I’m Lee, one of the partners at ‘Designed By Good People’
Business is about relationships. It’s good to get to know people. So I thought I’d do this virtually.
No, don’t worry. I will try to keep this short but sweet. Let see, born in Nottingham, lived in a small seaside town called Ilfracombe for many years (everyone seems to have been there at some point in their lives), went to college at Somerset and was taught by one of the founding members of a design company called The Partners. Little did I know that they were one of the best agencies in the UK and I owe a lot to Malcom Swatridge, Brian Sweet and others. So thank you. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this without you.
After graduating in 1992 life was a struggle. Every design company I went to seemed to go bankrupt after I had an interview. Peter Saville left Pentagram after my interview with them! I thought I was responsible for the demise of Michael Peters, The Yellow Pencil Company and many others. I eventually got a job with Blackburn’s. We sat at desks facing a wall. The computers were in a separate room. All our visuals were done by hand and presented as mock ups. It was very old school, we even made our own rubdowns (if you don’t know what these are, please comment, it would be interesting to know how many people remember the term!). I got to be a whizz with the airbrush and often went home with multi-coloured fingers. For 2 years I worked on Walls Ice Cream designing Gino Ginelli (remember that) and Vienetta, various ports, whisky’s, sherries and dog food. We got to try a lot of it (the alcohol, not the dog food!)
I learnt a lot at Blackburn’s but was eager to work with other clients. I jumped ship to work with an old school designer called Darrel Ireland. We designed J&B Whisky, lots of packaging for Waitrose and Knockando. It was just the two of us, but I learnt a lot from Darrel. While I was there I got a letter from my dream agency, Minale Tattersfield. On my second interview I was offered the job and I took it. Unfortunately Darrell took it rather badly and despite being the only other person in the studio, he didn’t talk to me for 2 weeks! We parted friends however and stayed in touch and often went back at weekends to help him out.
I loved Minale Tattersfield (and am still friends with them now). It was like a family. I don’t feel that I should divulge any stories about them here, but lets just say it was a huge amount of fun with some really great people. Stand out jobs were for the Refinery (male grooming parlour, which included their naming and branding), Natwest (where I got to be a male model posting as a F1 Driver for a photoshoot in Tottenham Court Road, unfortunately it was for Jordan and I looked like a cross between the Stig and a giant banana). I remember pasting up a 72 page annual report by hand in a day along with it’s Arabic text. Computers were slow back then and we still used set squares and drawing boards. But things were changing and the age of the computer was upon us.
The greatest thing about working in design is that you never stop learning. I felt it was time to move onto the next learning experience and joined Smith & Milton in 1999. I got to work on some great jobs there, like MYMY, AXA, Sainsbury’s, Coca Cola, Nationwide and AOL and have work in their book that was published a few years ago. But the atmosphere and culture of the company changed and it wasn’t as pleasant a place to work at any more. It had changed quite quickly with people leaving and joining and I felt I didn’t belong there any more. So did my boss, as he actually fire me, then later apologised and asked me to stay. A few months before 9/11 I had a break and stood on the top of the world Trade Centre while I thought about my future.
Another opportunity called and I joined P&W in 2001, just before 9/11. It was the dawn of the internet and I watched these buildings I had been standing on top of shortly before falling to the ground in an horrific act of evil. The world had changed a lot in a few years from pasting up annual reports by hand a few years earlier, everything was now done on the Apple Mac.
I stayed at P&W for 8 years and keep in touch with my old bosses. I worked on a lot of Tesco packaging including Tesco Finest, Organic and Fairtrade ranges, but my heart was in the work I did for other clients such as Loseley Ice Cream, Liberation, Olly, various charities and start ups run by people who believed in what they were doing. P&W also entered and won a lot of competitions which was great for the ego. While I was there I was asked to give some talks on design in El Salvador in Central America. It’s an amazing country full of amazing people, many of whom I’m lucky enough to call friends. But little did I know that trip would lead to a life changing event.
That life changing event was on another trip to El Salvador. On the last day before I left, a friend had set up a dinner. I was conveniently sat next to a rather pretty girl who was thinking of leaving her job at Ogilvy and studying a masters in London at St Martins. We stayed in touch and I helped her out when she came to London finding a place to stay. A year later were were married in El Salvador in the church where her uncle used to be the priest.
After 8 years and over 30 design competition nominations and awards at P&W I felt it was time to move on. So I joined Davies Hall as Design Director. We worked with Asda and the National Trust mostly. We had lots of fun and it was a tight knit studio, but after a year the company closed as the directors (a husband and wife) wanted to do something different and not have the stresses of running a larger agency and having to get big clients to feed it. This resonated with me, so rather than take a few offers I had from other agencies, I took a different path:
I started Designed By Good People with the pretty girl I had sat next to at dinner with in El Salvador.
Ariana had worked for Ogilvy, McCann Erickson, M&S and Wally Olins in the past and now had her MA from St Martins. We had done some small jobs together, mostly community based things to help save our local swimming baths from closure (which we did) and our local library (which was also saved). We liked it and we worked well together. Which was fortunate as we had also got married! We wanted to have control over what we did and who we did it for. We wanted to work with clients we liked working with, doing work we believed in.
Our lives and careers are a journey. Now as parents to both a business and an inquisitive toddler, we carry on learning every day, from all that we see and do.
Talking of what we do: