10 Questions With: Horse

by Elizabeth Freeman on 08/04/2015 | 1 Minute Read

The Dieline sits down with Sarah Pidgeon, Founder/Creative Partner of Horse and winner of Editor's Choice and 1st Place Non-Alcoholic at The Dieline Awards 2015, to talk about what makes Horse unique from other studios.

1.What in your opinion sets apart a good design from a great one?

It goes without saying that good design needs to look good, so execution and craft plays an important role, but the best designs are more than just styling - it's clever and original thinking that set good designs apart from great ones. Great ideas effortlessly express the essence of a product or brand in an original, intelligent and challenging way.

It's the difference between 'that's nice' or 'I wish I did that'. 

2.What is Horse's design philosophy?

Say something interesting


3.What is your design process?

Sounds obvious, but the very first thing is to truly understand the problem we're being asked to solve. It's important to get to the core of what is special and interesting about a brand or product before you can attempt to try and communicate that to anyone else.

So we always start with an immersion, asking our clients lots of questions to find that hook and understand the personality of their brand. We get to the crux of why a product is interesting and unique, and next tackle how to convey that visually through design. There's usually a eureka moment when you know you've come across a real nugget of information, and it's here we get really inspired. Our design for Nongfu Spring's glass water bottle is a good example of how inspiration is totally born out of the brief. We spent a week researching at the source and asked for all the information we could absorb. The design pays homage to the source by highlighting the species that thrive there. If we're fascinated by something, hopefully, the end consumer will be too. Once we've established something interesting to say, it's then a case of exploring the purest visual way to communicate that idea in a way that will connect with the audience.

4. What makes Horse unique from other studios?

Our team!

Small but mighty - we break the traditional agency structure. We pick the best experts for each individual brief, which means we’re able to stretch budgets further without compromising on the talent applied to each project. We're proud to know and work with some of the best designers, strategists, writers and structural engineers in the business and we collaborate together to give our clients the strongest team for their specific brief. Working this way means we offer all the expertise, experience and creativity that our clients need, but with the flexibility, passion and personal commitment of a smaller team who are totally involved - from picking up the brief to going on the print run.


5. Where do you find your inspiration?

By keeping our eyes and ears always open, it could be everything and anything.  

It's so easy now to get lost on Pintrest and blogs looking at what exists, old and new, but really the inspiration for each project comes from the brief and getting away from the computer in those first initial days on a new project. Sitting in the garden with a pencil and pad, it's my favourite time on a project.

6.How do you find the harmony between creativity and commerciality?

Commerciality and creativity aren't enemies. Being commercial doesn't mean you can't create a hugely creative and brilliant solution, it can sometimes just make it a little more of a challenge. What we do shouldn't in any case be self-indulgent, we want to create solutions that resonate with people and make them smile so they'll pick our client's brands over another. We're strong believers in the power that design has to totally improve our clients' businesses.

7.What types of project excite you most? What do they have in common?

Brands that want to challenge where they are and what they have. If there are no sacred cows then we have the freedom to really go for it. New categories, where you're not bound to any pre-existing category codes are really interesting and exciting too as you can make the rules. We've just designed one of the first birch tree waters to launch in the UK market called Tåpped, and it was key to have the total freedom to play with the structure and set the standard in the category.

8.What can clients expect when working with you?

Chemistry and collaboration are the keys to great work. We love what we do and we work closely with brand owners who share our passion. Because we value our client relationships, it naturally means we go the extra mile with the design work. We've a relentless commitment in the pursuit of the best solution for each and every project. It's in our bones, we thrive on problem-solving and have an insane level of perfection, drive and care for every brief. 


9.What are the biggest challenges you encounter as designers?

Realising ideas in production is definitely one of the most challenging things we encounter as designers. You may have the best creative idea in the world, but it has to be economically and commercially viable or it'll never see the light of day. We're constantly challenging perceptions of packaging, which means we have to work really hard in production to push suppliers and manufacturers out of their comfort zones. It would definitely sometimes be a lot easier to give in, but we're total design geeks and persistence and drive comes with that.


10.What is your most valuable advice to an aspiring designer?

'Do it, to see it, to do it' was the mantra of my degree tutor, Ray Gregory, and I still say it now. An idea might work, it might not, but have the persistence and drive to give it a go and find out.

Most people when they think of 'design' just think about the aesthetic - but it has the capacity to be so much more. Smart ideas will always transcend style so take the time to really think about the work you do. I was told on my first day of university to read Smile in the Mind and it totally changed my perception of what graphic design was. Learn off the best - get your foot in the door at companies whose work excites you.

And work hard - even if you think you've got the best idea, keep at it, you might be this close to a better one.


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