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The Ideal Studio
Graphic Thought Facility

Graphic Thought Facility was set up in 1990 and boasts a top-notch roster of clients with real design pedigree, such as Kvadrat, Vitra and Frieze Art Fair. There are 12 people including a studio manager based at their offices in Clerkenwell.

Andy Stevens, co founder of GTF, on...

Not trying too hard with a creative space...

“I think the creativity and productivity going on in our studio is down to the mix and talents of our designers rather than (or in spite of) any environmental factors.”

“Our space is good for us but it’s not necessarily a space to win clients over – people want to work with us because of the work we do. I don’t think anyone would be tremendously impressed by just seeing our space, it’s a working environment. Maybe like the difference between a working farm and an idyllic holiday farm.

“We might not fit with what they expect a creative business to look like but in some ways that’s not a bad thing. If they do not feel our space because it’s not swanky enough then it’s probably not a good fit. If they don’t feel they could work with us because our space is not smart enough then it’s probably not a good fit to begin with.

What a good studio manager can do...

“At first when all our peers were getting studio managers we thought it sounded a good idea but we couldn’t quite imagine what they would do because we had always done everything ourselves. But now we find having a studio manager a real help. There’s already so much to do as a designer to have someone who can take care of the logistical things like property or contracts or liaising with IT is great. There is so much that goes into running a company so it’s good to have someone who is not preoccupied with a client deadline – that will always take a designer’s eye off the practical things.”

Mistakes they made starting out...

“I think in the very early days we were embarrassed about asking for payment. We had come straight from being students and it took some time to get the confidence to realise we were providing a professional service and should be paid accordingly. We didn’t have the discipline of paying ourselves a regular wage for years, we just divvied up money as and when we got it and I’m not sure that was the right thing.”

The one change he’d make to the GTF studio...

“For time to move slower here. We do not have account managers so the designers and directors speak directly with the clients, they get all the emails all the questions about logistical or budget matters. On one hand that’s great because you get really good first hand relationships which makes for appropriate and well thought out solutions but it does take up a chunk of people’s days. It’s always a treat to make a bit of time.”

On sharing process with clients...

“I hate the question on tender documents 'How will you approach this project?' I don't feel the process can be broken down into a set procedure. Creative people will think about the problem creatively, that's enough. Following that I am happy to rationalise why we think this is the best solution for the problem.”

Structuring teams and idea sharing...

“We are very broadly organised into teams but it’s defined by current clients – we don’t have a web team or an exhibition team. Input from other people in the studio is always welcome but it’s done in a casual way, we don’t have a formal process for sharing ideas.”

The Ideal Studio...

“Calm but not reverentially quiet, organised, spacious enough for noisy and quiet to co exist, comfortable, welcoming, well lit, well located but still not far from my house, well stocked stationary cupboard, fridge and biscuit barrell, a drinks and tea trolly, outdoor space, a huge well lit empty space adjacent that we can borrow for free when needed, about £10k a year. Actually, a lot of this sounds just like Derek Birdsall’s studio and in many ways that as always been my dream studio since I visited it as a student.”

graphicthoughtfacility.com

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