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Our New Normal

Posted on 6th July 2021 in Product Design

In January last year, npd made a bold decision to bring our ‘northern hospitality’ to London.  Our approach has always been to embed ourselves within our client’s businesses and become more than just a design service.  When I first approached Ben to chat about my vision for expanding npd’s reach to a London location, it quickly became apparent that there might be a need for a design agency like ours.

We moved quickly and established a ‘virtual’ Southern HQ in Covent Garden. This arrangement would allow us a space to meet and collaborate with our clients in and around London, whilst the confidential design-work was completed remotely.  One week after we signed the contract, the UK went into the first lockdown…

Fast forward 12 months of working from home, and the events of the last year proved to us that we did not need a Central London location to be successful and we were able to win and service our clients virtually.  We had also learned to really appreciate the additional time with our family, along with being incredibly lucky to have access to beautiful countryside on our doorstep.

So as talk turned to getting back to ‘normal’, we discussed as a team what was important to us and how we wanted the business to work for us.  We have all valued the extra time we’ve had with our families and partners, so losing up to 3 hours per day on a commute did not fit with the type of life we wanted for each other.  In the end, the decision was actually quite simple and we took up a location just outside Maidenhead.

  • It was closer and more convenient for commuting.
  • It’s surrounded by beautiful countryside to explore.
  • We have dedicated workshop space to get hands on and make a mess.
  • We can make noise and not worry about upsetting the neighbours.
  • And most importantly, it’s dog friendly so Bruce can take up his position as studio mascot.

Updates to our design process

We moved in in March and have spent the last few months settling into the, now common, hybrid working model. So far it’s working great and the work-life balance is definitely more fairly balanced compared to pre-COVID times.

From our experience, there has been a shift in a client’s perception of how projects should be run. As long as there is a strong foundation of trust and honesty, the requirement for face-to-face contact is no longer essential. Over 70% of the projects run out of the Southern studio have been so without even meeting the client. The rapid adoption and acceptance of video calls as the method of choice for communication has been hugely beneficial for us. What was once wasted travelling time to and from meetings is now spent on making the product better and has reduced development times.

Our new design studio in Maidenhead

The npd studio is set on a farm with a small community of makers. Our neighbours include a family run business that specialises in hand-crafted oak furniture, an Etsy-based craft business making bespoke laser-cut home decor, gifts and cake toppers and a digger repair centre. After years of traditionally commuting into busy inner city areas, having free on site parking and great motorway access make a huge difference. When crossrail (finally) opens, we’ll be able to get into Central London within 40 minutes and meet up with our clients there (although we have a sneaky suspicion that our clients might just want to come out to meet us in the fresh air!).

So although we’re not in the location we originally planned, we think we’re actually in a much better position to offer our clients the level of service and design innovation that they expect, whilst offering our team the best possible work-life balance.

Our (new) door is always open, and if you want to pop round we’re happy to get the kettle on and chat about anything design!

We put people first and focus on keeping it honest and real

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