As brand identity and communications specialists we transform and rejuvenate businesses across the UK.
The brainchild of Vincent Bissette our Managing Director and owner, we opened our doors way back in 1994 under the name of The Design Corporation. Since Vincent graduated in 1987 he had worked for a couple of well known Glasgow design consultancies, working his way up to Creative Director, on such illustrious accounts as Stakis Hotels, Scottish Nuclear, Whyte & Mackay, The Dalmore Single Malt, Jim Beam Bourbon, Wyborowa Vodka, Glasgow Development Agency and Honeywell to name but a few. But he wanted more, and back then, he had a big idea to create a world-class, independent, Design Consultancy. The kind of design consultancy who believes unequivocally that design could change the world, for the better.
To be fair, it was the kind of modest aspiration that only arrives after a wee dram or two (three … ok four*) of our national beverage. Luckily at the time, in plentiful supply. We had no clients, next to no cash, one wobbly desk, one used apple mac Quadra, a lot of misguided self-belief and a clear ambition to make a difference. What we did have was an office. Well way say office, it was more of a cupboard really. Just as well we didn’t have a cat back then!
We still remember that feeling of elation in those early days, every time our door buzzer would ring, thinking this could be the one. Our big break. An exciting new client. Only to have our hopes dashed to find out they were looking for the massage parlour next door. Every time!
When our big break did arrive it was not without its challenges to. You see, in order to pay for the second hand computer, assorted ‘cost effective’ office furniture and 3 months rent upfront, Vincent had to trade his car in for something less, well, roadworthy. So he duly turned up at a client presentation slightly late, after finally encouraging the car to cooperate. Parking spaces were a little thin on the ground but as luck would have it, just then a car was reversing out of a space right outside the front door. He quickly parked up and rushed into the presentation. It’s fair to say that it couldn’t have gone any better. Until that is, he left the building. Outside there was what could only be described as a very irate man gesticulating to a security guard. Something about someone being parked in his space. A beat up, old red Vauxhall Cavalier to be precise. After quickly assessing the situation, Vincent realised that this man was the MD, and the beat up old red Vauxhall Cavalier that was parked in his space was – that’s right you’ve guessed it, Vincent’s. In an attempt to placate the MD Vincent apologised and assured him that he would vacate his space immediately. Only problem was, the car wouldn’t start!
Then there was the time Vincent drove five and a half hours not including a 20 minute car ferry ride over to an island to see a potential new client, arriving 20 minutes late due to the rather inclement weather, only for the client, who apparently was an absolute stickler for time, to refuse to see him. Q the long and painful journey back home. Truly a lesson learned. This really was the harsh reality of life running a small business.
The early days were not easy but our optimism and determination always shone through. Gradually, we started to grow, but having no meeting room meant interviews had to be held on a bench in Kelvingrove Park opposite our office, thankfully 1995 was a good summer for al fresco meetings! Coffee shops back then were rather thin on the ground, so creative meetings were generally held in one or two of the local hostelries. Remarkably, that didn’t always end that badly!
Soon overcrowding meant we had to move to new offices, which meant client meetings could now be held in our very own meeting room. The new offices gave us room to grow, but in order to grow we had to win new clients. So we broadened our horizons and began to pick up our first clients from outwith Scotland and that brought us a moment that still puts a smile on our faces whenever we think about it. A client who shall remain nameless, asked us if we knew of the Scottish town ‘Woven’. We replied we had never heard of such a place, was she sure it was in Scotland? Yes she replied, I recently bought a cashmere sweater from a very exclusive London store and on the label it clearly stated “Woven in Scotland”. We didn’t have the heart to tell her.
By 1998 we had invested in such wonderful new technology that we were now officially worth burgling. No more fights over computer time, no more sending out for colour print outs! Sadly, not long after seen the last of our traditional drawing boards, plan chests and lightboxes leave the building.
This really was a brave new world where productivity was measured by the amount of takeaway pizza boxes piled up in the corner of the studio.
The new millennium came and we collectively let out a huge sigh of relief when planes didn’t fall out of the sky, billions were not wiped off the markets and most importantly our computers still worked. Yeah!
In 2004 we celebrated our tenth anniversary, so we took a table at a charity ball and invited along all our staff and some clients. After partaking in the many refreshments on offer we made our way through the foyer when we happened across a stall selling raffle tickets for £20 each. As we filed past each of us bought a raffle ticket until someone in our party who shall remain nameless asked in a rather loud voice, “what charity is this for?” The rest of us who hadn’t even thought of asking turned back full of interest. “Schizophrenia awareness” said the ticket seller. “Well, you had better give me two then” was the reply. Ah, another memorable night!
Throughout that time, there wasn’t much we hadn’t done and we had been privileged to have worked with, amongst others; Aggreko PLC, Ashbourne Healthcare PLC, City & Provincial Properties PLC, Dawn Homes Ltd, Devro PLC, Dunbar Bank PLC, Greater Glasgow Health Board, HarperCollins Publishing, Honeywell, Mansell, Prudential, Royal and Sun Alliance, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Scottish Amicable, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Life International, The Scottish Executive, The Scottish Labour Party, The Scottish Parliament, Sense, Shanks Waste Management, Style Financial Services, Tilcon, Warburtons, Waverley Wines and Zurich Financial Services Group. Heady days indeed.
In 2006 we had to seriously look at our brand. You see, what started out as a Design Consultancy had evolved into a bit of a hybrid over the years, with a mix of Design, Marketing and crucially, an ever increasing number of rebranding projects.
We firmly believed that if your brand connects with your customers and prospects in ways that your competitors brands don’t, then you win, by increasing your customer base, market share, sales and profits. In turn your business will grow and it’s monetary value increase.
We were the kind of agency that would help you get your business to where you really want it to be, by delivering a plan for success, ensuring you are moving in the right direction. The kind of agency that would find out what your customers really want from you and whether or not your current branding is going to deliver your overall company objectives. And if it wasn’t, we would put in place a plan to remedy that. We would make unknowns known. Give you a complete understanding of where you are now, where you need to get to and how exactly you’re going to get there. A bit like a Sat Nav really. We had finally found our niche!
So like so many of the rebranding projects we had worked on, our name was no longer a suitable label for the business we had become. So, with a deep breath, it was time for us to rebrand ourselves, and in 2007, The Design Corporation evolved into Darwin Brand Consultants.
Fifteen years of continues growth came to a shuddering halt in 2009 with the global financial crash. An over reliance on the financial and property sectors hit us hard. The great recession as it became known, unfortunately wasn’t that great for us. Things were about to change in ways we could have never imagined. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
We were about to find this out first hand. So for us, a period of contraction and consolidation followed for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was more like 4 years. During that time we lost much valued clients and colleague’s along the way. But we lived to fight another day, and fight we did. We no longer had the manpower or the desire to work with large corporates where decision making was slow and cumbersome and projects lasted forever (almost).
What we did have was extensive experience and knowledge that we had built up working with some huge brands. We had the ability to produce creative and consistent branding and given Vincent’s 30 years’ experience in branding, we had advantages and insights to offer that could make significant differences to almost any company, large or small, local or national.
So our business model changed, as did our target market. We moved our focus to SME’s where we were dealing directly with the owner directors and we would no longer concentrate on very narrow sectors, eggs and basket and all that. Nor would we take every opportunity that came our way. Instead we would choose to work with only the people we believe we fit best with. It was certainly a new way of thinking. For us anyway.
Our areas of expertise now extends to Bakers, Care Homes, Charities, Construction, Consultants, Consumer Products, Economic Development Agencies, Estate Agents, Facilities Management, Financial Services, Food & Drink Industry, Healthcare, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Political, Property Development, Public Sector, Recruitment Services, Retail, Retirement Villages, Shop fitting, Telecoms, Universities, Utilities and Winter Maintenance. The projects may vary in terms of size and scope but our principles, and how we apply them, remain constant.
Six years of measured growth followed. Slowly and surely we started to build a dedicated, passionate, pragmatic team of professionals with infectious enthusiasm, energy and drive. The business model was structured to minimise client expense and maximise agility, offering outstanding value for money.
Our experience and the tried and tested process we have developed over many years ensure we never fail to deliver.
It’s this invaluable experience that we can bring to our clients. We listen, question, probe and investigate, and get to the root of all the issues and challenges they are facing, ensuring we truly understand their business and market. Then we advise, never push. It’s this approach that allows us to design truly outstanding, creative, brand identities and marketing collateral that raise their brand awareness and profile, and present and position their business correctly to their target markets. This in turn helps them become more visible and attractive to their customers and prospects.
It’s been a long journey, and not all of it smooth! Especially the bits in the old Cavalier, as the suspension was rubbish! We’ve learned many things along the way (such as the importance of breakdown cover) and everyday we continue to learn. This is our story. It’s not finished yet, hopefully not by a long way. Looking back always makes us smile, but it’s looking forward that really excites us.
Moving forward, everyone reading this has the ability to affect our story. If you would like to help us write the next chapter, then why not get in TOUCH.
Since I graduated in graphic design in 1987, I have been dedicated to helping businesses communicate more effectively with their customers and ultimately improve their bottom line. I am passionate about designing Brand Identities that rejuvenate a business, make their owners and employees proud to represent that brand and give them a renewed passion for their business.
I started my career in business administration within a busy city centre business centre, working my way up to centre manager. Managing the day to day running including multiple projects for over 50 clients at any one time ensuring that projects were always delivered on time and on budget. It was this experience that I brought to Darwin joining the company in 1997. I love solving problems and ensuring projects run smoothly. My spare time is taken up with my two daughters.