2017 What a whopper! (Explosive)

We (Gail And Steve), launched GAS Brand Studio at the beginning of January 2017.

We have known each other since 1999, when Steve was a student at Hertford College and Gail started her lecturing career, on his graphic design course. Roll on 17 years, by 2016 we were both living in the same village, working on our own sole trader design businesses. (Lovely bit of serendipity). We were both busy and looking for solutions for the next step, collaboration seemed to be the right option for both of us. 9 months of planning, went into our new adventure 2016, (we do like to plan, though it felt like a gestation). We discussed our ideas, goals, dreams, beliefs, potential ways of working, to test that it would work.

A year later we are so pleased to say, we think it has worked… so far it is a winner.

What next is another long story, so before we move on to 2018, we thought it would be great to reflect on what has happened in our first year, the good, bad and the **** and how we positised it all (no not a real word, but it feels right for how we wrestled our challenges to the ground).

What took you by surprise?

Gail: 1+1=3, we are both so much better designers and business owners working together. We plug each others holes, so the weaknesses become joint strengths. We seem to intuitively sense when each other is struggling to define a communication and help with a different perspective.

Steve: Going to work and having the feeling that it is a real business we are building and it’s not just a hobby I enjoy doing, a big part of this was improving our process, so we could spend more time working with our clients and creating design work that helps them express their business.

Best client response

Gail: A lovely dedication in a book, by Kathy Ennis, I designed and helped her to plan, not expected, but really appreciated.

Steve: “Love it, I would never of thought of that.”

Silliest moment

Gail: Beach ball campaign, Steve at the Great North run. The beach ball has had a life of its own and has been known to cause distraction in the studio too 🙂

Steve: Dodging flying objects. Creating a cocktail so sweet and strong I actually enjoyed it, then having an internal marketing strategy meeting. Created some good ideas I think!

Moment of Inspiration

Gail: Plenty of positive thinking moments from Steve, ongoing positising.

Steve: Showing a design I was working on and had been struggling to crack for Vega Capital London and for Gail to take a 2 second look and say have you tried… I made the change and instantly improved the project. This was the moment of inspiration that made me realise I was doing the right thing.

Proudest moments

Gail: I have many this year, but two favourites were:
Supporting Kathy Ennis through the process of creating and publishing her first Little Piggy book with Amazon.

Then watching Sanchia Aronberg soar in confidence and expand her business with clearer messages and branding that explain the benefits of working with her. She was already working with particular emphasis on support and planning, but had not worked how to explain it.The logo and strapline we have devised for her have helped her expand on the difference in her approach.

Steve: Winning joint projects. One particular project we are currently working on with Grosvenor Fabrications, the client has had full belief in us as a team, to choose colours for their new range of designer chairs. These were then manufactured, we art directed the photography and then created concepts for the new brochure, we are proud to say we were able to repay their faith in us and the project has been a great success. The full finished brochure is coming soon.

Biggest changes from working separately on businesses

Gail: Sharing ideas, silly ones, serious ones, long winded ones, pie in the sky ones.

Delegation; we have great help from our accountant Cheryl Price at CH Accountancy, which gives us more time for design work.

Social media, we had not really utilised social media as sole traders, but with two of us, two brains and more shared free time, gave us the opportunity to explain more about what we do. The lovely Sam Bailey of Silver Compass Digital has been on the sidelines, supporting us and nudging us in the right direction. We have also had help from Nathan, my son to post and share social media.

Payment processes, offering greater clarity for clients, so it is much clearer what we are doing. Also offering flexibility to fit more client circumstances.

Steve: That I have support on all levels of the business whether it be work or advice. I have finally been able to lift my head above the trench and see what the world is up to and how we can help others define their business and challenges.

Working with Gail has encouraged and inspired me and our joint business to take large steps. When working as a sole designer, it is hard or scary to achieve the next level, but as a duo we share the the responsibility to improve.

Boy we had some challenges, but 3441 hours worked and 260 projects shows that there were many positives and the challenges were overcome 🙂

Biggest challenge

Gail: A major operation, the guilt, involved in trying to get back to a fully operational worker, when sharing a business and both your families are relying on you. Back working after a week, when surgeon had advised 3-4 weeks. (I bounce honest).

The elephant in the room, the unspoken thoughts, working out what Steve was really thinking (so polite, still work in progress).

Steve: Not counting starting a new business, I also had the birth of my second child (it was a boy) and moving house in the same month. It was a little stressful!

Trust; that another person has the same vision, work ethic, passion to create a business and design work that we believe in, we both took a leap of faith to achieve our goals of improving our business and our work life balance.

Fear; that what I do as a designer will be good enough to achieve the next level and that I bring value to a shared business. By becoming a duo I found new belief in the saying “no idea is a bad idea” I never really thought this was true and by not believing I increased my own internal pressure to not blurt out a ridiculous idea. I now have a different understanding of the saying and believe that with ideas, (yes even bad ones) on the table we can start to develop, discuss and inspire each other to produce the bigger, better ideas and if all that fails, it makes Gail laugh.

What could we improve?

Gail: Visually sharing more about how we work, so that our services don’t feel like a dark art.

Steve: Express and explaining clearly to new clients about each stage of the design process and how it can be enjoyed to produce understanding, ideas and growth that they never knew they could achieve.

Things you never dreamed would happen

Gail: Moving into 2018, with an office space big enough to move to another level, space for workshops. With my lecturing background, I’ve always wanted to share what we do and some of the processes to creating what we do. Plus space to hold mini exhibitions, I feel a little side project coming on. There is room for me to pace too (part of my thinking process, honest, I’m a bit restless).

Steve: The fact that we are asking these questions, I’m answering them and we are investing in the future of GAS Brand Studio.

What does the future hold?

(We don’t want to give too much away but…) (Think this may be better to save for 2018 plans)

Gail: Being creative and having fun with our new space, lots of ideas…

Steve: Diving in and learning, (and never stop learning) about the worlds our clients live in. Answering challenging questions with design and branding, then exploring what new tech has in store for us all.

Do you want to find more about how the GAS bubble works? 

We’d love to talk to you and bring some fun and insight to your brand and your company’s next year’s success. Get in touch with Gail And Steve at.

Gail And Steve behind closed doors