Reflecting on my creative journey at GEL.

3 August 2022
Read time: 7 mins

Written by:
Carly Smith.

How it started.

I remember meeting Graeme for the first time like it was yesterday.

I had sent GEL Studios my CV in the hope they would be interested, and after a few emails back and forth about potential freelance work, I met Graeme for the first time in May 2015, at Costa Coffee. As we both sat there, the table was a myriad of orange and green coloured accessories in the form of our laptops, notebooks, pens and phone cases!

At the time, GEL Studios consisted only of Graeme. He spoke to me about his plans to grow the business and what he'd like the agency to become, but also, how his first hire would play a key role in that (potentially me, if the freelance work went well). It was clear from the offset that we were both equally passionate about what we do, but we also shared the same views on the type of creative agency we saw ourselves being a part of - whether that was together or separately.

On 1st August 2015, I was officially employed by GEL Studios as Creative Director. Graeme has always said that his first hire was one of the biggest risks he's ever taken, but seven years later, we're still going strong. The agency has evolved from creating only bespoke websites, into a full-service creative agency also offering graphic design, branding and most recently marketing.

A look back.

When I look back over the last seven years, there are many projects I've worked on that spring to mind - all for completely different reasons. Whether it was the love of the design, a moment with the team, a connection with the client or just a super proud feeling - some projects I'm sure, will stay with me for a long time indeed. Here is a look back at just a few of them...

Inspire Displays.

Feb 2016.

There was a connection with Marina from Inspire, that I was yet to have with any other client. I don't think she'd mind me saying that back then, Inspire struggled to articulate to their customers what they did clearly. So when it came to creating a new website, we spent a lot of time going back to basics so we could clearly identify what they did, but also - why they were better than any competitor. We even worked on the tone of voice and how Inspire wanted to be perceived. Obviously, a brand new website was created, but it was more than that... what I remember most, is the clarity the process gave to Marina and her team, as well as the fun we had whilst doing it!

Perfect Dynamics.

July 2016.

Perfect Dynamics are Microsoft Dynamics specialists, which back then, was typically quite a corporate space to be in. So we wanted to create a bright and fun brand, to help stand out from the crowd. The logo design in particular was quite challenging, but once it came together, we knew it was right. Still to this day, when I look back on the logo (and brand design as a whole), it's one of my favourite designs. I love the multi-colour approach and confidence it brings.

The Lost Cinema.

January 2017.

The Lost Cinema are an outdoor cinema whose main requirement was a website that allowed people to book and pay for cinema tickets, which typically, can be quite a long-winded process. From the offset, we felt we could create something that would be a game changer. There was a huge focus on usability and the outcome was a website that won two awards. We attended the awards ceremony for one of them, and the moment that GEL Studios was called out as the winner, is a moment I'll never forget. I remember looking at Graeme in disbelief, and just saying "We've done it". There was an immense amount of pride within the team, but not just because of the award. The Lost Cinema was circulating around social media and we were seeing friends and family booking tickets and attending the showings, without even necessarily knowing that we'd been involved. It was a very exciting project to be part of.

Drove Vets.

September 2017.

It was incredibly exciting to work on a website that was so well known in Swindon. But aside from that, it was another project where I felt I had a great connection with the client, Ellie. A large part of the project was condensing the size of the existing website (which was huge!), to create a more streamlined, user-friendly experience. I felt we made a huge difference to not only the Drove Vets customers with a new website but also the admin team. We put in new areas of the website, with new admin processes behind the scenes, all of which had a much larger, positive impact on the wider business.

Future Fit.

February 2019.

We worked with Future Fit Training for several years and when the chance came for a brand new website, we knew it was an opportunity to create something that was cutting-edge and impactful. The combination of diagonal lines, bold gradients and cutout imagery makes this one of my favourite website designs ever.

Odin Events.

May 2022.

A much more recent project - one that we're still working on in fact! The planning phase of the new Odin Events website was intense; we needed to completely restructure the product directory, whilst making it as easy for users, and as optimised for Google as possible. Several members of team GEL contributed at various points and it was a real collaborative effort. The vibrant, curvy design is also one of the most challenging for me yet. It took many hours of tweaking to get the balance just right - across desktop and mobile!

And last, but certainly not least...

GEL Studios.

Feb 2020.

Working on the GEL Studios rebrand is without a doubt one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's also what I will always be most proud of. A rebrand (especially a logo redesign) was something that Graeme had been wanting to explore for a long time; it had been in place from when GEL Studios was just Graeme on his own, and he felt it was time to move on from that, now that we were in a different place as a larger agency. I, on the other hand, had been putting it off if I'm completely honest. I knew the importance of it to Graeme and wasn't sure how to deliver what we needed. We went ahead though, and the logo process was particularly long. Graeme's only briefing point was that the green stayed (obviously!), and so many concepts were created that I never even presented to Graeme as options. The further into the process I got though, the more I felt we needed to make some kind of nod towards the old logo. We were known for it and recognised by it, and we weren't changing who we were as an agency, we were simply growing and evolving. So it felt only right that our logo did the same thing. I stuck to my guns on this, because I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do (and luckily, so did Graeme!) - and I think that's what I'm most proud of.

It was important that the entire team connected with the new brand, but ultimately, my "client" in the rebrand project was Graeme - he had the final say on everything. I remember when I was exploring the grey in our colour palette, I purposefully chose a hex code value of #282828 because Graeme was age 28 when GEL Studios was founded - it was something that put a big smile on his face!

The best part?

Without doubt, the thing I love most about being Creative Director at GEL Studios is working with an equally passionate team. I've been lucky enough to witness the team grow over the years; not just in numbers, but skills too. I've personally always felt that in the creative industry, it's important to be part of a well-rounded team, especially when it comes to sharing ideas and knowledge - creatively bouncing off one another, if you will! We try and learn something new with every project, constantly looking for ways to push boundaries - I can't wait to see what the future brings...

Written by:
Carly Smith.

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