Name: Darren Richardson
Company: Gardiner Richardson
Job title: Company director, creative director
What made you want to get into brands/advertising/media/marketing?
I always knew I wanted to work in graphic design. It was during my degree that I discovered my love for identity and its importance in the world of design. I’ve always been very interested in the identities created by Paul Rand, such as Olivetti and IBM, and the work of Saul Bass – who created iconic badges for brands that have lasted many years.
How did you get into the industry (including relevant qualifications and professional training)?
I did a foundation course, then a degree in graphic design at Newcastle Polytechnic. After this I went to work at the Roundel Design Group in London.
What was good and bad about your first job?
Good – I got to learn from inspirational designers – who were also the people in charge of running the business.
I’m fortunate enough not to have experienced anything really negative as I’ve mainly left companies in search of a different experience – a change or to be at a bigger company.
List your jobs to date:
Roundel Design Group (1987-1992)
Samson Tyrrell (1992-1994)
Landor Associates (1994–1996)
After Landor I came back up to the north east and worked as creative director at Ian Kerr Associates, then CMC before setting up Gardiner Richardson. We’re now about to celebrate our tenth birthday!
What were the best and worst, and why?
The best was Landor. I worked on large scale international projects, such as Cathay Pacific Airlines and Delta Airlines. Even better I got to see the world! I also worked with Norwegian Telecom which gave me great experience of different cultures.
The most frustrating point of my career was when I initially moved back to the north east because there didn’t seem to be much of an appreciation of design. Fortunately things have evolved a great deal since then!
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
A lot of designers mostly, but from a business perspective I would say Lucy Gardiner, for a number of different reasons. We set up a business with two main disciplines of PR and Design – words and pictures. We aimed to start a company that told stories; that was creative, but could see things from a commercial point of view.
Who in the industry do you most admire?
Terry Tyrrell – one half of Sampson Tyrrell. He’s a down to earth, lovely guy – although he was the joint MD, he had time for everyone and was very approachable, bringing a small firm feel to a big business. A lot of people respected him for it.
From a design perspective I would say Saul Bass and Paul Rand because they combined art with commercial design. Also Edward McKnight Kauffer, who in my eyes pioneered this step change – especially a piece of work called Flight for the New York Herald.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Setting up Gardiner Richardson. We aimed for a different approach from a northern company; a national feel, but within the north east region.
Our first big achievement was winning the global guidelines for The Sage Group plc. We looked to successfully raise the bar in terms of the north east and put Newcastle on the map.
On what do you base your success so far?
The quality of our work and the quality of our people. We have fantastic people working for us and have created an environment where everyone can flourish and grow – we all have different skills and experiences to offer and it’s a people focused environment.
What are your ambitions?
Vision for business, to be the company of choice and to put the north east on a level footing.
Change one thing about your job:
There’s nothing I would really change.
Change one thing about your industry:
I’ve recently been involved in helping define what the creative industry actually is. I feel we need a greater collaboration within the industry – from advertising to packaging – we need to share information and help break down barriers.
Change one thing about the world:
I’d like to see more tolerance. There’s a lot of talking, but sometimes not much listening so I’d like to see more balance between the two.
What is your favourite brand?
I’ve got lots of favourite brands, including Innocent drinks – what Richard Reed has done is really interesting. It showed how design could help build a brand.
What is the next big brand in your view?
Traidcraft. In many ways it was the pioneer of fair trade and everything has overtaken it, but Traidcraft is now in a position where it can tell its story and perhaps reinvent itself.
List your ‘media diet’:
Design Week, Grafik, Creative Review, Marketing Week, Observer business section and magazine, The Journal for regional press and Newsnight for TV.