Better, not bigger

This past year has brought many changes. We’ve welcomed new clients and new faces to our newly expanded and refurbished studio space. We’ve also broadened our range of creative services and extended our strategic offer to include consumer lead insight, for a comprehensive end to end approach. But none of these changes have felt more significant than the recent promotions of Robot Food stalwarts, Martin Widdowfield and Mike Johns.

When Martin first joined in 2011, he brought the grand team total up to three. Now, he leads a design team of 10 in a studio of 20 as our newly appointed Creative Director. Speaking on his promotion, Martin said:

“It’s such a proud moment. To have been here from the beginning, seeing us grow and helping to build the business to what it is now – it makes it all the more important to me.”

“In my initial interview, I told Simon (our founder) that my goal was to be Creative Director. He told me to f*** off, that was his job. But I’ve always, always felt that he’s been in my corner championing my career and now I’m where I want to be. That’s the thing about Robot Food – even with a substantially bigger team than when I started, everybody gets their shot, everyone’s opinion is valid and good ideas are valued, not egos.”

A big believer in hard work bringing rewards, Martin looks forward to carrying on this precedent of a flat hierarchy; ensuring that we continue to develop our team and champion new talent.

“You have to be the spark, not the flame. As much as I love designing, I get a real buzz from encouraging others and their ideas – pushing them and challenging them – so that hopefully one day they’ll be where I am now. It’s something that I’ve always tried to do but see as an integral part of my role as Creative Director.”

Martin’s move up the ranks makes way for the exceptional design talents of Mike Johns, who now takes the role of Design Director. Having started with the company as a middleweight designer, MJ describes the shake-up as an opportunity for both him and the rest of the team.

“It’s super exciting for me to move into a role that Martin has previously established as one that nurtures and inspires. It’s not without its challenges, but I’m looking forward to the opportunities now open to both the team and myself. It’s made room for new talent to come through and for the rest of the team to grow – recently we saw Glen, a junior designer who graduated just last year, promoted to middle-weight. Recent hires have also broadened our abilities and I feel like we’re working with a strong set of skills. A full set of tools, if you will.”

But this growth shouldn’t be confused with the churning of the ‘big corporate machine’, Johns says.

“I don’t see it as us getting bigger – we don’t hire people just to fill workload. We focus on the creative first and foremost and when we see passion and ambition in someone, it means way more than any experience they might have. We’ve grown as we’ve gained momentum, taking on the right people as they’ve come along and I think that the kind of projects we work on and the clients we work with are a testament to this.”

Rightly so – our hard graft has won us a number of big global accounts over the past year or so, and with them has come broader, more strategic projects. But the number of ‘bums on seats’ and square footage of our studio doesn’t correlate with our ability to produce good design, nor is it the reason we win the work. Clients don’t care about our size, location or whether we have a gimmicky ball pit ‘thinktorium’ (we do not). Our growth is down to the natural progression of our people and that’s only made possible by a working environment that encourages development and challenges ideas.

We’ve never been one to ‘do as the agencies do’ and in doing so, have never imposed any limitations on ourselves. We don’t concern ourselves with volume or mundane churn and we don’t have an A or a B team. We focus on growing in our abilities, producing game-changing, impactful creative, attracting good clients, and ultimately, winning the type of work that gets us excited. For us, it’s never been about getting bigger, it’s about always being better.

Top photo: Mike Johns and Martin Widdowfield (L-R)