DesignStudio is an international design agency that has created brand identities for household names such as Airbnb, the Premier League and Deliveroo. At the beginning of 2018, after success with their London and San Francisco locations, they opened a third studio, in Sydney, Australia.
We caught up with Creative Director James Gilmore to see how it’s been going so far.
Hi James. How has the first few months been as Creative Director of DesignStudio’s new Sydney office?
It’s been an incredible ride. Building something from the ground up is really exciting. I’ve been travelling around the country talking to potential clients, building the team, working with the London and San Francisco teams and starting to build the long term vision for where I want to see DesignStudio Sydney in the next few years.
Can you tell us about your background before taking up this position?
“Building something from the ground up is really exciting.”
What made you want to rejoin DesignStudio having previously worked for them in London?
What really cemented it for me was that the company I left and the one I rejoined felt totally different. As a studio we’re constantly growing, changing and working in new ways. Coming back, wasn’t going back to the DesignStudio I left, this is something new.
The opportunity to bring that to a new country, to build and lead a studio was an incredible opportunity.
What was the process like of setting up the studio and building a team?
It’s been a really interesting process. Working with Ben and Paul (DesignStudio’s founding partners), we’ve been working on getting the studio setup since the end of last year. The core parts of founding the studio have been around building reputation and relationships to drive new business, finding a studio space, interviewing and hiring the right team and all of the everyday operational considerations that keep a studio going on a day to day basis.
It’s not something to take lightly, we’ve put a lot of work into doing it right.
“As a studio we’re constantly growing, changing and working in new ways.”
Why was Sydney the right place for DesignStudio to set up their next team?
It felt like a natural evolution. London is ten years old in January, San Francisco is nearly four years old now. So when we started looking at where we could open the next studio, Sydney felt like a really good fit, for a number of reasons. There is a really great design scene here, with some incredible talent. It’s clear to us that there are some really interesting and ambitious clients in the market, who value the organisational difference great design can make. By having a studio in Sydney, we can also move to a more global footprint, where we can serve APAC, London can look after Europe, the Middle East and Africa and San Francisco can work across North and South America.
What’s the relationship like with the London and San Francisco offices in terms of the projects you work on?
We’re really connected, and something as all three studios grow we’re going to continue to push. I’m speaking to the other studios on email most days, we connect weekly on a hangout and every year all three studios come together somewhere in the world for a Christmas party. That connected approach is really key for us.
In terms of work, we look at each job individually for its requirements and opportunities. Sometimes we share work across the studios if it makes sense. Our relationships with our clients are key, so it makes sense for the team physically closest to the client to build that relationship and do the work.
“Sydney felt like a really good fit, for a number of reasons.”
Do you have a set process for approaching a new project?
Not really. We approach every job, relationship and opportunity with an open mind, optimistic to the possibilities. We flex how we work dependent on the client, their needs, challenges and the market. This approach has allowed us to work with a wide variety of clients, from fintech to sport, and banking to aviation.
Is there anything, graphic design or not, that has inspired you recently?
I’m always inspired by what I read, see or hear when I’m away from design. A personal project of mine is learning to surf. The peace and time for reflection, sitting in the surf affords me is really inspirational.
I think the recent redesign of the Guardian was one of the highlights of the past year. I think we forget how important it is for great design to play an active daily role in the lives of us all and how it shapes the way we view the world.
“I’m always inspired by what I read, see or hear when I’m away from design.”
What is your favourite typeface?
It’s tough to pick one, so can I start with favourite type designer? I’ve always had a soft spot for the work of Gareth Hague. There is something beautifully modern and ‘on trend’ about a lot of his work whilst also being timeless. Ano, the typeface he developed for Another Magazine is a personal fave. It has an amazing range, and personality from simple and classic, to weird and wonderful, all in one typeface.
Lastly, what do you look for in a new designer?
Hiring a designer starts with a conversation, so I want to meet someone with an interesting viewpoint on the world, on technology and how design is shaping the world around us. If you can keep an interesting conversation going, I think you’re halfway there.