18 years running a Graphic Design Agency in London

In August 2000 Navig8 opened it’s door in the pokiest office in Fitzrovia, London. 18 years we are still based in our beloved Fitzrovia, we’ve moved office three times and the studio is a bit less pokey.

A lot has happened, many things have moved on – then again not a lot has changed.

Our fist office was on Goodge street, with a comedy management team upstairs and a film producer next door. Without exaggerating, if you stretched out your arms your could touch both opposing walls. It was really tiny. But we didn’t care, we were in ad land, where all the big agencies were before they all moved out to Shoreditch like lemmings. We were in the Fitzrovia! Where Saatchi and Saatchi were based.

We even shared our room with a PR company. When I say company, in those days we were all one man bands.

All I needed was a Mac, a phone and my prized possession – a FAX. Yep, revision, sign off forms and orders were placed by FAX. Email was on the scene, but had not yet become ubiquitous or even trusted. Email seemed ‘temporary’ easily lost or deleted, not real.

Proofs were run and cromalins made at the local repro house on Charlotte Place by Steve the chain smoking red wine drinker. Artwork was posted to the printer on Syquest drives (44mb) or even the new cutting edge Zip drives (100mb!).

My first pay day (£75.00 cheque) was from Unison, the union. I vowed to frame it and never, ever catch cash it. It lasted a week – needed the money.

The client base was limited to charities, unions and a law firm.

I employed my first designer in two years and what a massive step that was. I think back then I had no idea of the responsibility an employee would bring. PAYE, NI and reviews. I was very lucky, I employed a brilliant person and with the exception of a few nightmares, my staff have all been brilliant.

Although I have had some sensational excuses for not arriving at work, my top five being (I’m not making these up):

  • I was trying to save a ladybirds life

  • My trousers are wet

  • I’ve locked myself in my ground floor flat

  • There are no flights back for a week (weather fine, in both countries)

  • I’ve been stabbed (Cards and concerned calls made, returning to work in two days with no wound – seriously)

We ended up renting the office adjoining (the film producer) I think we drove him out with the racket we made. I employed an office assistant. We called her the ‘Swiss Army Knife’, we still have that job title – it’s a person that does so many really useful and varied things.

So things grew, we got more clients and managed to keep our old ones, UCL has been with us for over 15 years and we needed more room. And so, the basement period began.

We moved to Charlotte Street, the basement number 36. The place was a mess, but it had potential. So me and my Dad put our overalls on and ripped the place apart, with a plan in my head, we built a glass patrician wall, laminate flooring and wait for it – gallery.

Nancy Victor gallery was born. We’d only show artists that weren’t represented by an agent or gallery and we thought the work was great. there was no fee to have the space – but – and here it comes, I got a free piece of artwork, from every show.

We had some amazing shows, my favourite being a show by an artist called John Logan, scaffolder and ex Foreign Legion.