A Week in My Life: Matt Simpson, MD, Northforge
Northforge is an award-winning design studio in Leeds, and Matt Simpson is its owner and Managing Director.
An experienced animator and creative director, Matt has been at the helm at Northforge since 2015. In recent years, Northforge has experienced healthy growth and begun working on an ever-widening range of interesting creative projects. It even brought on a new animator after being impressed by his work on Instagram.
Find out what goes on in a week in the life of Matt, as he returns to the studio after months of WFH...
Wow, this is a bit of a shock to the system - I'm up early enough to commute into the office. For some of us, this week marks the first week back in the studio after lockdown.
We’ve split the team in two bubbles - it's not compulsory at this stage, the idea is to bring everyone back as comfortably as possible. Each bubble is working three weeks in the office and three weeks from home, then we’ll review it every six weeks; until everyone is happy to get back to the new norm, or something changes. I’ve missed the studio; we’ve been doing all we can on Zoom, Skype, Hangouts and Slack to keep the communication and banter levels somewhere near normal, but it still doesn’t have the same feeling as actually being in the same space, and from an art direction point of view it doesn't even come close.
The novelty soon wears off and I’m back into my usual Monday activities, catching up with the team on everything that’s rendered over the weekend, passing bits to clients, taking new briefs, etc. The day goes in a flash.
A new Wacom Cintiq arrives, which is a lovely way to finish the day. It doesn’t matter how much tech you have, it still feels special when something new arrives, and with lots of hand drawn and roto productions going through the studio this week, it’s perfectly timed.
Well, the commute is certainly a lot easier than usual, I’m guessing there’s still a lot of people working from home - it's a shame it’s not always this easy. Time to celebrate our return to the studio with a bacon sandwich from John's - David Street Cafe does a cracking breakfast, so it seems only right we support him as soon as we possibly can! It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
It's been an interesting last few days - I've been working on the creative for a pitch, so it's time to put some of what's in my head down, and scribbles on paper into some visuals and boards. Since I’ve been with Northforge we’ve done a lot of animation concepts to help our agency clients, but they normally already have a core idea already down. This is different, because this is a full creative - tone, style, brand, animation, supporting materials. It feels great to be doing it again - I’m loving every minute.
My alarm goes early - oh yeah, I can’t roll out of bed into work... this is going to take some getting used to!
Sharing the creative this morning and it's gone down very well, which is a great start to the day. The morning flies. Although the team have done brilliantly working from home and you convince yourself it's been business as usual, it's already obvious to me what a huge difference it makes to be with each other in one space, cutting off any problems or creative issues as soon as they arrive rather than waiting for a first draft - and playing off each others strengths. Independent working goes so far, but the team definitely works!
Three more projects confirmed this morning, which is fantastic news at such a turbulent time. We’re so fortunate to have clients that have continued to work with us all through lockdown, it’s certainly taken a huge weight off our shoulders, and something we never take for granted.
This week is building to a crescendo, we’re in the process of delivering four animations a week for True North for CBBC, which is a lot of fun, but an unforgiving timeline; and at the same time adding the finishing touches to one of our bigger projects of the year. Big in more ways than one, as this one's a German cinema ad.
So it turns into a late night for a few of us - working late is never expected, we’ve always made sure it’s a choice. Work-life balance is hugely important to us all, and we never take our additional time in the studio as the norm. But when you are working on projects you love, it never feels like hard work (in its literal form anyway). We commit the extra time because we want to, not because we have to - it’s the finishing touches, crafting the scenes, tightening up timings, all those little things most won’t even notice, but make a huge difference to us and are always hugely rewarding. I'm a firm believer that all best things in life are made by people who care.
Another week gone in a flash. As we’ve broken the back of the work the night before, it means Friday is back to the way we like it: coffees, food and more time to chat. Yes, we're still working, but it's noticeably more relaxed than the rest of the week. That way we get to spend time with each other talking about projects and the challenges of the week - it's also a great way to wind down before the weekend, which is always our own.
We still have half the team working from home, so above the normal morning briefings, I take the time to call them all individually for a wellbeing check, to make sure they're doing all they can to look after themselves. I hate the thought of anyone sitting at home worrying about anything we can fix instantly with a quick chat, so we try to eliminate any issues that have arisen in the week, whether they're job related, tech and software, or personal. It's massive for mental health and hugely important to us as a business.
And that's it, week done, and it's been another belter - thanks for reading!