Many would lose hope in the event of a global pandemic hitting the industry. Matter of fact, many did – at least for a bit. That was not the case of Rhapsody.
Starting out as an East End print production company, Rhapsody operates in the retail and travel industry and has obviously been hit by everything that Covid could throw at it. But just as the company was hit, it was equally able to stand back up on its own feet, never losing hope and forging ahead to continue its ambitious intercontinental expansion plans.
'Faith' is an important buzzword in Rhapsody's philosophy. It takes some strength to be Rhapsody, and it sure took some pretty good quality of leadership to get the company this far. For this Company Spotlight, we got in touch with Jamie Rankin, Group Creative Director at Rhapsody, to learn more about the story of such an incredibly exciting company full of creative energy – a story with plenty of lessons for any creative venture out there.
How was your company born and where are you based?
We started out as an East End print production company and have been powering ideas since 1980, producing content across many mediums. Over the last 30 years we have brought together a team of industry experts across all types of media, to be able to offer a truly holistic content production solution. Being backed by the largest independent printer in Europe, naturally production and print is in our DNA. From large-scale print to more bespoke digital assets we manage solutions out of the UK, Poland, Spain and, very soon, New York.
What was the biggest challenge for the growth of your company?
Definitely adapting to modern times in the context of the current unease. However, because we are content natives, we have the agility to be able to move with the ever-changing media landscape. We strengthened our client offering, allowing us to add consultancy, creativity and digital to a now full end-to-end service.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
Earlier this year we were awarded The Drum Recommends Award for Creativity & Innovation for the 100+ staff category, which really confirmed our status and evolution as an agency. What made us prouder was that it was voted for by our clients.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
In the next year, we’ll be looking to expand into the U.S. (which is a much brighter prospect now!) and further global markets. Hopefully, with that will come bigger teams and more talent.
Can you explain your team’s creative process?
The initial brainstorm is the part that the whole team likes to get involved in, so it is very much an open floor at that point. We like to comb the brief, avoid screens, do our research and keep an open-mind. Getting as many ideas out of our heads, no matter how silly or obvious they are, is important. We are big fans of old-school sketching, too.
Once we’ve exhausted that, we whittle down our options to see which hold water. Some present themselves as stronger than others. It’s one thing to come up with the ideas but what is often overlooked in the process is selecting the right route to go down, which is a mixture of good information and instinct.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
Creativity is a 24/7 job. We are always on, always absorbing inspiration from everywhere and reacting to the world around us. If an idea is strong enough, we’ll pursue it and produce something. We also encourage creative outlets for the team. Passion projects and hobbies like art or photography help us in two ways: 1) They provide a way of training the eye and brain while doing something we love, 2) They keep us fresh and reinvigorate our approach to typical day-to-day responsibilities.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
It has affected everyone so, sure, we have taken a hit. We had clients in the travel and retail industry who had to rethink their whole business model and, ultimately, they had to make cutbacks on campaign and marketing budgets.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I have many. I saw Michael Beirut do a talk while I was at college, so I have always followed Pentagram. We recently lost some design heavyweights in Sir Terence Conran and Milton Glaser who really blazed the trail. However, I’ve always come back to those who inspired me starting out: Josef Muller-Brockmann, Dieter Rams, Lance Wyman, David Hockney. I could go on! It’s worth adding: there’s some amazing young talent out there that is equally inspiring.
What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
To keep the faith. You can’t keep creativity or great ideas down. Be proactive and produce work, even if it’s just for your own amusement and social channels. Also, go running, get out or exercise. We get our best ideas when we start to switch off.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
That it goes from strength to strength. There’s a lot of talent out there, so we can only hope that there are still plenty of briefs and opportunities to go round. If not, we’ll make the opportunities.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Magazines are a constant go to. I’m always flicking through my wife’s Vogue for new trends and patterns and there are some great editors and creative directors at the helm of some very provocative publications - @coverjunkie is great for this. I personally also try to look where no-one else is looking. Spitalfields Market on a vintage day has a wealth of old posters, books, album covers and interesting objects to take inspiration from.