Forth Studio - Branding Illustrated
Branding Illustrated — March 2017

We spoke to Tom Clohosy Cole, London based illustrator from Brighton, about his background, his creative process and his views on the role of illustration in branding.

F: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue a career in illustration.

T: When I was 17 and studying AS level Art, David Hughes (an illustrator) came to visit my college and gave a talk about illustration. I had never really thought about it as a career until that point, but I loved Art at college and knew I wanted to continue drawing. From there I applied to Kingston University and after a fun 3 years of studying I thankfully managed to find work as a freelance illustrator.

F: You have a very distinctive style. How would you describe it to someone who hasn’t seen your work before?

T: Haha, I’ve always struggled answering this question. I would probably mention that I work digitally, my work tends to be quite colourful and I love drawing landscapes and skies.

F: What are your main sources of inspiration?

T: I really love old landscape painters and people who use light well like Albert Bierstadt or John Martin. I also look at a lot of Photography and Film for inspiration. It’s quite nice to escape into these images and worlds when your stuck in a studio in the city.

F: You are often commissioned to create illustrations for brands and publishers. Could you describe your creative process from the point of receiving a brief to delivering the final piece of work?

T: I work ideas through in a sketchbook before making some neater roughs digitally. Then there is often some back and forth with the client before deciding on a final direction. Then I work up the piece to final and decide on the colours, this is generally the slowest part but its great to see it coming together at last.

F: Increasingly, companies are using illustrations as part of their marketing communications campaigns. What are the main benefits of using illustration to communicate a brand’s message?

T: Illustration is incredibly versatile. Different styles and different mediums can help reinforce a range of messages. As an alternative to photography, sometimes the softer touch of illustration is just what is needed to make a brand feel more natural and human.

F: The design industry has undergone significant transformation since the rise of digital media and new emerging technologies. What do you envision for the future of illustration?

T: I think the line between illustration and animation will continue to blend as we see more and more on the screen.

F: What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in illustration?

T: In your down time, set yourself the kinds of briefs you would like to be commissioned to do. This can really help to bring in the jobs you want.

F: Who is your favourite illustrator?

T: Eyvind Earle

F: What is your favourite city?

T: Tokyo

F: Favourite album?

T: Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Seeking Out Excellence — September 2016

We spoke with Alyson Hurst, Paper Consultant at G F Smith, about the brand, its proud history, and her passion for top quality paper. All views are her own and are not representative of G F Smith.

Forth Studio: G F Smith has a proud history that is often emphasised in the branding. Can you give us some insight into the G F Smith brand, its history, and why you think it’s so successful?

Alyson Hurst: G F Smith was founded by George Frederick in 1885 with a passion to source the best papers and employ people who could inspire and engage. His determination was to create one of the most celebrated suppliers in the UK. Today, we strive to keep to his principles by seeking out excellence and establishing and nurturing long term relationships with both suppliers and customers.

F: What part does branding play in business? Why do you think so many companies still underestimate the value of good design/branding?

A: The recent G F Smith rebrand by Made Thought really does show what branding can do for a company. Our branding subtly establishes and underlines our company values and creates aspiration with our customers. Poor design and weak branding can do exactly the opposite and create mistrust and a false impression – I really do not understand why this isn’t obvious to any company in any sector.

F: Along with the focus on a consistent brand, G F Smith delivers a very high-quality product. How does the team at G F Smith ensure that the level of quality is always such a high standard?

A: Well, there are around 200 people at G F Smith, we know each other, we speak constantly, and we work as a team. Our internal company motto is ‘to delight the customer’ and we really try not settle for anything less or let each other down, and I think that’s why our standards are high.

F: What is the best thing about working at G F Smith?

A: A lot of autonomy, extremely varied days and clients, working with the best products and colleagues.

F: What is the average day like for a G F Smith paper consultant?

A: I spend about 2-3 hours on emails and phone calls and the rest of the day driving to meetings all over the eastern half of London. This could be with design agencies, start up companies, publishers, printers, architects, fashion brands, students or anyone else who needs to see beautiful papers.

F: Who is the typical G F Smith client?

A: There’s no such thing as a typical G F Smith client; we work with the largest companies and brands and the smallest one-man bands, and are very pleased to be able to say that.

F: What is your background, and how did this lead you to a career in paper?

A: I did a Fine Art degree at Wimbledon School of Art and afterwards joined a paper company called Atlantis Paper, which was set up by and entirely staffed by ex-art students. I was their only person out on the road and my clients were artists, conservators, and every museum and art gallery in the country – it was really interesting. We designed papers for specific projects and sourced them worldwide. I then moved around a few other specialist paper companies and worked in print sales for about seven years before returning to the paper industry.

F: Which G F Smith paper is your favourite?

A: It’s Mohawk Superfine – because it’s truly beautiful to print on and has a timeless subtle quality that I admire.

F: G F Smith is well known for producing beautiful promotional pieces that really focus on the paper and how it prints. What is your favourite G F Smith project?

A: Probably the latest one, the Fine Collection. It’s simple and really useful.

F: What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in paper?

A: I think most people stumble into it by accident! There are no longer Paper Merchant courses or anything like that, so just check out the websites of the paper companies that inspire you and speak to them. At our company, it’s a person’s passion for what they do that really counts – no other qualifications needed.

F: Who is your favourite artist?

A: Turner.

F: What is your favourite city?

A: London of course!

F: What is your favourite album?

A: Rainbow Bridge – Jimi Hendrix.

The Craft of Print — August 2016

We spoke with Roy Killen, co-founder of top London print company PUSH, about their work, their ambitions and the importance of being niche.

Forth Studio: PUSH produces some of the most lauded creative print work in London. How did you find yourselves in this niche? Is it something you set out to do, or has it been an organic progression?

Roy Killen: That’s very generous – we don’t feel we have got there yet, but it is certainly where we want to get to. It was always our intention to focus on quality, and I guess once we had started along this road, and have started to become recognised for this work we attract more of the same. Now it has probably become an organic process.

On a more general point, I feel to survive and grow in what will always be a challenging market; printers must establish themselves in a niche. It doesn’t really matter what that niche is, but the days of the general printer being all things to all clients is finished.

F: You produce a lot of art catalogues and publications as well as graphic design books and journals. What is it like working with creatives? Do you find that their expectations are different to other clients?

R: The common theme that runs across all our clients is that they want it to look beautiful. Some clients are better at communicating exactly what that means than others, some micro manage, others leave us to it. However it is communicated, it is our responsibility to understand what is wanted and deliver it.

F: What is it about lithography as a printing technique that appeals to you? Can you give us some insight into why you’ve decided to stay a specialist boutique printer, and not expand into others areas?

R: Our focus is to become the (very) best at what we do, and we feel that litho gives us the best way of doing this. The obvious change is to digital. Digital has its market (personalisation, low quantities), its own niche – for now we champion litho. To put it simply, we still have to be convinced that digital delivers better quality than litho.

It comes back to the importance of finding your niche, and then becoming the best in that niche. We are not 21st century luddites, with our head in the sand. The future will be digital, and when a few more technical ‘jumps’ are made, when the beta testing is robust, we will invest.

But until we have found it, we will not risk diluting what we are trying to deliver by switching to different processes just because they are new and everyone else is. Our niche is positioning print more as a craft and less of a product. For now, litho gives us the best way of doing this.

F: What has been one of your highlight projects at PUSH?

R: Always the latest one. Last month we delivered a very cool book on the artist Yayoi Kusama for the Victoria Miro gallery.

F: What has been your favourite Forth project to work on?

R: That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child… if pressed, a set of posters for Eden Marsh. Printed 1 colour, black; technically demanding, and it worked.

F: What has been the most challenging technique/spec/project that you’ve managed to pull off?

R: All of them – the trick is to make any process look as if it was effortless, natural and not show the pain of the process in the finished piece!

F: Have you noticed any prevalent current trends in publishing? Are the same specs or details reoccurring across projects?

R: There are themes, but it’s a moving target. Everything we do is bespoke, unique, and we try to celebrate that. There are metallics, fluros, exposed binding, high gloss contrasting with uncoated, short page tip ins, foiling and more foiling, multi level embossing, coloured thread, french folds, high build UV, ‘lay flat’ and many more all crop up, and sure some more than others… but with our limited insight into the thought processes behind design, as soon as there is a ‘reoccurring theme’ it is on to the next one.

F: PUSH has been going for over ten years. Have you thought about producing an anniversary book to celebrate the work you’ve done in that time?

R: Not really. We have the opportunity to print beautiful stuff for our clients, so I don’t think we would have the energy left (and it takes a lot) to do our own thing.

F: What’s one of your favourite places to go for creativity in London?

R: The Serpentine Gallery bookshop.

F: What is your favourite Pantone?

R: Black 7

F: Who is your favourite artist?

R: Grayson Perry

F: What is your favourite album?

R: ‘Legend’ Bob Marley

Project Features — July 2016

We’re very pleased that our campaign for Eden Marsh, Eden Marsh x You, has been featured on both The Brand Identity and Designers Journal.

Designers Journal writes: “Overshadowed by the companies that hound you simply after that lucrative recruitment fee, making recruitment feel like it has a ‘equal’ place with the industry is a real challenge.

UK agency Forth took on that challenge and delivered a creative brand campaign that would illustrate the unique working relationship they have with their network, knowing that it’s no longer enough to say what you do, you have to prove what you say.”

See the features here:

For more on Eden Marsh, visit:

Eden Marsh x You — May 2016

We’re proud to feature ‘Eden Marsh x You’, a branding campaign conceptualised and designed by Forth for Eden Marsh, a top London creative recruitment agency.

Eden Marsh is a creative recruitment agency with an intelligent and honest approach, working closely with their clients and candidates to find the right fit. They approached Forth to create a campaign that would illustrate the unique working relationship they have with their network, knowing that it’s no longer enough to say what you do, you have to prove what you say.

A collaboration between Eden Marsh and their network, ‘Eden Marsh x You’ is comprised of a poster campaign and an updated bespoke website. Featuring artwork by a selection of designers, illustrators and art directors that were challenged to produce their own visual interpretation of collaboration using Eden Marsh brand colours – black, white and grey, ‘Eden Marsh x You’ emphasised the collaborative relationships that form the basis of Eden Marsh.

For more on Eden Marsh, visit

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