Featured Studio

Warriors Studio

June 2019

We have the most EPIC chat ever with Victoria & Beth of Warriors Studio. We discuss their graduation plans vs what actually happened; the growing pressure on students to go to university; their approach, as a team, to networking, and Beth shares with us 5 of her biggest lessons from her 27 years on the planet.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

Victoria: I wanted to be a designer from a very young age. I remember asking all my friends and family if I could ‘design their dream room’ and I soon had a ring binder full of crazy unrealistic rooms and houses. I also created a club which took place in my garden tent for people wanting to make friends locally and I made tons of posters, flyers and member packs – I always had an appetite to create and make. At high school, I developed a real love for art and design as a subject - it was the idea generation and bringing a concept to life which sparked my love for design and want to study it further.

Beth: Imagine, a geeky, chubby, hysterical, only-child who was obsessed with:

Watching Art Attack; Making friendship bracelets; Collecting Pokemon cards; Building a go-cart; Asking for £400 worth of Lego for my birthday present; Painting my bedroom with an ‘under the sea’ theme; Obsessing over my Halloween costume; Compulsively watching the Simpsons; Colouring in (only within the lines); Painting by numbers; Designing the best EVER theme park on Rollercoaster Tycoon; Gifting my relatives with bad drawings and even worse Xmas tree decorations

That was me, in a nutshell.

Like most creative kids, I loved Art & Design at school, the art department was my safe haven and the classes passed quicker than I ever was comfortable with. I was a regular at the art after school club and spent most of my time out with school working on my art projects, rather than the other more ‘important subjects’. Luckily, I did well in other subjects and naturally was good with numbers. After meeting with a terrible ‘careers advisor’ at school, I decided to apply to do business and finance at University. Going to art school was seen as a bad bet and risky investment. After a few lectures on ‘supply and demand’, ‘management science’ and ‘financial statements’, I dropped out of my business aka boring degree, leaving with even more determination to go to Art School.

I choose to enter Edinburgh College of Art through their general route and after dipping my toes in all of the subjects on offer, I was drawn to Graphic Design.

At that point, I never really knew what graphic design was but was mesmerised by the typography, bold visuals and work from previous students on the walls.

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?

Victoria: All my friends had a five-year plan of what they wanted to do which involved masters, moving or starting up their own thing whilst I freaked out as I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I was desperate to get into the ‘real world’ after studying for 5 years and I wanted to stay in Glasgow as it’s my home. During my time at ECA, I had helped Beth and James with Graphic Design Festival Scotland and had been since the idea was on a piece of paper. I helped them out with the festival as much as I could whilst studying. They offered me a part time job when I graduated and since January this year I have been able to come on board and manage the festival full-time. I’ve been pretty lucky to finish my studies and start working with my pals straight away – thanks guys!

Beth: I’m originally from a small-town on the west coast of Scotland called Kilmarnock. Nobody moves there and nobody leaves there. It was actually dubbed Scotland’s worst town to live in. When I first applied to Art School, I had my sights set on Glasgow School of Art (GSA), not because it was a famous art school, more importantly, I could commute from Scotland’s worst town and not leave my beloved mammy. Of course, I didn’t get in to GSA, had a nervous breakdown and then moved 1hr and 30 minutes across the country to Edinburgh, reluctantly.

After 4 years in Edinburgh having the absolute time of my life (not without a few teething problems), I felt the same about moving outwith Scotland after graduation. Home is where my heart is and – chasing exciting and challenging design jobs across the globe fucking terrified me! Strangely enough in my earlier years at Art School, I never really considered that you could do the best graphic design work for the top clients in Glasgow. You had to move.

Luckily or unluckily, I never got to the crunch point where I had to consider moving to London, Berlin, New York, San Fran to work on the cool graphic design projects I often dreamt of. After graduating, I would likely have applied to advertising and branding agencies to do project/studio management with the hope of gaining employment, and more importantly offering me enough annual leave to go back and visit my mammy every month.

Before crunch point and not because of crunch point, me and James started 2 businesses in Art School, one called Warriors Studio and the other called Graphic Design Festival Scotland. I am now living happily in Scotland’s worst town, commuting to Glasgow daily and living the graphic design dream. Well, sort of.

Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them?

Victoria: Beth – Project Manager and James – Creative Director. I love them no matter how much they wind me up and every time I fall for their practical jokes. I admire their confidence, bravery and over-all ‘fuck it’ attitude which sets them apart from everyone else. I’m constantly learning from them every day and will always appreciate the opportunity they have given me. I also work alongside Mitchell – designer and Jonathan – Intern who constantly make the studio a fun place to be in. I am lucky to work with people who feel like a second family to me.

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When you have things in common, it’s not really networking, it’s just socialising.

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What career advice would you give to your 16yr old self?

Victoria: “Please don’t think that university is the be all and end all.” A lot of students these days think that they NEED to go to university once they have finished school and that anything other than that isn’t good enough. Too many people now disregard apprenticeships, internships and college courses. I remember being so scared to leave school early and study design at college because all my pals were staying on at school to get more qualifications and go to university. I kept comparing myself to them and thinking ‘maybe I should have gone to university straight from school too?’ Turns out college was the best thing I could have done as I made so many connections, learned invaluable skills and used this as stepping stone to ECA - where I met Beth and James. Since then, I have had many conversations with students who feel under so much pressure to do well or feel miserable studying a subject they have no passion for just so that they can say “I’m at university” to family and friends. Don’t study something for the sake of being at university. Find something that excites you every day and you’ll never work a day in your life.

How important is networking to you?

Victoria: I encourage everyone to make the most of the people around you. Whether you’re at school, college, university or in a job already, it’s so important to make connections everywhere you go. In my final year of art school, my friend Michelle and I managed to get some funding to set up an event to bring different disciplines from the art school together for an evening and chat over a few beers. We thought it was vital to meet as many people whilst in education before we were thrown into the big bad world. I also managed to pursued Beth and James to introduce a networking night into the festival this year. I don’t think I would be in my position if I hadn’t stepped up and spoke to Beth and James about helping them with the festival. Say hello and be nice to everyone – you never know when you’ll need them.

Beth: Networking amongst creative people has always felt very easy to me. When you have things in common, it’s not really networking, it’s just socialising. Networking for networking's sake, to get new clients or to open new doors, is such a challenge and feels deeply unnatural.

Our 2018 plan was to go to more non-design events, meet new people from different fields and hopefully make new connections that will get us some new interesting projects. We have decided to not go as a team, attend individually to encourage us to speak to people and not stand awkwardly in the corner speaking to each other.

Who are your top five design crushes right now?

Beth: Below are my top 5 design crushes right now, if you take a look through their websites, you will understand why!

1. Bráulio Amado - Graphic Designer and Illustrator from Portugal, currently living in New York City.

2. Liza Enebeis - Creative Director of Studio Dumbar, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

3. Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk - Artist from The Netherlands

4. Ines Cox - Graphic Designer from Antwerp, Belgium

5. Jonathan Castro - Peruvian graphic designer living in Amsterdam.

What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?

Beth:

1. Name of the book: Shoe Dog

Author: Phil Knight

Title: A memoir by the creator of NIKE.

As I write this, I’m only about 70% of the way through this book, but I feel truly inspired. Phil, the creator of Nike seems to be comfortable in taking risks, making intuitive decisions, being unwilling to give up and also bending the rules. I enjoy these qualities in people.

I have began to circle parts of the text I enjoy or feel are useful ideas to hang on to which I have shared with you below:

  • “History is one long processional of crazy ideas.”

  • “You are remembered, he said, prophetically, for the rules you break.”

  • “He was easy to talk to, and easy not to talk to-equally important qualities in a friend. Essential in a travel companion.”

  • “Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.”

  • “Grow or die, that’s what I believed, no matter the situation.”

2.Name of the blog: It’s Nice That

A blog that most designers from across the world will know and use, so I am probably not offering a new exciting reference, however, this is my number one go to design blog for news, new projects and to lose half an hour of my life reading their articles. It continues to be a superb resource and I believe my design world would be strange without it!

3.Name of magazine: Riposte

Title: A smart magazine women

This is one of the very few magazines I buy regularly. The content is always interesting, original and I often find the stories very inspiring. It’s also designed well, continues to explore compelling topics and is a great way to learn about interesting women doing interesting things!

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

Beth: I recently spoke at Glasgow’s Ladies Wine and Design event and spent time preparing for the talk reflecting on some of the things I have learnt in my 27 years on the planet. Below are 5 of my biggest lessons, they are based on particular events and stories that are still very prominent in my mind.

1. Work isn’t that important.

In the lead up to Graphic Design Festival Scotland (an annual design symposium we organise that takes place in October in Glasgow) it can often be very stressful, working 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important to you and live in a frantic bubble of project management.

My best friend Claire, my soul gal, was getting married 3-4 weeks before the festival in Cyprus and in the midst of GDFS panic I canceled going to her wedding. She was devastated and so was I, but I wasn’t thinking clearly and couldn’t see past my gigantic task list.

After explaining this to James (co-director of GDFS and Warriors), my brother, he made me see clearly and was very adamant that I should go to her wedding, GDFS would survive without me for 2 days, and that we couldn’t cancel life events just for work.

In a panicked realisation of how stupid and shortsighted I was being, I went to the wedding, had such an amazing time and actually was the best stress-buster I could have ever asked for. Looking back, after GDFS was over, if I hadn’t gone to my best friends wedding because of work, I probably would never have forgiven myself. Work isn’t that important.

2. Be nice even when you don’t want to be.

Leaving university, never having done any work experience and starting 2 businesses with your design brother is one of the most refreshing, empowering and exciting feelings I have ever had. We are very passionate about what we do and this can often lead us to being intensely disappointed when things don’t work out our way or they don’t go to plan.

When people are unreasonable, unfair or do something that we disagree with, it’s very easy and feels natural for us to defend ourselves and to write out emails explaining why we disagree. We did this in the first 2 years of starting out and found this to be bad for business. We’ve learned that it’s easier to be nice, pick your battles and simply, don’t work with people again who see the world differently from us – not send a scathing email to them. Be nice even when you don’t want to be.

3. People are just people.

As a student, it’s often easy to idolise designers who you think are doing incredible work on top projects and almost think of these people as god-like creatures. When I was at art school, I loved and still do, the work of design studios such as HORT, Kate Moross, KesselsKramer, 44 Flavours, Pentagram, Wolff Ollins etc.

Luckily, I have since met all of my idols by inviting them to GDFS, and have quickly realised that these god-like creatures are just people, and 99% of the time, they are open, responsive and accessible, lovely, normal humans who were once young nervous students themselves. People are just people.

4. Your mammy always knows best.

In the first 1-2 years of starting Warriors Studio and GDFS, we were incredibly poor and incredibly stressed about money and cash flow. We went down to London for meetings with new clients and I remember crying on the underground platform because of how poor I was.

I phoned my mum saying: ‘I can’t do this anymore, I can’t take stress, I need to get a real job that pays me every month.’

She said: ‘Beth, keep the faith, you are meant to do this, keep the faith.’

She also transferred me £100 and sent me for a beer.

When you are seriously stressed about a project and thinking of giving up, talk to someone that knows you. Your mammy always knows best.

5. Do whatever the fuck you like.

We are on this earth for such a short time and life can change dramatically in seconds. If you are not happy with what you are doing, change it. It’s in your power. Do whatever the fuck you like.

Website: warriorsstudio.com

Instagram: @warriorsstudio

Twitter: @warriorsstudio_

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