We chat to Martin James Power (MJP) + Steven Waring (SW) the Co-Founders of creative studio Ensemble. Martin explains how the studio—once a collective of designers and strategists—has transitioned into the business it is today, we get both Martin and Steven's take on internships, and a great insight into the design landscape in Manchester—and it's all very exciting!

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

MJP — Ensemble started as a collective of designers and strategists, coming together on varied projects. It’s that collective model that enabled us to work on a wide variety of projects and deliver across lots of mediums. Whilst we’re no longer the larger collective, we still use the model as a way to scale and respond to different briefs.

This allows us to work with people from all different roles within the creative industry — copywriters, animators, developers, fabricators, even furniture makers and means that every project we work on is different.

What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)

MJP — I think it’s crucial to finding your feet as a graduate. Yes, there may be some agencies that take advantage of graduates, but that shouldn’t put you off doing them. Just make sure you go to studios that you think you align to. Going to a smaller studio may mean you get paid less, but you will get much more personal attention, whereas a big studio may pay more but you may have less exposure to the inner workings of the projects or business.

We take interns in whenever we can, it’s not always easy as we may be too busy to really give them the time that they need, but as both founders have taught in the past we have a shared belief in the importance of giving students a chance to develop.

SW — The vast majority going on the traditional path has had to start somewhere. Although not essential, internships are an important step in making sure the cultural fit is right for all involved. You will find out a lot about an agency from the way they deal with interns and graduates.

Design work by Ensemble The Design Kids interviews Ensemble work-2

What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate?

SW — A different take. Someone that may deviate from the norm or expected. The fundamentals are also important – type skills and good attention to detail etc, but fundamentally someone that shows a pro-active nature, that maybe goes beyond what was asked and that shows a willingness to soak up and progress.

We have recently hired a graduate who has stayed with us after an internship. He didn’t go down the traditional education path; first working as an artist and then doing a full-time short course in design. There is a really interesting blend there – the abstracted work he does, mixed with a love of typography, order and structure.

What the quality of design education like locally?

MJP — Manchester has a great network of design educators, with Manchester School of Art, Salford University and the likes of Shillington and Hyper Island, there are lots of different routes to the industry. Because of that diversity in routes to the industry, you find there’s a real diverse mix of graduates in the city and that’s why you still see such a mix of studios operating.

Design work by Ensemble The Design Kids interviews Ensemble work-4
Design work by Ensemble The Design Kids interviews Ensemble work-4

Fundamentally we look for graduates that show a pro-active nature, that maybe go beyond what was asked and show a willingness to soak up and progress.

Are you involved in any teaching and if so how it shapes your practice?

SW — We feel there is a duty to make yourself available to students who get in touch. If you can’t help, you may be able to point them in the direction of someone who can. Interaction with students and graduates happens almost daily.

What is the design landscape like in your city and where do you fit in?

MJP — Manchester is really exciting now. Everywhere you go there are little independent agencies doing different work. There’s a pretty strong community feel too — not in a lovey-dovey hand-holding way, but everyone knows of each other and appreciates that there’s more than enough work to go around. Mix that with the rate of growth for the city and it’s pretty exciting.

Design work by Ensemble The Design Kids interviews Ensemble work-6
Design work by Ensemble The Design Kids interviews Ensemble work-6

Where to find Ensemble online.

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