When David Johnston decided to strike start his design studio back in 2006, he didn’t have a business plan or more than one month’s wages in the bank.
Episode 2: Accept & Proceed
When David Johnston decided to strike out on his own by starting a design studio in 2006 he didn’t have a business plan or more than one month’s wages in the bank.
‘But I had notions of grandeur from the get-go,’ he says, with a laugh. ‘I knew that I wanted to be a company, even though it was just me at that point.’ To give this impression, he admits to invoking a split personality: ‘I made up staff members; I created email addresses and would pick up the phone as one person, and then pass on the calls. It was quite confusing and unsustainable – but it worked!’
David’s team vision began to be realised when creative director Matthew Jones joined him as a business partner in 2008. The pair have since turned Accept & Proceed into an award-winning design agency with 13 staff and a client list of eminent brands including Moleskine and Nike.
Last year the pair opened Today, a co-working space in Hackney. The curation of a ‘fun and lively’ atmosphere has been a central concern. ‘I’ve been at agencies that are driven by profit or expansion alone, and I didn’t want that for us,’ says David. ‘We’ve been careful not to grow at a rate that will overstretch us – we want to be able to do ground-breaking work and not have to take on contracts just to pay the overheads.’
David encourages his staff to pursue personal design projects outside of their commercial ones, and credits this as a factor contributing to Accept & Proceed’s high retention rate. ‘We have the 43M3 gallery where we show self-initiated work sometimes, and we do other personal projects, for no other reason than we love them.’