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Drawing the gap between in-house design and creative studios | #CompanySpotlight

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Draw is a UK-born architectural interiors and branding agency whose mission is to “bridge the gap between in-house design and creative studios.”

From new interior schemes to visual identity and packaging design, it works with leading retailers, hospitality companies and creative agencies to create experiences that truly inspire and engage. Some of their clients include Globe Trotter, River Island, Phase Eight and many others. 

To learn more, we sat down with company Co-Founders Chris Boniface and Jess Codrington

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How was your company born and where are you based?

When Draw was created, it wasn’t our original intention to start a design studio. We both had experience working with clients in-house as well as freelancing for some well-known design studios. Gradually, we began to attract more private jobs from industry peers, and it just grew from there. Our studio is now based in London, which is our hometown.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

The biggest challenge was marketing ourselves, particularly to larger clients. Having come from a client-side background, it wasn’t something we had to do.  We knew we had to put ourselves out there and build a strong network of contacts to shout about what we do. This was definitely new and challenging for us.

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

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We are proud of all the projects we have worked on. However, our first big success was designing the flagship home for luxury goods brand Globe-Trotter in Burlington Arcade. Being a British heritage brand, in a prestigious location, it had to be relevant to today’s consumers, which came with a variety of challenges.

Seeing the end result was a huge success and made the whole process worthwhile. We are still working with them today on their international expansion programme, and that is the ultimate goal – to be able to accompany your clients through their development and growth.

What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

The biggest opportunity is definitely River Studios, which is a new retail concept designed to reinvigorate the high street. It introduces a modernised take on River Island. We wanted to ensure the homage to its craftsmanship and family business culture shined through. It’s important for us as commercial designers to help shape what this looks like from a physical customer experience point of view.

The project was circular, meaning we worked across different touch points, from interiors to fixturing, branding, POS and marketing graphics, while having to consider the sustainability, technology and brand experience of today’s landscape.

Working on such a unique project will hopefully give us more exposure to work with other forward thinking and unusual brands.

Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?

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Our in-house experiences help us understand that every client works differently. We need to be flexible with our approaches and adapt depending on the client. Having a commercial understanding of things such as how financial decisions are made and how the technical realisation of a project works helps us with our creative dialogue with our clients.

It all starts with understanding your clients and not just their aspirations and goals but how they inherently work as a business.

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

We remain inspired and motivated by going to industry events, interacting with spaces, people and environments. Even with today’s digital society it is important to observe how people engage with different settings. It’s important that we as designers experience these things too.

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

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Being a small studio, we were able to adapt enough to navigate the challenges of Covid-19. During this period, a lot of our work was retail-based, so what affected retails directly, affected us. It made us look at how we can diversify our client base and ensure our skillset is transferable to a wide range of commercial sectors.

Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Most of our inspiration comes from smaller studios like ourselves that work with independent, unique businesses, and have to be creative with materials and budgets. With larger agencies, Brinkworth is probably one of our heroes in the industry – since we were both young designers, they have been highly creative, diverse and experimental. They explore design boundaries for their clients rather than having a recognisable ‘house’ style.

What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

I would say learn when to let go and hand over work to allow yourself more time on things that will aid business growth or make you more efficient with your time. Starting up, you have to do everything yourself, which is good, but sometimes can be overwhelming – so learning to delegate is key to avoid burnout.

How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

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It’s about building strong relationships with people you know in the industry, there is no better marketing than word-of-mouth. Be natural, your work will speak for itself, there is no fixed formula for new business. You’ve got to constantly keep exposing what you do to other businesses.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

I hope there will still be an appetite for people to come into the industry, a lot of online ‘moonboard’ visual forums can create a bit of a ‘design wash’ that makes everyone feel like a designer, but still a niche still to understand, design and technically communicate physical environments.

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

Creativepool, of course! As well as industry insights such as Dezeen and superfuture for international design news. “Architecture: Form, Space and Order” by Francis D.K. Ching is a great old school for learning fundamentals on scale and design communication. We also love Thames & Hudson publications; they always do beautiful illustrated books for Design, Photography and Fashion.

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