Creative collaboration is often considered a luxury afforded to new and middleweight designers – those creatives relaxed and flexible enough to hand their artistic concepts over to the unknown abyss of their contemporaries’ minds and methods. Once big-name clients enter the picture, so too do brand guidelines and tight deadlines, and as designers become more established they’re less likely to trust their hard-earned reputation – not to mention fee – to fellow designers who are competing for those same client commissions.
Creative strategy and design consultancy The Partners started life in London’s Shoreditch in 1984 as a collaboration between a team of idealistic young designers. Nearly three decades later, it boasts a New York office as well as a 70-strong team and an awards list so long it requires its own structural supports. But despite its success, the agency remains driven by the same principles on which it was founded, as creative partner Greg Quinton affirms: “Those original partners – Aziz Cami, Keren House, David Stuart, Malcolm Swatridge and Nick Wurr – chose the name ‘The Partners’ to celebrate creative collaboration, which is still our philosophical cornerstone. In this atmosphere of pooled talent they quickly flourished and the fledgling company developed a reputation for graphic design that belied its small size. Within a short time they were looking at 18 separate items accepted into the D&AD Annual in one year, which, I believe, is still a record for a design agency.”
Quinton, who initially joined The Partners fresh out of college as a junior designer, became creative partner in 2005. He recalls his first contact with the agency: “As a design student, The Partners was perched at the top of my wish list. Its reputation was so formidable I was too scared to apply for a job. However, after meeting Val Gibbons [then creative director at The Fine White Line] she encouraged me to meet Nick Wurr, and before I knew it I was a junior designer.” Quinton joined Jim Prior (CEO), Claire Robinson (client relationships partner) and Natalie Clark (finance partner), who he’d worked alongside for a number of years, as the new generation of partners.
The Manhattan office opened in 2009 to serve The Partners’ expanding base of American clients. “We now have a team working with our clients across the Atlantic while we’re tucked up in bed in the UK,” Quinton laughs. The organisation of the US branch mirrors that of the UK arm. Strategic brand consultants, digital design experts, production staff, new business teams, and marketing and finance squads all pitch in together at The Partners, with the agency also leading the way in offering paid industry placements for college students across the UK and beyond. “This set-up has been in place for years,” says Quinton, “and encourages collaboration and the right degree of team autonomy and competition.”