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Supercool is fourteen

Categories: Learning things, Silly, Useful/interesting

Fourteen years ago Supercool officially launched as a partnership between James and Kris. Fast-forward to today, and we’re a hands-on team of five doing some pretty awesome work with some definitely awesome clients. (And we’re delighted that founding-father Kris is over from Norway to celebrate the milestone with us.)

For all you fans of number-related trivia out there, fourteen is:

  • represented as E in hexadecimal
  • the atomic number of silicon
  • the number of pounds in a stone
  • the minimum age at which one can work, with parent's consent, in most Australian states, apparently 
  • the number of Enigma Variations composed by Edward Elgar
  • the number of lines in a sonnet
  • the number of years Greyfriars Bobby spent guarding the grave of his master; until his own death in 1872

And finally, a 14th anniversary's traditional gift is ivory which, as a gift is gross – so here’s a much better use of ivory (and handy representation of great team work):

Go team! \o/

Meet Rob

Categories: Events, Useful/interesting

Top-notch personal service and meticulous attention to detail have always been important to us; and they’re the main reasons we deliberately remain a relatively small team. 

But we know when to grow. 

Having been appointed by three ace new clients – Bristol Old Vic, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, and Welsh National Opera – we’ve expanded the team to make sure we keep-up the good work … and then some. 

Introducing our new Strategic Director, Rob Langley-Swain.

A perfect combination of passion for the arts, commercial mindedness – and impressive facial hair – Rob was formerly Head of Client Services at The Ticket Factory (the NEC Group’s national ticketing agency).

Over the past 15 years he’s worked for some of the biggest arts and entertainment organisations in the country – including Live Nation and the Guardian Media Group – as well as arts organisations such as Birmingham Contemporary Music Group where he was Marketing Manager. 

“I am thrilled to be joining such a well respected business, with a highly regarded reputation in the arts and cultural sector. I look forward to working with all of Supercool’s clients, to strengthen our relationships and help deliver continued excellence in design, web development and strategic marketing consultancy.” said Rob. 

Awww, he’s a good egg. Great to have you on the team, Rob!

If you’d like to talk to us about a project, email rob@supercooldesign.co.uk

Fun for all the family?

Categories: Events, Learning things, Useful/interesting

Supercool postcard – sponsors fo Family Arts Conference 2017

Last Wednesday we went along to the bi-annual Family Arts Conference, this year held at St George’s Bristol and sponsored by our good selves along with Spektrix.

Billed as an exploration of age, diversity and inclusion in Family Arts, it seemed a good fit for us, as for many of our clients their family-focused activity is an important way of expanding audiences.

I guess it's a similar principle to MacDonald’s having Happy Meals, minus any grease or guilt – introducing people to something (in this case 'the arts', rather than salty, extruded potato) at a young age helps build a habit; engraining cultural activity as a regular part of everyday life, and so encouraging a lifelong love of – and support for – the arts.

The conference's opening keynote was great – Estella Tincknel, Deputy Mayor of Bristol and an enviably strong advocate for arts and culture in the city, told us all about Bristol (without glossing over its less impressive side, which was refreshing) and the huge role the arts plays within it.

She proposed that art and culture are important catalysts for change, for challenging what needs to be challenged, and for renewing social cohesion; with families cited as being a key part of this.

Further reinforcing the importance of family audiences, members of the Bristol Family Arts Network relayed some research showing that, although turnout for specifically-labelled ‘family’ events can be lower (initially), engagement is consistently much deeper.

Another stand-out talk was from Kate Organ, who referenced a comment someone had made about – I’m paraphrasing here – local arts attendance being made up of a lot of old, grey-haired people … and their parents.

Rather than this being seen as a problem to be overcome, Kate suggested that arts organisations should be embracing older people. Within the next 20 years 1 in 3 adults will be ‘an older person’, so there are economic – as well as ethical – reasons to engage with all ages.

Thinking about this as a designer, appealing to something as wide as a ‘family audience’ is a challenge – there’s a tendency for briefs about family events to automatically assume promotions should look very child-focused when, in fact, it’s parents who’ll be planning a trip or buying the ticket, not the kids. And mightn't child-like styling be putting off families who don’t include younger people but would still be able to enjoy an event? There’s no easy answer.

In terms of making digital things family-friendly, however, it’s a lot simpler as this essentially means making sure everything’s built to be as accessible as possible (i.e. well-built).

Websites need to be quick to load and to navigate, and work on any device – whether it's being used by a busy parent trying to browse a mobile web page on a rubbish 3G connection with one hand while wrangling an irritable infant with the other; or a Baby Boomer looking for an event that’ll be suitable both for their grandchildren and an elderly parent.

Much of the discussion at the conference centred around what actually constitutes a ‘family’ – with the conclusion being that it covers myriad relationships and age-groups.

We have, however, noticed one common thread that runs through all family-focused arts and cultural events – and that's a very clear and unmistakable focus on encouraging people to experience the arts with others; conveying the arts as a sociable activity which creates shared experiences – and shared memories.

As poet, essayist and visual artist Etel Adnan told the conference – via a recorded message stood in front of a big screen, which was then projected onto another a big screen; INCEPTION! – "The need for human company is and shall continue to be essential. Theatre [indeed, the arts in general] can play a significant role in this area.”

An anniversary and a love letter

Categories: Jewellery Quarter, Silly, Useful/interesting

Supercool officially formed on this day in 2004, when fresh-faced graduates James and Kris opened the company’s first business bank account.

This was back in the day when it was pretty-much unheard of to start an agency straight out of uni. Those crazy kids! But, after lots of hard work, lateral thinking, grit and determination, it panned-out well.

Thirteen years on, Supercool’s going strong – we even made an award-winning website recently. Go team!

And until the start of this month, we were still based in the very same building we first called home; 8a Legge Lane in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Although we’re now a distributed team, our JQ headquarters served us well, and I couldn’t leave without penning something of a love letter to the old neighbourhood …

Sunset on the JQ

View along Legge Lane, Jewellery Quarter, at sunset

When we first moved there, the Jewellery Quarter wasn’t the cool, hipster hangout it is today.

Nope; our immediate local area was made up of abandoned, crumbling and derelict former factories. This allowed for almost endless discovery of amazing old typography and signage; but also meant a long walk to find a pint of milk.

And it wasn’t the most welcoming – or well-lit – of places after dark.

Bernard C Lowe building, Spencer Street, Jewellery Quarter
Spencer Street, Jewellery Quarter, 2013

Legge Lane, 2005
Legge Lane, c. 2005

Legge Lane itself was the epitome of cool, urban decay, particularly in the mid-late 2000s.

Interesting shells of old buildings? Check. Overgrown courtyard? Check. Hard-edged railings? Check. So, every few weeks (during university term time) small groups of photography students would arrive to make use of that edgy, gritty backdrop – then beat a hasty retreat.

(There must've been some collaboration with fashion students too as some of the models' outfits were … avant garde.)

Legge Lane, 2013
Legge Lane, 2013

Legge crane, 2016
Legge crane, 2016

Over the last 13 years, I’ve witnessed the Jewellery Quarter evolve from a long-neglected area of beautiful but decrepit buildings into a smart, bustling quarter full of live/work spaces, independent bars, restaurants, cafés – and coffee shops.

Nowadays it’s fair to say you won’t have trouble finding a cup o’ Joe in the Quarter. But imagine the local buzz in 2008 when the area got its very first, actual, proper coffee shop.

Although Saint Caffè is no more, it will always hold a special place in my heart – not only did it pave-the-way for the area’s increasingly popular café culture, it was also the venue for Likemind, a coffee morning/gentle networking event we ran until 2012.

We made new friends, and work contacts! We learned loads of interesting Jewellery Quarter facts from Brian! We raised money for charity! We drank more coffee than was probably good for our insides!

Collage of images from our coffee morning, 2007-2012

In the main, the Jewellery Quarter has been – and continues to be – developed in a thoughtful and considerate way.

Preserving all the good stuff is helping to retain the area’s distinctive character, and avoiding it becoming just an extension of the city centre. This is A Good Thing.

It seems weird now to think barely anyone lived here when we first arrived – the JQ’s now an increasingly popular and desirable residential area, which has almost certainly helped it to maintain its friendly, almost villagey feel.

So far, so gushy – I did say this was a love letter – but what won’t I miss?

The commute of course; the perpetual, occasionally disruptive but always noisy construction work; and the even louder gulls.

I will miss the area though – the proximity to excellent sandwiches, film sets, and my favourite Indian restaurant – and the office itself wasn’t half bad. But there comes a time to shake things up; to move on. And I’m sure I’ll be back for a visit.

So, farewell Jewellery Quarter –  you’ve been lovely.

Thirteen years of Supercool

Having a birthday in the same month as Leggexit (Legge Lane Exit) seemed a decent enough excuse for me to dig-out some old, mostly office-based, photos:


James and Kris in the then-new office, of the then-newly-formed Supercool – c. 2004


Me (Katie) and Kris en-route to a printing show at the NEC, where we got ourselves a mega map …


Arty. We reckon from the Mac OS X Tiger box in the foreground this must’ve been 2005


Different room, same white desks, no more Kris, but our first Josh


Superintern Kamilla taught us all the most useful Danish words


The wooden desk era – classy


A couple of Joshes doing the thing (all?) Joshes do best


Pulling funny faces. Filming model trains/chickens.


And so to late 2016 – we welcomed Naveed, said adieu to Angell and the office, and proved without question that we’re AMAZING at problem-solving.