There are few agencies whose work we admire more than that of The Allotment, so when Creative Partner Michael Smith agreed to speak with us we were naturally thrilled, and immensely keen to hear what he had to say…
Born in south Wales, Mike kick started his career with a student award from the International Society of Typographic Designers before heading to London. A career which to date has spanned over fifteen years and glittered with many honours and awards, Mike’s journey has taken him to some of the world’s foremost agencies including Elmwood, where he was a Senior Design Director, Lambie-Nairn, Pentagram and Williams Murray Hamm.
The Allotment was set up in 2010 allowing Mike to carry forward his experience, drive for ideas and meticulous craft. The team are forging their own significant reputation which is seeing them go from strength to strength.
DJ: How would you describe your own style and process?
MS: We always start by getting a deep understanding of the client or problem. Before I start thinking about ideas I like to feel that I’ve done some serious homework, not just skimmed the surface. This is what we call ‘The Big Dig’ at the The Allotment. I think ‘thoroughness’ is key to creating effective and powerful communications. Then of course there’s the joy of crafting an idea and seeing it come to life.
DJ: How has this evolved as you’ve moved through your career?
MS: I’m even more enthused and excited by the possibilities of where ideas can be taken nowadays. There are no limits.
DJ: How do you think your work will evolve in the coming years and what factors do you think will effect that?
MS: We’re doing more and more moving image work, films and digital based work. I think this will evolve and develop but I could never see us not doing a nice piece of print. The one consistent aspect of our approach at The Allotment is brand storytelling, its at the heart of everything we produce.
[Below, brand solutions for White Logistics]
DJ: Who have been the biggest influencers on your work and process?
MS: I have been a freelance designer for some legendary agencies like Pentagram and Williams Murray Hamm, so I was exposed to many different approaches. I guess I’ve been influenced by all the best bits. One of my favourite agencies is Farrow because the work is both highly intellectual and exceptionally crafted, beautiful stuff.
DJ: You’ve been at some of the biggest agencies there are – Pentagram, Elmwood, Lambie Nairn – what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt and what is the best advice you’ve been given?
MS: The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to trust your instincts and run with it.
DJ: If you retired today, what one piece of work or project you’ve been involved in would you consider your legacy?
MS: The Mind identity which still looks fresh today and our latest self promotional book titled Jack & The Giant Recession.
DJ: When establishing The Allotment during the economic downturn, what key factors influenced the foundations of the brand’s persona?
MS: We’re a down to earth bunch here and we are incredibly passionate about our work. We want to win awards but ultimately it’s about helping our clients navigate through difficult times and growing their business through powerful communications
[Below: The Allotment team]
DJ: What is the most exciting thing about an average day at The Allotment?
MS: As well as getting the work done, we take time to get out of the studio during the day to chat about inspiration and ideas. We encourage open thinking and if someone has a great idea then we try to make it happen.
[Below: The Allotment’s rebrand project of Valerie Hoskins]
DJ: What has been the soundtrack to your life?
MS: That’s tricky. The current soundtracks to my life, with young children, would have to be the theme tunes to Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and Zingzillas.
DJ: Finally, how do you kick back outside of the office?
MS: I don’t get time to kick back with two very young daughters looking for attention. I spend all of my precious time outside of the studio with my young family.
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