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Designs on Growth DOG Q&A

Catch Up with Brian Nolan, Designs on Growth graduate

11 May 2022
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Brian Nolan

Kettle on for a chat with Brian Nolan, Detail Co-Founder & UX Director and Designs on Growth graduate 2019, to know a little bit more about Detail, his experience on the programme and how it benefited his design business’ growth.


  1. Tell us a bit about yourself

Detail is a strategic brand design agency. Paul McBride and I started the business journey back in 2004. Over the previous number of years it was clear that the design communications industry was evolving, and looking forward it was obvious that what we do and how we deliver it would change significantly.  Initially, we wanted to take a step outside our normal processes and develop more flexible and collaborative ways of working. After a little experimentation, we found that with the right people and external partners we could work on large and small projects, delivering meaningful results for our clients as well as keeping our own ambitions and goals strongly in focus. 


  1. What kind of work does Detail specialise in?

In the initial years, we were primarily focused on brand and identity design and all the outputs and applications that that entailed. Hoverer as we grew and established lasting relationships with key clients we have found ourselves working on all areas of brand design delivered in new formats and platforms. We group this work into the general areas of Strategy, Identity, Experiences and Communications. 


  1. Where do you find your inspiration?

The Detail team has a like-minded approach to our work and how we deliver it. We all have areas of expertise and external interest that influence our creative process. We have run the Threex3 internship programme with associates in Atelier, Unthink and Zero-g since 2007, and as a result to date have worked with 42 of Ireland’s most talented graduate designers, many of whom have gone on to become full-time members of the team. This has been a vital source of energy, enthusiasm and inspiration.


  1. You have held senior roles in a number of Ireland’s leading design studios and delivered award-winning projects. Why did you think Designs on Growth would be a good fit for Detail and what did you want to achieve through the programme?


I have been lucky to find my way into some of Ireland’s leading design agencies, working my way up to senior management roles. When we established Detail we adopted the business processes we had learned during our early careers. It’s fair to say that a lot of small to medium agencies are run by creative people whose education has been in that area only — and business skills were probably ok but not as fine-tuned as they should be. We were always very aware of these gaps and addressing them was often put at the end of our list of priorities. When we learnt about the Designs on Growth programme it was clear it would be a perfectly tailored approach to finally reprioritising our management and business processes.


  1. What impact has the completion of the programme had on the way you manage your business?


Much of what we learnt from the programme wasn’t completely new to us but what the programme delivered were much more efficient ways of implementing change within a creative agency. The management training was specifically tailored to our needs and the one-on-one sessions addressed specific company challenges and helped us find the best ways to resolve them — this was invaluable.


  1. What were the main takeaways/your favourite aspects of the Designs on Growth programme?


Taking part in the programme allowed us the time to focus on our strategic approach and future business plans. We identified a number of specialisms and areas of potential growth which we were able to reframe and offer to existing and new clients. 


  1. You completed the programme just before the covid pandemic. How has the programme helped in navigating that new challenge?


It sounds strange to say the timing was perfect… We had implemented o lot of what we had learnt on the programme and had completed a reorganisation of working processes. Working remotely was relatively straightforward for us and many of the business ‘loose ends’ had been resolved or resolutions were well underway.


  1. How has Detail grown since Designs on Growth?


Designs on Growth delivered some practical tools and methodology but it also opened new doors. We increased our offer and have managed to engage with our clients in new ways. We are delivering new services based on our wide experience with internal communications in large organisations. Our business has grown locally and internationally. 


  1. You are currently working on the Threex3 internship programme for graduates of Irish design schools. Any other projects in the pipelines?


Applications for this year’s Threex3 programme will be open later this week so we are looking forward to working with the next group of graduates on the 2022-23 programme.  Another long-term project we helped establish back in 2012 is 100 Archive. At the core of its activity is the publication of 100 notable projects selected through an annual open call. These yearly archives contain work from the ever-broadening area of communication design (graphic, editorial, type, brand, digital, motion…) across a range of applications. We partner with designers, professional bodies, government agencies and national institutions to reinforce the importance of design in life, society, commerce and culture and to build engaged audiences for design in Ireland. We would encourage all designers working in Ireland or Irish designers working internationally to get involved.


  1. Would you recommend the programme to others and why?


Absolutely. It was a wonderful investment of time that has had huge benefits. The course was directed and delivered in a tailored way directly targeted at our specific needs which supported us enormously. One of the additional rewards was working with a group of like-minded creative associates who were very generous in sharing their own experiences and knowledge.


You can get in touch with Brian Nolan via Linkedin.

Find out more about the Designs on Growth.

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