By Raziqueh Hussain (CREATIVE HEAD)
24 June 2011
Lucy Roberts’ fun design agency, PLUG, uses a
quirky scientific approach to problem-solving
Reflecting her own personality, Lucy Roberts wants Plug to be different from other design agencies so she only hires sassy, smart and talented people who share her can-do attitude. The result is an amalgamation of a creative juice that acts like kryptonite for a new brand. “I run a fun graphic design agency, Plug, and we are passionate about design. We focus on fun clients, interesting businesses, a company wanting something different, their products and services are likely to be creative so we are speaking the same language,” says the female boss, sitting in her office in Media City.
It’s evident from her work that she has a lot of passion for art and design. “I used to make greetings cards. I’ve always looked at things differently. Creativity is not just about the visual and artistic side, it’s also about having a different view point on things; it’s about getting noticed,” she adds.
Lucy came to Dubai from London in 2003 determined to make a splash and launched her design agency incorporated around an innovative doctor-patient concept that is one-of-a-kind in the industry. “For most people who start a business, they will find when they share the idea, it will polarise the views of their friends and contacts, for me I had one friend telling me it was a bad idea and I was crazy to start a business, the other one telling me to make it happen. Thankfully, I listened to the latter!” she says, happily.
A typical work day always starts with a lovely cup of tea, jazz playing in the office, a little chat with her colleagues discussing her ‘patients and what medicine they plan to administer to them.’ “We work on 20–30 little delightful projects at one time. So there’s lots of people coming in for meetings; most of our clients like to come and see us and I think that’s because of the tea, biscuits and a big dose of humour they get each time they enter the plug hospital,” she says, adding, “We call our clients patients because I was always hearing so many client problems with their website or they have an urgent design emergency and needed our help quickly; I imagined that’s how it is to work in a triage, so some days I wear my plug uniform so I can pretend I am in an A & E (Emergency) situation.”
Lucy gets to know all her clients personally. She is particularly passionate about helping out women running boutique companies. She’s really not interested in working with dull, faceless corporate clients. She loves to work with people in fashion, food, photography, fitness — anything fun!
“What I love most about being a design business owner is being able to call myself the ‘chief surgeon’ as there is no one to tell me I can’t,” she quips, adding, “But I have to employ serious people like an accountant, although we are encouraging her to wear glitter nail polish,” she chuckles. “Our success lies in being able to choose our ‘patients.’ We have a waiting room like any good hospital!” she adds.
Her clients range
from fashion outlets to pet resorts, yet all of them have that entrepreneurial spirit and freedom which when harnessed, can build momentum of its own. “My
approach to design is finding out about the client as much as possible. I ask them lots of questions in my sleuth-like manner to find out what they are wanting to achieve. We have clients who really want to stretch the boundaries but I feel
we very much have to be conservative in this market. For most of them we help them to see the light
eventually,” she reveals.
She is also obsessed with 50’s style fashion and vintage clothing, which she incorporates in her fun fashion lifestyle and also into her creative business side.
Her first job was at Tower Records London in the good old days when you could buy 7 inch-records for 99 pence (around Dh5)! “I love knitting and crochet and enjoy walking around cemeteries. My favourite cemetery is Pare Lachaise in Paris and people are dying to be in there!”
Among her hobbies are reading books, collecting old photographs from her favourite eras and subjects. “I’m passionate about the environment, so we recycle as much as possible, even when I am at home. I spend hours looking in charity shops for some interesting finds. I also hate lateness, it’s so very rude,” she adds.
The uncluttered approach to her clients is true to her cause that is to build brands and images that reflect each story on its own merit. The strength of Lucy’s solutions lies in creativity with candour; a shining light directed at the essence of the brand message. “Don’t compromise on working with people you don’t enjoy working with. Build a brand around you and what you like, not what the competition is doing,” she tells others in the business. “I offer tea and emotional support when a customer goes elsewhere and doesn’t get what he or she wants; a problem shared is a problem halved and with a chocolate digestive it works wonders for the soul,” she smiles.
True to her vision and concept, how Lucy carries herself on a personal level is exactly what she projects to her clients. So she signs off by saying, “Do what you love. And always carry a sprinkling of personality with you. People, always remember the fun, people!”