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Charity Mental Health

D8 Profile

By The Drum, Administrator

November 4, 2004 | 8 min read

The D8 team cast a shadow.

The lift makes its slow progress up to the fifth floor of Hope Street’s Central Chambers. The corridors are echoey, like an old school. Empty offices line the sides, with old plaques telling the recent history of their occupants.

At the end of the corridor is a bold, red door announcing the presence of, seemingly, the building’s liveliest residents, D8.

The agency’s lofty offices – they are five floors up – are expanding fast.

Only five years ago, Adrian Carroll and James Young, D8’s founding partners, occupied one unit of the building. The agency, which today employs ten, now takes over four.

A busy James Young is sitting behind a busy desk. He curses briefly under his breath when he loses his place in the letter he’s reading. He puts the letter down, nevertheless, to introduce himself.

Moving through to the agency’s meeting room, he turns on a radiator and relaxes into a seat. D8’s been busy too.

“We’ve created a new brochure to sell D8 – the one that won at the Roses Awards – and I’ve only sent out about 30 of them,” admits Young. “And I haven’t even had the chance to follow them up. We’ve been too busy. People keep approaching us. But that means we are pitching a lot. We are seeing Scottish Enterprise and the Lighthouse today, Jim Beam on Thursday, with another on Friday, and that’s reasonably typical now.

“However, if half the team are working on these pitches, that leaves the other half to work on our regular clients. And if we win the pitches – we tend to win about half the pitches we go in for – then you have loads of new work to add to what you are already doing. It’s a vicious circle. But it’s the nicest vicious circle to be in.”

Since its launch five years ago, D8 has steadily attracted a raft of enviable clients. As the clients have arrived at the agency, so too have the staff. The agency employs a host of senior designers – there are no junior designers – including Keith Dodds, a former Young Designer of the Year, and recent recruit Laura Hutchison, former creative director at the Hub.

But just how does an expanding Glasgow agency attract some of Scotland’s most respected designers?

“We have a lot of arts clients,” says Carroll, who has entered the meeting room after finishing the task that was occupying him. “People want to do nice work. Of course, money is a factor – money’s a factor to everybody – but designers want to work on interesting jobs.

“Not to say that corporate work can’t be interesting too. It can be very, if you do it well,” he adds hastily.

D8 has an almost monopolistic hold of Glasgow’s major arts market, working with the Citizen’s Theatre, Tramway, CCA, the Lighthouse and Tron.

“It’s what they [designers] want to work on,” concludes Carroll.

“We don’t want to be seen as an arts design agency exclusively, though,” continues Young, where his partner left off. “We do have a lot of arts clients, and these clients are great for building a reputation around, but we also have a good number of more corporate clients.

“The marketing community in Glasgow is tiny. Especially in the arts. There are maybe 12 key people ... once you get in with a few of them, then word can get around.”

Young’s never shy when it comes to voicing his opinion – I should know, I’ve got the e-mails to prove it – and today is proving no different: “Networking ... I can’t do it. I can’t do the whole small talk, networking thing. If it got to the stage where we had to go out and network constantly to attract business then I’d say that we must be doing something fundamentally wrong. You really shouldn’t have to do that. The work should do that for you.”

And D8 has been letting its work talk for a number of clients, including the BBC, a number of local councils, the Students Loan Company, Glasgow Caledonian University and the Princes’ Trust. “We do actually have a frightening amount of clients,” he reflects. “Which is good, as we don’t rely on any one.”

Because every designer at D8 is a senior designer, a number of different styles are able to creep through.

And Young is quick to point out that he feels one of the reasons for the agency’s success is its ability to produce a range of different styles.

“At most other agencies there might be one or two senior creatives who come up with the ideas and these ideas are then filtered down to a junior or middle-weight designer to produce. Here, whoever comes up with the idea produces it. There is no room for egos. There is no real hierarchy. The designers just talk to each other each day while they are producing work, making sure it’s good work. It’s a very creative environment. I keep my nose out of it.”

Both Young and Carroll worked at Irwin Stewart prior to founding D8, leaving after a “difference of opinion”.

A third partner helped set up the business but left to pursue other interests once the company started. The growth of the agency has been patient, and it is perhaps Young’s financially cautious nature that has kept a cap on the growth. But this caution has paid dividends: “We get approached all the time for employment. But we only employ when needs must. We’re not hugely flush, just by my nature as a person, I suppose. I don’t own a credit card and the company’s never owed a penny. But that means there isn’t a slush fund there, if you like, for expanding. There is no great need.”

On saying that, however, D8 has lured to Glasgow a senior member of Fitch London to help launch a new arm to the business. D8 will be launching a new interiors function, 3D8, at the beginning of next year when Jackie Latimer, an associate director from Fitch London, joins the team.

“She fancied a move away from London and got in touch with us after seeing some of our work so we talked and it was agreed that she would launch an interiors arm from D8,” says Young.

“We are certainly looking at this long-term. When we started D8 it took us a few years to grow, and grow a reputation, and we are quite happy to do that with this venture as well. There is no desperate rush.”

Looking outwith the constraints of Scotland is nothing new for the Glasgow-based agency. D8 works with a number of clients from all over the UK. However, one very notable client on the agency’s roster is perhaps the New York-based 59E59 Theatre.

“We have a lot of clients outwith Scotland – we do a lot in New York,” says Carroll. “We do work for a big theatre on Broadway and there are other film festivals and the likes that we are pitching for at present.”

Ironically, despite working and pitching for clients in New York and the thrill and the lights of the Big Apple, Young has never made it over States-side – he doesn’t fly. “It’s a bit of an issue for me, but ...”

It turns out that the client spends time in the UK on a regular basis, looking for shows to put on in Broadway and they meet up quarterly to discuss business.

As teacups are drained and notes shuffled into a neat pile on the table, Young bemoans the surprisingly low standards of design that D8 often comes up against in New York while working on the glitz of Broadway, and he reflects on the industry in Scotland in general.

“There is no lack of creative talent in Scotland. But perhaps creating an environment where this talent is allowed to show itself would encourage the growth of the industry. Maybe margins are tight, I don’t know, but I do know that generally, at other companies, designers aren’t given that much time on projects. We try and give as much time to our designers as possible. There are plenty of good designers out there. Whether they get the time and space to do good work is another thing.”

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