Chris Humphris, founder of branding and graphic design agency PLUK Studio, is an industry expert with over 23 years’ experience. Chris sits down with Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign to speak about what it’s like to run this small successful business.
By Charlotte Kidd
In PLUK’s office, tucked away in the North Laines, Chris Humphris shares what success means to him and the team, speaking candidly about what challenges them, and what it means to work with people who make your life difficult – and how that’s a good thing.
LWC: Tell me about the people behind PLUK Studio – what do you think contributes to your success?
CH: We’re a small agency. We’re meticulous in our craft. We take on things that push us to grow, not just in numbers but things which expand our thinking. Expand how we understand the world and how we understand design. That really is it.
And what to you, are the best and worst parts of your industry – however you define that?
Well the worsts part I’d say, is nepotism. I mean it’s something that probably applies to most industries.
But you’d say you see that a lot in your industry?
Yes. Which can make it difficult for smaller agencies to break through and grow. But honestly, I don’t have any major criticisms, otherwise I wouldn’t work in it.
What about the best parts?
People who make your life really difficult. But in a good way. For instance, we had a public sector client who came to us specifically because they didn’t want something that looked public sector. So, they gave us a difficult brief where we had all these hoops we had to jump through. Taking on brief like that pushes you to think through these different challenges, and in the end we designed one of the most creative and innovative brands we’ve ever done.
What do you think is important about being a good employer?
For us it’s about an open dialogue, and that applies to anyone that comes along. It’s about asking questions: What are your needs? How can we fulfil them? Of course, it’s about the Living Wage, but we want to create welfare for our employees. Sometimes it’s about having difficult conversations.
What’s instore next for PLUK studios?
In an ideal world? We’re looking to make our day to day lives more fun. We want to work with fun clients and interesting people.
What do you still think you have to learn moving forward?
Everything. Because 23 years ago when I started, it was a very different time to now. My job has effectively stayed the same in many ways, some of the creative processes I use are the same, however the outside influences are always changing. You’ve constantly got to adapt and learn. I could say: I need to learn how to be more profitable, or I need to learn how to be better on the CRM. Those things you could apply to any business. But for me, I don’t know what I’ve got to learn yet. And that’s the exciting thing about it.
And what about looking back – if you could’ve done anything differently, what would it be?
Personally, I would’ve skipped uni. Because ever since I was really little I wanted to be out working. For me I found education hindering in many ways. I’m not advocating for skipping university, I just don’t think it was the best thing for me.
I don’t think you necessarily need to be an advocate for skipping education to say it wasn’t right for you, I just think it shows that everyone’s path is different.
Absolutely, but in hindsight I’d have preferred to have gone straight into a vocational position. After I finished school I walked into a printers and asked for a job, any job. I worked hard and learnt a lot. I’d argue I learnt more in the year I spent there than the 3 I spent at art college. But each to their own.
What’s your most memorable moment so far at PLUK?
Our most memorable moment was landing our first big job. Where we put in our pitch, and suddenly we received an email back and we thought: little old us got the job. It makes you feel good. That there is an opportunity for a company like us to go up against 30 other much bigger agencies. It’s a massive confidence boost. There’s a lot of competition. But honestly, just simply surviving the last two years teaches you how resourceful we can be during difficult times.