Deep End

“That’s bollocks.” Youngsters nowadays, eh? Gary Lockton, 27-year-old partner and MD at new media consultancy Deep End Design, has not taken kindly to my suggestion that graphic designers might be better placed to take on new media than product designers. “Product designers have a sense of ergonomics – a better overview of the different elements in a job, and ultimately a better way of solving things,” Lockton says emphatically. It’s kind of difficult to argue with him, having had the guided tour of a spacious studio in Shoreditch which is about to increase threefold in order to incorporate the video and editing rooms, pool tables and open meeting spaces the expanding company needs.

Lockton’s strength of feeling is understandable, as both he and creative director Simon Waterfall studied product design at Brunel University before heading for the Royal College of Art and an MA in industrial design. Here they met Davey (Gravy) Streek to form the trio who would become Deep End Design. Since then, almost four years ago, it has fast developed into what looks like the perfect model for a multi disciplinary new media agency, working in multimedia, digital video and 3D modelling, and the company has gone from strength to strength, consistently winning jobs for the likes of Hewlett Packard, BBC, Seymour Powell, AGFA and countless ad agencies. It has just won the British Design and Art Direction website, is shortlisted for The British Council site, is on BT’s multimedia roster and has fingers in numerous pies, which Lockton tells me a little about before saying “but I can’t talk about that”.

What he can tell me about is a recently completed job for United Biscuits, the new Hula Hoops website (www.hulahoops.co.uk). “The client wanted controlled anarchy which would appeal to the kids, but not put parents off”, says Streek. Deep End created a site which builds on the “Oi, no” ad campaign in inventive and original ways, including a beautifully realised Space Invaders game in which you shoot square Hula Hoops. Using an ingenious message system you can send encrypted or coded e-mails to friends, who then have to visit the site to decode the message. “It’s all about reinforcing the brand, promoting the medium and keeping traffic to the site high,” says Lockton.

Five football games created for Budweiser address another side of on-line business: data capture. “People will happily spend time filling in a form if it gives them access to something like a cool game or competition,” says Streek.

This marketing-speak may sound cold and calculating for a bunch of 20-somethings, but it’s underpinned by an enthusiasm for the work and company which is genuinely refreshing – and rare. Lockton is proud of the fact that Deep End has only ever lost two members of staff, and that staff have traditionally been able to choose their job. “We used to interview people with a view to letting them do whatever they wanted, now we have to be a bit more pragmatic, but there’s still lots of flexibility there.” Lockton’s masterplan for the consultancy reflects this flexibility combined with business nous: “Assuming we survive the expansion there’s no reason why we can’t carry on doing work which is fun and affords us the freedom and creativity that’s so important to us. “I don’t think we’ll ever become the kind of company which feels it has to make a profit on every job just to pay the mortgage,” he says. So what will it become?

“As ‘old’ areas of media such as TV, radio, even print, are reassessed to become ‘new’; people will hopefully look to us for our expertise in these individual and combined areas. Our idea is to become experts in total communication – whatever you want to say, however you want to say it,” explains Lockton. And you feel it’ll happen for them: “Right time, right place, right choice – we could be product designers now desperately trying to win the little amount of work that’s out there, but new media came along and here we are,” beams Lockton.

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