Who are we talking to?
Richard Stevens. I am founder and Creative Director of forpeople.
How long Has the business been established?
We founded forpeople in 2004 – with just four people. Prior to that the four of us were at ingeni, Ford Motor Company’s global design centre in Soho, London, where I was chief designer. I led the team at ingeni, working on advanced automotive design programmes for premier automotive brands including Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, as well as design projects for a select group of third party clients.
How many staff?
We are currently around 100 people. forpeople is often described as ‘the biggest design company in London that no-one has ever heard of’.
How much Has the business changed since you started?
It hasn’t changed much in the sense that it has always been about being discreet and investing everything back in to growing relationships and building trust with our clients. The business is driven by a total understanding of people in all aspects of their everyday lives and we have always encouraged the idea of being one group of creatives exploring collectively but from many different viewpoints. We urge designers to think as people first (not designers), using their creative skills to solve problems. Of course, now it’s the same principle just done on a much bigger scale – with a greater understanding of people around the world as our knowledge grows through work in different sectors.
“We urge designers to think as people first (not designers), using their creative skills to solve problems.”
How much more have you yet to achieve as a business?
We are still relatively young as a business with a lot to learn. Every step we take is a new one and so we are constantly making mistakes but, most importantly, learning from them all the time. As designers in industry we have a real opportunity to make a positive difference to the world we live in. Most designers have done a lot of ‘stuff’ but the question we should constantly ask ourselves is, within all that, how much of that stuff has actually made a real difference? forpeople strives to achieve that with every opportunity that comes along.
If the Government could change one thing what would it be?
Apart from the impact of Brexit and issues around attracting and retaining talent from and to our shores, to be honest we have never felt supported by the Government in the development of our business and/or what we are trying to achieve.
As a leading British design company, working with some of the biggest organisations in the most competitive markets around the world, it would be great to feel that they better understood the value our type of business can bring to the UK economy, and supported us in the generation and export of intellectual property.
What is your biggest challenge as a business?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing most design companies is not believing in your own hype. Ensuring that a culture of arrogance or complacency doesn’t set in as the company grows. For us, it’s imperative that we continue to attract and retain new talent whilst maintaining a small company feel/culture and being totally committed to solving our client’s problems.
How many projects typically at one time?
Whilst we have a relatively small group of clients (considering our headcount) spread all over the world, and because of the depth and breadth of those relationships, we will typically be working on multiple projects across departments and disciplines with each client, at any one time.
Have clients changed over the past five years?
They’re more or less the same. Our aim has always been to only work with one client in one sector and build our relevance and depth of knowledge within each of those businesses without compromising IP and/or trust. We will also look to add around 5-10% of new client business each year, ensuring that work only comes through a depth of knowledge about people gained in one area that can be leveraged in a new sector. A good example of this is our work with Herman Miller, who were originally interested in our background in automotive experiences and consumer electronics, combined with our expertise in building journey experiences for the likes of British Airways.
What are you working on now?
As you would expect, all the work we do is highly confidential and typically takes a long time to bring to market. And as with all forpeople partnerships, the work comes before publicity; so while people may never have heard of forpeople, they will have probably already flown, driven, watched, eaten, spoken on, stayed in or sat on some of our work.