The Future Collective is a strategically led creative consultancy based in the UK globally renowned for both thought leadership and creativity. Since 2019 they have worked with ambitious global brands and startups alike, creating distinctive brand identities and designing progressive brand communications and experiences.
We spoke to Co-Founder and Strategic Director Kate Shepherd to learn more.
How was your company born and where are you based?
We were founded in 2019 with the ethos of collaboration over ego and an ambition to foster and nurture rewarding client relationships. Our team is driven by a deeply held belief in the transformative power of design and the potential to create better brand communications, experiences and solutions.
Our studio, in the heart of Leicestershire, is a space that encourages collaboration and puts wellbeing at the core of everything we do.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
There’s no denying that we founded our company during difficult times; from global pandemic to financial crisis. That said, we feel that the resilience and strength these challenges presented have only made our company stronger.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
Quite early on we were fortunate to be commissioned by Audi to create their global Act4Impact program to promote sustainability within their supply chain.
It was a year-long project that really stretched our thinking and was perfectly aligned with our intention to Design for Better. It’s currently being rolled out to 16,000 suppliers worldwide.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
How we position ourselves as a leading strategic agency, working with the right brands on meaningful projects. Whilst empowering our team to become creatives, strategists, designers, project managers, augmented by AI.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
It’s our belief that truly brilliant creativity is always firmly rooted in solid strategic thinking; the two go hand-in-hand. Because for design to truly hit the mark and to be enduring, it has to show deep understanding and empathy for the consumer and have relevance to the context that it surrounds.
We have carefully defined and honed a Brand Transformation process of three clear stages; brand orientation, brand vision and brand articulation
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
The Future Collective values work-life balance and we actively promote employee wellness, offering flexible work arrangements and promoting a culture of self-care.
Based in the Leicestershire countryside, we often take walking meetings around the beautiful office grounds for both mental and physical health benefits. Every employee benefits from 2 additional enrichment days off work per year to facilitate enrichment, learning and inspiration.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
We were founded before the pandemic and yet, interestingly, we had already decided to create a hybrid consultancy whereby people could work from home. Therefore the impact on our working days was fairly minimal.
From a wider perspective, we found that the pandemic proved a real leveller in the design industry, enabling us to have a loud voice at a time when many of the much larger agencies had furloughed their staff and gone to ground.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
We’ve always been hugely inspired by IDEO. Their approach to design thinking has led the way in the creative industry for decades and is very aligned with our own ethos and methodologies.
We are really proud to be a member of the B Corp community and constantly inspired by the community of other like minded companies that we are connected to. We are also aligned with the Better Business Act and a member of the Clean Creatives initiative.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
One of the most important things to consider when founding an agency and positioning it for growth is to be really clear of your values and vision.
Very early on, my co-founder Matt and I wrote a manifesto for The Future Collective, which became known as ‘Design for Better’. Not only did this provide us with clear internal guidance, it helped us to consider the clients and sectors that we really wanted to work for.
I would also advise people to take a steady approach to growth and to take time to really consider your hires. As founders, both Matt and I have found that having the right team around us is absolutely everything.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
Over 70% of our work comes from word-of-mouth and recommendations from both previous and existing clients. We also apply future forward thinking when approaching brands, to ensure they have shared passions and aligned values with The Future Collective.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
A number of things are going to happen really quickly as we augment AI into the design process. It’s my hope that transparency and trust will become core to the design process.
But also, as leaders in our industry, we have a sense of responsibility to ensure that the craft and the art of creativity in all its disciplines is taught and passed on to the next generation of leaders.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
We love It’s Nice That, Dezeen and Frame for daily design inspiration. We also enjoy connecting with Space10 as we feel they are very like-minded in their approach.