Campbell & Co profile
David CampbellTourist attractions in Scotland normally equate to drab trips to Stirling Castle in primary school. The most enjoyable part of such trips was normally the time spent in the gift shop, buying up all the souvenir rubbers your satchel could carry to launch at each other on the bus home.
Not any more. The tourist industry has changed over the past few years, and with the resurgence of film, music and literature within Scottish culture the country is simply buzzing with visitors. Campbell and Co is one of the few design agencies aiming to cash in on this, designing visitor centres for many of the nation’s top visitor attractions.
David Campbell set up Campbell and Co after moving from London to set up a Scottish arm of his design partnership with CHD (Campbell Helliwell Duncan) ten years ago.
He split from the company two years after that and formed Campbell and Co, which now employs ten staff and has an annual turnover of around £3m.
To date, Campbell and Co has created visitor centres for, amongst others, the particularly newsworthy Falkirk Wheel, Cairngorm Mountain visitor centre, the refurbishment of the Royal Yacht Britannia, and its move to the Leith Terminal, as well as Scotland’s first National Park, again something which has been making headlines.
The company is now venturing into the area of design; introducing a graphic design arm to the business. Campbell, however, sees this development as a natural progression: “Our client list is quite extensive – from the Royal Yacht Britannia through to Historic Scotland,” says Campbell. “We wanted to develop a holistic approach to the whole thing, from creating identities to brandings and logos for the projects that we work on.
“We have just expanded the company to incorporate a graphic design department and we are looking at trying to get more corporate work – we have so much experience in using graphics for all the different things that we do for the visitor centres, and then we are designing brochures and logos to go with it. It seems there is a new opportunity to use those skills and move slightly sideways by moving into the corporate market. Our new graphics department is therefore much more focused on the commercial end of the market.”
This move does seem to coincide with the downturn in Scotland’s tourist industry. Following the foot and mouth crisis, and also 11 September, the media has been convinced that there will be a downturn in the tourism industry.
Has Campbell been affected by it?
“I think that it is starting to hit (the industry as a whole). I think that there are a number of factors that have caused the downturn. Foot and mouth definitely affected tourism last year. But at that point we were already under way developing projects for the following year.
“Normally our projects take around six weeks to three years to develop, so last year we were already under way with many projects for the start of this tourist season. There is now a domino effect and I would say that if the market is being affected by 11 September then it will trickle down and hit us.”
But Campbell insists that his company is doing well: “The turnover in the next year will probably be around £3m, which in terms of the Scottish market is staggering. I would say that the market we are in is slightly undersung, but I would also say that we are one of the market leaders in Scotland.”
So, how did Campbell manage to find a niche market in the overcrowded world of design?
“We came into it through a series of commissions from the Scottish Tourist Board, where we looked after the performance of tourist information centres and made them more efficient, which had an immediate effect on the performance of tourist information centres in Scotland. Then we were asked to look at the performance of visitor centres, mainly from a financial view. We were then asked to look at the design and development of attractions. It was a whole organic process really.”
So, what is Campbell’s favourite tourist attraction in Scotland?
“The Falkirk Wheel was a great project for us – it is a new design and gave us the opportunity to try to combine the ethos and the feel of the actual building, along with the contents of the building. It wasn’t something that was harping on the past – it is something that will become in the future something which is worth heritage interpretation.”
But whilst the idea of traipsing around the visitor centres of tourist attractions might not seem like the most entertaining way to spend a weekend, Campbell insists that things have changed in the tourist sector and that a day out to a local museum can be more about entertainment than education.
“Our motto is to tell the truth about heritage – to inform, not lecture, and above all to have fun. We are in the entertainment industry. Most people who come to our centres set out not to be educated, they are looking for something that is going to be fun. Formal education has its place – most kids get that in school. They don’t want to go out at the weekend and get a scholarly lecture.”
So the next time you are dragged by your spouse/child to a fascinating look at a stamp collection, remember that you are truly part of the entertainment industry ....