Turning ten this year has naturally involved a period of reflection. It’s been the perfect time to take stock and look at everything we’ve achieved as an agency, and the creative journey we’ve been on since Design Culture launched in 2006.
We sat down with the founding directors, Kristen Streten and Steve Wilkins to ask them about the journey of Design Culture to date.
Why did you start the agency?
SW: We’d been at art college together in the ‘90s and following that we both worked in different London studios. I’d say our experiences were pretty different, but we shared a passion and drive for design with intelligence and strategic thinking behind it; and both felt that was critical to the design process. It sounds obvious, but it’s not something you find in every agency. Ultimately, we wanted to set up an agency that placed strategic thinking at the heart of everything it did.
KS: We both had a belief in the power of design to reach and connect with audiences. When it’s done well, it can do that in a way no other communication can. And we had a shared goal to put all our experience to use in sectors that genuinely interest and motivate us as designers – and as people.
SW: The other thing that naturally drove my ambition to start an agency was a true enjoyment of the full design process – getting under an organisation’s skin, understanding the challenges and working strategically with them to tell their stories and inspire their audiences to take action.
How has the agency changed over time?
SW: We’ve come a long way. We started as a team of 3 in a small office in London’s Leather Lane, and are now a team of 12. The other significant change of course has been the continued rise of digital and that’s reflected in the breadth of work we do as a studio now versus when we started out ten years ago.
KS: We’ve really honed our sector expertise in the ten years since we started. We’ve been fortunate to work for some fantastic organisations in the healthcare, education, cultural and charity & social sectors – and that’s what keeps the work interesting and challenging for the whole team. Over the last ten years there has been massive political and cultural change that has impacted both the design industry and the sectors we specialise in. Now more than ever our clients have to demonstrate internally – and often externally – that design and marketing has real value. It’s now essential to show a measurable return on that investment and organisations need certainty that their creative agency can deliver that, so they are looking for an agency to partner with that has that proven experience in their sector.
Recognising how we’ve changed and grown over the last decade led us to undertake our own mini-positioning exercise earlier this year. We understood that we needed to determine how to position and differentiate ourselves in a sea of creative agencies. Did our clients and prospects understand what we do as an agency and what we’re all about? Was it clear where our real expertise lies and how what we do adds real value to what they do? It was an amazing and enlightening experience that involved the whole DC team and has clarified and aligned our internal and external brand.
The Design Culture website is our biggest marketing tool and manifestation of our brand personality – so following our positioning exercise – a redesign was a natural step. The new site has just gone live and does a fantastic job of clearly positioning us as experts in the healthcare, education, charity and cultural sectors, really showing off our work and service offer to its best.
So, how does it feel to be 10 years old – and what does the future hold?
KS: Good things! I don’t think either of us can believe how quickly it’s gone and how much we’ve achieved since we started out. There’s still lots more we want to achieve and certainly it’s a personal goal to further build our reputation as an expert partner agency with our audiences. As 2016 has shown, it’s difficult to predict what the future will hold but we know we need to be responsive as an agency to the ever changing world we live in and the challenges our clients face as a result. We want to be doing creative, relevant, intelligent and engaging work that continues to deliver real and measurable results for clients and their audiences.
SW: It’s been a fantastic creative journey to date. Design Culture is made up of a brilliant team of talented people that all share a passion for the real and lasting difference intelligent design can make to the world we live in. Part of reaching our 10th Birthday is saying a huge thank you to all of our team, past and present, for everything they’ve done in shaping us as an agency – and of course to all of the clients who’ve put their trust in Design Culture as their creative partner.