James Sommerville on how Attik got its break

Attik co-founder James Sommerville reflects on the early days of the renegade design agency, and his work with the Prince’s Trust that brings it full circle

If you happened to be in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in the early 1980s, you might have crossed paths with two graphic design students rethinking their future. James Sommerville and Simon Needham studied graphic design at Batley Art College, and after a three-year stint as pavement artists, they dreamt of something bigger. “Unemployment was very high at that time, so we threw around a silly idea to start a graphic design studio,” Sommerville tells us. “But with no money, no business experience and certainly no clients, we were turned away by most of the high street banks.

“My Dad met a bloke in a pub and he told me about this charity called the Prince’s Trust, and when we eventually tracked them down, we went along to see them with our one-page business plan. They saw some potential and then granted us £2,000 that we invested immediately in a new technology called Apple Macintosh. My grandma said we could use her attic bedroom … if we painted it.” And so Attik was born – a graphics studio turned fully fledged creative agency that enjoyed clients such as PlayStation, Coca-Cola, and LucasFilm in its lifespan.

All images by KnownUnknown