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Interview with Michael C Place of Studio.Build

Whenever someone mentions Michael C Place, it’s usually followed by a chorus of “I LOVE BUILD, THEY’RE MY FAVOURITE STUDIO!” So when we heard the news that Build would be visiting our Shillington Manchester campus for a guest lecture, we couldn’t contain our excitement.

Build are known for their pioneering design style, and vivid presence in the design industry which has made them a firm favourite with both clients and designers alike. Michael C Place has been a widely renowned name in the graphic design industry even before setting up Build, as he was once a designer at The Designers Republic, known for their revolutionary typography and design of cult video game, Wipeout. Since launching Build with his wife Nicky (business director) they’ve gone on to work on some truly inspiring work for clients such as; Nike and Virgin America. Aside from the big projects they still dedicate time to exhibition pieces and personal projects, one of our favourites being their illustrations of birds, in the British Bird Chart

Following Build’s inspiring talk at our Manchester campus we followed up with some more questions, so read on to hear advice directly from Michael C Place on his favourite client so far and what he looks for when hiring someone new onto the team at Build. 

How important is it to be able to sell your ideas?

It’s very important to be able to talk about your work and the reasons it looks a certain way, what it is communicating and more importantly how it is communicating an idea. Designers aren’t sales people; this isn’t about persuading a client to go with one idea over another. This comes back (in a roundabout way) to something I said at the talk. I don’t want to see your CV. It is (for me anyway) all about the work and just as importantly about the person. Do we think we can sit in the same room with this person for long periods of time, at times under a lot of pressure, and get on? This is probably more relevant for a small studio like ours where you can’t really melt into the background!


What skills, outside of typical design skills, have you had to develop to survive in business?

A very thick skin, and a steady nerve! It’s tough out there, running a design business can be hard. It’s definitely not a part time job. We’ve learnt that running a design studio isn’t just about design. In fact, that is one relatively small part of the day-to-day running. Chasing clients, chasing leads, chasing invoices. It’s a LOT of chasing! One thing I think that is very important is to make sure you take time off from work. It’s very easy to burn out, design is very demanding. Take time out to recharge every now and then.BLD-TS_SITE-PROJECT_OVERVIEW_03

What grabs your attention when looking at designer’s portfolios?

That spark of something, that piece of work that makes you go ‘I wish I had done that’. This is what we are looking for. Not something that looks like everything else. It might be something really small; it might be a big idea or a piece of type.

I think after a while in the industry you can spot talent, and it’s our job to then nurture that talent.

If you are purely into digital work then just show work on screen, but if you have a keen interest in print bring that along as a physical thing. It makes a meeting much more interesting, interactive and ultimately, enjoyable.

What do you look for in bringing someone onboard at Build?

Someone who is not a prima donna, someone who is happy to get their hands dirty doing whatever is asked of them.

Be proactive, ask questions, and don’t wait for someone to ask you if you have anything to do.

Working in a design studio is so much more than just about designing. As a junior designer you will be expected to do a fair amount of work that might not be super interesting all the time, but learn from it. Listen to what is going on around you and help if you can. In short, make yourself indispensable.


Who has been your favourite client to work with so far? Or favourite project you’ve worked on?

Stock answer: All of the work we have done for our clients is of course our favourite. 🙂

Another answer: The clients that we have a long-standing relationship with—From Generation Press, to Timothy Saccenti, to The Stow Brothers and Virgin America. These are super enjoyable as we have built up a solid body of work that has had a deep impact on their business. And, in turn these clients have become friends, which means it’s always good to work with them.

And another answer: The ones that challenge us as a design studio.

And another answer: The last project we completed.

And another answer: The next one we haven’t started yet.


What’s one piece of advice you’d give to our students about to enter the industry?

Work really hard, take an interest in the subject and really show passion for design. I’d prefer to see a less polished portfolio that shows talent than a super polished one. The polish is something that can be taught, but raw talent is in the genes.

We’d like to extend a massive thanks to the whole team at Studio Build for their visit to Shillington and following Q&A. Make sure to check out Build’s full portfolio over on their website, and receive regular updates via their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Behance profiles. If you’d like to ask Build a question directly keep an eye out for their next instalment of #AskBuild, a new blog series which launched earlier this month inviting curious individuals to email in questions. 

Build fans, also make a note that Build are currently running a fantastic competition where the winner will get their hands on a British Rail Corporate Identity Manual of which Michael C Place has written the foreword. The competition closes on 1 December 2016 so act quickly! 

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