22nd January 2017

Transatlantic Design – The Best of Both Worlds

by Jim Ramsay, Design Director

Question: What do you do when your UK homeless charity client selects the designs of your US designer for their Annual Report?

Answer: You establish a creative collaboration and pair her up with an alter ego on this side of the pond.

The following interviews candidly record the highs and not-so-lows of them working in tandem with one another.

Outline how this transatlantic project originated?

Jim: This is a pro bono project that Teviot has produced for over 10 years. It’s a charity that is very close to our hearts so every year the design team create design routes in their personal time to present to the client. However, this is the first year that Bethany selected concepts created from our US studio. As I have quite a track record in corporate reporting, it made sense that I was the UK designer to support Steph in the states.

Steph: Every year, designers at Teviot pitch their concepts for the Bethany Annual report. The concepts are initially presented internally and then a shortlist of three routes are pitched to the client from which the final design is chosen. The selected designer (in this case me) carries and develops the project from start to finish.


Have you ever collaborated on projects before?

Jim: As Steph’s line manager we have discussed previous Teviot projects that she has worked on, but more from a post mortem and personal development viewpoint. However, this is the first time where we collaborated on a live project.

Steph: We’d been doing weekly catch ups where we update each other on what’s happening on our side, but I don’t believe we’d worked on a project together before.

How did you overcome the difference in time zones?

Jim: To be honest the time difference worked in our favour. Steph and I would hook up when her day started (3pm UK) and we would discuss the latest visuals and how best to develop these for the next stage. While I went home for the night Steph would beaver throughout her day so I’d have a fresh set of visuals waiting in my inbox the next morning.

Steph: Working with the different time zones was something I think we both had become accustomed to. Communication was key to our tandem style of working and seemed to come naturally as we both recognized its importance. I would make sure I sent Jim all the necessary updates before I went home for the night so he could review during his day, then in the morning I’d come in to an email or jump on a call with him first thing.

Did you come up against any UK vs. US nuances?

Jim: Surprisingly the one that springs to mind had nothing to do with the actual project but more about how I’d signed off an email to Steph. I’d concluded by saying I was hoping to get a couple of sticky buns on my lunch break… I dread to think what she must have thought before she Googled it.

Steph: Oh yeah, ha, paragraph styles probably being the main thing. There were also times where I’d be reading through the copy and thinking “Hm. Not sure if that’s a typo or British English.” Needless to say I left final proofing to the UK team.

What steps did you take to ensure Steph was involved in the Scottish based photoshoot?

Jim: As part of her presentation Steph created a mood board which we used as the basis to select a photographer. I shortlisted a few local photographers and together Steph and I selected Laurence Winram. He was the perfect choice as his photographic style and personable approach was spot on for the subject matter. During the actual three day shoot I would take quick snaps on my iPhone and WhatsApp these over to Steph. So she was in effect at the shoot, albeit with a six hour satellite delay.

Steph: Jim was great about keeping me up to date on everything planned for the shoot. I feel like we both had a pretty clear vision of what we wanted the photography to emulate. I put together a photographic styleboard and laid out the moods we were going for, based on a variety of circumstances so that we’d have a guideline for whatever the shoot may present. After each day of shooting, Jim would give me a detailed visual recap.


Describe how you shortlisted the final photography selection?

Jim: I selected the shots I preferred from the contact sheet and Steph did the same, we then linked up via Lifesize Cloud to compare and contrast. Thankfully most of our selections matched, and when they didn’t we reassessed our choices, discussed and decided which one was best. Lifesize Cloud was great for this process as it was like having Steph in the room with me.

Steph: We separately flooded the report with each of our chosen imagery, then went through the two and discussed which image we felt worked best and why. We ended up establishing some basic photographic rules during this process which made the decision easier when we were torn between the two.


Who chose the format, paper and why?

Jim: The paper choice was primarily based on tactility. Steph wanted an uncoated paper to bring an added warmth to the report. So with this is mind I contacted our local paper merchants, collated a few options of uncoated, environmentally accredited papers and ordered mock-ups. Ryan from our US studio was over in Edinburgh when the mock-ups arrived, so he took these back with him to relay to Steph when he returned home. Steph and I then discussed the options on a conference call (with Joey the project manager), and decided on a paper and format. A5 proved very logistical and highly economical.

Steph: After meeting with the client, Jim provided me with the detailed pagination and copy. He also had paper samples sent back with our colleague, Ryan, which was really helpful. We then discussed which paper was most suitable for the report.


Steph, how did you press-pass nearly 4,000 miles away?

Steph: Ha, Jim kindly handled this process and sent me photos and videos along the way.

Jim, having direct contact with the client, how did you avoid taking over the creative development?

Jim: I was adamant from the get go that this was Steph’s design, (or baby as we were to call it) and I was providing creative direction (aka baby sitting). I saw this very much as an opportunity for Steph to grow and my role was to help her flourish. So after each client meeting I’d call Steph and run through the most recent developments. We’d discuss the best plan of attack, Steph would share her thoughts, I would provide direction and then let her run with it. I would then review the developed visuals and present these back to the client.

Steph: Jim would relay the client’s feedback and rather than take over creative dev, he’d inquire or offer suggestions on improvement when necessary. It was always a discussion and brought to light the whole “two heads are better than one” thing.


Why an annual report for a homeless charity?

Jim: While researching Bethany prior to this project it became apparent just how important the work they do is to the homeless community. Some of the case studies are simply heartbreaking, however most of which, as a direct result of Bethany have truly amazing outcomes. Thus it was absolutely paramount that we delivered a report that worked on each and every level. As well as being a retrospective on all the good work they have done, it also had to promote the benefits of donations and legacies – hence why Steph’s theme of ‘leaving your mark’ was so on point.

Steph: Distributing a comprehensive annual report that expresses the heart and purpose of the charity is imperative. The report not only shares the stories of those impacted by Bethany, but also shows contributors how their time and money are being spent. It’s an opportunity to connect supporters to those they’re impacting, which I think is really special.



Describe each other in 5 words?

Jim on Steph: Creatively passionate with incalculable potential.

Steph on Jim: Diligent. Inquisitive. Creative. Constructive. Hilarious.


You can read a full copy of the Bethany Annual 2016 Report here.

Jim Ramsay, Design Director

Transatlantic Design – The Best of Both Worlds