Working in a design agency

 8 March 2012

Alastair Reid is Managing Director of Red Design. He discusses what work is done at his design agency, and what quality he looks for in new designers.

Running a design agency

"It's pretty much everything that's not design or creative. Obviously I still keep an eye on that, but essentially it would be everything from:

  • client liaison
  • account management
  • selling the work
  • running the team here – the HR side – making sure everyone has appraisals
  • looking after the finance, the billing and the quoting
  • looking after the business plan – the one we work to runs over five years.

"We've got a marketing guy as well who I reports to me. So I make sure what he's doing is correct. We're out there singing our praises, getting work and trying to ensure the business runs smoothly."

The work of a design agency

"We've done really some big campaigns. All the Fatboy Slim stuff was proper global worldwide marketing campaign stuff.

"McFly which was a huge European campaign, where you do all the conceptual work, all the different formats, all the marketing things. So not just posters and ads. We did playing cards we did tons and tons of stuff. 

"You have to come up with ideas and execute it really well. There's constant pressures. It's not for the faint-hearted."

"Girls Aloud was this huge campaign. We had to do a lot of art direction for their photoshoots for singles.

"Occasionally if there's resources we need outside, then we go and talk to them and bring in photographers, illustrators, web-builders, whoever and just find the best people to help us deliver the project."

What a client expects from a design company

"A client won't come to you just with a typography brief. They'll come to you with a web brief, a promo brief, and all that sort of stuff.

"I think that's where the line is really blurring as well between creative agencies, design agencies, marketing agencies, advertising agencies.

"I think all those barriers are breaking down very quickly. It's all about the work and the idea and the execution and the results."

Qualities for a new designer

"The quality of their work, the quality of their ideas and their personality.

"It's very tough and demanding what we do. You have to effectively reinvent the wheel every day.

"It's much harder to be a specialist in design. You have to be adaptable and change and do different things."

"You have to come up with ideas. You have to make it look great. You have to execute it really well.

"There's constant pressures of not enough time and deadlines and workload. It's not for the faint-hearted, so you want to see that in someone.

"These days it's much harder to be a specialist in design. So if you come in and say 'I'm a type specialist' or 'I'm a pre-press specialist' there's not many jobs out there which fit those categories. You have to be adaptable and change and do different things.

"Really nice illustrations, really nice typography, some really nice classic design, some interactive stuff, some moving image stuff – that kind of adaptability is thing we now look for. That's what we do on a daily basis.

"One day all our designers will be working on a storyboard for a promo video. Next day they'll be working on a fashion brochure. Next day they'll be working on an album cover. Any manner of things. So that's what we want to see when we recruit people."

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