AGDA Agency of the year 2019 – Brilliant women and the breaking (and remaking) of For The People

AGDA Agency of the Year 2019

For The People picked up Agency of the year at the 2019 AGDA Australian Design Awards over the weekend – the second time our studio has achieved this title in the five years we’ve been running, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for our team. This builds on our recent inclusion in the Top 10 design studios in the world in D&AD’s 2019 global rankings.

It comes off the back of working with some wonderful people (clients) on some exciting projects – in particular, the brand identities for The West Coast of Tasmania, the 66th Sydney Film Festival and the Women’s And Girls’ Emergency Centre.

These projects were recognised with the highest level of awards with 3 Pinnacles, 16 Distinctions and 4 Judges Choices across across multiple categories such as Branding, Design for Good, Digital, Print, Effectiveness, Design Crafts (Writing, Illustration, photography, typography).

Whilst it’s an incredible achievement for a relatively new studio (5 years is new, right?), this title has caused me to reflect quite heavily on the journey we’ve gone through since we started, but especially over the past two and a half years. The start of that period of time being the point at which we imploded financially and culturally, we almost closed our doors for good, and I personally reached my lowest and darkest point in twenty two years as a designer.

We needed to reevaluate our business, which resulted in buttoning down on our core skillset and experience – branding. We also changed our team structure, moving away from a top heavy, individualistic flat structure towards a supportive multi-level pyramidal team structure. The major change was the shift from a dominating all-male founder leadership team, to the one that raised up our female creative and strategic leaders to help shift the direction of our business. It was a very smart and critical move.

In recent years the direction of For The People has been defined by Johanna Roca, (Creative Director), Melissa Baillache (Design Director), Amanda Gordon and Rebecca Lester (Strategy Directors) alongside Damian and myself. And that changed everything. Whilst it can sometimes be assumed that myself and Damian are responsible for the great work that we do, it’s often an unfortunate oversight of the true talent and brains within our business. These four leading women have been the energy, inspiration and hope in our business, that helped us get through the difficult times, taking us to a place of financial stability and a place of world-class creative output. Of course our entire team is obviously responsible for this output, success of the work and company, and they’ve worked extremely hard with an unending amount of positivity and joy throughout this period.

This year’s AGDA Awards also named Senior Designer, Rebecca Cini as Emerging Designer of the Year, due to her contributions to the studio, the industry and purposeful clients such as the Women’s and Girls Emergency Centre. Needless to say we’re all very proud of everything she’s achieved and the person she’s become in the studio. And finally without going all Oscar speech-ish, it would be amiss to not mention our Head of Writing, Mat Groom, who has almost single-handedly ensured our writing and verbal identity has been of a calibre that rivals the studio's strategy and design output. (All this whilst running a side hustle to create, write and launch Self Made, a new comic published by Image Comics in the US).

It’s been an incredible journey that has brought us great friendships, collaborations and partnerships that make it all worthwhile, although it would have been nice to have avoided some of the scarier moments to get here. I’m looking forward to this new chapter, with my wife, Jo, settling back into studio life after returning from maternity leave and leading our team and the creativity of our company. I’m sure the next five years will continue to bring new challenges, opportunities and wonderful people into our lives, be it to work with as colleagues or clients.

To see all the awards, head over to AGDA Awards 2019