interview with design studio everyone associates
left to right; jonathan coleman and alan watt.




everyone associates is a london based design studio that tells stories for brands, in pictures, words, objects and environments. the founding partners jonathan coleman and alan watt told us more about their work and influences.



designboom: please could you tell us about the evolution of everyone associates?
everyone associates: we both did the rounds at various design studios in london and edinburgh before meeting at conran design group as design director and associate design director. when we left CDG eight years ago, a long standing client who had moved to reebok approached us and asked us if we could help out on some design briefs. we agreed and soon found ourselves with ten briefs from a global sports brand and no studio to work in. living on opposite sides of london at this time, we had to meet up at a friends flat on tottenham court road and work around their coffee table. backache and the need to be more professional meant we needed somewhere more permanent so we started sharing a studio in clerkenwell with some friends. two years ago we decided we needed our own space and moved into our own studio overlooking smithfield meat market.


looking back, we find it crazy that as a two-man start up we were the lead agency on a number of strategic initiatives for reebok. it just goes to show that if a client believes in your creativity, they can be willing to take risks. we worked with reebok for seven years and during that time we had some amazing opportunities and met a lot of clients who have since moved on to other brands like adidas and puma and those relationships have fortunately continued. maintaining client relationships is key to any business surviving, it’s what saw us through the rough times a couple of years ago when the economy collapsed and clients started cutting budgets.


in contrast to working with large global brands we also work with small start-ups, creating brands from scratch and helping them communicate what they offer – usually on a tight budget. working with smaller businesses is a very personal thing, the client has so much at stake and you can make a real difference to their business.


eight years on, we’ve kept everyone associates deliberately small. having come from big agencies we didn’t want to be bogged down by the politics and pressures of a rapidly expanding business. being small hasn’t ever limited us, if anything it’s enabled us to stay focused on the work.




leland music identity – a blank white box that is handwritten with a multitude of verbs expressing the scope of leland’s work.




leland music identity




DB: how do each of your skills compliment / contrast with each other?
EA: alan is all about the ideas, he doesn’t shy away from things he’s never done before, in fact he revels in them. jonathan focusses on the details, working out how to make it happen and bringing everything together on budget. we both trained as graphic designers but having worked closely at conran with interior designers we both really enjoy working on 3D projects as well as the branding and communication side of things.




DB: how do you divide / share projects?
EA: when you set up a small design agency, you don’t have the infrastructure of a big agency so you end up being very hands on in all aspects of the business – if you don’t do it nobody else will. so whilst we’re both directors of everyone associates we are also tea boys, receptionists, and every now and then we pull on the marigolds and spruce up the loo when clients are coming in.




identity, stationery and brochure for dutch furniture brand joinworks.




DB: what ‘rules of thumb’ would you give to young designers who want to work in branding?
EA: don’t get star struck by working with big brands because often the greatest opportunities for being creative are with smaller clients. it’s not the budget that matters, it’s having a client who is open to new ideas. never be afraid to ask why. always be curious. never forget who you are designing for.




DB: what are your thoughts on specialization vs generalization?
EA: we specialize in creative problem solving but that is as far as our specialization goes. the answer to a brief should always be the best, most appropriate solution rather than dictated by a particular discipline that you have chosen to repeat every time. diversity is what keeps designers and clients interested and keeps everyone eager for more.




limited edition presentation cases for puma tricks football boots




a vibrant hinged box that splits open vertically to present the pink and blue boots – more »




DB: what do you enjoy most about working in print and packaging?
EA: there is nothing more rewarding and nerve wracking than getting a job delivered. on projects where you’ve pushed your printer to do things they’ve not done before or brought together a project involving multiple finishes and suppliers there’s always a moment when the samples arrive that you always get a slightly sick feeling. and contrastingly, when you see that all is ok and it looks exactly as it should, it’s a huge relief. as great as designing website can be, you just can’t beat the tactile nature of print.


we’ve always had a love of traditional print and along the way we’ve had the good fortune to work with some great printers. as we’ve ventured into 3D projects whether they be packaging or installations we’ve had to constantly learn about new materials and processes and find suppliers who are prepared to push themselves to do things they’ve not done before. there’s a craft to it and you have to find suppliers who are prepared to go that extra mile to deliver a job you can be proud of.




limited edition presentation case for the puma evo speed football boot.




the box takes its inspiration from the angular faceted shape of a stealth bomber.




DB: how do you make sure you are able to get useful and insightful feedback from a client?
EA: in our experience, long-term relationships with clients usually result in an open forum for honest discussion… the best way to get feedback is to know them well and to have them on side.


one of our longest standing client relationships occurred because we said ‘no’ to their first brief. the deadlines were crazy and we said that if this was going to be our first job for them we wanted it to be outstanding and that as the deadlines were unrealistic we would rather not do it. he found it really refreshing that we didn’t just say what he wanted to hear. we worked with him for seven years before he moved to australia and have just started working with him again.




installation to launch the SS11 puma by hussein chalayan collection at selfridges, london. each triangular rod features a QR code that, when scanned with a smart phone, links customers to maps of cool areas in cities around the world.




apparel is displayed on bespoke, triangular section, magnetic hangers that hang from the underside of the rails with no means of support.




DB: what’s been your most satisfying project to date?
EA: the most satisfying jobs are the ones where you learn new skills or take risks that make you feel slightly uncomfortable. by stepping out of your comfort zone you aren’t limited by your previous experience or knowledge.


the installation in selfridges for the launch of the hussein chalayan x puma collaboration is a great example. anyone with 3D experience would have steered away from our solution for practical reasons. no one in their right mind would create something with 6KM of triangular section rods that needed to be installed overnight. fortunately we knew someone who was prepared to build it for us and was always up for a challenge.


in contrast, our re-branding project for the global partnership on forest landscape restoration was satisfying because we pushed the client to take risks and communicate in a much more approachable and engaging way when they had previously been very dry and unable to clearly communicate what they did. also it was for a good cause and wasn’t just selling disco slippers.




a 280sqm stand at berlin’s templehof airport to celebrate the 20th anniversary of reebok’s iconic basketball sneaker, the pump.




view of the reebok pump 20th anniversary stand.




a 9m inflatable dome housed the priceless pump archive.




DB: what lessons have you learned from a project that changed outlook on design?

EA: we wouldn’t say there’s a single project that has changed our outlook on design. it’s more of a cumulative thing; every job is a learning process where you pick up something new, which can inform future projects.


DB: what’s everyone associates’ motto?
EA: it will do will never do.