Interview — StudioMakgill


To wet our whistle ahead of his upcoming LongLunch talk at The Design Museum, we caught up with Hamish, Creative Director of Brighton based Studio Makgill.

Could you sum up in a few words what you do?

We are a graphic design agency that makes beautifully simple work.

Can you tell us a little about the team behind StudioMakgill?

We are currently four permanent staff with a rolling roster of freelancers and interns to help with the workload.

What spurred you on to start your own studio, and how did you make the leap?

This is actually the second agency I have run. I founded Red Design with a friend back in 1996. So the process of setting up StudioMakgill wasn’t scary to me. In between Red Design and StudioMakgill I spent four years working with some great agencies in London and this had really helped shape the kind of agency I wanted to run.

You’re based in Brighton, what influence do you think location has on a studio’s output?

The decision to be in Brighton is because I live down here and I want to have a decent quality of life with my family. StudioMakgill was very nearly based in London, but the thought of being a lifelong commuter was too depressing.

It presents some challenges, but I feel that you really don’t need to be London based to be recognised as a serious agency. I hope that we are proving that to be true.

How do you approach creating ‘beautifully simple work’?

I think firstly it isn’t a completely conscious process. It comes from a desire for and appreciation of simplicity. But there is a process which in itself is actually quite simple. We constantly ask ourselves what is important in a design. What can we get rid of before we compromise the meaning or integrity of that piece.

Do clients ever come to you with something specific in mind?

Of course.

We don’t take on every project that comes to us. But a client with something in mind can either be a great thing or it can be potentially toxic.

It really depends on so many factors. It requires learning a lot about people and becoming a good judge of character. Experience has really helped here, though taking on the wrong client is a mistake that can still happen.

Which would you say have been your most significant / satisfying projects to date, and why?

That’s hard to answer. I recognise merit in different projects for different reasons, but I think the most satisfying piece in our portfolio is either The Lollipop Shoppe identity or the recent Fine Coated promotion we did for GF Smith.


The Lollipop Shoppe identity really demonstrates our approach to simple, timeless design whilst it also shows how we can apply a consistent image across a raft of items and different production techniques.

The fine coated promotion was a great chance for us to work with an amazing photographer (Angela Moore) and explore and experiment with format and print techniques.


Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you’d like to?

I am a frustrated furniture designer, so I’d love to see a piece of design go into production.

What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own studio?

Find the right reason to do it. It can look very appealing from the outside looking in. But there is a lot of hard work and sleepless nights at first. But, it’s also incredibly satisfying.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your work / thinking?

There are many people who influence me – mainly makers or architects. But if I were to select one artist it would have to be Bruno Munari.

Besides your professional work, what are you passionate about?


If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

A furniture designer

Without letting the cat out the bag, what can we expect to see at LongLunch?

A selection of projects from the studio, but also some thoughts about what we would like to do and what is influencing us to head in that direction.

Thanks for your time Hamish.





^GFSmith Fine coated promotion





^The Lollipop Shoppe visual identity



^ GF Smith Naturalis Works booklets (photography by Steven Fisher)


^ Boxpark, Shoreditch visual identity and collateral, environmental and advertising



^ Central Avenue type specimen





^ Beachdown Festival identity & campaign

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