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The agency that was doing remote work before it was cool | #CompanySpotlight

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Gravita is a full-service agency based in Leeds that was very much ahead of the curve as far as remote working is concerned. Indeed, they were a fully remote company from the very start when the doors opened back in 2012.

They have spent the last 10 years collaborating with teams to “build brands, products and experiences that have a meaningful impact.” It’s a company built on a foundation of working together, sharing knowledge and leaving a lasting impression.

We spoke to Founder Benn Raistrick this week to get the inside scoop on Gravita and how it manages to do this while setting itself apart from the other UK agencies that have only just caught up to the remote working future.

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How was your company born and where are you based?

We were born in 2012 with a need to be slightly different in how we approached being a design/creative agency. Myself and the other founder at the time had worked for large successful agencies in the UK and had become drained by the culture and approach with clients. 

We also wanted to take a different approach to upcoming designers and provide a transparent and inclusive mentor platform, teaching designers not just facets of design but business too, so we formed Gravita. We’re based in Leeds, however, are a fully remote company and have been from the start.

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

At first, we focused a lot on start ups and SME’s who were trying to help people in some way with their services or products. Sometimes that meant navigating investors, budgets and product roadmaps and this meant scaling wasn’t always easy. 

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

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The biggest success was helping New York fintech Amenity Analytics with their brand and product relaunch. The result really shook up their sector and every competitor of theirs began to directly copy and use paid ads to try to replicate their success. They went on to a huge series B funding round. 

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

Building out our internal product to help teams minimise production and bridge the gap between design and development while providing them with resource independence. 

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

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This is a difficult one because it’s intrinsically tied to everything that is Gravita; from how we approach prospective partnerships to how we cost, roadmap and move forward. Relationships are super important so we don’t go into any project with a service provider/client mentality, we embed ourselves into the team and share every day with every member, including stakeholders.

We also have a deep discovery period where we essentially live inside Google Docs. No design, nothing visually creative, it’s all about cognitive load and getting up to speed with the company, removing assumptions and making as many mistakes as possible.

In 10 years we have never done design concepts. The first design has always been accepted primarily because of our discovery. Ego and subjectivity is always removed. Not following trends but the needs of both the business and the people it serves. The only exception to this is crafting identity, which can be very personal.  

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

The is no hierarchy within Gravita or roles, we have a list of roles to which anyone can apply themselves when they think they can add value to want to challenge themselves.

The health and well being of our team come above all. We don’t track time and hours and actively ask each person to take time to unwind, recharge and be with family. By doing this we create an environment which releases immense creativity and productivity. We are immensely proud of what our team are doing both past and present. 

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

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Not really, we work globally and during that time we had relationships with teams who were frankly booming due to increased tech needs. Helping more healthcare and digital tech companies was a big side-effect of the pandemic. The biggest challenge was not being able to get together on our meetup days. We all missed each other. 

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

Some companies are doing amazing things like Green Chameleon in Bristol or Super Friendly Co in the US who have a similar business model to us and were quite inspiring. For individuals, I would say Tobias Van Schneider. The work he and his team did for Nasa was so outstanding.

Also in terms of the design community, you cannot raise Dann Petty high enough with events such as Epicurrence (which we have been to two) and the books he writes he endlessly and selflessly helps the design community. Beyond that not really inspired we like to form our own inspirations and personalities. 

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

Be more communicative. Almost every agency goes away for a week does some work then presents, which only creates a snap subjective reaction as opposed to seeing how something is shaped and why. We share literally every day no matter how much has been achieved.

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

We never pitch and are quite against the process in all honesty as we think it sets a bad precedent for a relationship. Our process is about having conversations and having an active interest in what companies are doing; not selling them anything but showing how much we love the startup space and when they ask we share.

Most of the work we get is referral and though sharing work and communities, we’re heavily tied into the U.S design communities and have attended Epicurrance several times. The key is being visible and sharing everything. 

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

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That we can pigeonhole people into roles less, focusing less on titles and more on the output. I also want the industry to provide better platforms for the new breed of designers through mentor programs which don’t just show how to design a logo but teach business and why we make the decisions that we do. More transparency, less ego. 

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

Resources yes. Books not so much. 

If you’re not looking into webflow then you’re missing out in a huge way. We’ve been an exclusive Webflow development and design team and it’s really empowered and elevated us more than I can say.  

Design full time by Dann Petty, if you’re freelancing and just starting out or want to learn something new this guy is your go-to. 

Shamelessly our own product Straple. It’s essentially an agency in your pocket. 

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