In praise of going local

Design students dream of working with big name brands, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Graphic designer Joshua James Saunders tells CR why working with local businesses is sometimes a better choice

Most designers have a list of dream clients. One of them probably begins with an N, and has a tick-shaped logo that’s recognised the world over. And it makes sense, particularly for graduates and emerging creatives who feel they need that first big name to unlock future projects. But are designers missing a trick? There’s no denying the seductive lure of a brand famous enough for your parents to brag about, but according to Bristol-based designer Joshua James Saunders, there’s often more satisfaction in working with local businesses.

“It’s great to work for major brands, but the amount of email chains and people that speak on behalf of people, or are representatives, can be difficult,” he told CR. “It can be quite prescriptive, and the majority of the time you end up following trends.”

Saunders – who freelances for a range of local and overseas studios – doesn’t deny that making work for big companies is alluring, but points out that there are trade offs that come with it. He told CR that previous projects with major brands left him feeling like “a very small cog in a big machine”, with huge numbers of guidelines to follow and people to get ideas past, as well as NDAs that stopped him from even talking about his work. While he emphasises that well-established brands still offer the chance to make interesting work, designers’ ideas can get lost in the bigger picture, and creativity can lose its edge and become ‘cookie-cutter’.


Milton Keynes