Subscribe to the daily newsletter.

Elmwood Leeds: Born Ugly


Elmwood’s former studio in Leeds has been rebranded as Born Ugly.

It formalises the Elmwood Group demerger announced by founder, Jonathan Sands, last week.

It will mean that for the first time since 1977 that the name Elmwood hasn’t been associated with Leeds. However, it will live on in the global business, operating out of London, New York and Singapore.

“Our plan is to build on the success of the Leeds business coming off the back of a very successful year and tread a different path to Elmwood now,” said Jonathan Sands OBE, Chairman of Born Ugly.

“I have no doubt that business will go on and do bigger and better things. Our plans for Born Ugly are clear and exciting and in time I want to step back knowing that we’ve achieved something really special and different once again. I want to put succession in place from the start hence me diluting my share-holding very quickly.”

The Born Ugly rebrand was created in-house, to represent that “even the best ideas start ‘ugly’”. The icon, which was designed by Grammy nominated and Cannes Lion winning artist, Alex Trochut shows a “squiggle” used to highlight the ideas and insights with the greatest potential. The brand mark is crafted to be “ugly and raw as well as beautiful and balanced with a mix of lower case and caps.”

Subscribe to the Prolific North Daily Newsletter Today!

Want all the latest content from Prolific North delivered direct to your inbox daily? Of course you do!


“If you ask me craft and branding have somehow been going in opposite directions in the last years, technological format constraints and a constant aim to try to communicate and please the biggest numbers have led us to the “less is less” in some cases,” explained Trochut.

“It has been a great challenge – and pleasure – to collaborate with the Born Ugly team who has been shooting for something, crafted, witty and beautiful from the start. Easy will always be boring, and hard challenges are what brings the most satisfaction into our jobs. I’m grateful to have been part of the birth of this new beautiful and weird brand.”

The agency is led by Sands, Sarah Dear (Managing Partner), Sabrina Ahmed (Senior Partner, Client Services), Wander Bruijel (Senior Partner, Strategy & Provocation) and Rob Skelly (Associate Creative Director).

Its clients include Tesco, Carlsberg, Givaudan, Sainsbury’s, Covea, P&G, Kopparberg, Astonish, Challs International, Vet-AI, Heck, and VFC amongst others.

“We have a history that spans forty years.  We have always believed that ugly fights harder and has somewhere to go. Ugly feeds bravery and endeavour. Ugly isn’t scared to embrace dangerous creative that has the power to disrupt and breakthrough. With conviction, ugly redefines the status quo and creates something truly remarkable,” said Dear.

“I’m extremely excited to lead the future of Born Ugly together with my colleagues. At Born Ugly we truly believe that the work we do should always have a remarkable impact in the world. It is why we are relentless in our pursuit to go deep and uncover the ideas with the potential for extraordinary. And we bring together some of the best creative minds in the industry to create truly remarkable work.”

Born Ugly is also the founder of The Furnace, a creative hothouse where like-minded businesses with different specialisms share its studio space and work with the team to deliver impact for its clients. 

Related News