MarComm News Celebrates Buddy Creative

‘MarComm Celebrates…’ is a feature series highlighting the leaders from the Marketing, Advertising, Media and Design Industries.

Today we feature a design studio that has been excelling in their field for 11-years now — Buddy Creative, which was established by David Jones and Mark Girvan.

Can you take us on Buddy’s 11-year journey so far?

Setting up our own studio was often a pub conversation that never really amounted to anything, but as time went by our collective desire to return to the southwest increased and after 10 years of working with some of London’s leading design companies it was time to ‘walk the walk’.

The name Buddy reflects not only our existing friendship, but also our ambition to be accessible, straightforward and sincere and to build two-way relationships with clients and suppliers in a way we can be proud of.

Initially working in the evenings and at weekends, we were fortunate enough scoop a Design Week Benchmark award with an identity and packaging project for one of our first clients: The Cornish Mill & Bakehouse. This success really pushed us to quit the day jobs and continue with Buddy full-time.

Phil Carter and Phil Wong (Carter Wong) very kindly let us rent a couple of desks in their studio in Lancaster Gate allowing us full access to their facilities with Phil Carter occasionally on hand to make coffee for the odd client meeting! To this day we feel very fortunate to have been afforded that opportunity.

After the first year the time was right to move west, setting up in an old, dusty, studio space in Exeter that we rented from a highly renowned stucco sculptor called Geoffrey Preston. We fell in love with Exeter immediately, a historic cathedral city with a good cultural scene and great eating and drinking establishments, only a few miles from the coast and the countryside and with great links back up to London it was perfect. We slowly built up a small client base and were fortunate in our first couple of years to include Tate, Cornish Orchards, Kimberly Clark and Tesco amongst them.

Though the studio was cheap, cheerful and “charming” (one of our clients words) we needed somewhere smarter and more client-friendly to work from. In 2015 we moved to Hems Studio (former home to the famous cathedral stone mason Harry Hems), before moving in we took the opportunity to design the space to our own specification and worked with a local architect and construction company to create a warm, inviting space for both our designers and clients.

Buddy is now a team of 5 + 1 dog: 4 designers — Mark, David, Will and Eleanor, a client services manager, Cathy — and David’s rescue dog Ruby.

We also have a strong network of freelancers, developers, photographers, copywriters etc to draw upon when required and are always on the look-out for new talent to join the team.

Was there ever a moment on that journey, when you took a step back and realised that things are going well here?

Not yet. As we’re sure all design companies find, we’re always working on the next project or looking to win the next pitch so rarely come up for air! Moving into Hems Studio felt like quite a defining moment for us, and the occasional PR piece or award win is a good moment to take stock, but — as the saying goes — you’re only as good as your last project!

What were the major challenges along the way on that journey? How did you overcome them?

The major challenge has always been and no doubt will always be ‘new business’. A dark art that we still have never mastered. Our work has always come from repeat business, referrals and PR despite our best efforts to win business in other ways.

Given that you are not based in London, has that ever caused you any problems with regards to getting new business, etc.?

When we left London 10 years ago it felt like the ‘being a London Agency’ perception was changing but looking back it is surprising to see that this shift has not been as fast as we envisaged. Our client base has changed over the years and our location has certainly shaped this. Regardless of our location our ambition has always been to produce a high standard of creative work and to help brands and businesses achieve their ambitions through better design.

What are your three favourite projects that Buddy has done so far and why?

Our favourite projects tend to be the ones we’re working on right now, but we can’t talk about those. We love the diversity of the projects that we work on so it is difficult to narrow it down but top of mind are…

Sharp’s Brewery brand identity and packaging We won this piece of business after a referral from Cornish Orchards in 2011 and are still working with the Sharp’s team today having seen the Sharp’s business and brands go from strength to strength. It was great to work on an iconic west-country brand and create a truly unique identity for them that was representative of their provenance and relative youth within the classic ale market yet pioneering leadership within the craft beer world. The team at Sharp’s are great fun, awesome to work with, they work hard and play hard and are continually driven. 

Butter Bike Co Brand identity and packaging for a small Exeter based start-up. A true ‘Smile in the mind’ idea here that was fully embraced by our client from the word go… in true Paul Rand style we only presented a single concept!

The Dock Bar & Kitchen – for SA Brains Inspired by John Masefield’s Poem “Cargoes” ‘a poetic homage to Cardiff Docks’ we created a selection of Victorian style illustrations of dock folk combined with disproportionate images of their freight quirkily suggestive of the richness and diversity of the bay’s history. The strength of this idea grew in its application.

Is there any one project you wish Buddy had done?

Turner Duckworth’s Coca-Cola re-brand. The epitome of ‘less is more’; simple and brave, a job we wished we had done.

If you could work for any brand out there, who would it be and why?

As Buddy we love the diversity of new challenges and working in different sectors, the answer is less about a specific brand and more about people we like to work with. We love clients who have the ambition and desire to shake things up in their category, to challenge their market place with design that makes them not only stand out but genuinely resonate with their audience.

What is the one message you try instil at Buddy?

All that matters is ideas. ideas, ideas…… executed beautifully. We strive for those ideas that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand-up and when working on the concept stage keep pushing ourselves and each other to create “the one”.

What is the one thing you’d like to change about the industry, if you could?

Stop free-creative pitching. Nobody wins.

What can we expect from Buddy in the next 11-years?

More of the same but always something different. We want to continue to create strong, memorable and effective ideas for our clients that ultimately makes the difference to their business.

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