Balancing Passion Projects with Commercial Projects

Foreword. And warning.

ALERT. In this blog I will use the phrase ‘I am no psychologist, but..’

ANY use of the phrase ‘I am no *insert highly trained job title*, but…’ immediately renders any subsequent sentences borderline offensively useless.

This sentence-opener will crop up within the next two paragraphs. I will set out my under qualified stall with aplomb and grace.

And I am no doctor, but… a little dose of pseudo-psychology is the best medicine for all of life’s ailments. It just is.

It sounds like a ropey old trope to suggest that creative-minded individuals who make the decision to start something larger than a one-man band, will at least have one eye on social responsibility and a desire to create something that will have a positive effect on the world around them. Bigger than just design (or art/theatre/music etc.. whatever rocks your personal casbah).

Now, I am no psychologist, but…(yay) as a designer, a huge part of making your art come to life for any one of your varying clients, is having the ability to run your inbuilt ‘other-person-simulator’; thinking about someone else’s outlook and on many occasions, their ethical standpoint. The ability to do this and the development of it over a lifetime of practise pushes our ability to empathise with points of view and values other than our own. We train ourselves, like superfalcons*, to hover over life; spotting what trends are out there, listening to what people care about, watching out for what people are fighting for. Few creative people are incapable of taking note of areas of life and society which could use improvement; opportunities which are open doors to make a change and give back.

These are the reasons why, as a studio, I think we naturally wanted to push ourselves to open up conversations and run projects that have potential to contribute to (or at least draw attention to) aspects of society which have room for contribution.

We have a number of things in our pipeline. Projects that we feel passionately about, ideas that we want to explore and start to try and tackle. One of our initial aims when setting up our Studio was to fund and run these projects in-house. Our first was our meet-up, which provides what we hope will develop into a hotbed of ideas and creativity, using our business neighbours in the Lewisham Borough. We’re slowly working out how we can open that up to a wider area. Another of our brainchildren is growing and developing into a charmingly interesting little project and is nearly ready to be unleashed into the wonderful world. And once it is unleashed, we want other voices in the mix. We actively encourage audience participation! Our projects become public after we announce them, conversations and ideas flow and the ball starts rolling downhill. And that’s as exciting as an unexpected Amazon delivery. Rip that thing open!! Yeah!!

At our last meet-up, someone I was chatting with asked me how we go about choosing who we want to work with. Are there any prerequisites for companies that we want to work with? Is it only charities and social enterprises? Is working with anyone else ‘out of character’ for our studio?

The answer is absolutely not; of course not. We keep an open mind and see what feels right.

Without commercial work, we would slash the tires of our ability to do our passion projects. We have to run a profitable business to be able to afford ourselves the space, the time and the finances to push ourselves to do the things we are proud of. Cutting out a company purely because they don’t give 80% of their profits to charities, would mean that we wouldn’t have been able to have fun working with people who have ended up being some of our favourite clients! (NB. all of our clients are our favourites…) Now obviously, when the 80%-profit-people come to us for a logo, we give them a bundling hug, thank them for being mindblowingly awesome and take their project with open arms! But the fact is, some companies don’t have that luxury. Obviously if people are going out and murdering people or using unpaid interns as modern day slaves (Bad Form!) or stealing the rabbits of small crying children or any of the despicable things that occur on that wavelength, they are off our christmas card list and we would shun as we would shun anymonster. But a company that has an awful lot on its plate/is trying to start-up/is offering a wonderful service to people? Those people we would definitely work with. After all, them offering their service may be the principal reason that someone in their customer base is able to go out and do wonderful things that slowly change the world.

It all comes back around to our balanced client-diet. A hearty social-salad allows us to have a cheeky sliver of the corporation-cake. And we don’t feel remotely compromised.

When we started, we discussed this a LOT. With a wide eye locked on the future. Where did we want to be in 15 years time? How did we want to evolve? Initially our answer would have been a strong swing away from the corporate and into the socially-focused/charity sector.

Now.. we want a balance. We will continue to nurture (and be endlessly proud of) our social change wing; looking out for opportunities, helping people when we can; funding ideas and spotting room for life’s improvements. But we will also be very proud to work with people with get-go personalities and brilliant ideas; supporting them, developing their businesses alongside them. That is a very valid way of helping to change the world too.

Now, I am no nutritionalist (could. not. be. further. from), but to me… that sounds like a balanced client-diet I would be happy to promote.


Client-diet. It’s a thing now.


*superfalcons are not a real bird. I made them up. But if a scientist makes one and they become a real thing, please do not fear them. Or pet them.

Rob KeyComment