Collaborative in name and nature: London-based studio In-Col on the importance of other people
London-based design studio In-Col, founded by Iain Worgan and Niall Wynne Lewis, have not only trusted their gut and intuition since starting out in 2020 but also champion their trust in other people as the studio’s guiding light. “Our practice is informed by conversation and mutual understanding with our clients,” they tell us, “and we think our outcomes are richer by being grounded in the client’s knowledge.” Speaking to the duo, we discuss the philosophy behind their collective approach to creativity, their dissatisfaction with the industry’s ego-driven culture, and shaping an open, communicative workspace.
HB Iain, Niall, hello! It’s great to be talking with you! How are things?
IC Hey Harry, all good here thanks, can’t complain.
HB To kick things off, for those who don’t know, what is In-Col? How would you introduce or define your studio?
IC We describe In-Col as a collaborative creative studio – we work across multiple disciplines and industries, often with early-stage companies, with the aim to build close and long-lasting relationships with founders.
Each mistake has given us a better understanding of how we should do things.
HB How and where did In-Col start? What was the journey you two went on to get to where you are now?
IC We actually met at the Royal College of Art – six years ago now, it’s really flown – we sat next to each other, but never really worked together during that time. When we left we continued meeting up to chat over beers or coffee and we realised we both went back into education for the same thing. To find a collaborator with whom to create a studio; one that allows us to work with various, talented people.
Our outlooks have always aligned, and we have both had similar frustrations with the industry; the egos, the lack of communication, the blame culture. It seemed only fitting for us to work together, to create a working environment that we felt is ‘better’ than what we had experienced.
A few work opportunities came along and we decided to work on them together. That was three years ago, and here we are now.
HB In what way have In-Col and your studio processes changed since you first started?
IC Dramatically. We have gone from having no process to relishing how we work and how we run our business. It’s been a steep learning curve and, of course, we have made mistakes along the way. Each mistake has given us a better understanding of how we should do things. They have been important in the continued evolution of the studio.
Over the years, we have placed greater emphasis on the importance of thoughtful collaboration. We work within a malleable and conversational framework; one that encourages clients to explore their business and the desired outcomes of working with us.
No one knows the client’s business as well as them.
HB Your name is literally collaborative – what role does collaboration play in your day-to-day?
IC Collaboration is the heart of our business, namely how we make work and decisions. We have hopefully fostered an inclusive and open environment, to make sure that everyone is heard and valued. We have a great and growing team around us.
Our practice is informed by conversation and mutual understanding with our clients, and we think our outcomes are richer by being grounded in the client’s knowledge. We firmly adhere to the principle that no one knows the client’s business as well as them.
HB You balance a mix of editorial, branding, digital and advertisement design. Do you find each discipline informs the other, and how do they direct the studio as a whole?
IC We were both formally educated in print, as most are within education. In our experience, we’ve had to do a significant amount of learning beyond our formal education, due to it being grounded in the output of a different era. This learning initially extended into the professional output that preceded In-Col.
It became apparent that to be a commercially successful and unique practice we would need to go beyond. We share a desire to learn; to continually educate ourselves; to find out how things work. This has translated into the services we offer; making us a responsive and forward-thinking company that works across various disciplines.
We strive to facilitate opportunities, better placing ourselves within the industry.
HB In-Col embraces both minimalism and warmth across its designs. How do you walk that line between clean lines and a sense of comfort to create aesthetic spaces that feel inviting and serene?
IC It’s been organic. It’s a balance we have found over time. We never set out to do something or have a particular set output; our work is the product of research and conversations. Everything we do has to be relevant and appropriate for the client and audience we are creating for.
It’s the diversity of this work that excites us.
HB Screencrib, a recent project of yours, looks absolutely fantastic. Can you tell us about the brand and how you conceptually approached the identity behind it?
IC Screencrib aims to position itself as the alternative to the traditional film-financing model. Through a platform that empowers audiences to invest in filmmakers at all stages of their careers, Screencrib is a collaborative community seeking to make better films. Our collaboration with clients, like Ruby and James (of Screencrib), has been nurtured. We strive to build great relationships because this results in work that, collectively, we are proud of.
The Screencrib identity has been created with the three core demographics in mind (Investor, Filmmaker, Audience) and based upon a type of sensory perception known as binocular vision, which most individuals use to see an object, and so two views of the same object are formed. We used this as the basis for image manipulation, with varying levels of application depending on the audience.
HB From cinematic funding and fintech, to sportswear and artist collections, your work certainly spans quite a range of industries and fields! Are there any areas that you haven’t worked in that interest you, and any that you’d like to explore more?
IC We aren’t industry specific. Instead, we have built a business around founders. This means we can work across anything. It’s the diversity of this work that excites us, more so than working within a particular sector.
However, from a business perspective, we acknowledge that it is easier to sell the services you offer if a client has seen your work in a similar space or field. The variety of our existing work is a guarantee of our future output.
HB Looking ahead, what’s on the horizon for you?
IC We have a clear plan for the next few years but hopefully, continued growth. It’s incredibly important, yet often not spoken about enough. When we talk about growth, we mean in terms of both finances and capacity, as this allows us to continue to create collaborative and impactful work.
HB If you were to give any piece of advice to those thinking of starting their own collaborative studio, what would you suggest?
IC Such a difficult question to answer. It’s good to talk about your personal experiences and offer guidance but we’re cautious in advising anyone too firmly. It’s for people to figure out what works for them. Everyone’s different and we would likely suggest different things to different people, depending on who they are. For us personally, though, we would talk about the importance of others. This business was founded on our relationship. There are sometimes difficult decisions and calculated risks to take, but it helps taking them with someone you trust.