Studio Output’s managing director on developing brand identity, company growth and more
Studio Output have been in the design game for over two decades, and in that time have successfully crafted different brand identites through design. An undoubtedly thriving design agency, we sit down with managing director Gemma Ballinger to gain special insight into the company, as well as Gemma’s role as managing director. Check out what she had to say below!
Tell us a little bit about what you do at Studio Output?
We’re a design agency working on brand and digital projects for ambitious people with a mission. I oversee everything we do – from our vision for where we want to be as a business and the growth of the team, to new business, client relationships, HR, production and finances. My day is a mixture of calls to talk about upcoming projects, meetings with the team to see how everyone’s doing, and plenty of new business meetings, pitches and proposal writing.
What would you consider to be a personal career highlight?
Working my way up from the most junior position at Output to becoming Managing Director in 2020 is definitely a highlight! A lot of people move around to different companies for growth and promotion, but I’ve always really enjoyed the work we’ve done and the way it’s evolved. Taking on more responsibility over the years has been exciting, and finally being in charge of everything and everyone feels like a big achievement.
What is one thing that you think makes a brand distinctive in terms of design?
Developing the brand’s character, which is something we do for every client, is really important to ensure a distinctive brand. We workshop together to define three adjectives that describe the company and are unique to them. These traits are important as they drive every decision we make – from how the brand speaks, to guiding UX and visual design. The brand isn’t just a surface layer, because character makes it really ownable in every place a customer experiences it.
What was your experience before working at Output?
My first role was an admin assistant at Nottingham Trent University. It was a great way to get into work after uni – I learnt what it’s like to work with a team in an office environment. There was a lot of printing and filing!
Next I worked at a digital agency for a few years in an office manager and marketing role. I learnt how an agency worked, and got involved in everything from creating decks and working on proposals, to new business meetings and helping to market the agency.
I saw the role for a business development/marketing executive come up at Output and thought it looked good. The clients were in music, bars and entertainment – areas I was interested in. So I headed here and worked my way up from business development, through to account director, client service director – and finally running the agency as managing director!
Are there any key ways that you've seen the company grow?
We’ve grown up and down in scale over the years – we acquired a motion studio, set up an events company and had offices in Nottingham and Beijing as well as London. We’re now just in London (and remote) so it feels much more focused in terms of what we’re doing as a business.
The type of work we do and the sorts of clients we’ve won has definitely grown over the years. Initially we did a lot of design and interior graphics for record labels, clubs and bars. We then started to move into more digital projects, before becoming much more focused on our strengths in brand and digital in more recent years.
The clients have changed too – we always had exciting clients like Sony PlayStation and the BBC, but over the last few years we’ve found our niche working with high-growth clients who are developing interesting digital products. The quality of the work is always improving too, we’re growing in confidence as a business and we know we offer something different to other agencies. We’re proud of that.
What are your hopes for the future of the company?
We want to find more clients who have a clear mission and are creating products that help people in some way, but don’t yet know how to articulate that through their brand. We’ll grow in size but it’s more about doing work we’re proud of, and which opens doors into similar businesses. Awards are good for recognition, but respect – from our team, peers, clients and potential employees – is most important.
What's your favourite thing about your job?
I love being part of everything, without getting into too much of the detail. It’s exciting working towards the vision I’ve helped create. I love clients getting excited about the work we’ve created together, and seeing it help to grow their businesses. Being a bit nosy suits me – so having a reason to find out what’s going on is fun. Our clients’ challenges are really varied, so no week, month or year is ever the same. That’s the great thing about running an agency.
Words: Grace Goslin