28th Sep 2023
25 years ago in September of 1998 REAL DESIGN was born. Mobile phones were like bricks, the internet was only just becoming accessible to commercial business and video was shot to tape in in 4:3 aspect ratio.
When we started we carved out a niche in interactive CD-ROM design and development, this quickly became what we were known for. CD-ROMs were like websites that were self launching and could deliver both audio and video in an age when internet speeds were not up to the task. We created ROMs for clients such as Smith & Nephews, Polestar PLC, Hull College to name just a few.
The CD-ROM era was brought to an end by the increase and rapid uptake of fast internet. This allowed us to move our interactive design to the world wide web with the use of frames, tables and Flash. We adapted to the technological change and began creating award winning sites for clients in a time when creativity was king. The beginning of the internet uptake was a wild time when wow factor was valued above all else.
The REAL team Rapidly expanded to 4 members, working in all fields of media; from graphic design, print, website development, interactive touch screen kiosks, MTV music videos and interactive DVDs.
The wild west of the internet creativity boom was slowly reigned in and tamed by corporatisation and once again the technology and techniques changed. We started moving the majority of our online sites from Flash to PHP database driven websites, creating interactive environments with more focus on search engine ranking. The industry began to prioritise search engine position over wow factor, once again we adapted with 80% of our sites ranked page 1 for their main keywords.
As we began creating our own in house content management systems to create websites with, our team expanded to 7. We were involved in one the first live streamed internet music events which we later expanded on by developing our own internet streaming rigs. This expanded our video capabilities from shoot and edit to live events. We extend our reach into Augmented reality with one of the first fully 3D magazine covers and working with Aston Villa Football club to develop some immersive interactions.
Recently we achieved a long standing dream by opening our own photography and video studio. Fully equipped with a complete lighting rig, green screen and sound proofing, we finally have the dedicated creative space we have been craving for decades.
Relationships are at the core of REAL DESIGN. The majority of our work has come from word of mouth client recommendations and we still work with 90% of the customers we started with in 1998, here are a few words from our long standing client and friend Graham Henderson;
“I’ve been in business for 34 years and have known Breon and REAL DESIGN Studios for most of that time. At one point, when he’d only recently established his offices in Wincolmlee, we toyed with the idea of a few new start-ups sharing managed premises in the city centre. Breon’s decision to stay on his own was undoubtedly the right one and I quickly extricated myself too, when others in the partnership got into financial difficulties. I have valued his professionalism and expertise in helping with website creation and logo design especially. You’ll realise how long ago it is when I say he was the first to design me a CD-Rom to showcase our work to clients!
I would say we’re both survivors. Being self-employed can be a rollercoaster ride and the owner has to steer a steady path, especially with employees on board. Real has changed and adapted across the years and Breon is to be congratulated on his 25 year anniversary.
6 years ago I went back to employment, helping young people set up in business. That was meant to be for a year and six years later I’m retiring – but my freelance work will continue, while people value and are prepared to pay for my work. I’m sure Breon and REAL will continue to bring fresh and creative design ideas to clients for many years and I wish them well for the future.”
Graham Henderson, GH Events
And the people we work with (and have worked with) are at the centre of the business, Graham our longest serving employee shares his thoughts on his journey with REAL;
“REAL DESIGN started at the infancy of digital media. New ways of creating media and art were ravenously perused by a new generation untethered from the traditional industry constraints.
We travelled the length and breadth of the country filming music acts touring around nightclubs, training videos for industry leading print companies and even created three feature length carp fishing DVD’s.
Filming the carnage of a live nightclub event, dealing with the frankly hostile environment of booming music, no light and the attention of ever curious drunk punters was an exciting challenge. Filming on the streets of Blackpool at 11pm on the busiest ‘hen’ weekend of the year was quite an experience.
In contrast to the chaos of the nightclub gigs, we produced six documentaries on the different types of print processes. Capturing techniques that work at incredibly high speed with micron precision presented a unique challenge. Conveying this information to the audience required us to really push our filming, editing and post production work.
Carp fishing was a huge part of our video work. We had traditionally been filming short scripted events indoors with all the comforts that that provides. Suddenly being in the great outdoors waiting for someone to catch a fish was an aggressive and welcome kick out of our comfort zone. The uncertainty of whether or not we would get the footage we needed was as exhilarating as working in the great outdoors. Of course we had to do it in true REAL DESIGN fashion, camping out overnight in -6 temperatures on the banks of a lake in Oxford to get the perfect sunrise shot, and editing a slow relaxing sport with three cameras and a drum and bass soundtrack. We calmed down a bit for the next one and dropped the drum and bass soundtrack, shooting it instead in the champagne region of France all be it in 40° plus temperatures.
Possibly the pinnacle of our video work was being flown out to Monaco during the F1 grand prix weekend to film the Amber Lounge uber club. A dream job and destination only slightly spoiled by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano that absolutely had to erupt that particular weekend. Travel chaos ensued. It was difficult not to be overwhelmed by an iconic city during a legendary event, once again out of our comfort zone filming on party yachts while F1 cars blasted past mere metres away. Documenting a fashion show during golden hour on the meridian attended by royalty and Hollywood A-listers was about as far as we could get from our north-east of England routes.”
“Of course this is the fun aspects of the job, and negates the month long 6 day a week late night editing session, the travel woes, some awful hotel rooms, and seeing how many people you can cram into a standard travel lodge room. But that is all easily ignored when you are young and having the time of your life with your friends.”
I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude. First, to our wonderful clients - thank you for choosing to work with us over the years. Your ongoing partnership, challenging projects, and loyalty continue to push us to grow and improve. We are honoured to collaborate with you to build your businesses.
Second, to the entire REAL team, past and present - your hard work, creativity, and dedication are what make this company so special. From Graham, Mark, Jamie, Dave, Alicia, Martin, Allistair, Colin, Rachel, Andy, Ross, Zack, David, Jon, Matt, Pete, Chris, Damian, Sarah, Ben, Richard, Jason, Tony, Paul, Nathan & Mike, Will, Lucy and so many more - you each contribute unique talents and ideas that drive our progress.
Finally, as we look to the future in this ever-changing media landscape, know that we remain committed to advising, guiding and creating innovative solutions to meet your needs. New technologies like AI and shifts in the industry will not stop us from delivering excellence.
Thank you for being part of the REAL family. I am proud to be on this journey with you.