Three&me is one of Ipswich’s most exciting creative design agencies, providing a full range of graphic design services,which include branding, advertising and web design— all under one roof.
IP1 had a quick chat to James and Sean, the two directors, to find out a little bit more about their company…
How did you get into the advertising and web design field? What and where did you study or are you self taught?
[James] After leaving school I wanted to either become a graphic designer or an accountant; I loved being creative and was good with numbers. After spending two weeks at an accountancy firm I realised it wasn’t for me and took the direction of a BA (Hons) Graphic Design course at University Campus Suffolk. At university I learnt about the history and key fundamentals within graphic design and the subject started to slowly take over my life. I was seeing the world differently from a visual perspective and taking notice of the smallest of details; from kerning of type on shop signs to the consistency of colours used for a particular advertising campaign. I would scrutinise everything, that’s what designers do right?
[Sean] I had no background in design or arts, after leaving school I worked as a welder/fabricator for several years before I was introduced to the Adobe Suite by my girlfriend who had study Multimedia Technology and Uni, at which point I set about learning Flash CS3. After around a month of tinkering with Illustrator and Flash to create ropey animations, a trainee web design position opened up in the local area. I applied and taught myself enough HTML and CSS in the two weeks before the interview to land the job. I immediately sent off an application to study BA (Hons) Graphic Design (Motion Graphics) at UCS, I enrolled six months later.
How has your career progressed over the years and how did Three & Me come about?
Three&me came straight out of university. After graduating in 2011 three of us from the graphic design course decided to set up shop. We had no business experience, no real agency experience, and no clients. We were up against it, but we knew that we worked well together in class and we all shared the same passion for design. Between us we had different skills to offer and after graduation the opportunity of affordable office space came available at the Atrium Studios, over at University Campus Suffolk. We would have been silly not to have taken it!
We found a branding project that pretty much paid for our first couple months’ rent and start up costs. After our first project we were able to spend time working on our own branding and website. These first few projects told us a lot about how well we worked together and we could see great potential in Three&me, however we knew there was still a lot to learn and a lot of hard work ahead of us.
The name ‘Three&me’ itself came from a days brainstorming session over teas and coffees; where the majority of our ideas emerge! To us, it suggests a journey with the client where we are part of their team; three designers and the client. Keeping the client involved has always been an important part of our process.
Looking through your portfolio, you seem to work on a full range of projects. What are some of your favourite types of projects to work on?
Between the two of us we are able to offer a full range of creative services which include branding, advertising and website design. Our favourite types of projects are when we can combine all three. We create the brand, apply it to a range of printed advertising materials and then build a bespoke website to suit the brand. By having control of all materials we are able to create a full set of consistent communications, which the client will get the most benefit from.
In terms of client, we don’t have a preferred industry. We’ve created a lot of work in the education sector, but at the same time we’ve worked with a global pump company and a professor of adhesion and surfactant science. We really are up for tackling any kind of brief, no matter how complex it may be. The challenge excites us and, in fact, we prefer it that way.
Is there one project that stands out for you? One that you particularly enjoyed or equally one that you found challenging?
The project that stands out to us the most is the student survey campaigns we have produced for University Campus Suffolk over the past four years. It has been an annual project that was with us from the beginning. Each year, we get given the same brief and are required to come up with a new set of designs that will increase student uptake of the surveys from the previous year, so we always have to outdo ourselves. And since the results in 2010 we have achieved exactly that. It’s satisfying to see your designs achieving results.
It’s been exciting to take the ‘Help Us Help You’ brand we created for the surveys back in 2011 and create a completely new look year on year. The project has been extremely challenging, as I think over the 4 years we’ve provided over a dozen different concepts.
And it doesn’t stop there, currently producing the student survey materials for the fifth year running.
Where do you go to for inspiration for your work?
We spend time researching each and every project, inspiration is most often found in hard work. Between us we have large collection of design and art books. They’re constantly around us, at home and in the office. So this is where we go when we need a creative kick. Other than that we watch news and follow a lot of blogs.
What is your work philosophy/ ethos?
Our philosophy is to keep things simple, define the message and communicate it effectively. It’s equally important how a piece of design functions as to how good it looks. The design needs to grab attention, but without communicating a message it’s worthless. There’s a balance to strike, that’s what we get paid for.
How does it work when a client comes to you for work? Do you have to strictly follow their specifications or is there room for a few creative liberties?
Some clients will arrive with drawn up briefs, some with their own ideas and most are not quite sure with what they actually need. We always take the time to listen to and understand what a client is looking to achieve and how they expect to achieve it. We then consider their ideas, conduct research and rewrite the brief with the solutions we feel will get them the best results. The brief is normally very different from the initial meeting. We wouldn’t take a project on, without questioning the reasons for it and how it will work.
How many of you are there working at Three&me and what are your roles?
Currently we are a team of two. We are both founders and directors of Three&me. James undertakes the role of managing the company and deals with project planning and accountancy, whereas Sean is the technical genius and undertakes all the tech and web development work. Then between the two of us we both get involved with ideas, design, marketing, business development, client liaison and networking. It’s quite difficult to give us a specific job role!
Any advice for IP1 readers who may want to work in a similar field?
Our advice would be to go out of your way and talk to people. It has been crucial in growing our business over the years, and something we probably haven’t done enough of in all honesty. You could be the greatest designer in the world, but if no one knows about you then how are you going to get work? Get yourself out there.
If you’re looking to set up a business, then go for it! If it doesn’t go to plan, it’s not the end of the world, you would have learnt something from it.
Finally, be you. Find something you love doing and keep improving at it.
And finally…What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing is seeing your work being praised and talked about, there’s nothing more satisfying. A lot of people don’t realise the positive impact graphic design can have on their businesses, and to see the great results our work generates is a fantastic feeling. It makes what we do here at Three&me all worth while.
[James & Sean]
To view a full range of their services visit their website at threeandme.co.uk