Take five with Colin Farmer, co-founder and partner of Unthink, a Dublin-based creative design studio.
- You set up Unthink in 2006, after which the digital landscape has transformed at warp speed. How, as a company, do you keep ahead of the curve?
When we started we were very focused on branding and design for print, but relatively quickly we noticed a shift in our clients’ expectations to more online activities. To meet this demand we brought in an in-house developer, to maintain the same sense of control over the visual outcome. This way the developer is a key part of the creative team, contributing to and improving our designs, rather than simply implementing them.
More recently we’ve been experimenting with motion design as, again, our clients shift to social media, which increasingly require more compelling content. These ongoing and evolving needs keep us on our toes and hopefully help us stay relevant.
- What are the pros and cons of running a business with a sibling?
My brother, Philip, only recently returned to the fold having lived in Brussels for five years. It’s not always easy – we’re essentially a family business – but we manage to make it work. I’m running the business with my partner Noelle too, which is a whole other conversation… 😉
- Striking a work/life balance is always hard, not least when it’s your own company. Throw in a global health crisis, and working from home can become a 24/7 exercise. How have you delineated your working life and downtime?
Myself and Noelle have been lucky in that we’ve been able to come in to the studio while the rest of the team work remotely. It’s a relatively short spin on the bike, which gives us a bit of exercise and clearly delineates work from home. We generally try to avoid working late or into the weekend, so that definitely helps us to switch off.
- What were your key takeaways from the Designs on Growth programme and how have you implemented them into your own methodology?
One of the simplest things I learned was the importance of taking time away from ‘doing the work’ to focus on ‘running the business’. Our studio was always defined by the work we do, making it difficult to separate the two initially. But we’re gradually getting to grips with it. We were also inspired to hire a studio coordinator, Laura, who could take on the more administrative tasks, which had been taking up all my time. And after almost 15 years without one, we know have a business plan! We now have a long list of executable lessons to implement that we’re slowly working our way through.
- Creatives thrive on the hustle and bustle of towns and cities, which have largely been shuttered. From where do you get inspiration and motivation?
While we do love being in the thick of it, we really miss the buzz around town and the impromptu social interactions that occur. In terms of inspiration, we’ve always been driven chiefly by the work. Getting to know our clients, and helping them overcome their challenges, is what drives us – which, thankfully, is still happening, despite the unusual circumstances.
Find out more about the Designs on Growth programme here.
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