Me & My Partner
Paul (left) and Graham (right) get down to the dirty business of design.Graham
“Graham, remember at the end of the day it’s just ink on paper” – words of wisdom that echoed across the studio to me over seven years ago, from some guy who’d just joined GraphicPartners about a month after me. It was Paul Sudron, a shaven-headed, die-hard Middlesborough fan whose eccentric side, I would later discover, included an obsession for garden sheds ...
Years later we would find ourselves heading up two of the creative teams. We shared a straight-talking, say-it-like-it-is passion (which includes me regularly reminding him that karaoke isn’t his strongest talent) to create the very best work and to further ourselves and GPs. Our new positions gave us the opportunity to push things further but, despite being in different teams, we shared focus and determination.
Working amongst friends and having good times led to GPs being named Consultancy of the Year in 2001. For the 30-year-old company it was great to be there in the winning year. Our determination began to pay off when new doors began to open. The opportunity to present to Selfridges in London was a turning point in both our minds. The enthusiasm from the potential client was great to see and gave us a taster for the kind of clients we wanted to be working with. Leaving the meeting, we both knew that our view on things would be different from here on in.
We realised that, given the opportunities, we could produce creative work but we needed the strategic support and people who could give us access to like-minded clients.
We never considered setting up on our own, with new “one man band” design companies launching in Scotland every other week. One minute you’re the one to watch, then never to be seen again. We knew that to succeed we would need to be part of something that did things differently. Being a big believer in fate, out of the blue came the opportunity to talk to Elmwood. Together we had always admired them and the work they produced. Initially we were unsure if we were doing the right thing; GPs was a good place to be, but after one meeting with Jonathan Sands I knew that, if Elmwood was going to be in Scotland, I, together with Paul, had to be part of it.
We were thrown straight in at the deep end in week one, finding ourselves competing for business against ten other agencies. In a temporary office space, spray-mounting visuals outside in the rain at 3.00 a.m., we did wonder if we’d made the right decision. But after winning the new business, a year later we are sitting in new offices, we’ve made some great new friends at Elmwood, we’ve learnt a lot this year, with new ways of working and solid support, our determination and enthusiasm for Elmwood to succeed in Scotland is even greater.
To find someone you can work closely with to produce good work whilst having a laugh along the way is hard. Finding someone you can always rely on, who’ll never let you down, is harder.
After seven years, I now know that to Paul it’s about much more than just ink on paper!!
Who was that carrot-topped, gangly bloke who used to nod at me as he walked past Pure Design all those seven years ago? It was 97, and even though I was having a great time working alongside Mick Dean at Pure the chance to move on arose; a tough decision but, like most designers at certain times in their career, change can be a good thing.
As I walked through the door on my first day at Graphic Partners, there sat a few familiar faces; one, in particular – that very same gangly bloke. On his first greeting of “Alright”, I noticed he was a fellow Northerner, albeit from the Northwest. Noticing also his T26-type screensaver on his Mac, the signs looked good. As the months passed it was obvious there was a lot of common ground: design, football, and the odd beer. As well as a healthy dose of taking the piss out of each other.
Even though we were having good times and we were leading different teams at Graphic Partners it was always good to know I could rely on Graham’s down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach. When you’re around people who are enthusiastic and are always trying to push things, that rubs off.
A few years down the line there were rumours afoot that Elmwood was about to open offices in Scotland. After several meetings with Jonathan, the chairman, it was clear to us there was a real potential for us to work somewhere that didn’t just follow the norm, but could offer something very unique in its approach to projects. All new things take time to reach their full potential but, having moved in to new offices and working alongside new colleagues, it’s great to maintain an old partnership along the way.
Not quite the Odd Couple but, like all successful partnerships, it’s the differences that help make it work. Whether it be the arguments over Kylie or Glen Campbell playing on the I-Pod, or the fact he never gets off his arse to put the kettle on, and maybe because I’m writing this with a pen and he’s using a fancy laptop, it works!
Those seven years ago when I met Graham, did I break a mirror?
I prefer to think seven is my lucky number.