chose these six.
We’ll have an open door policy, so as well as working the book one day a week, any student can drop in and get involved in pitches and presentations. We plan to video and blog the student’s experience from start to finish, and hopefully it’ll become a reference point for other colleges and universities. We don’t think anything like this has been done before, so watch this space.
We couldn’t end without mentioning the R-word. We asked our good friend and businessman Peter Williams what advice he had for us for the coming year, and thought we’d share it with you:
“Be in no doubt this is not a blip and ‘it will all be alright shortly’, this is the likes of which I haven’t seen in my lifetime, and I’ve lived through several serious crunches. Travel light, be utterly realistic and you’ll probably live to tell the tale. The other important thing is to be cheerful and upbeat, and don’t panic.”
On reflection, there’s still quite a lot of words this year so thanks for taking the time read our second Christmas Speech. As always we hope we’re around this time next year for a third installment.
James, Chris & Stuart
Thoughtful thanks to…Paul, Lewis, Antony, Paul D, Jennifer, Sacha and Sean. Dan, Ceri and Rowena. Matt and Barry. Lindsay. Matt and Greg. Steve B. Claire, David, Scania, Ade, Pete, Emma, Hayley, Aron, Lisa, Anna and Alison. Tamsin and Ruth, Rhiannon, Simon and Garrick. Adrian, Michael and Greg. Dave H. James, Mel and Ian. Sam and Rhiannon. Ian, Jemima and Jennifer. Laura, Andy and James. Margaret, Mike and Liam. Laurence and Phil. Mick. Audrey and Adrian. Jim, Debbie and Sue. Andrew, Maria and Tony. Helen and Leo. Andrew, Alex and Simon. Simon, David and Fraser. Chris Chad. Suzy. Dave, Andy and James. Kev. Dan W. Andy J and Paudie. Mike F. Graham and Robert. Sam C. Joe and Chris. And Ray.
And not forgetting Tracy, Laura and Emma.
Last night was the official closing party for this years Liverpool Biennial. Lewis Biggs took the opportunity to give his thanks to those that made it such a special festival – his team, TATE, FACT, Open Eye Gallery, the Bluecoat, the sponsors who make it all possible and the volunteers who give their time to man the artworks for eight hours at a time in all weathers. We would like to join Lewis in saying that everyone played their part in making it a fantastic 10 weeks.
Last night James and Stuart took part in D&AD’s ‘How the Hell did that get in (the book)?’ night.
Over 140 people packed into a sweaty basement room of the Slaughtered Lamb in EC1 to hear judges past and present talk about the pieces of work their jury selected.
The event was just one thing that has come out of several panel discussions and many meetings D&AD have had over the Summer on what they can do for Graphic Design. Another is cutting this years entry fee.
D&AD President, Garrick Hamm handled the toughest of audiences brilliantly which made it a fun and really positive evening.
(Thoughtful thanks to Ruth and the D&AD team for inviting us down and especially Dion the cameraman who let us film alongside him.)
Here are a few piccys…
Stuart is down in London today and tomorrow, to take part in D&AD’S judging process. He’ll be on the jury of Graphic Design, which is a category with lots and lots and lots of entries, so he’s in for a long couple of days.
We sent him off with a comfy pair of walking boots and a flask full of black coffee to help him get through it. Good luck Stu.
Here’s a wall of this year’s judges.
Stuart is at the bottom, and is the one on the left. Or right.
Last Saturday, Thoughtful were lucky enough to be invited to two events that celebrated creativity. One was THE TONY WILSON EXPERIENCE held in Manchester, and the other was Russell Davies’ INTERESTING 2008 in London.
It was a shame they were held on the same day as we all wanted to go to both, but such is life, so we went our separate ways. James and Stu headed off to the bright lights of the capital, and I went down to URBIS where the Tony Wilson event was.
When I first heard that this event was billed as a ‘24-hour conversation’, I was both intrigued, and slightly concerned. If I go to watch a film in a cinema, I’m fine until it goes past the two-and-a-half hour mark. I then get very uncomfortable and fidgety, to the point where my attention is definitely not on what I’m supposed to be watching. So the thought of sitting listening to around 50 people talking over one day, wasn’t really inspiring me to say the least.
The intrigue over the event however, was swaying me the other way. To pull off a 24-hour live conversation would be quite something. The line up of speakers would have to be great to attract people, and most were. Some had stronger links to Tony Wilson and Factory Records than others, but all shared a passion for what the man was about, and how he could inspire future generations.
The 200 young creatives that were invited were labeled as ‘The Talent’. The speakers were ‘The Experienced’, and the big idea was to get ‘us’ and ‘them’ interacting, and sharing ideas and discussions. Unfortunately though that didn’t really happen. Don’t get me wrong, the event in my view was a success, but from what I saw, it was just more ‘us’ listening to ‘them’ than ‘all of us together’. It may have partly been ‘The Talent’s’ fault because we were encouraged to ask questions and participate, but in a room full of wallflowers, bright lights and big TV cameras, it’s understandable that not many questions were asked. Still, the other ‘Talent’ I spoke to, were in agreement that there could have been more workshop type segments to the event.
I didn’t make the full 24 hours. Urbis were providing shelter and camp beds for some of the more dedicated attendees, but the schedule got a bit thin in the early hours, with an open mic session billed at 5am, for example. So I took in around eight hours of conversation, and made it back the next morning for some more, from the likes of Tim Burgess, Peter Saville and Professor Brian Cox.
All in all, it was great to be a part of the Tony Wilson Experience. Mr Manchester would probably not have wanted the fuss made over him, but would have secretly liked it. The event was filmed, so may appear on the web sometime soon. For this reason, photography and filming weren’t allowed, otherwise we would have shot some of our own footage and put it up here. If it does end up online, the talks by Mark Radcliffe, Steve Coogan, Tom Bloxham, Jayne Casey, Sue Woodward and Clint Boon are worth looking out for, as well as the speakers I mentioned before. Frank Sidebottom was pretty funny too. I’ll be looking out for the talks that I missed.
One quote that did stick in my head was from Mark Radcliffe who said ‘People who don’t try anything, never fail’.
I’d like to say ‘thanks!’ to Ruth, a music promotor/journalist/band manager, who came over and introduced herself because she was on her own too. Ruth runs a successful fanzine for bands in Doncaster called Doncaster Live, as well as managing a band for the first time, despite having no experience in managing. She couldn’t stick around for the 24 hours, but wanted to hear what Alan McGee had to say the next day. Well Ruth, from me to you, you didn’t miss much really, I think that was due to the host of that talk though.
Like the Tony Wilson Experience, Interesting 2008 was jam packed full of speakers from start to finish. It must have been good as Stu and James had to get up at around 3am on Saturday morning to make the trip down, and they didn’t fall asleep once throughout the talks.
Lots of bits on Interesting are already floating around the blogosphere for you to look at, and a great place to start would be Russell’s post HERE.
The award for pure entertainment value went to Michael Johnson, who blew everyone away with a very unexpected show of talent.
And special thanks to Arthur.
A year ago today, we decided to make a commitment to a company who we love. We told them that we would send them an idea or thought which we hoped would push their business on, just a little bit further. But not just one idea every so often – we decided to challenge ourselves and send a new ‘thought’ every day for a year.
It didn’t matter if we were busy doing other things, or if we found it hard to get access to a Mac, or even if they were just too busy to read it – the idea would get sent, no matter what. They got one on Christmas Day, every bank holiday, and sometimes even two in a day if we were feeling particularly inspired. The company who has been receiving our ideas is HOWIES, an ethical clothing company based in Cardigan Bay, Wales.
Before we started TFTD, we had some contact with howies. They liked what we were about, and we liked the way their company was about more than just selling clothes – they want to make people think, as well as buy. So we wanted to find a way to put put ourselves at the front of their minds every day. It would have been easy to give them a Thoughtful-branded mouse mat, or Post-It notes with our faces on, but thats not us, and its certainly not them. howies are into ideas, and they’re always looking for ways to do things better. TFTD seemed like a great way to get on their level.
The first few weeks were great, we had loads, but soon enough, what we thought was a relatively easy task started to get a bit more difficult and forced us to think harder… much harder. Our first ideas were written down in advance, meaning we could come in each day and just copy-and-paste each new idea into an email. But the lists dried up quicker than a slug taking a salt bath. So everyday (from about four weeks onwards), we would all sit down in the morning and discuss what was going on in the world and how howies fit into that world – it was tough, but we enjoyed every minute.
We don’t mind admitting some of the ideas were a bit rubbish and off the mark, but some were OK, and some were just so brilliant, we couldn’t believe David knocked them back!
OK, we’ve given away our ideas for free, and we’ve spent a huge amount of time thinking about them. But in return, we’ve learnt so much about new subjects, people and technologies which we would never have, which we feel is an essential part of being a designer. And it got us much closer to a bunch of people we greatly admire.
We make a point of trying to push ourselves everyday, regardless of budgets, timings or distance – which is why we seek out companies like howies. We believe we’re good for each other.
We dont mind if others out there take on the TFTD idea for their clients, though like we said, it isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
Thanks to our past placements, Steven, Hugh and Sarah who have also given their ideas.
Last night Thoughtful travelled up to Newcastle to listen to a talk by Adrian Shaughnessy, organised by DESIGN EVENT.
Adrian’s talk was centred around the essential attributes of the modern graphic designer.
The audience was largely made up of students with a few designers dotted around, and what was great about the talk was how relevant it was to everyone. It would have been quite an eye-opener for the students to hear that sometimes, being a designer isn’t great, and it can be hard and boring. (We can’t remember being told that when we were at college.)
As a relatively new start-up, we’ve had more than a few tough times already, and it was reassuring to know that someone like Adrian, who’s been kicking the UK design industry’s arse for 20 years has been through it all too.
It’s fair to say though, Adrian is one of the few people who can write about and discuss his experiences without fear of upsetting clients or giving away his company’s edge – which is why his talk was so refreshing.
We love listening to other heavyweights like Dick Powell or Stefan Sagmeister speak but so often these talks only cover their achievements within their respective fields, which can feel a world away from where we are at the moment. Last night highlighted the shared experience we all have as designers, from a self-taught graphic designer who’s been there and written a book about it.
Adrian’s a very busy bunny, but we’re going to try our hardest to bring him to Manchester to discuss his thoughts and experiences about the ever changing design industry.
One last thing, if you ever need a petrol stop, be warned about a creepy little place called Barton Park Services. Their petrol is more expensive per litre than Prada perfume, and you’ll run the risk of actually running out of petrol before you get to it.
We’ve been watching the aftermath of this year’s D&AD awards with interest over the blogosphere these past few days. There have been some interesting and controversial comments floating around which are well worth reading. Stu has voiced his own thoughts on the subject on Creative Review’s blog. You can read all the comments HERE.
‘To begin with, excellent article. But it might say something about the relevance of the results when (as far as CR’s blog goes) people feel more compelled to comment on Sony’s new ad than design’s absence from D&AD’s awards.
I was part of this year’s design jury for the first time in my career, so I got to see the whole judging process for myself. Being selected to judge was a huge honour but I must say my own experience has left me with very little faith in the judging process. It did seem to me that a lot of people felt they had to behave in a particular way – hyper-critical, seen-it-all-before, impossible to impress – just because D&AD had chosen them as arbiters of creative standards. Couple that with tables upon tables weighed down with design work, much of which (but not all) being labeled as “appalling” and it’s little wonder we’ve arrived at this point.
It’s a problem at both ends of the scale. On one hand it would appear (and despite their best efforts) D&AD is failing to attract some of great design work we all see flying around the interweb. And on the other hand, it would appear design judges walk into the judging hall looking for Gold from the outset. Ideas are needed on both sides. But ideas which work alongside the other disciplines. (I’d be interested to hear what folks in adland think about the awards.)
Here’s my thoughts on what’s already been put forward:
Pre-screening of design entries.
Good idea. Please don’t think I’m being “hyper-critical” when I say 50% of what my jury looked at really was awful. And I’m guessing it’s the same every year. I’d like to think I was generous in spirit when I judged but I was left wondering if some UK design agencies really know what D&AD is all about? I know how that sounds, but until D&AD decide to switch to an online vote or you see it for yourself, please take my word for it.
You might argue it makes the good work stand out – to some degree it does, but it’s more a feeling of relief than excitement when you come across a good piece. The point is, So much mediocre work does bring the mood down. It certainly effected me.
(I have to add, every one of my fellow jury members gave their full attention and professional consideration to each and every one of the 500 or so cards, invitations, calendars, stamps, bags, T-Shirts, boxes and letterheads.)
Fewer juries sweating harder over less work.
In my view, Michael Johnson’s recent ‘You say Tomarto…’ thought lays out the problem with design juries. How can so many Witty Young Fogeys / Counterless Geometricals / Gridnik Modernistas etc. agree on what is good design? (And do judges actually enter work into D&AD, themselves?)
Perhaps fewer juries, predominately made up of designers but with a good mix of experienced photographers, writers and illustrators would provide a more rounded view of the work and yield more positive results? Designers judge writing don’t they? Graphic design uses photography, doesn’t it? It might also avoid the “Fuck NB Studios” situation which Ben highlighted or the usual whining about the “big boys sticking together”.
Separate award judging and ceremonies.
Split the awards up. For arguments sake, let’s say Digital / Advertising / Design & Environmental. Make everyone feel a bit special, ADC don’t do it, that’s true, but ADC don’t carry the baggage of their awards being labeled an ad man’s show.
Shelve ‘the book’.
I agree with Tony. (A few interesting jackets aside) If the Annual was really testing the boundaries of book production, then perhaps it has a place. But as lovely as it is to see your name in print, I think an on-line archive is the way to go.
Lower entry fees.
No brainer. It’s probably the one aspect of the awards which everyone can agree on. Sure, there’s a number of design groups out there who couldn’t care less about awards – that’s fine – but judging from the comments made elsewhere in the blogosphere, there’s a number of design groups who are also pushing design forward but have turned away from D&AD soley because of its crippling entry fees.
Separate events could allow D&AD to set entry fees more in-line with what a small design practice can afford.
One small point, D&AD should really be the first people to post the results. 5pm the next day, after the world and his dog have debated them isn’t really good enough.
I’m not really someone who likes sticking their head above the parapet. I’m sure everything I’ve mentioned can be scrutinized and argued against, which is why I much prefer to confine any half-arsed ramblings to the studio. But on this occasion I feel it’s important to speak up and hope it helps bring about the positive changes needed to keep D&AD connected to contemporary design.
I sincerely hope this will be a watershed moment for the ‘D’ in D&AD and something good will come out this year’s results. I passionately believe in what D&AD stands for and hope it will still mean something to the global design community in ten year’s time. I would encourage other people who feel the same way to contribute to the debate – along with D&AD.
So this doesn’t sound all doom and gloom, I must say I was hugely impressed with the way D&AD ran the judging. It is a jaw dropping moment to walk into the judging hall and see all the work on show. I can’t begin to imagine what it must take to put it together and make it appear so effortless – everyone involved at D&AD deserves a big hug and a slice of cake.
And for the record, we did enter one piece into the awards – I watched the jury walk past it when they were reviewing their in-book selection – miserable sods, the lot of them ;–)
Congratulations to all the winners.’
On Saturday, Thoughtful had two big AGMs to attend. One was for the TRIODOS BANK, and the other was for INNOCENT DRINKS. Unluckily, they were each at the same time and 120 miles apart, so it meant we had to split up. James took the Triodos AGM in Bristol, and Chris and Stu went to innocent’s AGM in London.
Triodos Bank AGM
The Triodos Bank Annual Meeting was this year based around food, and how we meet the challenges of producing enough without damaging the planet we depend on. We also got a chance to discover more about how Triodos has become the UK’s organic bank.
Triodos Bank’s UK Managing Director Charles Middleton and CEO Peter Blom looked back at 2007, and shared their plans for the future. We also got a chance to hear from some of the people who benefit from Triodos Bank finance, including Brigit Strawbridge from BBC 2’s ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ who spoke with such enthusiasm and passion. She has bought a yellow bus (which she is getting sprayed green) and taking it around the country to people who want to know more about living green but don’t know really what to do.
Charles ran the day well for the audience of 400 plus, and said something that I felt was so refreshing coming from a bank, he referred to them as members rather than customers which gives them a sense of belonging. In his opening he also asked the members to let others know of Triodos Bank so we thought we’d put it on our blog.
After a quick chat during one of the breaks I told Charles Thoughtful were going to do their bit and he was only to glad to give us a shot.
There has been much discussion about innocent over the years, and in particular their tone of voice. Questions have been asked along the lines of ‘How can a company expect us to believe that they’re as nice and friendly as they make out?’, and ‘Surely it’s all a clever disguise to sell more drinks?’. Well, it’d be easy to think those things. No-one can be that nice, right? We’re talking about a company that turns over hundreds of millions of pound a year and plans to put their drinks in every country. Well, we’re glad to report that it’s all true (them being nice, that is). We’ve never met as many friendly, smiley people as the innocent staff on Saturday. One of them walked the whole length of the car park just to say hello and welcome us (thanks Kelly). And we thought she was just going to tell us to move the car somewhere else, the cynics that we are.
The way we were treated makes us understand why innocent are such a success. Apart from having a great product, it’s the small details people remember, and to innocent, they are as important as the big ideas.
When we entered Fruit Towers, we were again met by lots of nice, smiley people and were given a name badge with a fruit on. I was a banana, Stu was an orange, and we got given a quick guided tour by Jo Jo, seen below.
Fruit Towers is a brilliant working space. For anyone who runs a business from a David Brent-style office, and wonders why the staff have a low morale, try and get down to innocent sometime. A good working environment can do wonders. We felt like two 8 year olds in a Wacky Warehouse.
So then the AGM started, and we listened to the three founders, Jon, Richard and Adam tell us how innocent began, and where they plan to go. We then recreated the famous ‘Yes No bins‘ story as we were asked to try out two brand new recipes, and vote for our favorite. The one with the highest votes will be on supermarket shelves soon.
The next part of the day was to split up into smaller groups to let innocent know what we thought of them, what they do well, and what they could do better. Here’s Ceri calling for all bananas.
In the banana group, Ceri and Rowena talked to us in detail about innocent’s labels and tone of voice, which was great for me. They were very receptive to our thoughts and ideas, and sent us away with some homework which was to try and write a label for them. Stu got the inside track on marketing innocent by Charlotte’s orange group, which again, couldn’t have worked out better.
Then we ate cake and chatted to more people, before the final part of the day which was a Q&A session, introduced by Rowena, who was natural stand up comic. You can see the videos of the Q&A session HERE, or you can read the written replies HERE.
The day ended with everyone being given an innocent goody bag with an ANNUAL REPORT, a mug, some tea and an amazing personalised innocent bottle. The excitement must have gone to my head as I picked up the wrong bag and got someone else’s bottle, which wasn’t very clever of me (Sorry Lydia, I’m sending yours back today). Here’s Stu’s very own innocent bottle.
Our thanks go to all the team at innocent who made us feel very welcome (and a bit special), and for pulling off a great first AGM. And to Hannah for doing the running around regarding getting us to the AGM.
Special thanks go to Dan for inviting us down to the event.
You can read and see lots more about the AGM HERE.
We recently entered STEREOHYPE’S 4th badge competition with an idea we thought of a while back.
We just missed out on making the shortlist, but we did get a little mention for our effort.
We didn’t think about entering our Sett of Badgers which was silly, so we’ll see how they do next time.
Click HERE to see all the finalists and winners.
When we first set up Thoughtful, we always liked the idea that one day, whenever the word ‘thoughtful’ was seen or heard, people would think of us before the dictionary definition.
Well, we’ve a long way to go, but it seems we’re making small steps in the right direction. Google now ranks us above the dictionary, which we think is pretty cool.
On Saturday 15 March 2008, after a £12.5m redevelopment, THE BLUECOAT in Liverpool threw open its doors to the public for the first time since early 2005.
The opening was made by the first 200 visitors, who were each handed a pair of scissors to cut a giant red ribbon, which stretched around the whole building.
The Major of Liverpool and Phil Redmond were amongst the first through the doors, and with live drumming from the Liverpool Samba, excellent organisation and helpful staff, the opening was truly superb.
Once inside, our favourite piece was The Wishing Tree by Yoko Ono, which was quite a crowd pleaser.
We’d definitely recommend visiting the gallery next time you’re in Liverpool.
Last night we attended a D&AD President’s Lecture featuring NICK BELL.
He attracted an audience of over 400 people, and it was clear to see why. The work was of an exceptional quality, especially the exhibition work for the Churchill Musueum and the Sellafield Visitor’s Centre, which was very eerie indeed.
He also showed us his thinking into rebranding Manchester United, which was a huge task, but was given a simple execution that for want of a better word, ‘united’ the many different parts that make the club. Unfortunately, the rebrand didn’t see the light of day which was a shame. He also flashed up a shot of Christiano Ronaldo being shown a red card, much to the delight of James and Stu.
Normally, we would have tried to film the event, but D&AD had that covered, so it may appear on their site soon.
Thoughtful also used the event as an opportunity to raise awareness of our friends FRANK WATER. Thoughtful and copywriter LINDSAY CAMP have been working with FRANK on their tone of voice recently, so we were interested to see what a room full of creative types would make of their very honest way of communicating what they do. The responses we got back were really positive, and we know all too well that designers are a hard bunch to please.
FRANK branding by PETER GIBBONS.
A while ago, our friend Lindsay Camp told us he was no longer going to update his blog. You can read why HERE. Well, we weren’t too happy with this news, as his was one of the blogs we enjoyed reading, and it made a nice change from all the blogs that just link to other designer’s nice work. So, we asked Lindsay if ever he had a thought he’d like to share, to be our guest. And he’s just taken us up on the offer.
Matters of judgement and credit.
I’m delighted to see that my old friend Martin Lawless of 300MILLION is judging Writing for Design at D&AD this year. I’ve known Martin since he was a promising newcomer at THE PARTNERS, and he’s always impressed me as a genuine “communicator”, who understands what words and pictures can achieve when they work together. In fact, I can’t think of a designer better qualified to judge this category.
But hang on, let’s just check which distinguished writers have been asked to judge Graphic Design…er, none, as it turns out. Out of a stonking 21 judges on three juries covering this category, not a single one makes his or her living as a writer. So the overall creative success of a whole range of communications, including things like corporate brochures and annual reports, will be assessed without reference to the views of anyone whose trade is words.
Would somebody care to explain to me what that’s all about? The only possible defence I can think of is that the juries include outstandingly talented designers – ranging from Partners founder Aziz Cami to Thoughtful’s very own Stuart Price – who can be trusted to judge work intelligently, taking into account all elements of the communication.
But really, that isn’t good enough. Much of the work that comes under this heading is writing-based. A brochure or report of any kind most closely resembles – what else? – a magazine or book; forms of communication where words are, at the very least, as important as imagery. And the best writers understand how words work better than even the best, most literate designers. Judging the year’s best graphic design without asking a single writer for his opinion is bizarrely unprofessional.
Which brings me to another related rant. Credit. The giving and withholding of. Over the years, experience has taught me that, in print work which includes a roll of honour, the designers will always get a name a check, the printers usually, the paper sometimes…and the writer almost never. I’ve found that the only way to do anything about this is to start noisily lobbying for inclusion in the credits at an early stage of the project.
Frankly, I don’t believe this kind of recognition is particularly valuable. I can’t think of a single occasion on which I’ve been approached by a potential client who has seen my name in the back of a brochure. But it’s the principle of the thing. What does it say about the standing of writers in the communications business if designers, when leading projects, behave in a way that suggests they believe that the type of paper a document is printed on is of greater importance than the words which appear on it?
(A horrible thought occurs: it may be that, in some cases, no writer is credited because no writer has been involved in the project. But no, let’s not go there: you don’t want to see what I’m like when I’m seriously riled.)
It’s fashionable to say that, in recent years, the design industry has arrived at a better understanding of the power of words. And certainly, there are individual designers who genuinely seem to get it. But as long as your business as a whole goes on treating writers roughly on a par with the bloke who services the photo-copier, I think I’ll keep the champagne on ice and the bunting furled.
Unfortunately, one of us recently had to suffer the mighty injustice of receiving a parking ticket. This, as some of you may well know, is a bit annoying, but just to make the ‘ordeal’ slightly more irritating, the council seem to rub it in just a tad more.
We’re of course referring to the wholly inapproppriate use of an e-commerce ‘shopping basket’.
Now come on, it’s not like we were going online to do a bit of internet shopping, and came across this bargain.
Oh well, if nothing else, it’s probably a good lesson in knowing what tone of voice is right for your audience.
We’ve definitely learnt our lesson.
Adam Morris from MANCHESTER MET was the first out of the tombola, winning one of our D&AD Annuals. His act of Thoughtfulness was designing a set of motivational badges that take you back to the good old days of being rewarded for doing a good job with a gold, silver or smiley face sticker.
Here’s Adam collecting his Annual, today.
Maithili Kabre won a D&AD Student Membership, and her act of Thoughtfulness was to collect scrap pieces of A4 paper to make into sketch pads. Maithili studies at the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF DESIGN, AHMEDABAD.
Maithili with her sketch pads.
And James and Joe from the UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS, won a pair of D&AD Lecture tickets. Their act of Thoughtfulness was to make a stranger merry for Christmas.
We’ve just drawn out the winners for Thoughtful’s Tombola Competition.
We‘d like to thank everyone that entered, and to D&AD for supporting our competition.
If you won, congratulations, we’ll be in touch soon to get your prize to you. If you didn’t win, better luck next time, and hey, it’s not all bad. Through all the acts of thoughtfulness you did, you probably made someone’s day.
We’ll put up the winner’s work after we’ve contacted them.
We’ll continue to be D&AD Members next year, which means we’ll again be left with some spare Annuals to give away.
Last December Thoughtful took part in the YCN Pinata Challenge, you can see our entry HERE.
Well, they’ve just announced the results of the competition, and we’ve…….. lost.
But we’re not bitter, we had a good laugh trying to open the pinata, and by the look of it, so did everyone else who took part. Who would have thought there would be so many ways to open a little box?
Well done to Kate Moross and Tom Merrell.
You can see all the pinata entries HERE.
Photo by Sarah Fotheringham and Charlie Duck.
Photo by Jeffrey Bowman.
Photo by James Jones.
We were in Liverpool on Friday night, for the ‘People’s Opening’ of their CAPITAL OF CULTURE year, ( People’s meaning free). Around 30,000 people congregated on St. George’s Plateau, to join in the celebrations, which included choirs, aerial performers, new Liverpool band The Wombats, and Ringo Starr, who performed a song from his new album, which was amusingly met by jeering from the crowd when it was announced he’d be doing this, and not a crowd pleaser like Yellow Submarine.
St. George’s Hall looked really good. It took 80 tonnes of lighting to do this.
Here’s Ringo performing his single on the roof of St. George’s Hall. He’s the one with the sunglasses, the beard, and the hat.
It promises to be a good year for the city of Liverpool, and there are dates in their events calender that we are really looking forward to. So throughout the year, anything we see and like, we’ll be sure to blog it.
Hello, and Merry Christmas!
Well, we made it. It’s Christmas Day and exactly one year since we set up in business. And only one person managed to say ‘That’s not very Thoughtful’ – which was a stick we knew people would beat us with, given the slightest opportunity.
We’re sure this post will be achingly boring to most people, so if you find yourself yawning half way through, you could pour yourself a drink and listen to the Queen’s speech instead. She’s on at 3pm.
This is really written to help anyone out there who’s thinking about setting up their own design practice in the coming months (and to raise a few smiles to those of you of know us).
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.
One of our ex-employers would to say ‘to succeed in business, you need three things: balls, luck and hardwork’.
We think that’s a pretty good way to break this down, so we’ll start with ‘balls’.
You need them. Why would anyone in their right mind choose to leave the warm, cosy bosom of a benevolent employer (and Ben Casey’s of THE CHASE was particularly warm and cosy), to work 18 hour days, deal with plenty of ‘Thoughtless’ people and live with the constant threat of the bank repossessing your home? Well, the same reason everyone else does it: to be the captain’s of our own ship, have creative freedom, and make our mums proud. For us, it was a very natural career progression. We’ve been lucky enough to have worked on some great accounts, and won most of the more desirable awards… and we felt ready to do this on our own.
Well, not entirely on our own. Setting up Thoughtful has allowed us the opportunity to meet and collaborate with people we greatly admire. For example, our identity was designed with Sami Kortemäki of UNDERWARE. And we found our voice with writer LINDSAY CAMP, who we think of as our ‘fifth Beatle’. (Or should that be whom, Lindsay?)
We also realised we had nothing to lose. In this business of ours, it seems we’re all just a phone call away from being made redundant. So, for three senior designers, we had two choices:
1. Wait for the phone call. Because it will happen – it’s just a matter of when.
2. Seize your own destiny.
For us, it was a bit of a ‘no-brainer’. We’re more afraid of option 1 than option 2. But once you’ve done it, you’ll never look back.
Having your own design practice is a bit like being in government, you come to work each morning and think ‘what shall I do today?’ as opposed to being in opposition and thinking ‘what shall I say today?’ – there’s nothing you can’t achieve.
LUCK (Good and Bad)
We think it’s fair to say we’ve had more of one kind than the other – you’ll have to decide which, for yourself.
To begin with, we didn’t like the idea of walking up to ex-employers, Ben Casey and Lionel Hatch and telling them ‘we’re leaving to set up on our own, and we’ll be gone in a month’.
Ben and Lionel are two of the nicest (and most creative) guys you’ll ever meet in the design world. To us, they practically invented the graphic design industry outside London – before them there was nothing, and we owe them a big debt of thanks. So we took the decision to work an extended period of notice and really start the process of setting up Thoughtful once we left – anything else wouldn’t have been, well – Thoughtful.
We also took the decision not to contact any of The Chase’s clients, once we left. Ben and Lionel have invested a great amount of time and effort in building a strong, respected business and again, it wouldn’t have been Thoughtful to try to undo that hardwork.
So on day 1, we stood outside in the cold with no financial backing, no studio to work in, no kit and no clients.
Now anyone who’s been in business will tell you what you’ve just read is madness – they’d say ‘it’s a dog-eat-world’, and ‘it’s everyman (and woman) for themselves’. They’d say we should have been planning this for months, maybe even year’s and when you leave you take a client or two. But like our good friends at HOWIES, we want to find a better way to do business – a sustainable way to do business, built on long lasting relationships.
We wouldn’t go as far as to say all this was bad luck. It was our own decision to do it this way, but what it effectively did was set us back about three months in setting up, and about 12 months in building relationships with new clients.
Because we now had to try to secure some financial backing, find a studio, buy some kit and get some clients. And anyone in business will tell you, you should be selling whatever you have on Day 1, not meeting with the Bank Manager.
Our first bit of good luck was having the help and experience of a grizzled, old businessman called Peter Williams. Peter’s years of experience of dealing with banks helped us immeasurably, and through his advice, we we’re able to secure the money we wanted.
Now we know not everyone knows a ‘Peter Williams’ and we certainly don’t pretend to have an ounce of his business acumen, but we’d be happy to talk to anyone out there, about anything here (in the strictest of confidence, of course).
Our second, and undoubtably the biggest bit of good luck was not taking out a lease on a studio space we thought we really needed.
After spending a few weeks scouring the streets of Manchester from the highest office block to the lowest basement cellar, we settled on a space in the heart of the city’s shopping district. The agent very kindly allowed us to move in two computers, a printer and a few chairs, whilst we all waited for the paperwork to come through. You can see it below.
It wasn’t the most expensive office we’d seen, but as you can imagine for a space in Manchester’s shopping district, it came with a sizable price tag (and a three year lease). But for three thrusting, confident entrepreneurs, it didn’t worry us too much.
It’s fair to say, if the wheels of property leasing moved quickly, we could have very easily signed that lease in week one – thankfully they don’t.
Being in the office for about three weeks allowed us time to see how we would use the space, how much space we needed, but more importantly how much money we would need to turnover every month just to stay in business.
We can’t really name a single moment when we thought ‘THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE’ but with hindsight we can see there were plenty of signs telling us not to take the office. And, once we made the decision not to take the space, we duly apologised to the agent and with the clock ticking loudly above our heads we started looking again… this is where the bad luck starts.
Because we handled the previous situation relatively well, the agent we were dealing with found us another space which had just become available on the outskirts of the city. To be honest, the viewing was just a formality, we were just happy to find somewhere, and as it was a serviced office there was no need for any solicitors to get involved.
We viewed the office on the Monday, with a plan to move in the following Monday. But James took a call on the Friday before we agreed to move in telling him the office was already taken. The owners of the building were using 2 letting different agents, and the other agent had already lined up a company to take the office in a couple of weeks time, and not bothered to tell the agent we were dealing with.
Back to ‘Square 1’.
Our agent then suggested we take a look at converted School House about 500 yards down the road – it was perfect! It was a little bit more expensive than what we’d just been looking at but it felt right. Lots of character, not too big and with room to expand. You can see it below.
The downside was, the building wouldn’t be ready to move in for another three weeks. We weren’t exactly jumping for joy, but we were relieved the end was in sight. We measured up the room, whilst we worked on a project from our respective homes.
Every couple of days or so, we’d turn up just to check the progress of the building and on a Friday evening, just 48 hours before we had arranged to move in, and four weeks since we’d seen the property, James took a call from the agent telling him the owner didn’t want to let out the space to several small companies anymore, but rather one big one, and the deal is off.
It’s now the end of February, and we were spending so much time in ‘Square 1’, we were relieved we weren’t being charged rent.
Fortunately for Thoughtful, in James we have our very own Steven Gerrard, and he took the game by the scruff of the neck. He side-stepped the agent, got passed the receptionist of the previous office and tackled the owners. And by Monday we had secured our first studio. Which you can see below. This was a day or so after we moved in.
Here’s our first lesson:
Don’t rely on other people to make things happen – they won’t. Make them happen. (And, printing your own stationery in-house proved not just to be good for the environment, but also the bank account.)
So, now we had a bit of money in the bank, a studio and some kit, and on March 1st we were all sat in the same room, with big shiny computers and even bigger, shinier smiles (Stuart had just had his brace taken off). We were now up and running. Or to be more accurate, limping…
As so much of our business is conducted via email, and information gathered using the interweb, without a phoneline we weren’t a really a business, we were just three guys in a room smiling at each other. And it took another four weeks for those helpful people at BT to plug us in (which is pretty good, apparently).
Here’s another lesson we learnt:
Clients don’t care where you work. All they want you to be is on time, on brief and on budget. (And, BT are crap.)
Let’s get back to some good luck.
Our third bit of good luck was being chosen as Creative Review’s ONES TO WATCH for April. We have to put it down to luck, you just can’t engineer situations like that. It gave us something to say, which for a new company with no track record and no work to show, it was an amazing ‘door opener’ to a lot of great companies which we wanted to work with.
This bit is definitely bad luck.
We always knew we were going to make a few mistakes in business, the question was how big. Thankfully we stopped this one (quite by chance) before it got serious.
It involves our accountant. Let’s call them ‘X Accountants’. Things appeared to be going well, we met, he provided us with some projections and helped a little in setting us up. We paid what we owed on time and then carried on.
Every now again James would call just to ask some questions about VAT, and the fascinating world of accounting. When James asked ‘how much would it cost us to have our year end figures dealt with by X Accountants?’. The cost came back along with all other account charges to date. It appeared we had been getting charged for every email and phone call we’d made to the accountant during the year. Without our knowledge.
What’s wrong with that, you might be thinking? Well, take a look at what we were getting charged for and ask yourself if you would like it?
What makes matters worse is we had been quite clear with X Accountants about all charges. We are a small company and didn’t want any surprises. We were explicit about all charges being approved up front. But that’s the problem with a verbal agreement, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
If this hadn’t been picked up when it was, we could ended up with a bill in excess of 5k. It would appear this is ‘standard practice’ – so be aware.
The lesson here is: Always read the small print in any contract.
We’ll finish this bit with some good luck.
Thoughtful have been asked to judge the D&AD global awards this year. It’s a huge honour for such a young practice. And we’re really, really looking forward to it.
We’d say being a single parent and trying to raise a family is hard work, not what we do.
So, to sum up m’lud. If you’re thinking of setting up on your own, here’s a few tips that may help smooth out the ride a little:
1. Don’t do it on your own.
It’s a huge task for one person. There’s so much that doesn’t involve ‘designing’ which will have an impact on how much work and ultimately money you can generate. Of course it can be done, and successfully, but make sure you know what you’re taking on before going it alone.
2. Know what you’re all doing.
If there is more than one of you, make sure you all know what your role is in the company. At Thoughtful, James handles new business and the money side, Chris handles creative and keeps the blog moving and Stuart handles creative and awards. Any other bits, like recycling or ordering stationery we sort between us.
3. Be interesting.
Don’t just pick any old name for your company. Think long and hard about how it can help get you in front of clients. Take design group LOVE for example – a great name, in our opinion.
In an increasingly crowded marketplace, a good company name opens up a myriad of ways to sell your business. And, think about who you want to work for. This sounds obvious, but everyone is chasing the likes of Honda, Nike and Royal Mail. Improve your chances of getting a brief by going after clients off the beaten track. Besides, if you’re not going to do something new, why bother? We’re trying to find the next Honda, Nike and Royal Mail.
4. Give some thought to the company you’re leaving.
Three people leaving in quick succession is a big blow to any business, so do as much as you can to make your exit as smooth as possible. And, don’t steal your employer’s clients, it’s bad karma, plus designers love to gossip – this is a small industry and bad news travels twice as fast as good news.
5. So, what do you do if you don’t have any clients on day 1?
Make sure you have at least 12 months wages behind you. And, even then keep a tight rein on what you spend – we’ve lived off Diet Coke and Jaffa Cakes for quite some time, this year. Why? Because it takes about 12 months to turn a phone call into a presentation, and a presentation into a job, and a job into money.
6. If you’re going to speak to a bank, don’t just speak to one.
We’re still waiting to hear about our application for a business loan, from the bank that thinks there is ‘Another Way’. And, get a good business plan together with projections – an accountant will do this for you (but see point 9 first). This process can take 2-3 months, so bear that in mind.
We don’t want to go into too much detail about the financial side of setting up Thoughtful, other than to say, if you want to borrow money from a bank you need:
– some of your own money to show the bank you’re serious
– a well thought out business plan
– a reliable accountant to help with your projections
Remember, a bank manager doesn’t know the design business, how good you might be as a designer, or what award you’ve just won. Think of it like you’re about to go on DRAGONS’ DEN. Banks deal in facts, and are risk adverse. They want to see you’ve done your research. They want to know about your competition, if you have any clients, how you plan to chase invoices and where you see your business in five year’s time.
7. Do your homework (or legwork to be more precise) regarding a studio space.
If you’re planning to rent some space, make sure it’s flexible (no long term contracts) and very cheap. As we said, clients don’t care where you work from. The only way to do this is to get out there and see what you can afford, it can take up to two months to find the right place. It’s tiring and depressing but stick with it. We’d suggest not paying more than 5k a year for about 300 sq ft (including service charges, business rates and rent).
8. It might be good to talk, but not for four weeks.
If you have a new studio, it will take BT about four weeks to come and hook you up to the interweb, and it’ll cost about £180 . So either have your studio space sorted before you leave your current job, so you hit the ground running. Or make sure you know what you’re going to be doing in that time e.g. working on your presentation.
9. Learn to ask questions.
No-one cares that you’re a new start-up with limited funds. Make sure you ask up-front about any charges before you meet ANYONE, and before ANYONE starts work on your behalf. If a print spec changes, ask how it will effect the final invoice. If an accountant needs to speak to you face to face, ask if it’s absolutely necessary – and if it is, go to see them.
10. NEVER take ‘no’ for answer.
If there’s a client you really want to work with, keep knocking on their door. They’ll either get really annoyed and issue you a firm but fair solicitor’s letter, or eventually see you’re serious about their business and let you in – either way you’ll get an outcome.
11. Don’t expect a supplier to care about your work, sometimes they don’t.
We briefed one of Manchester’s biggest and brightest web agency’s to put together our small Thoughtful mini-site which we wanted to launch on Christmas Day, last year. It took them 3 days, it wasn’t anything like we briefed them to do, and they couldn’t put it right because they were going on their Christmas do – they went and got merry and we got a bill of £500. In the end, we did it ourselves in couple of hours, on Christmas eve with the help of a friend. Oddly enough the same web company we used recently went into liquidation.
12. Free pitches are shit.
We liken it to walking into a restaurant, ordering six main courses and then telling the owner you’re only paying for the meal you liked (and after a team of chefs have spent two weeks preparing the dishes). But they are a reality, and if you have no clients they can be the only way of winning work. They also give you a better chance of winning work than spending three days filling out a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. Despite all our account experience, on paper Thoughtful ranked 46 out of 66 companies looking to get on the NWDA’S recent design roster (we dread to think who was below us). If you don’t know, PQQ’s work on a scoring system, we failed to get scored in 7 of the 16 sections of the PQQ, largely because we haven’t been in business for more than three years. We even got ‘nil point’ for awards. We’re not suggesting don’t do them, we’re simply saying don’t be surprised when you get knocked back.
13. Design relationships.
Put as much effort in designing relationships, as you would designing a new visual identity. We are in the business of communication, so get to know what makes the people in the companies you work with tick.
14. Be generous with your time.
(If you’ve made it this far, you clearly have time to spare.) Make time to see everyone and anyone who wants to see you. Take MICHAEL JOHNSON for example. He’s a designer at the very top of his industry, and with that comes the inevitable increased demands on his time. Yet Michael has always made time to speak to us, respond to emails or offer advice. He’s set a great example for us to follow. We can’t understand why heads of design groups suddenly behave like heads of state when they get ‘Creative Director’ printed on their business cards. We work hard to ensure we respond to all emails (especially students) and see anyone that wants to see us, but we limit any meeting to 15 minutes. (If we’ve missed any emails, sorry, please get in touch again.)
15. Life can be hard enough, so make time to enjoy yourself.
We like to attend as many talks as we can, to learn as much as we can about the industry we’re in (as well as industries we’re not in). It often means we have to sleep on trains, work weekends or late nights but we were doing that anyway.
None of this is by any means the recipe for success. There’s so much beyond our control that can go wrong. We’re currently discussing the impact a recession would have on us, and what we would need to do to get through it. Because as we all know, if it happens, marketing budgets are ‘first to wall’. Thankfully, we’d never have the unenviable task of letting the receptionist go – we don’t have one. And, we quite like diet coke and Jaffa Cakes for lunch.
Well that’s it. Setting up Thoughtful hasn’t so much been a learning curve, more a vertical line, so we have to doff our caps to those of you who’ve done it. You have our deepest respect.
Thanks for taking the time to read this Christmas post. We hope it’s been of some help. And, fingers crossed we’re still around this time next year to write a new chapter.
James, Chris & Stuart
(By the way, nearly 11 months on, the builders are still working on the School House.)
Thoughtful thanks must go to (in no particular order):
Andrew James Jones
If there’s anyone out there who can offer up a bit of advice or horror story of their own which could help someone who’s thinking about starting up, please leave a comment.
…comes from JAMES & JOE (seen here looking nice and festive).
They’ve illustrated a magical winter wonderland with various people that have been a part of 2007 for the two of them, and have set it to a great soundtrack. If you look hard enough, you might just see our ugly mugs in there, too.
We’re loving your work guys.
Click HERE to see it.
Yesterday, we took a trip down to Mwnt beach in west Wales, to meet our friends at howies and talk about a project we’re all working on.
After our beach meeting, we spent a few minutes picking up the litter which had been washed in, just a few hours before we arrived.
Mwnt beach is a beautiful and small beach, and it was a real shock for us to collect (amongst other things) over 50 plastic drinks bottles. If this happened everytime the tide came in, in a year the number of bottles would be close to 38,000.
Thankfully, the people at howies take time out of their business and regularly come down to Mwnt beach for a trash walk – even in late December, when it’s ‘minus seven’.
Good work howies.
Thoughtful’s ’Environmental News Story’ on the issue by reporter Stuart Price, can be seen below.
Yesterday, Thoughtful took part in a Santa run around Salford Quays in aid of the BHF. It wasn’t a long distance to run (3km) for someone like James, who is used to doing regular 9-10 mile runs. But for someone who is just about used to running for the bus (Chris), it was a quite a challenge. The event was also good practise for Stu, who is due to take part in the BATH HALF MARATHON in March for FRANK Water.
We arrived at Salford Quays to pick up our Santa suits and were met with the sight of hundreds of Santas doing a mass warm up. It was quite a surreal really. To top off the good spirits, the race was kicked off by the one and only Chesney Hawks.
Here are a few shots of the day.
Chesney is the one in the beige coat and turned up jeans. He was quite short.
We wish we’d thought of getting round the course like this.
This is about 20ft from the finishing line. Notice how James looks as if he’s just warming up, while Chris looks as if he wants to keel over and die.
We managed to complete the course (without stopping!) and think we all finished in the top 30. All in all, it was a good way to spend a Sunday morning. Ho ho ho.
Thoughtful were recently invited to take part in the YCN’s Pinata Challenge. YCN sent out 50 pinatas designed by Anna and Lauren from JIGGERY POKERY, to various studios and individuals, and the challenge was to open the pinata in the most interesting way.
For those who don’t know what a pinata is, according to Anna and Lauren, a pinata is a brightly coloured paper container filled with sweets and/or toys. It is generally suspended on a rope from a tree branch or ceiling. Typically a succession of blindfolded, stick-weilding participants try to break the pinata in order to collect its contents.
Here’s what we came up with. It was actually quite a scary experience!
We didn’t manage to break the pinata, so if anyone else wants a crack, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send it out.
Thanks to the ever thoughtful MAT WRIGHT for letting us use his studio, cheers Mat.
We’ve been asked a few times over the last week if there will be an extended deadline to our D&AD tombola competition. Well, we know it’s coming up to the end of term and you (students) are all busy finishing off your projects to get them in before Xmas, so it wouldn’t be very Thoughtful to refuse.
The new deadline, to coincide with D&AD’s own awards, is now Wednesday 16 January 2008, and there will be no extensions on top of that.
Here are three examples of what others have sent.
Graeme from Derby University designed a new recycling logo for Liverpool College so they could have a more ownable recycling policy.
Rob Butcher and Caroline Paris from Loughborough University did this fantastic light projection for the Samaritans, a thoughtful organisation.
Jon Cherry from Falmouth University sent a shot of himself getting his hair cut. His act of Thoughtfulness was simply giving his hairdresser an extra fiver for doing a good job.
And for anyone new to the competition who doesn’t know what we’re talking about, here are the rules again.
As fully paid up members of club D&AD, we at Thoughtful each get an Annual – we think that’s a bit greedy, so the Thoughtful thing to do is to let someone have a chance to own one of them.
But we don’t want your money, you pay with Thoughtfulness.
It could be anything from rescuing a spider out of the bath, helping an old lady across the road, or helping an old lady out of the bath.
Simply take a picture of your random act of Thoughtfulness, and email it to us.
And, to show you there’s no funny business going on, we’ll make the TOMBOLA DRAW live on the Thoughtful website, as well as posting the draw on YouTube. The announcement will be on our site on Wednesday 21 January 2008 at 1pm.
Two runners-up will each win a 12 month D&AD Student Membership, and a third runner up will win a pair of D&AD Lectures tickets, courtesy of D&AD.
So, to re-cap:
1. Only students studying for a career in the creative industry can enter, anywhere in the world.
2. Send us a shot (no bigger than 2MB and 72dpi please) of your random act of Thoughtfulness, with your contact details and which course you’re currently studying on, to: YOUARETHOUGHTFUL@WEARETHOUGHTFUL.COM
3. Enter as many different random acts of Thoughtfulness as you like.
4. Closing date is Wednesday 16th January 2008.
5. We may like to use the images for non commercial purposes (such as on our website) so make sure you’re happy for us to do that.
Thoughtful’s prize draw is supported by D&AD. Registered charity No. 305992. www.dandad.org
Together, we can make the world a more Thoughtful place™
HOWIES invited us to the opening launch of their shop on Carnaby Street, London, yesterday. We’d seen pictures of the shop, but it’s even better in the flesh. Even though it’s small, the shop if perfectly formed with loads of nice details, including hand-drawn illustrations on the walls, a sink so customers can re-fill their water bottles, bookshelves crammed with interesting books, and an amazing wooden table upstairs that has the girl’s jeans laid on. The shop really captures what howies is about, something that can’t have been easy to convey with it being in central London. For a first attempt at a shop, the howies team have done brilliantly.
All the guests that attended were given a tree sappling as a present. As it’s coming up to the end of Thoughtful’s first year, we had the idea of planting the trees, and taking pictures of them every year. The pictures would make nice page dividers if we ever do a 20 year book of Thoughtful’s work.
While we were on the very boring trip down to London, we played a ’designers edition’ of eye spy inpired by a POST on Russell Davies’ blog. The game was to spot vans and lorries with the most useless company straplines.
Here’s our top three.
Morning, we’d like to offer our apologies to any Thoughtful blog readers out there who have tried to watch one of our movie clips over the weekend, and was denied access to them.
We think the problem is down to our webhost blocking them for taking up too much bandwidth (we’ve been told before). We’ll try and fix the problem as soon as possible.
Our movie clips are back up now, hurrah! Apparently DAN GERMAIN is a popular guy, all the views his movie generated had locked out our server as the bandwidth wasn’t large enough, our webhost told us.
If you tried to view it and couldn’t, sorry, it should be fine now.
One at a time please!
There are 10 days left for you to get your entries in to our student Tombola competition. First prize is this year’s D&AD Annual, with two runners up prizes of a Student D&AD Membership each for one year, and a third runner up prize will be a pair of D&AD lecture tickets.
We’ve had lots of great entries in so far, but there’s still time for more. You’re allowed to enter as many entries as you want, and as the winners will be pulled out of a tombola, the more you enter, the more chance you have of winning a prize.
All the competition details are HERE.
Here’s the talk Dan from innocent did on Wednesday.
If you’re confused about the Borat comment at the start, there was a guy sat on the table in front of Dan who was a Borat impersonator. Dan got a bit worried that he’d rush the stage.
This morning we attended the second day of the BUSINESS NORTHWEST event to see Doug Richard give a talk about his career. You may remember Doug for his stint on BBC 2’s DRAGON’S DEN. He told us he had two Dragon’s Den records. One for the least number of investments made, and one for the most offers rejected by the entrepreneurs.
Doug was nothing like how you see him on TV, he came across a lot less serious about business, he was funny, and most significantly and surprisingly, put most of his success down to luck. That’s why we’re blogging this actually. For those out there who are starting their own studios, or will do in the future, it’s useful to know that luck may play a huge part in your success.
One of Doug’s stories of his early days in the software business (pre internet), involved a man called John. John was from IBM, and had been given an assignment. He was given a year and a bucket load of cash to find someone who develop the technology to digitally morph a picture of a large person, into a picture of a thin person. This was needed for a client of IBM who was in the health and fitness business. They wanted to install the software in their gyms. Back then, this software didn’t exist.
So by chance John walks into Doug’s office one day, tells him what he needs and ‘does he know anyone?’. Doug said ’We can do it, but it’ll cost you $10,000 for me just to think about the problem’. So basically John pulls out a cheque and Doug was left with a dilemma. He didn’t have the first clue how to come up with the software. One night shortly after, Doug’s wife was flicking through the TV channels and by chance an ad came on for a company who could digitally place a new hairstyle on a picture of your head, so you could see how you’d look before you went to the hairdressers. Doug contacted them and asked could they ‘do bodies’ too. They said yes, so Doug bought their software and tells John to get his butt over there. He then supplies it to IBM for a very tidy profit indeed.
Thoughtful are only 9 months old, yet we’ve been in situations in which if certains events had not happened, we wouldn’t be here today. Lady Luck has definitely smiled down on us a few times this year. We’ll save our story for another day.