Behind The Brand

Hannah and Toby at Bonny and Clyde Design Studio

We are often told that life is about having a vision for the future and then finding a way to fulfil it; smashing out goals and living our best life, all of the time. I doubt this to be true.

The only thing certain in this life, is that there is no certainty.

The Supposed Plan

When I left University, it was with the sole intention of becoming a teacher. Other than a fleeting whim to become a criminal psychologist, I don’t think I’d ever considered doing anything else – years of practice marking a register for one-eyed dolls and tatty teddies, meant my future was supposedly set in stone. Toby also had a pretty standard idea of what was ahead. Leave Uni with a graphic design degree, get a job in a design agency, or maybe not because it’s so competitive so therefore swallow your pride and do corporate work instead. And so the years go by.

Like many others though, our ‘careers’ had become far removed from what we had naively envisaged. For me, burnout was rapidly on the horizon and despite learning loads, Toby’s job had left him completely unfulfilled (with a soul possibly destroyed.) So he bravely jumped into self-employment with no real plan other than to make enough cash to get by and figure it out later.

I continued teaching – leaving Toby at home to carve out a design business for himself, but there was frustration and resentment that I just couldn’t find it in me to leave my own job. Switching up a career at 40 wasn’t on the cards for me. It was something other people did whilst I secretly harboured feelings of envy and disproportionate loathing?! The fear of being stuck in something that I couldn’t get out of was overwhelming but after far too many anxiety fuelled months, the decision was pretty much made for me. If I didn’t leave I was going to put my health and relationships in jeopardy and having watched others do the same, I wasn’t up for that. Sat on a bench, in the middle of a busy shopping centre, I text my closest friend and told her I was out of school and off to work with the husband.

It felt amazing. And vomit inducing.

Whilst being elated at the sense of freedom and what felt like the ultimate rebellion, there were genuine concerns about how this was all going to work. Financially we were in the s*** and although we had some ‘fuzzy round the edges’ sort of plan, we knew working so closely together was going to be interesting. And it was.

Switching It Up

Taking the massive step away from teaching and allowing my own creativity to take centre stage didn’t come quite as easily as I’d thought. Coming from a busy, frenetic school environment to being plonked at home quietly on a laptop, was unnerving to say the least. I felt like I was skiving; totally out of my comfort zone and trying to accept that the thing I thought I was really good at was no longer the thing I was actually making money from. I knew I’d lost any sense of being creative in my previous role; working to cutter cookie routines and procedures, but I had been conditioned for almost 15 years that this was me and this was how I was ‘supposed’ to work.

Unsurprisingly Toby had also become used to doing things his way. In the first year of running the studio together, we argued over processes, how I wanted things to run and I would interfere with stuff that I actually knew nothing about. I don’t do the whole ‘let’s just see’ thing and Toby’s laid-back philosophy wasn’t something I was used to coming from a highly structured and well managed primary school.

Say what you mean, mean what you say

It took talking – lots and lots of talking to get to the place we are now in our business. We have accepted that we are both really, really good at really different things and not so good at others. I love the face-to-face contact, chatting, meeting new people and dreaming up a vision for where their new brand will take them. Toby has all the design expertise to take this vision out of my head, into the physical, which in our job is very handy. He sees things from a new perspective and draws on knowledge and experience that I don’t have. He’s just incredibly clever at what he does and I do tell him that because I think it’s important.

Creativity manifests itself in different ways and whilst I’m always looking at new ways for us to grow the studio, we both view design with intentionality and purpose. There is a mutual respect that without one there isn’t the other and as depressing as it sounds we know that the business would cease to exist if the worst ever happened (yes, I am a catastrophiser.)

My years of teaching experience have now become intrinsic to the way we work – there is a level of organisation, patience and understanding that comes from working with children and families. I’d somehow thought this was totally irrelevant to the design world but this has actually become a foundation of what we do. It’s why we listen rather than sell. It’s why we understand our client’s frustrations and worries. It’s why we do things so differently and I’m thankful for having the opportunity to hone those skills in my previous career, surrounded by an inspirational team.

There are days when I have to stomp about and leave the room and we do get sick of the sound of each other’s voices. There are days when I try to explain my ideas and not always in the right way. There are also days when I think surely it would be easier to just have a job where you don’t have to worry about making your own money. We talk about our work 24/7 and we know this isn’t going to serve us so we’re working on it. The work phone goes off at 5 and if one of us tries to lead the other into discussing the next project on a Saturday morning, we are stronger at shutting it down.

Many say, ‘I could never work with my husband. Ever.” Those that do often describe the set-up as a blessing and a curse. I tend to agree.

When you do work so closely together though you see a side of that person that’s normally only visible to work ‘colleagues.’ An attention to detail, and sharing of knowledge; skills, talents and strengths that lay hidden until you place them out of the comfy home environment into the stresses of daily work. You view each other in a new way and we like to think that’s a really good thing.

We love what we do and bringing our experiences together has allowed us to offer something unique to those amazing people we work with. it wasn’t part of the plan but we can never know what’s waiting for us or how life can flip in an instant. If you see an opportunity and it feels good (or vomit inducing ) then take it.

You might just love it.

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