Contract - Blacksheep's Jo Samson and Tim Mutton In the Spotlight

design - designer profiles



Blacksheep's Jo Samson and Tim Mutton In the Spotlight

10 April, 2012

-By John Czarnecki



Blacksheep, a 26-person firm based in London, was founded by Jo Sampson and Tim Mutton. Both had previous experience with renowned agencies Terence Conran and United Designers before beginning Blacksheep in 2002. Focused on hospitality and retail design, the firm has also completed residential, workplace, and branding projects. Blacksheep is known for creating unique site- and client-specific design solutions rather than, as the firm says, a “generic, house style.” Union Jacks is one of a handful of restaurants that Blacksheep has designed for British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Why the name Blacksheep?
It’s a mindset, not having a cookie-cutter approach. We’re looking at things differently.

What was the “big break” that helped the firm get recognized?

In 2005, we designed the Cuckoo Club, a members-only bar and club located in central London. The rock-and-regal venue, conceived 
of as a fantasy, film set house, offers high-octane rock ’n roll glamour, underscored by great attention to comfort, fun, and service. The Cuckoo Club has won several awards including best lighting, best bar design, as well as other architecture and design awards. The photographer Mario Testino has used the club as a creative backdrop for fashion shoots for Vogue, and Wallpaper declared it a must-see in its London guide. The iconic bar has hosted everyone from Robert de Niro and Kate Moss to bands such as The Killers and our favorite royals, Prince Harry and Prince William.

What is your design approach or philosophy?

We always think about projects as brands and brand experiences, and we have a clear understanding of our clients’ needs and what the business needs to achieve. We think strategically from the outset about the unique selling proposition and create a 360-degree creative design approach to delivering a strategic brand direction.

How selective can you be with clients that you work with?
Our door is always open but there has to be a synergy and they have to “get” us as much as we “get” them. As a result, we can then provide all our clients with unique design expertise, ideas, and creative solutions.

Do you have a particular approach to dialogue with a client in the project’s early stages?
We always heavily evaluate the brief and look at it diffusely to make sure we are pushing the opportunity. We also look at precedents and how they are going to be different.

Are you doing anything unusual or unique in terms of computer technology in your design process?
We visualize very early in 3D to help shape the aerial design, and we use 3D computer tools when we are looking at lighting and furniture placement within projects.

How are business conditions in the UK now impacting your 
design practice?
It is a very difficult market to be in, but our company has long-standing clients and many projects abroad, which has helped with spreading the risk. We have kept staff levels throughout the recession and worked hard to nurture and retain clients.

What you are working on in the United States?
 We are working with WWRD on global retail solutions. WWRD is the leading provider of luxury home and lifestyle products sold worldwide under brands including Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, Minton, and Johnson Brothers.

What would be your dream project?
Anywhere really warm and by the sea, where one would have to stay long periods doing site visits!

What interior space—anywhere in the world, designed by anyone—inspires you?
Anything really old. We find it totally amazing to see cathedrals that were constructed with no modern-day machinery.




Blacksheep's Jo Samson and Tim Mutton In the Spotlight

10 April, 2012


courtesy Blacksheep

Blacksheep, a 26-person firm based in London, was founded by Jo Sampson and Tim Mutton. Both had previous experience with renowned agencies Terence Conran and United Designers before beginning Blacksheep in 2002. Focused on hospitality and retail design, the firm has also completed residential, workplace, and branding projects. Blacksheep is known for creating unique site- and client-specific design solutions rather than, as the firm says, a “generic, house style.” Union Jacks is one of a handful of restaurants that Blacksheep has designed for British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Why the name Blacksheep?
It’s a mindset, not having a cookie-cutter approach. We’re looking at things differently.

What was the “big break” that helped the firm get recognized?

In 2005, we designed the Cuckoo Club, a members-only bar and club located in central London. The rock-and-regal venue, conceived 
of as a fantasy, film set house, offers high-octane rock ’n roll glamour, underscored by great attention to comfort, fun, and service. The Cuckoo Club has won several awards including best lighting, best bar design, as well as other architecture and design awards. The photographer Mario Testino has used the club as a creative backdrop for fashion shoots for Vogue, and Wallpaper declared it a must-see in its London guide. The iconic bar has hosted everyone from Robert de Niro and Kate Moss to bands such as The Killers and our favorite royals, Prince Harry and Prince William.

What is your design approach or philosophy?

We always think about projects as brands and brand experiences, and we have a clear understanding of our clients’ needs and what the business needs to achieve. We think strategically from the outset about the unique selling proposition and create a 360-degree creative design approach to delivering a strategic brand direction.

How selective can you be with clients that you work with?
Our door is always open but there has to be a synergy and they have to “get” us as much as we “get” them. As a result, we can then provide all our clients with unique design expertise, ideas, and creative solutions.

Do you have a particular approach to dialogue with a client in the project’s early stages?
We always heavily evaluate the brief and look at it diffusely to make sure we are pushing the opportunity. We also look at precedents and how they are going to be different.

Are you doing anything unusual or unique in terms of computer technology in your design process?
We visualize very early in 3D to help shape the aerial design, and we use 3D computer tools when we are looking at lighting and furniture placement within projects.

How are business conditions in the UK now impacting your 
design practice?
It is a very difficult market to be in, but our company has long-standing clients and many projects abroad, which has helped with spreading the risk. We have kept staff levels throughout the recession and worked hard to nurture and retain clients.

What you are working on in the United States?
 We are working with WWRD on global retail solutions. WWRD is the leading provider of luxury home and lifestyle products sold worldwide under brands including Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, Minton, and Johnson Brothers.

What would be your dream project?
Anywhere really warm and by the sea, where one would have to stay long periods doing site visits!

What interior space—anywhere in the world, designed by anyone—inspires you?
Anything really old. We find it totally amazing to see cathedrals that were constructed with no modern-day machinery.

 


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