The proliferation of award programmes makes it harder than ever to stand out from the crowd, prompting a flight to established awards for showcase and discovery, a message championed by Form Digital, crowned Scottish Design Agency of the Year 2022 at the Scottish Design Awards.
Since opening their Glasgow studio in 2019, Form Digital has been no stranger to navigating a competitive market, having gone from strength to strength competing with more established brand agencies – helped in no small part by the cachet of the coveted chrome ruler. We sat down with Form’s co-founder and managing director Cameron Fraser, to find out how their design agency of the decade gameplan is progressing. Fraser said:
“Over the past five years, we have seen a lot of ‘pop-up awards’ where new award bodies are being created left, right and centre whether that’s locally or nationally. I think there is a place for them if coming from a place that needs attention rather than a way to make money.
“We are quite particular about where we apply, the awards bodies we look to engage with have both legacy and quality at their core as well as being aligned with our values.”
With a mere nine years under its belt Form Digital already has its eye on the long game, an approach that has not only reinforced a drive for work of high quality but has ensured its founders remain on the frontline. Fraser explained:
“We’re very careful about growing organically, we don’t want to be a 50-man agency because we like to be hands-on. We enjoy the process and don’t want to be delegating. I and Kyle McKenzie (fellow Form co-founder) enjoy the discovery phase of understanding our clients.”
Being hands-on is at the heart of what the Scottish Design Awards are all about, providing a vital post-Covid gathering place where everyone mingles and is treated equally – irrespective of size. Fraser adds:
“We don’t see these rooms purely as rooms full of our competitors but as rooms full of potential collaborators and mentors. I am happy to call many of those ‘competitors’ friends. The Scottish Design Awards are great at focussing on the idea, that’s been refreshing. It’s nice to see smaller agencies up against powerhouses like Whitespace. You have a balance between independent designers, small agencies and international companies.
“Even when the design awards were run remotely we still met up with all the guys in South Block – it was legal at the time! We met up in a pub and watched it together on a laptop. Out of that, have come many little traditions such as Tunnocks Tea Cakes for people at our table if there are no awards on the night.
“You’re not guaranteeing work but the friendships you make might spark a conversation that six months down the line leads to a project or a collaboration. Since winning the Agency of the Year, we’ve both tendered for and won work for the likes of the V&A Dundee and Six by Nico, both of whom were already aware of our success.”
Above all, Form Digital exemplifies the importance of persevering, brushing yourself down and starting again, after a fallow year, in pursuit of the big prize. This patience was rewarded after five consecutive years of entries, with the big prize.
Of course, the first step in immortalising your work in artfully fashioned metal is to enter the awards, a daunting prospect for the smaller agencies in particular who may lack the confidence and time to prepare. Offering some sage words to tip you over the edge Fraser continued:
“My advice to anyone swithering whether to enter the Scottish Design Awards is go for it. It can be intimidating having your work judged by an expert panel, but everyone on Twitter will do that regardless of their background in design, so why not throw your hat in the ring, it could help to win that next dream project.
“Unlike other awards, we feel the Scottish Design Awards truly look at the work itself rather than the organisation behind it, this is evident from the size of the companies who get shortlisted year in and year out. They also look at the value of the design created in terms of the impact it has had on the clients and not just purely at an aesthetic level.
“Another piece of advice I would give to people is, don’t leave it to the last minute to work on your entry, treat it as a case study and take time to explain the rationale behind your design decisions and the results those design solutions had for your client. Spend time fully explaining the idea and the rationale behind the design and not purely agonisingly adjusting the kerning mm by mm of your logotype.”
Ultimately, the Scottish Design Awards are about slaying the myth that all award ceremonies are concerned with burnishing egos, when in fact the creative process is a collegiate one, with entire teams working towards a single goal in lockstep with their clients. Disregarding the Scottish cringe, we preserve lightbulb ‘Eureka!’ moments for posterity.