Q&A with Elmwood founder Jonathan Sands OBE

Today saw Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands pick up an OBE from the Queen in recognition of his services to the design industry. The Drum caught up with him as he was polishing his shoes with a few questions.

What does this recognition signify to yourself?

I am really not sure how to answer this. Many people say that I am the luckiest person they know...maybe they are right, as I am certain there are many, many more deserving people of an award like this ahead of me but now that I have it I don’t intend giving it back.

How did this recognition come about?

Well first of all it was a complete shock. A letter arrived on my desk at the beginning of November asking me if I would accept the award if the Queen accepted the recommendation of the Prime Minister on the advice of the Cabinet Office! And that was the first I knew about it. I still don’t exactly know who or how I was nominated but I am pretty sure it was down to my ten-year tenure as a council member of the Design Council. You are only elected for a three-year term and I just kept being asked to stay on.

What do you think this recognition means in relation to the UK design industry?

I’d like to think that it demonstrates that design is seen as an important contributor to UK plc. But I have to say that one of the nicest notes I got was from Rod Petrie who said “this is a proud moment for you and a very proud moment for the design industry.” He was certainly right about the former.

What reaction have you had from your peers since it was announced that you were to receive the OBE?

It has been incredibly humbling. Within just a few days of the new year I had received over one hundred emails from industry colleagues and the first one being at 6.40am on new years day morning! A number of emails actually brought me to tears because of the lovely things they said. It really was a great reminder to me of what a wonderful industry and community we are fortunate to work in.

What achievements are you most proud of in your career…so far?

I’d like to think that my best achievements are still to come - and I think there are at least ten more years ‘full tilt’ ahead of me yet! But I am lucky that there have been so many moments to be proud of. The biggest achievement without doubt is the team we have assembled here over the years. And I say we because people like Greg, Sarah, Simon and Debbie, and many others past and present, are responsible for what Elmwood is today. A Sunday Times Top 100 company to work for, one of Britain’s fastest growing exporters, our reputation for effectiveness etc. - nothing makes me happier than seeing our work work for clients, as ultimately that is what it is all about. And I have to say that working for people like ASDA for twenty five years and still enjoying winning for them is a great source of pride.

What are the biggest disasters that you’ve experienced in your career?

No disasters but lots of mistakes and some regrets.

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