It all started in 2002 when Perniclas Bedow lost his day job at an advertising agency. Trying to impress Stockholm’s design agencies with a lousy portfolio wasn’t the easiest task and the industry’s neglection was the he needed to start his own studio — Bedow. In 2011 — after juggling the ball alone for some years — Bedow took the and signed striker Anders Bollman. Midfielder Mattias Amnäs joined in 2014 and in 2016 centre back Fibi Kung finally completed the squad. Occasionally they take players on trial — right now Fanni Demecs from Budapest as a left winger. The team resides at Krukmakargatan 22 on Södermalm in Stockholm.
The following interview is an excerpt from the Australian design magazine Process Journal, Edition Nine 2013. Perniclas Bedow is being interviewed by Editor in Chief Thomas Williams about running a boutique design studio.
What did you imagine for Bedow when you first founded the studio in 2005? More than a decade later, have you achieved your expectations?
In late 2004 I had no job. I had been working in a couple of advertising agencies since the late 90’s but felt that design was more interesting and I started looking for a job in a design studio. With a mediocre portfolio and an industry still suffering from the dot-com bubble it was hard. I came to a point where I understood that the only solution was to start my own business, so I rented a desk and my expectations were to make ends meet. And they still are — the difference now is that I have two fantastic designers and we have our own studio.
Your portfolio shows that Bedow works with a vast range of clients and businesses. I know that many of the organisations you work with are in the cultural sector. Is this because you are attracted to their creative output, or is it because they are attracted to yours?
Since we spend more than half of our lives at work, I think the most important thing is that we work with clients we like. Working with clients we like also makes us care and I think you can see that in our work. So the answer would be that it is mutual — careful work attracts careful clients and vice versa.
A big studio might find it difficult to retain a single design vernacular because of the large number of people who have input. On the other hand, a small studio might find it difficult to produce work that is varied enough in its style because there are fewer opinions to rely on. How do you ensure it has a consistent quality while still being able to satisfy a range of different clients?
We have a quite rational design process. We set up a strategy together with the client and decide what is relevant to communicate. When we have boiled everything down to one keyword, we start thinking about how to visualise that word. Those who take a closer look at our portfolio can probably spot a keyword in many of our projects.
A design team of three, do you take on different roles when working together?
In the strategic phase we all work together, then the designers start sketching and I manage the project. When we are satisfied with our work, we present one proposal to the client. Since they are involved from an early stage, they already know what will be communicated and rarely have any major objections.
Your work is proof that it doesn’t take a large team of people to create brilliant pieces of design. Can you explain the advantages, for a designer, of working in a small studio?
I can only speak for my own studio, but I would say there are only advantages working in a small studio. You are involved in all the studio’s projects and also involved in all decisions — which clients you want to work with, what solutions to choose, what photographer to use, etc.
The intimacy between a small studio and a client means the designer has the opportunity to become fully immersed in the brief without the interception of a middleman, like an account manager. Do you think clients are beginning to realise the benefits of working with a small studio over a big one?
Yes. But I also think working with small studios or handpicked creatives is a trend among marketing directors. You can save quite a lot of money hiring a small studio since it doesn't cost that much to start the engine.
The most important thing for a marketing manager is to understand the company’s value for the agency — too many clients choose a big agency without realising they are too small to be cared about. The caring is the biggest benefit of working with a small studio.
Bedow has created an extraordinary amount of work and has almost as many awards to match. Beside the acknowledgement that the quality of your output is world class, what other positives for a small studio come with winning awards?
We are working in an industry where nothing is right or wrong. The only receipt you get of doing something right is when someone tells you so. And if that person is a colleague in a jury, it means something for your self-confidence. An award is also a guarantee for someone who does not have the ability to judge design by themselves — for example, as a non-experienced buyer, it is easier and more comfortable to choose a studio that an industry body has already approved.
Tell us about your studio’s relationship with different clients. If a designer is briefed directly by the client, and not by an account manager, does this prevent information from being lost in translation?
The relationship with our clients is very close; we invest a lot of ourselves in our work and we are eager to keep the client satisfied with the result. Regarding information being lost in translation — that might happen in some agencies, but, once again, managing the project is the key to a good result.
If you find yourselves extremely busy in the future, are you more likely to employ another designer or turn down work? Do you want Bedow to remain a boutique studio?
There are no ambitions to build a big agency, but as long as the quality of our work can be guaranteed, I have no problem growing if the opportunity arise. We have a solid foundation today and as long as we are independent, we are happy.
During the years our work has been given a few design awards. Both us and our clients are flattered when the industry says we are on track.
European Design Awards (Silver, 2016)
European Design Awards (Silver, 2016)
Guldägget (Diploma, 2016)
European Design Awards (Silver, 2015)
European Design Awards (Bronze, 2015)
German Design Awards (Winner, 2015)
Epica Awards (Silver, 2013)
Cannes Lions (Bronze, 2013)
European Design Awards (Gold, 2013)
Guldägget (Diploma, 2013)
D&AD Awards (Pencil Slice, 2013)
Art Directors Club Awards (Merit, 2013)
Swedish Design Awards (Design S, 2012)
FPO Awards (Winner, 2012)
Kolla! Awards (Winner, 2012)
Svenska Publishingpriset (Diploma, 2011)
European Logo Design Annual (Winner, 2007)