After 23 years of brain-aided communication, the much-admired, much copied studio, The Designers Republic closed for business on Tuesday. But, as its founder Ian Anderson tells CR, it will rise again
All week, rumours have been flying around the internet that DR had gone out of business. CR can confirm that it is true. On Tuesday this week, the business was closed with nine staff being made redundant. According to its founder, Ian Anderson, the studio became insolvent due to a combination of factors: “We’d lost a couple of clients, didn’t win a couple of pitches, got a tax bill which should have been sorted out and wasn’t and a major client who didn’t pay the money they owed us – in themselves any of those things would have been fine but when they come all at once there’s not much you can do.”
However, while stressing that he is “gutted for the staff” and not wishing in any way to make light of the impact the studio’s closure will have on them, Anderson says that, in some ways, DR coming to an end “may be a blessing in disguise.”
“It hasn’t really been DR for the last two or three years: it had gone too far from what it was supposed to be,” Anderson says. Although, he says, he was happy with the “insightful” work that DR had done for major clients such as Coca-Cola, moving into that world had necessitated changing the business to more of an agency model with the added structure of account handlers that entails. He also says that it became necessary to take on the kind of work that he perhaps wouldn’t have chosen to do in order to keep a larger business going.
“I want to go back to what DR was,” he says of future plans. “Working hands-on and not through account managers. I’ve never liked that agency model – it’s not where creativity lies. DR accidentally ended up there in order to service bigger clients. I’m not being ungrateful to the people who ran the business side at DR – it wasn’t their fault. I’m glad we did it – it took getting there to make me realise that it wasn’t where I wanted to be.”
So what now? Today, he says, he is busying himself “lobbing out 23 years worth of paper samples, which is quite therapeutic”. Then there’s the long-awaited DR book, which he might finally get round to finishing, as well as another book which he is collaborating on with writer Liz Farrelly. “It does feel like the end of an era but really it stopped being DR two or three years ago. DR will go forward after this with me [under the same name] – whether it will be with a new team and a new office I don’t know.”
Anderson says that, for now, he wants to look at working collaboratively with other companies and creative people.
“I’m looking out the window and it’s a lovely sunny day – as it always is in Sheffield – and I think there are a lot of plus points. The Republic is dead… long live the Republic”