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Staffordshires oldest design agency

Our 25th birthday

It’s quite amazing to think that this year we are celebrating our 25th birthday.

A quarter of a century making the message land, connecting marketers to their audience, advising clients on what they need rather than what they want. 25 years of pitch meetings, credentials meetings and massive high points (and some low points!).

Back in 1990 I was account director of a design consultancy (that’s what we called them then) in Hinckley, Leicestershire. I’d been instrumental in increasing the size of the business from one man to a team of creatives and account managers, working mainly in the retail sector on packaging, merchandising and window displays. And one day the light bulb switched on!

I was making someone else wealthy. I needed to do this for myself to prove that I could do it. I’d always had a yearning to work for myself and as I was only 26 at the time, I didn’t have the massive commitments to give rise to the fears that many people have when they start their own business. I was engaged to be married so there were no kids to think about and my mortgage was small thankfully.

So I took the plunge and Smart Ideas was born.

With a £6000 business development loan from the bank and an Enterprise loan I kicked off on the 19th March 1993 in the front bedroom of my terraced house in Walsall. I had a good relationship with clients and once they found out what I was doing, they wanted to work with me. I think it was because I’m a straight talking northerner!

Be smart 25 years of design

Fast forward 25 years (which seems to have whizzed by) and we’ve re-branded to Be Smart Design, worked with and continue to work with some pretty big players in many, many different sectors. I don’t think there’s anything we haven’t designed in that time. We’ve created new brand identities, evolved existing brand identities, created guidelines, packaging, advertising, websites, email marketing, social media, point of sales, exhibitions, newsletters and annual reports.

We’ve worked in all sorts of sectors too; finance, B2B, B2C, public sector, social housing, utilities and education for clients like Severn Trent, National Grid, Filofax and Rolls Royce.

And the changes we’ve seen have been massive; the launch of the World Wide Web and email, the creation of social media, the Cloud and AI. And sadly of course we’ve seen the disappearance of typesetters and repro houses, marker visuals and ‘cut and paste’ which really was cut and paste then. I remember many a time receiving a set of films and matchprints back from the repro house, making changes to copy by cutting out words and moving them round then taping them back into place.

You can only guarantee three things in life; death, taxes and change! We just have to embrace it and go with the flow.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating our 25th birthday over the next 12 months and of course, continue with us on our journey in to the next 25 years.


Philippa Smart