Profile: This Is Studio

When Richard Barnett, Dougal Burgess and Barney Beech graduated from Camberwell College of Arts five years ago, they were confident enough in their skills to start up a studio. Garrick Webster discovers the This Is recipe for success

I’m in charge of everything,’ declares Richard Barnett. ’And I love making tea,’ adds partner Dougal Burgess. Then laughter quickly fills the freshly painted kitchen and meeting area of the new This Is Studio office in Old Street, London EC1. They’re sitting with Barney Beech, the third founding partner, joking about their individual roles in the business.

’I suppose if you were setting up a consultancy normally, you might need a designer and an art director and you’d probably go in with a producer, but because we are three designers it took a while to organically work out the roles,’ explains Beech.

He uses the word ’normally’ because the trio founded This Is Studio straight out of Camberwell College of Arts in 2006. They didn’t go the usual route of working elsewhere first to learn the ropes, and even the consultancy’s name was decided on the fly. Because of their surnames, they were spending time toying with titles like Triple-B, 3B or BBB, but when a client wanted to pay them they realised they needed a name and a bank account fast, and panic struck. ’It was almost like “This is a studio” or “This Is Studio”. Fine! That’s it a default name,’ says Burgess. ’It was kind of like a no-name or an anti-name, if there’s such a thing.’ Which Someone, Someone Else and And Design may well tell you there is.

The trio decided to strike out straight after graduating, because they’d landed a major job. On the strength of a tutor’s recommendation, they were invited to create tour visuals for the band Muse. They found studio space, started working on the imagery and built the business around that project. Today, This Is Studio’s client list includes arts organisations, the photographer Rankin, Macmillan Cancer Support and IBM.

’We try to create beautiful things small bits of print which often aren’t much more than a leaflet, but an awful amount of time and thought goes into them, so they become quite beautiful objects,’ says Beech. ’That’s how we try to approach each project, to create something that’s unique.’

We try to create beautiful things – small bits of print which often aren’t much more than a leaflet

Barney Beech, This Is Studio

Though it started in a seat-of-the-pants fashion, the This Is Studio plan is always to be a multidisciplinary group. After doing several websites, it consciously pursues new print projects to keep its portfolio balanced and the work fresh. After that, the group will look for new branding jobs, moving-image or exhibition-stand work.
Harking back to the Muse commission that launched the studio, Barnett would like to do tour visuals. The group put everything and more into their first job, creating animated graphics with entire narratives for the songs they were assigned. Live performances are growing in importance to musicians, and Barnett spies an opportunity to get back to the intensity the three partners felt at the beginning.
’At the moment, the people producing tour visuals basically farm it off to lots of different design groups, which shows when you see it as a whole. I hope that as it develops, the music industry will become more trusting of design groups like us and say, “Okay, we’re going to get these guys to do the whole show,”’ says Barnett.
This Is Studio’s new location is spacious, and even after the new custom desks and shelving arrives, there will still be room to grow. But for the group, it isn’t just about having more designers. ’The hardest thing you face is getting more work that will keep you developing not actually growing in numbers, but seeing growthin the complexity and size of the projects, to keep moving forward,’ says Barnett.

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