After almost 35 years at Design Bridge, Graham Shearsby is leaving the studio he co-founded in 1986 with ten others. Shearsby has been working in the design industry since the late 70s, and remembers the pre-computer era when people were still hand-painting and hand tipping in. He also remembers the early days of Design Bridge, which he says was set up in a time when many other design studios were heavily focused on “the big egos running them”.
In contrast, says Shearsby, Design Bridge’s DNA has always been about giving people opportunities to progress – something that had been a key part of the founders’ own careers. “In the 80s, there were a lot of egos out there,” he tells CR. “It was all about your name above the door. With Design Bridge, there were too many of us in many respects – you couldn’t have your name above the door. So we were pioneering in that era of having a distinctive brand studio name. It was always about the collective and teamwork, rather than the individual.”
As a result, it’s been perhaps a little easier for Shearsby to hand over the reins to Emma Follett – who’s been at the studio for 20 years, and has worked closely with Shearsby for much of that time. Even so, passing on that responsibility poses a unique set of challenges. Many design studios rely heavily on the influence and leadership of their founders and when, inevitably, people decide to move on, it creates questions around studios’ identities, their creative approach, and how the culture will continue without that leader.