A chat with Guy Marshall, Art Director and owner of StudioSmall
Guy established StudioSmall in 2004, with David Hitner. It’s primarily an art direction and design studio working in the fashion and luxury sectors where they aim to do ‘nice work for nice people’.
Guy has over 20 years of experience in the design industry, experience which has led him to believe, as the agency name suggests, that keeping the agency a tight unit allows them to deliver a more personalised, better-crafted service to clients than more bloated agencies. It seems to work as they have a client list that includes Sunspel, Fred Perry, Toogood, The Modern House and their sister brand Inigo.
We spoke to Guy about his agency and working in a creative environment.
Had you always wanted to be a designer?
I wanted to be a chef at school. My mum decided I should join the Navy as she thought that would teach me cooking. I can clearly remember the recruitment person saying I should want to be a sailor first, and a chef second… A close escape, methinks… she denies this story, but it’s true.
How did you make your first break into the creative world?
My feeling is that I didn’t get enough attention as a child, so being okay at art at school got me a bit more attention. That holds true today, the feeling of doing a good job and receiving clients’ positive reactions is far better than the financial reward… I just want to be loved.
What was the catalyst that made you decide to strike out with your own agency?
I worked at a large design consultancy where I made some of my best friends, but I always missed working in a smaller, more personal environment – hence the studio name.
Do you choose clients or do they choose you?
They choose you, but you can influence their selection. A while ago I received the best bit of advice, which was to put yourself on a shorter list. There are tons of brilliant design studios out there, so you need to give your clients a clear offer so they can easily navigate why they might want to talk to you.
Who would be your dream client?
We do have a select list of fantasy clients that we occasionally contact and have less occasionally met. Unfortunately, we have not managed to land them yet. This said, if someone had told me 17 years ago that we would be working with the clients we have I would say they must be dreaming…
How would you describe your role at StudioSmall?
My role evolves — My core role is about understanding our clients’ ambitions and problems and navigating these. It’s about collaboration and defining rational solutions and getting the studio to produce the best work they can each time.
What makes your approach distinct from other agencies?
It sounds counter to our skillset, but I have a real aversion to graphic design – I love it at the same time, but my preference is to focus on the destination. The journey can be beautifully crafted, but the end game is key.
Do you intend to always keep it a fairly contained team at the studio?
I guess we have always had an ambition to be medium – but perhaps small suits us better. It allows us collectively to really focus on the work.
What’s been the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
That’s hard as it’s a bit like choosing between your kids. You love them equally but for lots of different reasons. I do feel lucky to have worked with some really amazing folk over the years, some of whom have become good friends.
What’s next for you and StudioSmall?
More work for more nice people. Fingers crossed.
Images from StudioSmall shot by Josh Hight and Jon Gorrigan.