Studio Visits: Jamhot
From a distance, we’ve sat in awe of the work that has come from Jamhot, the creative design and digital studio based in Glasgow. Duo, Graeme and Craig, had been mates for many years and worked for a variety of places before they went on to set up Jamhot. They hold one of our favourite stories to date when it comes to how the studio was founded – it’s one that reflects commitment, intuition and love for what they do.
They had always spoken about how it would be great to start a studio of their own, but it was never much more than pub chat. Then they managed to score some recording time for their band with an up and coming recording facility. While the opportunity was there, they decided to swap recording time in return for creating a brand and website. It was a small project, but it offered them the chance to collaborate together for the very first time. “It went pretty well, so we started to wonder whether we could make a go of it full time. It felt like one of those now or never moments, and we realised that we could talk about it, or do something about it. So we emailed some folk that we fancied working with – and to our amazement, the first person we approached, a large entertainment destination, got back the next day and asked us to come for a meeting.” Graeme, Creative Partner, reflects.
“We pitched for some work, won it, then the project grew arms and legs until we were handling a full campaign for their centres in Glasgow, Leeds & Milton Keynes. It was a massive project for us, we had no idea what we were doing, but we somehow managed to deliver.”
After having won that project, they went on to quit their jobs and started up their own studio. They have never looked back since. The client started chasing them to invoice them, but they didn’t even have a company name, never mind a bank account. “We had to come up with a name that day, and Jamhot was chosen – taken from the Beats International song Dub Be Good To Me.”
As a studio, they work with organisations and brands to help them communicate in interesting ways using design, words and ideas. Their colourful portfolio includes many arts and cultural organisations such as Wasps Artist Studios, Dundee Rep Theatre, Tron Theatre, Glasgow International Comedy Festival and EventScotland, and other folks such as Tennent’s Lager, Innis & Gunn, and Celtic Football Club. “Overall, we always try to have a good mix of different projects and clients in the studio at any one time to keep things fresh and interesting,” explains Graeme. “We don’t like to tie ourselves to one style or discipline. This way of working has led to us developing apps, games, film, digital platforms as well as leading strategic design and branding projects.”
Having tried their hand at a lot of things, they’ve identified where their main strengths lie which seems to be a big component of doing work that fulfils you and is enjoyable. “We’re at our best when we’re working closely with companies and helping them to develop their brand personality, tone of voice and creating communications that help build their brand. That’s the work we enjoy the most – challenging projects that we then try and bring to life in the simplest way possible, using design, words and ideas. Simple ideas executed well, that’s what we strive to do.”
Focusing on where your strengths lie is one component, another seems to be deciding on who you work with. “We make sure that we are working with clients who are nice to collaborate with. You spend so much time working, especially when it’s your own studio, and so it’s important to us that we like the people we work with,” he emphasizes. “This makes the actual process of projects and the day to day of what we do even more enjoyable, as well as making it simple striving for the end result. Delivering great work for good people, that’s our motto.”
A motto to live by and has worked well for them after having recently celebrated the studio’s ten-year anniversary. “This was a huge achievement for us. When we started out we had no idea how things would go and to still be doing what we love, getting better each year and getting the chance to collaborate with so many amazing clients & creative talent,” reflects Graeme. “We’ve been lucky to speak at some great creative events including OFFF Barcelona and FITC in Amsterdam and over the last couple of years we’ve been working with clients across Europe in places like Brussels and Andorra. It’s been great to do some travelling with the studio… these are all achievements that were pipe dreams when we started out and to have come so far still amazes us.”
So, what is it that unpins Jamhot’s work? What are the fundamentals of their creative process and the things they wouldn’t think twice about missing? “We’ve always found it difficult to explain our process to people – as sometimes it can seem as if we don’t have one!” he says. “But, I think that’s because we were mates for years before we started the studio and so when we started to work together communication, sharing and developing ideas together came pretty naturally. Because of that, we tend to work very quickly, doing a lot of ideas and iterations. We find the faster we work the more creative we are and putting pressure and internal deadlines on ourselves always produce better results.”
The duo work as a creative partnership which in turn drives the style of our work – combining design, copy, strategy and art direction and looking at the challenge from two different points of view. “This is not always easy, and there’s a lot of creative arguments and tension, but I think that can be healthy and out of that hard work always comes the kernel of an idea that we can grow.” Graeme defines the creative process as “challenging, frustrating and hugely difficult at times, but when the core idea comes you always know that’s it.”
When presenting ideas and concepts to clients they only ever show one main route that has been developed in line with the agreed strategy and is based on research and insight. “Internally we iterate on many ideas but find presenting one route that we believe into clients is much more effective than presenting multiple ideas and options – that can often lead to groupthink and design by committee, something that we try to avoid at all costs. It’s a process that works really well for us, and it’s taken us quite a few years to refine and get right, and have confidence in.”
Graeme and Craig have spent many years getting this process right for them both and for it to truly reflect their culture and way of doing things. Through iteration, one thing that they had learned that was just as important as the idea itself was how they communicated their idea to clients and stakeholders. “That’s something in particular that we’ve only started to focus on perfecting over the last few years and it’s made a huge difference to the studio, quality of our output and the way that we run our projects.”
A valuable lesson out of many that they’ve learned along their ten-year journey. There’s a culture here at Jamhot that shines through and that is their genuine interest in supporting one another through thick and thin. “Our studio is built on the friendship of the two founders and I think that definitely shapes the culture a lot – in that it’s not just about the work, or the money, it’s about enjoying the day to day of what we do. Both of us have strong work ethics, and work very hard when we’re in the studio and expect the same of anyone who works with us.” Their culture being something again that has been refined over the years. “When we first started up, we used to work crazy hours – 6 day weeks and 12 hour days were standard. When Craig had his first kid we realised the way we were working was not sustainable in the long term, and to be honest it led to a bit of burn out for us both… Since then we vastly reduced the number of hours we worked, stopping working late and don’t work weekends.” To their surprise doing this made them more focused, they got more done, their work improved and they made more money as a studio – the complete opposite of what they thought would happen.
It’s obvious to us that these guys are passionate about what they do, and the industry that they’re in, with experience sharing being something they’ve always encouraged inside and outside of the studio. Five years ago, they decided to start a series of creative talk events called Gab, as a way of getting out the studio more and meeting more folk within the industry. The events have gone from strength to strength with their last event reaching an audience of 200 folk. They have welcomed speakers like ustwo, Mr. Bingo & Dan Woodger to Glasgow, have held film screenings, in addition to providing a platform for local and emerging talent – something we need more of. “We’re really proud of how it’s developed and humbled by the interest in the events, we just announced an event at the start of the year and all the tickets sold out within 20 mins which blew us away. We’re looking forward to having some more great events and developing the series this year and will be trying our hand at Gab podcasts later this year too. Gab isn’t only an event that’s having a positive impact on the Glasgow creative community, but they’ve also committed to all the ticket proceeds going to a different charity each month.”
At the heart of Jamhot is enjoyment. Neither Graeme or Craig seem like the type of people to do something that doesn’t sit right with them, even now having celebrated their ten year anniversary, they’ve decided to take a bit of a breather during the first couple of months of the year so that they can plan what it is they want to do with the studio going forward – bringing clarity and direction for them both. “It’s meant we had to knock back a lot of project offers at the end of last year, but we wanted to have some clear headspace to look to the future rather than just starting the year with loads of projects again. I think it’s important to do that from time to time if you can. We’re treating this as year 1 (+10) looking freshly at what we want to do and how we see the work of the studio developing.”
“We’re getting more video and animation work and that’s an area that we’ll continue to explore. We’ve always had the ambition of doing some work over in New York or San Francisco, so we’re planning to head out to the US in the first half of the year to kickstart that,” he says. “To be honest, we have no idea what we’re doing, just like we felt when we first started the studio, but that’s a great and exciting feeling so we’ll give it a go!”