The Roundhouse looks back on 25 years

2020 marks a quarter-century since Nick Pugh and Ian Humpish quit their jobs and set up together on a shared mission to create a stand-out branding design agency in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The change they’ve witnessed over the last year could be an article in itself, as digital technology further cemented itself in every aspect of their lives throughout the challenges posed by lockdown. While no one could say they were prepared for what 2020 would bring, they are confident that their experience has given them a little insight into dealing with immense and unprecedented change, and the pressures it brings.

From the rise of smartphones, responsive web design and digital marketing, they’ve witnessed and participated in a revolution.

How The Roundhouse began…

In 1995 Keegan led NUFC to the top of the Premier League, Nick Leeson was arrested in Singapore and the internet was privatised…

Nick Pugh, a Central St Martins graduate gaining experience in London and Paris, meets Ian Humpish, an MD leading a design arm of a successful North East agency. Unlike Nick, Ian fell into the world of design by accident, through a series of sales roles. Already with extensive agency experience under their belts and by way of balance, a shared interest in sport, the pair decided to go it alone. They gambled on their first office in Plummer Tower, a circular, 13th century, conical roofed landmark on the City wall in the centre of Newcastle and so The Roundhouse was born. Even as a two-man operation, the agency gained some important clients and firmly established themselves as one of the region’s key players.

Over the course of the next 25 years, The Roundhouse served many clients, including universities all over the country with new brands, digital platforms and communication campaigns – which they continue to do to this day.

“When Nick and I started out, computers and mobile phones were clunky and expensive,” Ian said. “The internet was in its infancy and we built our reputation on strong relationships, consistently delivering work of quality and value. No period in history has seen so much change than in the last 25 years, and as a design agency, we’ve adapted to the rise of digital technology. By growing our knowledge and recruiting great minds to the team, we’ve been able to deliver work at the cutting-edge of digital, without sacrificing our inherent design values.”

Starting with a university focus

Their passion for higher education was born from a hugely immersive brand and digital transformation project for Cranfield University in 2007. They spent a lot of time on campus, conducted scores of interviews with academics and students and developed something that they felt truly represented the post-graduate institution’s unique perspective.

This industry specialism opened up further opportunities in the digital world, as they were commissioned by Lancaster University to deliver the sector’s first-ever fully responsive website. From there, they have designed and built award-winning sites for University of Winchester and Bath Spa University, alongside key projects for University of Liverpool, Newcastle University, Trinity Laban in London and even a major commission by the University of Wollongong in Australia.

Ian adds: “We brought quality and visual sophistication to websites that were typically built by highly technical people, sometimes at the expense of design and clarity”

At the same time, they were engaged in many other interesting projects. English Heritage engaged them to promote Fashion at Belsay, 21 Hospitality Group became a key client and North, a Global leader in marine insurance, continued a strong partnership. “We listen to our clients and try to imagine ourselves in their sectors with their clients. We tap into their ambitions and beliefs identifying ways of helping them communicate more distinctively. It’s a hugely rewarding two way relationship.The variety of work across sectors keeps us fresh and inquisitive” says Nick, “we consistently strive to produce work that is brand-centric, technically advanced and commercially successful.”

Now in 2020, they continue to invest in their digital development team with dedicated backend, frontend and UX designers who make sure they’re always harnessing the power of emerging technology – all under one roof.

What makes us successful?

The success of The Roundhouse is certainly down to the great minds and fantastic clients they’ve welcomed through their doors over the years and who remain with them today. Alongside Nick and Ian, there are of course others who have contributed greatly to the growth of The Roundhouse.

Wendy Gallagher joined the team in 2002 as Account Manager and was soon promoted to Board Director due to her tenacity and motivation for success. She is a main driver of the University of Liverpool account alongside Phil Brown, who started at The Roundhouse as a Junior Designer and has devoted his design career to developing the agency’s creative strategy. Kirsty Lander joined as Company Administrator over 15 years ago. Alongside Ian, she is the financial backbone of the business and maintains the smooth running of the agency.

The Future

And so to the future. While The Roundhouse is still home to many familiar faces, they’ve welcomed new individuals to the team to ensure the agency is primed for future growth in the digital world. One of those new additions is Stuart Howarth, Head of Strategy and a brand marketing expert with many years as Global Marketing Manager of Barbour.

Stuart brings to the team a clear view point “from the other side of the desk”. Assessing the pressures for the client and acting as a strategic support to them. “We appreciate that the modern-day marketeer is expected to understand all the changing needs of their audiences,” Stuart adds. “They have to be commercially insightful as well as providing exceptional tactical delivery, a challenging task to achieve across all channels.”

So, The Roundhouse approach fully supports the needs of the modern marketeer and this makes us different. A client can come to us, receive a warm welcome and feel confident that all of our skills can meet their challenges.

The warmth isn’t a superficial veneer either. It is genuine both within The Roundhouse team and in the extended welcome we give to our clients. “A healthy culture of enjoying the workplace, supporting each other and producing work of note has ensured continued success and we are certain this will stand us in good stead in the future” adds Nick.

Here’s to another 25 years!