08th October 2019

Chicago Bound! An Interview with Ed, our Design Director.

by kota

Six Year Surprise!

To celebrate Ed’s 6th anniversary of working at Kota, the founders Jonny and James took him on a surprise trip to Chicago!  Read all about it below….Ed is the Design Director at KOTA. After joining forces with James and Jonny in 2013 he has helped shape the company as it is today with a mixture of creative flair, organisation, business strategy and team management.

Why Chicago?

The other guys know I love the USA and Chicago was one of the cities that had been on my list for a while. 11 am on Wednesday I was working from home in my joggers, 4 hours later we were on a plane to the Windy City.

How has KOTA changed over the years?

We were originally just a threesome creating mostly print graphic design work in the hospitality industry. We had a couple of main clients who gave us a retained income, and from that, we began to design digital work and websites for both these clients and new contacts we had made. Nowadays there are 9 of us, and other than the brand identity work we do, we design solely digital platforms across a wide range of industries. We have gone from sharing a studio with an events company in Battersea to having our own homely space in Clerkenwell. We have good loft space upstairs too which we are eyeing up to make use out of next year.

Tell us more about how the clients have changed over the years…

Our clients, in the beginning, were small hospitality groups. We worked mainly with a hotel group called Concept Venues and also Ocean Beach Club in Ibiza. Our big break came when we won a pitch to design the Vietnamese restaurant group Pho’s new website in 2014. Creating that site gave us a lot of exposure in the hospitality industry. Partnering with Jamie Oliver on his bestseller ‘5 Ingredients’ was also a big moment for us. We have now created all the digital marketing for his last three publications. Our current clients include much more established brands such as Penhaligon’s, Opta Pro, Comptoir Libanais, and British Red Cross. The plan moving forward is to partner with larger topical brands who are forward-thinking and appreciated great design.

And how about the evolution of the team?

As mentioned, we were mainly graphic designers for a year or so, with me, James and Sion designing, and Jonny being more client-facing managing projects. Over the years we have built the development team up as we began to design websites, and increased the design team to four. A project manager was essential after a certain point, as was a marketing manager to manage both clients who wanted help promoting their new websites but also marketing Kota ourselves. The types of characters in the team have always been quite similar as we have always felt people being a good fit is just as important as their skill set. However, I can definitely say we now have a team with the most talent we have ever had. We cut back on numbers in 2018 and instead invested in more quality. In general, everyone is out-going, doesn’t take themselves too seriously and has a creative streak. Oh, and you seem to have to love ‘Stranger Things’ too.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Other than playing music, I’ve only ever wanted to be a designer. The best thing about my job is it doesn’t feel like a job most of the time. I love being able to create things, manage a great team and give clients something that both they and we are really proud of. Running your own business comes with its pressures obviously, but I love coming into the studio, the team, and the great work we produce.

What has been your favourite project do you think?

We created a new brand identity and website for a client in 2016 who owned a great pub/hotel in the Cotswolds. The work had a really great rustic aesthetic and was one of the first times we had completed the brand identity as well as the website alongside, so it always sticks out as a fond memory. As well as this Jamie Oliver’s ‘5 Ingredient Food’ needs a mention as was obviously really exciting to be working with the biggest selling non-fiction author in the country! The concept we came up with for that project was great too.

What are the plans for KOTA moving forwards?

To keep learning and progressing as both a company and individuals. The immediate plan is to grow the team to include more specialist positions, which in turn will help us experiment with the types of digital work we can produce. We aim to be working with our favourite pioneering brands on a regular basis, with the big plan to open a second studio overseas. Maybe Chicago, you never know…


Interested in working with us? Call the KOTA studio on +44(0)20 3951 0562.

We are a Creative Digital Agency based in Clerkenwell London, specialising in Creative Web Design, Web Development, Branding and Digital Marketing. We are also WordPress Content Management System experts.