Insight 09 with Toby & Pete – Collaboration and creative control

Toby & Pete founders speaking at Apple Store Sydney for Australian Infront

What do you do with your eponymous moniker when your duo turns into a company? That was the predicament that Toby & Pete founders, Toby Pike and Piotr Stopniak found themselves in only 18 months after they started and the focus of their talk for the Apple/Australian Insight series. Toby & Pete are CGI artists who specialise in print media. They produce phantasmagorical images for the likes of Nike, AMP, SBS and Daily Juice.

Current outdoor campaign for Daily Juice Company features artwork by Toby & Pete. At bus stop on William St East Sydney

After 12 months in operation and 100 projects Toby & Pete found themselves at a turning point. They had their own company but had no control of the work they were producing. Their goal was to work alongside art directors on concept and design and not just be CGI “operators”. Their strategy for branching out was to assemble a cooperative of like minded, self driven creatives with complementary skills sets. They grew from a team of two CGI artists to a team of 8 with skills in illustration, animation, app development, web, typography, print and events. The folio changed overnight as did the opportunities before them.

They attribute their success to two factors. Firstly their mission which is to “excel in and out of the pigeon hole”. Having quickly built their reputation for CGI work, they have been determined that everything the studio produce, regardless of medium be of the same quality. Secondly, the cooperative was founded with a manifesto of sorts. While the designers have non exclusive obligations to the agency, everyone is required to work from the studio space. They noted that the turning point of a creative piece can come from someone’s “two cents worth” of feedback. The value of being in a company together is the contribution and input on one another’s projects, especially those conversations in passing. Theirs is the best manifestation of collaboration I have heard in a long time. Collaboration not as a process but as an environment that provides a constant feedback loop.

What can the UX field learn from Toby & Pete?

The creative strategy of Toby & Pete is also a business one. To seize control of their work and have input earlier in projects they diversified their offering. Is this something that the UX field can learn from? UX has matured into a discipline that consults on business strategy – particularly in the area of service design. We have no hesitation stepping on the toes of product managers, marketers, business analysts and business strategists. Yet we often complain how hard it is to be taken seriously by other fields and be considered earlier in the process. Maybe we should stop lobbying and start working together – not as vendors and clients but as colleagues.

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