Sugar Creative is regarded as one of the leading creative innovators in the UK. Through the power of emerging technologies such as AR and VR, the team crafts beautiful stories (often with well-known characters) and works with brands all over the creative industry, from advertising to entertainment and gaming.
Sugar Creative believes in the power of fearless innovation and creativity. Embracing risks and change to find new creative solutions seems to be the norm for the team. Of course, with such creative drive, their efforts are bound to pay off; Sugar Creative and the Fictioneers venture have secured a Bronze award in The Annual 2021 this year, for their impressive work on Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up.
In this Company Spotlight, we are learning more about Sugar Creative from Managing Director Jason Veal and Creative Director Will Humphrey, to uncover the secrets of such an inspiring team of creative professionals.
How was your company born and where are you based?
Sugar Creative is an innovation studio based in Cardiff, Bristol, and London. We deliver wonder by bringing imagination to life via the products that we create across the worlds of science, arts, events, and marketing.
The company was founded in 2008 by Jason Veal & Dan Clemo with a vision to bring innovation and disruptive creativity to the market. We are now a 15 person strong organisation growing our team continuously and expanding our skills.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
As a company we have grown very quickly in a short amount of time, which leads to the challenge of managing that growth and keeping our values of creativity at the forefront of what we put into the world. We continuously explore the balance between being truly innovative, the commercial requirements, and needs of our clients.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
After working with a range of national and international clients to explore innovation in technology our first big success was the iUK grant that we received to develop an international demonstrator of the potential of emerging tech to create audiences of the future. A project that culminated in the creation of Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up.
From this we were able to really show what we can do as a company and we went on to secure work with Dr Seuss Enterprises with ‘Dr. Seuss’s ABC – An Amazing AR Alphabet!’. Further to this our Audience of the Future project Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up went on to win and to be shortlisted for a range of awards including being shortlisted for two Cannes Lion awards. The combined impact of this established our strength for working with IP in new ways. Most recently, we had a further huge success with being selected as one of the teams to deliver the UK Government flagship cross sector cultural project, FestivalUK*2022.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
We are exceptionally proud to be part of the FestivalUK*2022 Collective Cymru project, one of 10 teams from around the UK that are developing work to be shared with the world in 2022. We are currently in development for this and when launched it will explore how we share our national cultural stories though traditional formats mixed with hybrid experiences, and demonstrate how we can reshape these to engage with audiences.
We have a lot of other exciting projects in the pipeline that unfortunately we can’t share at the moment but follow us on social media to be the first to hear when they go live.
Can you explain your team’s creative process?
We believe in fearless innovation and meaningful collaboration. It’s a team effort and no idea is too big or too small, everyone’s thoughts matter and you never know where the breakthrough is going to come from. We love to problem solve and explore the questions being asked from every angle, it’s how we are able to create such dynamic work that we have such pride in.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
We like to think that as the team leaders this starts from the top. We love having open discussions on new breakthroughs in the industry and encourage our team to share what they are finding and working on. So many of the great things that get produced are done through playing with ideas so we really support our team to mess around and experiment.
We also encourage our team to look at what else is happening in the world, not just within AR/AR industries but culturally and socially as inspiration can come from anywhere, as can our next big idea.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Like all companies 2020/2021 has been a challenging time for us, we had to send our team away from the office to work from home but still try to keep the essence of the company and our working practices alive. We are fortunate to have a highly motivated team that rose to the challenges of the pandemic with exceptional enthusiasm and positivity.
This was also a big time for growth, whilst we were unable to work together in person, we found that clients' increased openness to digital meetings has led to us taking on more projects from all over the world. This adaptation to hybrid working has also allowed us to employ the best in their fields from around the country as we have seen the traditional walls break down and the world open up.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
There are so many great people in our industry that we have met over the years, the LAB Group have been a big influence on us and how we want to build our business and the inspirational advice from their CEO has been invaluable.
The team at Unity, including Timony West and Andrew Maneri, show us the meaning of how to push boundaries in the tech industry, pioneering the technology that we then apply in our work.
Outside of the immersive sector we are inspired by and challenged to create bigger and better ideas by the incredible work of Claire Doherty MBE, National Theatre Wales, plus the team at Fran Wen. We are also in awe of the dedication that independent artist and disability access advocate Kaite O’Riley shows, working with her she helps us strive to constantly do better in our practices.
We are also inspired by those who achieve change, we have had the pleasure of working with Rhian Mannings MBE (2wish) and Dai Hankey (Manumit) on their projects that focus on supporting those who have life changing loss and on the rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown, our biggest growth and learnings as a company have come from the unexpected projects that we have taken on. You never stop learning in this industry, there is always new technology to master and new stories to bring to an audience so embrace not knowing what will come next.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, referrals etc.)
Lots of our success has been via word of mouth, we are very lucky that the reputation of our work precedes us and speaks volumes when we begin working with a new client.
We also love to speak about our work at events around the world, so we get noticed this way, and to share our thinking with the industry.
We like to have a balance of projects, so we also love taking on R&D for clients or as part of wider work. We have great relationships with the leading software companies so can access the latest tools to push our work further and be showcased in their reporting.
Lastly, we try to remember that the key is to get the client to experience the work that we make, showing them the wonder of AR and the possibilities that it holds helps them think big.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
One of the biggest areas of our work at the moment is how we can integrate inclusive practices and tools into the work that we make, it is such an important area that our industry needs to keep evolving with. Our hope for the future is that we are working towards an industry that can be accessed and enjoyed by all, regardless of personal needs.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
Yes, here are some of the things we are looking at at the moment:
Drive / When - Daniel H Pink
The Invested Investor by Peter Cowley
Reality Check by Jeremy Dalton
Augmented Reality by Mark Pesce
Confession of an ad man - Ogilvy
Homo Deus / Homo Deus - Yuval Harari
Unity forums and events