Working from Sheffield young design duo Tado is intent on taking over the world with cute toys, a dog, and a saccharine sweet vision of the future.
Although officially set up in 2003 in Sheffield, Mike Doney and Katie Tang have worked together as Tado since their student days. The name Tado is an amalgamation of their surnames. “We began working together while on the graphic arts and design course at Leeds Met Uni,” says Doney.
“A tutor suggested we work together on an animation project. We found we got on like two pigs in mud and decided to keep collaborating. We graduated in 2003 and had already decided we wanted to carry on into the freelance world.
“Tado was officially set up as a partnership soon after and we're now based above a new media gallery in Sheffield's cultural industries quarter.” Sheffield's cultural industries quarter was set up in 1981 as part of a pioneering regeneration project.
“Before the Tado era,” she adds, “neither of us had much experience working with computers and although our work was quite similar in some ways, they were heading in different directions. Starting working together was a real challenge and a huge breath of fresh air for both of us.”
Now, Doney says, “I suppose you could say our specialities would be character development, illustration, Flash animation and graphic design. We also do a lot of our own work, such as toy design, merchandise and collaboration in art show projects.”
Working for British Airways was a key project for the pair. “We worked with London agency Fitch to re-brand British Airways' kids' club Sky-Flyers,” says Doney. “We worked closely with their designers to develop two mascot characters for the project - Bravo and Alpha - who formed the main identity for the club.
“We also created two short animations featuring the duo to introduce them as dynamic characters. The pair can be found on all manner of Sky-Flyers merchandise and promotional material, and BA even had life-sized mascot costumes made. The project was a bit of a turning point for us as it was the first time we had worked as part of a team for such a large client.”
So far, things are going right. “We count ourselves very lucky in that we can honestly say that we haven't had any real disasters yet,” says Doney, “touch wood.”
“We work both independently and also for other agencies and are now also represented by Debut Art.” He adds: “We really like the position we're in at the moment, as we seem to have a nice balance.”
The UK industry as a whole seems to be, “in pretty good shape”, says Tang. “There are a lot of people just doing their thing and they seem to be doing really well for themselves.”
Tado stands out because it's based in Sheffield and not in the design shark-pool that is London. Sheffield, like a lot of post-industrial British cities, has changed in the last decade, but it's a long way from Shoreditch and Soho isn't it? What's a funky design team like Tado doing up there?
“From our experience being based up here has certainly never been a problem for us,” says Tang. “We do come down to London for meetings perhaps once or twice a month, which we really enjoy,” she adds, “but we think that although traditionally London has always been the place to be, these days location is less and less important - technology has made it much easier to work over distances and TDR and DED have certainly proved that you can be successful without being in London."
“Most of our projects are done via email, and this lets us work with people all over the place. We think probably about 80 per cent of our work is done this way.”
“We also have an exhibition over there with the rest of the Flying Cat artists in a cool store called Dragonfly,” says Doney. “At the same time we hope to release a series of toys based on a Japanese Crass tribute band called Ryoko and the Sissyfists.”
That's not all: “In terms of design work, we're looking forward to getting our teeth into some animation work with Red Star Studios,” he says. “The guys produced an animated blip using some of our characters recently and it's got us really excited.”
After that, and for the future, the pair say, “We'd love to really push our work further into the Japanese and US markets - global exposure is high on our list.”Doney adds, “It would be good to build up the products and retail side of our stuff - we love creating things and it's something we find very satisfying. One of our dreams is some kind of retail outlet, and perhaps a chow-chow kennels.” Told you, too much tartrazine.
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