I'm really looking forward to 2014. The set up at Form went through a complete rethink in the latter half of 2013, and 2014 will see us putting this into practise with verve. Part of our longevity in running – very hands on – a successful, high profile branding and design studio over 22 years has been down to reinventing our offering over the years, embracing innovations in technology & new media, and developing new ways of working & thinking. This has now led to Form co-founder Paul West and I making a brave decision to do it differently.
People have talked about the concept of "hot-desking" for years, but we are resolutely putting that into practise. We decided to rent out our spacious Shoreditch studio. Over recent years, many of our clients never seemed to have the time to visit us for a meeting – let alone pick up the phone thanks to the pdf-&-Dropbox culture of presentations.
"It is irrelevant where we are working from, so long as we are there to create the work."
Paula Benson, partner, Form
So we are now enjoying the freedom of being "mobile entities" – working wherever the mood takes us – from the lounge, to a members club, from the garden, to the flip-down table on the back of a plane seat. We moved our mammoth server to the cloud (fantastic!), which has helped facilitate this mobility. I was at a gig recently waiting for the band to come on, and put our new tech to the test by grabbing a PDF design file from our cloud server using an app and emailing it to a client from my iPhone – which was pretty damn exciting, not to mention time saving.
We undertake so many different types of projects: from cutting-edge websites to beautifully printed brochures; to strategy, brand positing and messaging; from illustration to photography – all requiring different skills and experience. We have no set style, but we do have a particular approach. Form now operates where Paul and I are the 'think tank' hub that our clients plug into – we come up with concepts and solutions, implementing and designing these ourselves, or we enlist help from freelancers as and when we need them.
For larger branding projects, we place work with smaller design or tech teams, sometimes acting as 'executive creative directors/account handlers' - steering and guiding. Our clients safe in the knowledge they still get the same Form quality control and attention to the design or branding problem.
We only work with clients who speak to us
We've seen the 'client landscape' change in recent years – especially how they brief and expect to work with designers. We know the best work does not come from pitching: especially not free pitching which we never do – it's not good for the client, it's not good for the work, it doesn't achieve the best results and it's certainly not good for design agencies morale. We have made a choice not to work with clients that expect a response to a brief by chucking out a round-robin email without a call, or a face-to-face chat.
I am 100 per cent convinced that team work, a sense of value, good communication and relationships bring about the best work, so moving forward, our new set up means we can choose to work with those who respect us and embrace the notion of relationship rather than taking on projects to pay the overheads which a great many agencies do, of course.
Importantly, this new way of working free's us up to work on other projects outside of Form. Paul also has time now to develop his art side and get his hands dirty (literally, with charcoal), and I also have time to investigate an exciting new online business I have been toying with for a while.
And it means that the teams and individuals we work with are more responsible for themselves, their own time, and their own output. It also gives them more autonomy and a sense of authorship and freedom.
I think this way of working will be more common place in the future, as people work towards productive and exciting collaborations – as and when they need to – as opposed to the 'behemoth' agency approach. Form is now more flexible, adaptable, more efficient, and to be honest, we feel more creative. It's also a more soulful and fulfilling way of earning a crust - whilst still producing work that excites our clients and which helps them achieve their (ever demanding) targets and brand messages.