Nobody likes change. Somehow, it is how we as humans are coded from the onset. Change freightens us, making us defensive and sometimes even aggressive, in the attempt to preserve a status quo. For that reason, it is fascinating to see how the creative industry aims to be a driver of change against all odds and challenges. Just as it is fascinating to read stories such as the one of Silk Pearce.
Founded some 35 years ago, Silk Pearce went through a significant change of leadership and direction in 2020, with new creative partners taking on the legacy of the original agency founders. As an established small creative and design agency, Silk Pearce has an amazing and colourful portfolio of design and it is the proof that ambition can take you anywhere, if you're willing to fight hard enough.
Having lived through the pandemic, the team is now focused on delivering projects with the same amazing quality as ever, bringing their unique vision into the industry. For this Company Spotlight, we are hearing from Anthony Blease, Creative Partner, to learn more about the inspiring story of such an amazing team.
How was your company born and where are you based?
Silk Pearce was founded in Colchester, Essex over 35 years ago by Peter Silk and Jack Pearce. The company soon gained a reputation in the industry for its design work across branding, print and digital, with ideas-based design remaining the linchpin of our approach ever since. In 2020 the agency undertook a significant direction change, entering an exciting new phase of business with a relaunch and new leadership team. This new direction has been spearheaded bylong-term team members Rob Steer, Ian Coote and myself taking over from the founders as Creative Partners. The vision of the relaunched Silk Pearce is to expand the company’s strong heritage in print and reposition our craftsmanship within a broader future-facing landscape.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
As with all companies there are ups and downs, highs and lows, recessions and booms. We’re no different. The current global pandemic is of course a significant challenge both from a business point of view and on a personal level too. Some of our clients have scaled back work while they manage the effect of the pandemic, which has a natural ripple effect on the work flowing through our studio.
I feel the greatest challenge that we’ve had to face in our profession has perhaps been the task of remaining creative when so many of the tried and trusted creative processes of old have been compromised. I certainly feel we’ve risen to this challenge of adaptation well, and it has actually made us more flexible and effective designers in the process.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
I’ve always considered securing my first job post-University at Silk Pearce, and establishing a place within the creative industries, as a big success. Seven years later, I’m still a part of the agency, having grown personally and professionally to become a Creative Partner.
Having started my journey at the company on a student placement, I’m particularly aware of the importance of connecting with the next generation of creatives during a time when accessing the industry is harder than ever. One leadership action that I’ve found particularly rewarding was launching our ‘Student Studio’ - a virtual portfolio review initiative we designed to offer emerging creatives a chance to connect with the industry during lockdown.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
Once restrictions start to be lifted, we’ll aim to get back on track with many of the brilliant ideas we had in place when we initially took ownership of the business in March 2020. I think the real opportunities, however, will be born out of the pandemic, with businesses across the country having a renewed level of optimism, triggering an outpouring of creative opportunities.
One of these opportunities will be accelerated flexible working. We had an eye on introducing this prior to the pandemic, and the past 11 months have only made us realise more than ever the creative benefits of flexible working patterns. We’ll therefore look to shifting towards a more permanent schedule of adaptable working, which will give our team the space to be as creative as possible.
Can you explain your team’s creative process?
The cornerstone of Silk Pearce’s approach has for a long time - and continues to be - ideas-based design. We challenge ourselves to seek out that idea that stimulates an instant connection between product and consumer. Internal communication avenues are vital to our process. We encourage collaborative working by sharing progress, ideas and thoughts on a daily basis. We also love being experimental, using a wide array of mediums in our work whether that’spaint, pencils, Adobe Creative Suite or Procreate on the iPad. It’s important to be inquisitive to ultimately discover which medium is best suited for a certain project.
We also realise that creativity is sparked by imagination, so we encourage members of our team to venture outside of the studio to visit exhibitions or talks. This has obviously been difficult during lockdown, but we’ve been trying to attend as many virtual events as possible to keep learning from and being inspired by the wider industry.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
It’s certainly been a challenge while working from home, whilst most cultural venues have been closed. We follow the feeds of industry magazines and blogs such as Creative Review, Design Week, Creative Boom and The Drum, amongst others. We’ve also attended online talks and events such as Nicer Tuesdays and Typographic Circle.
We make sure we also have daily calls and chats to uphold the collaborative spirit within the team, and keep the communication avenues wide open. This enables us to maintain a continual flow of ideas, a crucial aspect of team inspiration.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
From a positive standpoint, the pandemic has been a live test of flexible working that we’d planned to introduce last year whilst more broadly testing our leadership credentials. Other than the internal creativity advantages of flexible working, our view of external communications has also altered. In the past we’d have almost shied away from having a skype or zoom call, much preferring to travel and meet in person. Whilst we still can’t wait to meet our clients face-to-face when the time is right, we’ve now recognised the efficiency of going virtual in some instances.
Rob, Ian and I have also increased confidence in ourselves as leaders, having steered the ship through very testing waters in our first year as Creative Partners. We’re pleased with where we find ourselves currently and we’re excited for what the future holds.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
Jim Sutherland at Studio Sutherl& has always been a particular hero for me. As a fellow Norwich School of Art alumni, I’ve closely followed his career and looked up to his creative success. Studio Sutherl& was even the most awarded design studio by D&AD in 2017, a fantastic achievement which I could only dream of!
I’m also constantly wowed by Hey, the Barcelona-based studio. Their simple but unique style is instantly recognisable, and they really are pushing the boundaries of design.
What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
I’d actually have two main pieces of advice. Firstly, always do what you feel. Lead with your creative impulse! The very essence of creativity and a creative mindset is that it should be free of boundaries, so don’t feel restricted, even by the pandemic, and always allow your creativity to guide you.
Secondly, it’s certainly beneficial to leave room for curiosity and never hold back on asking other creatives for their advice. Reach out on Instagram or by email. Trust me, your creative heroes are more responsive than you think.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
I hope that the industry never forgets the true value of craftsmanship. In an increasingly digital-first world, it would be easy to cast off the printed page as a tired and outdated medium. Yet, the layers of craft and immense talent that go into designing for print should not be thrown aside. Instead, they should continue to be embraced by the industry. We can even bring physical craftsmanship into the digital realm. If we think of the web page as akin to its physical counterpart, and bring the same level of care and detail in our digital design, the creative potentials are endless.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
Instagram – it’s a real mix of creatives and a truly democratic view into the industry. I like how quickly and unexpectedly you can come across an inspiring designer or creative when not searching for them directly. The platform enables design to mix with other interests you may have, and is tailored to your interaction.
It also allows for creatives to simply share their work, without having to say their life story or feel the need to! But you can also sometimes see snippets of your creative hero’s personal life, which is always fun.