10th June 2020
Seven projects for seven years
The beginning of May marked another anniversary since I joined Cargo, it starts with that momentary panic as the Linked In notifications start piling in and I’m not sure why. However this year has felt very different, with the current situation we find ourselves in it is certainly more a time for reflection than celebration.
I joined Cargo in 2013 after three and a half years at Hippo, another agency based in Newcastle. I had known Paul, our Founder and MD, since he was my lecturer at Newcastle College and we had always kept in touch. There was no big interview, just several drunken nights out where we would discuss/rant about the industry, our frustrations and the type of work we would want to do. He was at the start of building an agency whilst I was looking for something more in line with my ambitions as a designer. So when Paul asked me to come and join him, it was a no brainer.
Cargo now is very different to the Cargo I joined, it has been a real journey, both personally for myself and for the business developing from year to year. I feel like we have consistently adapted to our clients and the industry, however the one thing that has never changed is our pride in the work. So I thought it would be interesting to look back on some stand out projects from the last seven years, giving a small insight into them and how they’ve impacted our development.
Ward Hadaway (2013)
The one with only two pantone references
Ward Hadaway has pretty much been a client since day one. After initially delivering a new website we became more and more involved with their marketing, which eventually turned into a brand development project. We knew there was no scope to fully rebrand but at the time the only thing they had was a JPG of the logo and an email with two Pantone references. Over the next few years, by developing a substantial brand guidelines and visual style, we worked with the team on everything from adverts and email marketing to brochures and event displays.
I don’t mind admitting that the work for Ward Hadaway isn’t my most creative but it wasn’t about out and out creativity, sometimes it just had to be functional. We developed consistent ways to communicate different messages to a whole range of sectors and clients. I think this project really helped develop my belief that design is all about communication and primarily you design for the client. It’s certainly not about designers satisfying their own artistic needs, which unfortunately I think has became a bit of a trend of late.
The one that got away
We worked with Fraser Hydraulic Power (FHP) back in 2014 to reposition their brand and develop a fresh digital presence. This project was probably one of my first blank canvases at Cargo and the client was really receptive to new ideas. The branding was loyal to the company’s history and at the time the website really pushed the boundaries in terms of layout, interaction and functionality. This project became a bit of a benchmark for the quality and for the creativity we wanted to achieve with web projects. Unfortunately the website no longer exists as after a few years FHP were acquired by Royal IHC. However we were told that the way in which the website showcased the company was very important to the initial attraction and interest. Job done.
Mental Health Concern (2014)
The one before user experience was UX
Believe it or not before UX became the buzzword and companies starting hiring UX Guru Architects, designers and developers could also deliver user experience, we just didn’t shout about it as much. In 2014, Mental Health Concern (MHC) approached us with a problem, they had a range of locations and services that they needed to promote so that users could find help and self-refer. The site structure was complex, probably one of the biggest we’ve dealt with but working with the MHC team we delivered an approachable, easy to use system that has helped a lot of people. At Cargo we truly believe that good design is good user experience, the two are one of the same and although you can always have specialist advice, we believe our whole team practice good user experience design day in, day out.
Northern Powergrid (2016)
The one with the late nights
After working with Northern Powergrid for a number of years on a research project they were delivering we began to assist them with their customer communications in 2016. Every year, we assist them to deliver three Customer Forum Events, which involves managing the print of folder packs, agendas, banner stands etc. and delivering them to the National Railway Museum in York ahead of the event. We then design and print two reports, a mid year update in October and a full submission in May, that both need to hit a strict deadline set by Ofgem.
I would be lying if I didn’t say these projects are some of our most challenging, there are late nights, probably a few tears and definitely some extra grey hairs afterwards. When managing the event print we often need to create a studio production line where the full team chips in creating lanyards and putting packs together. In 2018, on the day of the 3pm deadline we received an annotated PDF with over 350 comments, your heart sinks, but we always get the job done no matter what it takes and seeing the final reports all packaged up and being sent to Ofgem is always very rewarding.
Ride Electric (2017)
The one with plenty of research
Still one of my favourite brands that we have developed at Cargo and such a fun project to be involved in. Ride Electric approached us when they were just an idea and we have worked with them to develop their brand from the ground up. There was a lot of discovery and exploration at the start of this this project, a need to understand the market for a relatively new concept was key. During this time we found a range of information and stories that helped shape who the target audience was and ultimately led us to segment three core groups; mountain and trail, trek and tour, tourism and town. Once we had agreed on the brand we helped the Ride Electric team across all marketing comms, their merchandise and of course their online store where you can book in a test ride or purchase one of their bikes. Plus we got to have a ride on a lot of electric bikes, which is obviously all part of that very important ‘research’.
HM Bark Endeavour (2018)
The one with the bigger boat
“Hi there, we’ve bought an old replica of the Captain Cook’s Endeavour that we’re going to renovate, move to Whitby and turn into a tourist attraction. Do you think you can help us with the brand?”
Probably the most ambitious project we have been involved in at Cargo, one of those you always hope comes off but can’t help but have that niggling doubt. As each month ticked over the project kept progressing, starting with the brand along with a little progress blog, before eventually developing their full website, marketing communications, the branding for the on board restaurant and working with the production team on the exhibits. It’s the project that had everything and before we knew it we were on board having a preview tour, a proud reminder of what can be achieved when multiple teams collaborate.
Northern Print Solutions (2020)
The one struck by lockdown
The final project to mention is one of the latest we have delivered. Northern Print Solutions (NPS) have been a client of ours for a number of years now and we have helped them with a range of projects from adverts and leaflets to website development. We have also adopted their trade print store which was originally built by another agency. Around August last year the NPS team approached us with the decision to merge both websites and bring them under one roof.
Along with transferring hundreds of products, we designed and developed a new user interface that we felt was essential to creating a better user experience before the merger took place.The old checkout process felt clunky and inconsistent, so we focussed on improving this to drive conversions. We also developed their content, from pricing to on page search engine optimisation.
Over the years I have got to know the Trade Print website like it was my own and have worked very closely with the team to get it to this stage. One week into lockdown, the decision was made to bring the launch forward, accelerating the plan by 4 weeks, a tough ask with a team and client all working remotely. The pride in this project doesn’t come from the design but in the client understanding and project management. Being organised and understanding a brief inside out can help make the delivery of a project so much smoother.
Over the past seven years, I’ve always tried to take something unique away from every project that I’ve worked on whether that be a positive or a negative. Working with a range of clients like we do at Cargo means that each project is different and we are always learning and developing as individuals and as a team – roll on the next seven years.