Who are Taxi Studio?
It's not all about London and Taxi are one of the agencies that prove it. Based in Bristol, which is a spicy hot pot bubbling with creativity, the team at Taxi work on some major global clients. We spoke to Kate Lenton their Managing Director about life at the agency and her journey to becoming MD...
So, who are Taxi Studio?
Taxi Studio is a multi-award winning brand design agency, based in Bristol. We work with a range of clients, from global household names – like Coca Cola, Nestlé and Carlsberg – to charities and start-ups. Taxi was formed 15 years ago by three college friends and has since grown to a team of 45, servicing markets as diverse as the US, China, the Nordics and Africa. Taxi has won more than a 160 international Awards and is now regarded as one of the Top 20 branding agencies in the UK. It was recently voted Top Agency Outside London in the Computer Arts Studio Rankings 2017.
What makes Taxi Studio special?
Taxi is a very special place full of very special, talented people. It feels like working with your mates – they look after you, make you laugh, inspire you to be better, and care about who you are (not just who you are at work).
Our culture isn’t one thing, it’s a vibe formed over 15 years by millions of great moments. We’re super proud of what we’ve done and fired up about what’s next – and this comes through in everything we do.
'Our culture isn’t one thing, it’s a vibe formed over 15 years by millions of great moments.'
What are the best bits about working in Bristol?
Bristol’s got a thriving and diverse creative scene. It's full of people eager to collaborate, willing to give their time to creative initiatives, and keen to help each other out and share knowledge – it’s what makes Bristol special.
Do you find it more difficult getting briefs/talent because you aren’t in London?
Not with briefs because the majority of our clients are global and don’t mind where we’re based, but recruitment can be more of an issue.
At junior and mid level, the talent pool in in the South West is reduced as lots of people are earning their stripes in London. For senior roles, when people might start to think about moving out, this can be often go hand in hand with a desire to slow down, which is problematic. We make sure we provide a great work/life balance, but in return we need people who know their best work is yet to come, not who want to take their foot off the gas. Good people are hard to find – that’s why when you have a team made up of hugely talented (and nice) people, you need to look after them!
'Good people are hard to find – that’s why (...) you need to look after them!'
Can you tell us a bit about some of the projects you’re working on/have worked on recently?
We’re got a huge range of projects going through the studio at the moment from large FMCG rebrands, to financial services campaigns, seasonal packaging for household favourites, to rebranding a Bristol landmark. Variety is something we work really hard to maintain and it’s important that everyone in our team gets the chance to work on different type of briefs for different kinds of clients – it makes the work better and the team happier!
You started out as a freelance strategist at Taxi and now you're MD! It’s a well-known fact that there are lots more men in senior roles in the design industry – tell us more about your journey.
My career began as a corporate comms designer, but a few years in I shifted my focus to digital and went on to co-found award-winning digital agency Positive, where I spent ten years as Managing and Creative Director.
After I had my second child and needed more flexibility I decided to leave Positive to freelance. I joined Taxi on a freelance contract but soon realised that I missed being ‘part of something’. Freelancing has its advantages but you can’t beat the sense of belonging and personal development you get when you’re part of a team – so when Taxi offered me the Head of Digital role, I jumped at it.
The transition to Managing Director was driven by two things – our previous MD deciding to shift his focus and move into the Chairman’s seat, and me wanting to get involved in more across the agency. When you’ve run your own business and you’re working somewhere that you’re excited by, you can’t help having lots of ideas and spotting ways to join-up thinking, and before you know it, people are involving you in things outside of your remit. So I guess it was a combination of luck, timing and not being able to keep my nose out!
'Ensuring rockstars (of both sexes) rise to the top at Taxi, is very much front-of-mind.'
There is definitely a male bias at senior-level in the design industry, which is frustrating because there doesn’t need to be. We recruit based on talent and personality – gender doesn’t even come into it. For creative roles we barely even look at the name on a CV, it’s all about the work. We have an equal split of men and women in our team at the moment and ensure we’re equally as flexible for working mothers and fathers, but there’s always more that can be done. Ensuring rockstars (of both sexes) rise to the top at Taxi, is very much front-of-mind.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in design now?
You’re going to need to love it because it’s going to be hard work. So if you don’t love it you may need to think again.
If you’re on a bad course – move. If you’ve got a bad tutor – ask for a new one. You’re paying big bucks to invest in your future, so get your money’s worth and wring every ounce out of college that you can. Then find a way to get experience in some great studios that you admire and once you’re there, prove yourself invaluable.
Develop your craft, be a sponge, ask questions, and stick your hand up for every brief.
'You’re paying big bucks to invest in your future, so get your money’s worth and wring every ounce out of college that you can.'
Don’t try and run before you can walk – it leads to mediocrity. Don’t’ try and fast track or skip core skills. Don’t move to a rubbish studio just because you’ll get a new job title.
Being a great designer only comes through experience and (although it’s a frustrating reality) experience takes time. If you work hard, you’re good at what you do, and you’re nice to work with, you’ll do well.