Shaun Bowen, Co-founder of B&B Studio, talks to us about running an agency and the joys of helping passionate startup founders to create a brand from scratch.

What did you study at university, and what did you picture yourself doing once you’d graduated?

I studied graphic design at Brighton University. It was better known for its illustration course but I went there because, after a visit, I liked the feel of the place and thought it would be a great experience to live by the sea. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a graphic designer when I went to college or even when I left.

How did you get that first step on the ladder?

I moved to London and started doing a few placements. A month each at Design Bridge, The Partners and then Lewis Moberly. Amazing agencies that were all quite different and it was a crash course for me in understanding what it would be like to work as a graphic designer. I got offered a job at the end of my month’s placement at Lewis Moberly. I owe a lot to the designer that interviewed me there and got me in the door.

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B&B Studio for BEAR

You spent five years at Lewis Moberly, and then ten years as creative director at Pearlfisher — what did you take from your time there?

Mary Lewis was an incredible Creative Director and inspiration at Lewis Moberly. I feel that first job really molded me into the designer I am today. It was a great design team and I learned how to think and how to make those ideas look beautiful. I spent all five years at Lewis Moberly filling sketchbooks with ideas. I moved to Pearlfisher to challenge myself with doing things I hadn’t had the opportunity to do before. It was an chance to run projects, recruit and art direct others, as well as build a reputation for a studio that was still very young. By the time I left Pearlfisher, it was a global agency and I was running a team of around 15 designers across multiple global, iconic design projects.

What led to you and Kerry setting up your own studio, and what was your vision when launching?

I’d stopped growing and learning at Pearlfisher, and both Kerry and I felt we needed a new challenge. We wanted to connect again with the design work and the clients in a much closer way that running a small agency allows you to do.

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B&B Studio for Pip & Nut

B&B has become known for its work with startup brands — what’s the benefit of working with entrepreneurial brands? And how do you decide which ones to work with?

The directness of working with the founders and entrepreneurs of a business can be incredibly powerful. The whole team thrives on the opportunity to create a brand from scratch across a host of touchpoints, considering everything from its purpose and personality, its name and identity, through to its visual aesthetic and packaging. We meet a lot of founders, but we’ve learned that they need to have a genuine desire for their product or purpose and fully commit to it. It won’t succeed if you don’t throw yourself right in — starting your own brand is rarely an easy way to a fast buck.

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B&B Studio for Slamseys fruit gin

How has the industry changed since you started out, and how has that impacted your approach to branding and design?

Consumers have changed more than anything. We’ve moved from a time of passive consumption of giant global brands to proactive and thoughtful decision-making when it comes to choosing brands that best express our values and desires. The proliferation of startups means big brands can no longer rest on their laurels, and nowadays whether we’re working with a new brand or a global name we have to think much harder about what we’re trying to achieve through design. As a result, our approach evolves all the time — you can't stand still as an agency.

Now that you have your own studio, what do you look for when recruiting new designers to the team?

I’m still looking for the same things in a designer that I was when I was judging graduate portfolios 25 years ago. It’s still all about ideas and making those ideas look great. But I also look for people that want to learn and be part of a team — they have to understand that creating a brand is a joint effort, and design is just one part of that bigger picture.

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B&B Studio for Firefly
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B&B Studio for Fever Tree
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B&B Studio for BrewDog: LoneWolf


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