Graphic Workman is a full service graphic design agency based in London. Founder David Ottley tells us how he keeps his head above water in such a competitive marketplace.

Graphic Workman is a full service graphic design agency based in London. Founder David Ottley tells us how he keeps his head above water in such a competitive marketplace.

For David, setting up a graphic design company was the natural next step in his career.

“I had been freelancing whilst studying for an MA and once the course had finished the obvious next step seemed to be to continue working for myself and to develop my own practice commercially. It's been quite a learning curve and still is, but the challenge is exciting and ultimately very rewarding.”

Setting up the company on his own was not always plain sailing, particularly balancing the demands of being both a businessman and a graphic designer.

“Self promotion and finding new work, developing new self initiated projects, maintaining existing clients and keeping the books in order all at the same time has been the biggest challenge so far. It's getting easier to manage each of these aspects of the business, but I think maintaining a healthy balance will always be one of the main challenges that faces me.”

One of the biggest challenges David – and anyone in the graphic design industry faces – is differentiation in a very saturated marketplace. David copes with this challenge in a number of ways.

Perhaps most importantly, he emphasises the importance of re-interpreting your own practices so that people can easily understand how you can offer value where others can’t.

“Recently I been using the phrase 'crafted by obsession' to describe my approach. For me, it's an honest assessment of the type of design that I aspire to produce – that's really important to me. I try not to get distracted by design studios and individuals whose work I admire and focus on my own practice and where I want to be.”

I try not to get distracted by design studios and individuals whose work I admire and focus on my own practice and where I want to be.
To keep his potential client base as large as possible – important in a saturated market – David works with a number of colleagues who provide additional services.

“I try to keep it simple and be upfront with people. When I need an extra pair of hands I have a trusted group of programmers, printers and photographers who I call upon. This way I hope that clients can see how design works which is beneficial to the process and ultimately allows them to see where my time, and their money, is going.”

As for the future of Graphic Workman, David has a number of ventures to keep him busy.

“The next few months are quite busy for Graphic Workman, I have new typefaces and stencils that need to be ready for a convention called Artsmart. Graphic Workman is also working on several new websites and print projects for TIGI Haircare and The University of the Arts as well as an exciting collaborative project with a Theatre Director.”

“In the long term I hope to continue growing Graphic Workman and establish the studio firmly within the UK design scene.”

David’s top tips for entrepreneurs in graphic design:

Get plenty of experience and take it slow - design is a busy and congested market and it takes time to get recognised and established – things never happen overnight.

Don’t let your creativity overrule commercial awareness – you’re not ‘selling out.’ Design is a business. Knowledge of strategy and basic business principles can help you explain to people how the work you do can help them.