Inspiration

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Focal Point: Beautifully simple at Studio Makgill

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Hamish, Creative Director of Brighton based Studio Makgill, took time out to talk to us about recent projects for clients including Boxpark, Nike and The Lollipop Shop, that all fall under the studio’s ethos to make “beautifully simple work”. Here’s what he had to say...

So, what are you guys working on at the moment?

We have always preferred to work for a broad range of businesses. The unique challenges that our clients face within their industries makes for a much more interesting work life for us.

We are currently working on a large project for specialist paper merchant, G.F Smith. Ongoing design for Bristol based brewery, Wiper and True. There’s an exciting collaboration in development with our client, H Furniture, that will be launched at this year’s London Design Festival. We are also building a new studio website. All of this on top of the launch of our first ever product.

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How has 2016 shaped up for you so far, as a studio?

It’s been a very interesting year. Personal events outside of the studio have bought into focus what is most important about what we do and as such I have taken the opportunity to really look at our business and reflect on things in a way that you often don’t give yourself the chance to do.

What have you got planned for the rest of the year?

More great work. More experimentation. More enjoyment.

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How big is your team, what’s the dynamic like in the studio and how do you all work together when a creative brief comes in?

We are a total of six. Myself, four designers and a project manager.

Six people is an interesting size. It’s small enough to feel intimate, but big enough to have personality clashes. So having a positive dynamic in the team is really important. For me it’s not just about hiring talent, personality has such a huge part to play in it. The balance feels just right at the moment. We are creating some fantastic work and there is a real sense of pride that is shared between all of us.

In an ideal world we would get lots of us to work together at the start of a new brief, but as a busy studio this is not always possible. So workload is a significant factor. I don’t really like to pigeonhole designers with certain styles that match particular briefs, so they get to work on all kinds of projects at StudioMakgill. I find taking people out of their comfort zone produces really interesting results.

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What project are you most proud of working on together recently?

I think it would have to be what we have been producing for G.F Smith. I don’t have one particular project in mind rather a range. From the new Gmund paper swatch and the event promotion that went with it to a paper display stand that is being rolled out across 10 of the UK’s top universities.

G.F Smith’s target audience is graphic designers and illustrators. Knowing just how exacting and critical they can be creates significant pressure on producing the finished piece. But if harnessed well, that can be really effective to delivering great work.

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What project has posed the biggest challenges recently?

I would say the FIELD project for property developers U+I. We designed the interior and exterior spaces, the way finding throughout, the website as well as the furniture in the café and main space. All on a shoestring budget. But it was the financial challenge that produced some of the most creative solutions.

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Yes, tell us more about your FIELD project - it looks super interesting!

Well, as I mentioned, it has been challenging. But the end result has been totally worth it. FIELD is based at the Preston Barracks regeneration site in Brighton. It’s a new hub for start-ups that design and make physical products – something that has been severely lacking in Brighton up until now. Our job was to bring the old (very dilapidated) barracks building back to life and make it into a working space the start-ups feel genuinely excited to be part of.

It it exists in a no man's land between Brighton and Sussex University and it would be so easy for this new project to go unnoticed. So our solution was to be bold – giant type on the front of the building, a red wooden tunnel as you enter and bright red hoardings surround the space.

But so much of the work is what you can’t see. Managing and co-ordinating suppliers and constantly monitoring the very limited budget was a huge part of getting the project live and on time. There were many firsts for us and so there was a lot of learning, but that is what we love to do.

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You guys work across a lot of mediums, do you have a preferred? Or one that you especially enjoy fulfilling briefs within?

Print. We love working digitally, but for us, producing something tangible is more stimulating. It’s something I have been doing for over 20 years and so as I designer it has always been at the core of my work.

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