In the Studio With — Glasgow’s Warriors Studio on creative partnership, founding a festival and going into business pre-graduation

Posted 25 September 2017 Interview by Indi Davies

2014 was a big year for Warriors Studio founders Beth Wilson and James Gilchrist. Not only did it see them set up their own design practice, launch Scotland’s first major graphic design festival and land a £10,000 award to make it happen – it was also the year they graduated. Meeting at Edinburgh College of Art, James and Beth recognised a familiar spark and ambition in each other that resulted a powerful working partnership. While their fellow students fretted over their final shows, the pair were working threefold – compiling a 256-page business plan and confirming attendance from some of the industry’s most-respected names for their inaugural Graphic Design Festival Scotland. Since then, Warriors has expanded to a team of four with a truly varied repertoire, collaborating with the likes of the V&A, Urban Outfitters and Warner Music across everything from workshops to large-scale murals. Here James tells us how they go about their work, the benefits of being embedded in Glasgow’s creative scene and the process of defining yourself as a young company.

Warriors Studio

Founded

2014

Based

Glasgow

Team

4 (3 full-time, 1 part-time)

Hours

10am–6pm (and beyond)

Clients

Urban Outfitters, V&A, Warner Music, Jealous Gallery, New Worlds Conference, Millemont Institute

Website
Social Media

Inside Warriors Studio

Overview

We describe ourselves as a graphic design studio, but it’s not a term we’ve ever felt particularly comfortable with. ‘Graphics’ aren’t really the pinnacle of what we do and certainly doesn’t articulate everything we offer – but it’s the label we’ve found most people understand. In simple terms, we help brands, companies and organisations communicate and engage with people.

The studio was founded naturally through regular collaboration between Beth and I. We both studied at Edinburgh College of Art and shared a similar drive, vision and aesthetic appreciation, but took entirely different approaches to projects and have very different skill sets. When we looked at the Scottish design scene, we couldn’t find any work that felt like ours, so we decided there was room for two fresh-faced warriors! As soon as we started working together we saw a natural progression in our work and won a series of pitches including the Deutsche Bank Award, which gave us a huge confidence boost, 12 months’ studio rent and the money we needed to launch the first Graphic Design Festival Scotland. Suddenly a speculative 256-page business plan became a reality and our lives were turned upside down.

James Gilchrist

Co-founder Beth Wilson

We work across the cultural, private and public sectors, which basically means we work on any project that interests us, and which we think we can bring value to. At the moment we’re developing a lot of identities and campaigns; helping clients distinguish their brand, and establishing effective ways for them to engage with their audience and potential customers. But on other days we could be sharing stories with inspiring recent stroke sufferers, painting a large-scale mural with international artists in the East End of Glasgow, or experimenting with obscure sci-fi typography for a record label. Staying diverse keeps us open-minded and adaptable. Along with day-to-day studio work, we run workshops with universities, schools and colleges, and produce a creative symposium, Graphic Design Festival Scotland, which takes place annually in October to November. Creating and running the festival has shown us every nut and bolt of how to make something out of nothing.

“When we looked at the Scottish design scene, we couldn’t find any work that felt like ours, so we decided there was room for two fresh-faced warriors!”

Graphic Design Festival Scotland branding

Graphic Design Festival Scotland branding

Graphic Design Festival Scotland branding

Poster exhibition at Graphic Design Festival Scotland

arrow
arrow

Our approach is upfront, open, critical, collaborative and fearless. This means progress is made quickly, time isn’t wasted and trust is built. Being critical means we’re reflective, analytical and always striving to improve, both individually and collectively. It’s so important to be able to rely on your colleagues for criticism and an honest opinion. We believe in trying things out, pursuing the unattainable and knocking (sometimes banging) on doors. You never know where it’ll take you. 

Over the three years since we started out, Beth and I have naturally fallen into our roles and have steadily worked on larger projects with more established clients and larger budgets. At the beginning, as two designers, there was friction over shared ownership (particularly coming from university where everything is personally labelled) but we soon outgrew this. I think one of the biggest challenges has been to become business-minded: being upfront about money, time and cost. We have now expanded our team to include junior project manager Victoria Donnelly and most recently designer Anthony Cardle. Beth takes the lead on the organisational, financial and day-to-day runnings of the studio, and bringing Victoria on board has helped free up her time to do more creative work, Anthony supports with design and motion work.

Inside Warriors Studio

Inside Warriors Studio

Inside Warriors Studio

The Work

One of the highlights from the past year has been developing the Time Capsule campaign for the V&A. The aim was to engage children across Scotland with design, encouraging them to design their own time capsule. The winning capsule will be built in collaboration with Jaguar and is to be buried by the new V&A museum in Dundee. The project was hugely successful, with double the anticipated participation. Our work included creating the creative concept, identity and design across posters, activity packs for schools, invitations, banners and digital artwork.

It’s also been great to work with more local clients, including an ambitious 19-year-old fashion designer, a film duo (at a similar stage in their careers as us) and a client-turned-friend launching a group of companies under a collective brand. Leading a workshop and giving a lecture in Austin at the University of Texas was also a surreal moment for us and definitely a highlight.

“One day we could be sharing stories with inspiring recent stroke sufferers, and the next we’re painting a large-scale mural with international artists.”

Inside Warriors Studio

Junior designer Anthony Cardle

The team at work

In terms of how work is passed between the team, first we will highlight any external collaborators we might need for a project (including web developers, photographers, animators or printers) and embed them into our cost and strategy. Internally, depending on the type of project, sometimes one of us will take the lead but we will often generate ideas independently, coming together to discuss and highlight the strengths in each. Once a route has been agreed with the client, the project generally will be handed to Beth or I to develop further, but we keep coming together as a group for feedback and constructive criticism.

The way we present ourselves is still a topic of ongoing debate. What type of work do we want to do? What sort of clients should we be aiming at? We don’t want to be tied into a particular type of work or style of work, that doesn’t seem right to us, but we see the benefits that can have, so it’s very much an open discussion.

Isla Macer Law identity

Isla Macer Law identity

Isla Macer Law identity

Isla Macer Law identity

arrow
arrow

A collaboration with Edinburgh-based artist duo and fashion brand Yokollection

A collaboration with Edinburgh-based artist duo and fashion brand Yokollection

arrow
arrow

The Team

We have four core members of the team – two directors (one leading creative, one project manager), one studio manager and one junior designer. We also work with a partner digital agency, who take care of our web development (both front and backend) and we regularly work with two freelance web developers, two photographers, an animator and two creative agencies – who take care of film and production. When we’re recruiting, we look for someone who’s confident with the basic skills required, an open mind, a can-do attitude, self-motivation and someone who’ll fit in with our existing team.

“It’s so important to be able to rely on your colleagues for criticism and an honest opinion.”

Artwork for a workshop at Texas University

Warriors’ workshop at Texas University

arrow
arrow

Work for Jealous Gallery

We often receive job applications for positions we already have covered. For example, we don’t currently need a graphic designer who “enjoys print and editorial work” as we see almost every day in applications. But we do want to hear from people who are experimenting with strange side projects, have original ideas, are exploring new digital technologies or have an interesting quality that sets them apart. If someone was to look at our website and identify a gap in what we offer, we would welcome their email with open arms.

Thinking ahead, in time we’d like to expand our team, bring in more specialist roles, take on larger projects and hand over the responsibility of Graphic Design Festival Scotland to a dedicated team within the studio. I’d also like to do more experimental work and perhaps open a sub-studio for those projects.

Inside the studio

The entrance to the studio

Environment and Culture

Glasgow has a strong DIY culture. There’s no waiting around. People do their own thing, with or without permission or the support of others. We work in a bright, airy, open-plan renovated warehouse called SWG3 in the West End of the city. It’s all white walls, plants, concrete, lots of macs, book shelves, and it lets lots of natural light in. Having previously worked smack bang in the city centre, we needed a change – the rent was high and the space was tight. Moving here gave us more room, freedom, free parking and embedded us in a new active community. We share the space with around ten other creative people; graphic designers, web developers, illustrators and a photographer. Downstairs is a gig venue and an expansive classic concrete warehouse space used for TV recordings, parties and exhibitions. The river Clyde is a ten-minute walk away and west-bound trains hurtle by regularly. It’s magic; there’s a good energy here. It feels alive when the desks start rumbling on a Friday afternoon when the sound checks begin.

On Mondays we work from home, and we’re super-flexible with holidays. There’s a set number of days off we can take each year, so as long as it’s not the day before a deadline we’re happy. We’re a small team and work closely throughout the day, so usually have lunch independently – there’s no set time, just whenever we’re hungry!

“The way we present ourselves is still a topic of ongoing debate. What type of work do we want to get? What sort of clients should we be aiming at?”

arrow
arrow

We try to work on self-initiated projects whenever we can; they become a playground for experimentation, to be able to get ideas out of our system and make work that wouldn’t fly with clients. The one we’re most proud of is a collaboration with Yokollection, an Edinburgh-based artist duo and fashion brand. We designed and produced a silk scarf and deck of 78 unique tarot cards, inspired by Yoko Ono and online roleplaying game Second Life. They were exhibited at Off Grid in Glasgow and My Monkey Gallery in France, together – complete with live tarot readings. It was great fun. 

Most recently we asked people what pisses them off and visualised 97 of these responses with frustratingly bad but lovable graphics in an animated powerpoint slideshow. The series was exhibited at Pissed Modernism, a politics and beer-infused exhibition in Edinburgh and our piece was suitably titled The Annoying Project – topped off with a squint projector in the exhibition. These projects give us a chance to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously.

Posted 25 September 2017 Interview by Indi Davies
Photography: Peter Holliday
Collection: In the Studio With
Disciplines: Graphic Design, Design
Mentions: Warriors Studio, Graphic Design Festival Scotland, V&A, Urban Outfitters, Warner Music Group

Creative Lives from Warriors Studio

Sign Up
scroll to top arrow-up
share

Sign up now for full access

For a wealth of behind-the-scenes advice and insight into the creative industries and exclusive benefits, become a Lecture in Progress member.

Student

Free

Lecture in Progress is currently available to current full-time and part-time students free of charge.


  • Unlimited access to editorial content and archive
  • An ever-expanding directory of essential resources
  • Student offers and promotions
  • Two weekly newsletters

Professional

£35/per year

Professional membership is currently £35 per year, sign up for a 14 day free trial below and get 25% off your first year with the discount code LAUNCH25


  • Unlimited access to editorial content and archive
  • An ever-expanding directory of essential resources
  • Professional offers and promotions
  • Two weekly newsletters
  • The biannual Lecture in Progress newspaper, delivered to your door
  • Insight reports into creative education and industry

Lecture in Progress is made possible with the support of the following brand patrons