The creative industry is full of small to medium sized businesses. Be they one-man bands run from a back bedroom or fully fledged design studios that are reasonably well established. No matter their size they all tend to have one thing in common, a passion for whatever little corner of their respective industry they find themselves in.
Most, if not all creative businesses come across periods when times get tough and just recently they’ve got very tough indeed – especially in the advertising and marketing sector whose budgets tend to be the first to get cut.
At US3 Media we know all about cut budgets, in fact the business was born out of such a cut back. Way back in 2004 the three directors of US3 (geddit?) were made redundant from a now defunct creative company. We could have gone our separate ways but instead decided to give it a go. We realised that the collective experience and skill sets that we shared; a designer, writer and photographer could form the foundation of a solid creative business. So, over a bacon butty and a cup of coffee we decided on a name, rudimentary plan of action and started putting the word out that we were in business.
This makes it sound like we found it very easy to get started but it took us quite a while to get the first jobs in. It needed more than sleepless nights and endless business meetings to get things going, it took shear damn mindedness and perseverance. And it still does. When we started US3 we had no assets other than ourselves, and a hunger for work and creativity. It’s a hunger we still have as we’re always looking for more work - we get a kick out of it.
When the first jobs started coming in we made sure that our approach to every piece of work would be well thought out, researched to death and be exactly what the client wanted – even if sometimes it wasn't exactly what they asked for. That approach worked then and it still works now.
Every job is important to us so we make sure we listen to what the client wants, what the budget is and then go off and research (because it’s vital you know what you’re talking about) the subject at hand and start conceptualising. This tends to then be followed by internal meetings where one of us will point something out that puts a giant spanner in the works and makes the others complain bitterly and stamp their feet a lot. It’s a pretty standard approach and it gets the job done and has got it done on time, every time.
I think it’s important to state that we try to have fun when we work on a job. Sometimes it isn’t of course, like when you find yourself working on something at half two in the morning, feeling not just tired but also frustrated and questioning all the life choices that led you to that point. But that’s the business we're in I’m afraid. It’s important because, as far as I’m concerned if there isn’t an element of fun or at the very least a firm understanding of the subject matter then it becomes extremely difficult to feel motivated and that will impact on the quality of work, which then leads to uncomfortable conversations with the client.
I was going to say that this is the point where we work on the final project, but that would be untrue. Normally at this stage we'd be getting ready for pushing the creative solution to the client, or to be more accurate, creative choices. Of course, some jobs aren't so complicated but in the cases where conceptualisation is required we tend to put some options on the table, they say three is the magic number and they tend to be correct. In big projects each option may be code-named, Coca-Cola analogies tend to work well with options such as; Diet, Full Fat and Cherry. Cherry being the most 'out-there' option and normally the one I'm most excited about - nobody ever goes for cherry. But even on small jobs, a logo for instance, a few choices will be on the table.
Production and completion
Once the decision has been made, the real work begins. The beauty of a team built on three foundations is the creative stability it provides, we can all work independently but also simultaneously on the same project. Gavin, churning out copy like a madman, Doug camera in hand (he's also an accomplished writer) producing great shot after shot and myself, creating artwork and drinking enough coffee to drain a medium sized nebula. There are, of course other benefits to the make up of the business, such as speed. Having all come from creative backgrounds we have an innate understanding of the requirements of putting a project to production level. Another benefit is the ability to bounce ideas off of each other, having access to another set of eyes really helps when you're stuck in a rutt.
Over the years we've worked on so many different jobs that it's actually easy to forget them, until reminded. And no matter what the project is, whether it be catalogue, press release, web build or even something that in the end never sees the light of day the process stays the same. Its starts with a chat and invariably ends with a pint.