Our Story

It’s all about the work… and it has been for a long, long time. The original business was established in 1993, rebranded in 2004 and incorporated in 2008. Blue Strawberry Elephant is an independent design and creative marketing company headed up by two owner/directors with nearly 60 years’ experience between them.

book

2014

“The guys at Blue Strawberry Elephant are more than just a friendly bunch of creative geniuses - they go to the nth degree to bring visions to life, even when it's difficult to explain what you're thinking of as a client. Even when provided with copy, these guys don't just cut and paste, they make suggestions, using their professionalism and experience in marketing to take their customer's products and showcase them in a way that is initially totally captivating and from then continues to be appealing to the eye and easy to comprehend.

Nice job guys - we're thankful to you daily...even if we don't still fully understand how a Blue Strawberry Elephant could pull off such an amazing task.”

Quite frankly, Joss and Marc were given a world leading product in a tremendously competitive market with a matter of weeks to deliver a website and print collateral; and we don't believe we would have been so instantly and insanely successfully without their massive input. We now don't worry about our graphic design either in the USA or throughout the rest of the world. Blue Strawberry Elephant had our backs prior to launch, and they are now our firm partners as we move through our day to day business on a global level. They nailed it for us, at a price that was well under those quoted to us from other agencies; and I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them to any company looking for the edge in their online and print presentations.

Knight Wheels Brochure

Nice job guys - we're thankful to you daily...even if we don't still fully understand how a Blue Strawberry Elephant could pull off such an amazing task.”

Beverly Lucas
CEO
Knight Composites, LLC USA

2014

“With their visionary, innovative design and attention to detail , Blue Strawberry Elephant have helped transform our school. They bring consistent, quirky yet harmonious purpose and a wealth of experience to their work and their eye-catching designs have helped make our school ethos visual and visible for our students. Highly recommended”

Joel Wirth,
Headteacher.
Ecclesfield School
Sports Science Graphic at Ecclesfield School

2013

"I have worked with Blue Strawberry Elephant since 2006 to provide and install Global Corporate Brand signage throughout the UK offices and education centres. They have been instrumental in helping develop new concepts through to installation and always go that 'little bit more' to ensure they deliver a finished project.

With more than 40 separate locations in the UK projects have always been delivered to high standards maintained even when faced with demanding quality specifications, budget and timescales. I am sure the good work will continue and I look forward to working with them in the future."

James Ellison
Head of Real Estate and Facilities
Kaplan (UK) Limited

Good Quality? Check, In Budget? Check, On Time? Check.

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2013

"Since 2007 the team at Blue Strawberry Elephant have provided us with a whole host of services including the maintenance of our web graphics, production of logos and branding, exhibition stands and literature.

Results Squared

They have become an integral part of how we communicate our offering and I cannot recommend them highly enough."

Matthew Smith
Managing Director
Results Squared Limited

2012

“Dave and his team have produced high quality products - from posters to canvas to Christmas cards & more - for Sheffield Wednesday and our supporter base for some time now and I've always been extremely happy with the results. Product quality is great and service excellent. BlueStrawberryElephant - and Dave in particular - are very approachable and accommodating, maintaining an excellent working relationship.

no 'silly idea' or request on our part is too much to ask.

The understanding of the club and the innovation they put into the work is exceptional and no 'silly idea' or request on our part is too much to ask.

James Hargreaves
Head of Online Marketing & Communications 2012
Sheffield Wednesday FC
SWFC Catalogue

2011

"Safe Technology Limited has been working with the guys for over 12 years. Blue Strawberry Elephant has totally redesigned our branding including logos and full range of marketing material. Thanks to their creativity, they have helped us to create a quirky image that stands us apart from our competitors.

Blue Strawberry Elephant are great guys to work with,

Blue Strawberry Elephant are great guys to work with, are always there when you need them and always willing to work to tight deadlines - which is essential because what other kinds of deadlines are there?"

Stephanie Wood
Marketing Director
Safe Technology Limited

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2011

"Blue Strawberry Elephant has worked for us for a good few years now and we have found them excellent in every respect.

They have taken the trouble to get to know our business and our people in order to develop a style that we feel is ours that we have used across all aspects of the business to give us a clear, recognisable corporate identity.

excellent in every respect

They are always happy to help, whatever the size of the project, and they can be relied on to come up with ideas whenever they're needed."

Richard Brown
Managing Director
LabLogic Systems Limited

2011

"I've worked with Dave Atkin and Blue Strawberry Elephant for the past 18 months or so and have always been impressed.

Committed and passionate about their work, creative in their delivery and always willing to listen, they have allowed us to create a fantastic new Sheffield Wednesday Official Gallery."

Chris Cotterill
Head of Marketing Operations, Ticketing & Retail 2011
Sheffield Wednesday FC

2008

"In this age of intense consumer awareness it is imperative that any supplier to the consumer arena should utilise every professional aid available to them.

We are pleased to say that the innovative and creative skill set that the Blue Strawberry Elephant Team has available to them has helped our product developments, determined our creative packaging and designed our Corporate Branding.

Blue Strawberry Elephant is playing an important role in our day to day marketing and will be a fundamental part of our marketing strategy for the future."

David Ross (RIP)
Managing Director
Essential Impulse Products Limited

We are pleased to say that the innovative and creative skill set that the Blue Strawberry Elephant Team has available to them has helped our product developments


2000

“Should you be concerned? If you want rules and procedures, conformity and “the norm” then you should be. Then again, who wants “the norm”?

If you want great designs supplied at rocket speed with flair and imagination then this is the company for you.

In under 6 weeks working with Dave Atkin we re-branded a company including the production of 3 major documents, 4 exhibition stands and more promotional items than you can shake a stick at. We are now working on an ongoing mailing campaign.

More than most designers he understands the marketing behind the plans and will even write the proposals the “powers that be” demand to justify your campaigns.

Results matter – you’ll get them

Maddie Zitman
Marketing Officer
Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.

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1993

“The Dave Atkin Consultancy have undertaken a substantial amount of creative, designing and printing works on our behalf, which, I am happy to say, have turned out to be of an extremely high standard. Likewise he has secured for us the best possible price for the printing thereof. It is very satisfying to contract out a ‘Job Lot’ knowing that it is being dealt with in a very professional manner.”

Steve Arnold
Public Relations Manager
Mainline Group Limited

1984

Tetleys

“In the World of advertising and publicity it is all too common for individuals to inflate their promises of help and professionalism simply to secure and order or business contact. The fact that Dave Atkin not only delivered everything on schedule and within an agreed budget, but did all this with flair and understanding of the personal contact meant that someone like me in a busy position could rest assured that my company’s image was in safe hands.”

Colin Waite
Publicity & Information Manager
Joshua Tetley & Son Limited

blue strawberry elephant

Before and after the Elephant’s Strawberry turned Blue

(an abridged history with added nuts, bolts and case studies)

by Dave Atkin.
 

In 2015 it will be 40 years since I was first paid to work on a drawing board and 19 years since my fellow director, Marc Etches, was first paid to work on an Apple Mac Computer; by me.

We didn’t have computers in the olden days, but by the 1970’s we had stopped using mammoth blood and sabre tooth tiger teeth to scribe on cave walls. Progress had been rapid – we had real drawing boards and H2 pencils – but the vast majority of people producing graphics still didn’t work for design agencies; they worked in drawing offices and print firms and on sign making benches - design was a matter of necessity – and urgency.

Almost a couple of decades after I started scribbling professionally, Marc went to college for a formal further education that led to a qualification in Graphic Communications. In my day I trained through, well, shall we say less structured, unplanned but highly useful “on the job training schemes”; junior draftsman, trainee sign writer, printer, art-worker, designer – I gained a First Class TFB (Tea making, Floor sweeping and Buttie fetching) – but you learnt quickly; on real jobs in a hot house environment; with what I thought were unnecessarily angry employers - starting points that give us the best of both worlds.

There was a massive urge to offer more in design terms than “feeding the machine” and truth be told, I was being pushed by contacts who wanted a more dedicated design service than they were getting elsewhere, so in 1980 I took the leap of faith into self-employment.

Fortunately it turned out those pushing had recognised a talent for knowing what was needed; the all-important back story before starting on the graphics and the ability to come up with ideas from a slightly different angle. Requests for design work came along in a variety of situations to produce print, advertising and signage for, amongst others: Whitbread, Mainline, Tinsley Wire and the other brewer, Joshua Tetley.

The latter half of the 1980s and early 90’s proved to be interesting, but the first year of a part time business degree course led to some good friends and a long suffering lecturer pointing out that I should be “out there doing it” instead of sitting in a lecture room - arguing with him.


Taking that advice, the design business, which started the story of how we got to where we are now, was established on November 1st 1993, as the Dave Atkin Consultancy. It took £40,000 of enquiries on the first day.

Clients included a company in Nottingham called Datech; a speculative hand rendered logo design led to a complete re-brand and 80 page catalogue, starting a relationship that lasted eight years before the company, looking really good in its new livery and growing quickly, was bought out by Black Box of America.

In 1996 with expanding overhead, client base and growing pains, we had a student approach the firm for a few weeks work experience in his final year of college – he was told there was no spare Mac for him to work on – so to ensure a place he brought his own from home.

He told us he had “learnt more in three weeks than in the previous 3 years” once again proving nothing beats on the job experience. At the end of his three weeks we asked him to stay on, which he did; popping back into college once a week to hand in course work before officially leaving full time education with Honours – we were so proud.

It should be noted that only two years earlier, in 1994, I was still producing everything on a drawing board using Galleys, (typeset text on slim rolls of photo paper) Letraset, Rotring Pens and markers, subcontracting out some general typesetting and using bits of clip art, when even more speed was needed. That’s where the computer term comes from, bits of black and white “print ready” artwork that you “clipped out” of photo paper and spray mounted or Cow gummed onto your hard copy artwork, so the printer could make plates from photographed layouts using a flat bed or plate camera.

That same year the local graphics supplier stopped selling Letraset dry transfer lettering, virtually overnight – the Apple Mac had finally taken over.

In 1995 I was interviewing junior designers coming out of college who had maybe one or two pieces of computer generated artwork in their portfolios, in 1996 the lad who came on work experience had a portfolio with only one or two pieces of “hand rendered” work to look at.

The young man was Marc Etches and he joined during another interesting and busy period that seemed to involve constant change and renewal; but some great work was, as always, being produced:

We completely transformed Thomas Bermingham’s (a groundwork and pipe laying company) which led to their 40 vans being the only contractors to really stand out on site; this in the days when no one had full colour, full wrap vehicles – but they did – and they were eventually snapped up by national competition.

British Rail entering the further throes of privatisation became another client, along with a whole roster of manufacturing and industrial companies who came to us to make the unglamorous, glamorous.

We rebranded Lucas Autoparts as LSUK when it became part of the Finelist Group, producing all the work that carried the new logo we created and rolling out a signage installation that saw every building in the chain encircled with massive sign trays – 64 locations installed in just three days.

There were 15 to 20 metre wide arches installed for Rosebys as permanent point of sale features and suites of brochures, catalogues and literature for Blatchford and Sons orthopaedics and packaging for DEETfree Insect Repellent.

All this went on despite a back drop of mergers, alliances and stakeholders coming and going, but through it all Marc and I were still there and eight years later he became the co-owner and later Director at Blue Strawberry Elephant Limited.

We have been told Marc is the cheese to my chalk; heavily involved in the World of cycling, North Midlands Road Race champ two years running amongst other things, Secretary of Sheffrec CC, Yorkshire Representative on the National Board of British Cycling and organiser of the Sheffield Grand Prix… but for all his faults he’s still the little brother I never had.

Ten years ago in 2004, I had planned to no longer be the sole owner and principle, so we rebranded as Blue Strawberry Elephant; change is good - all of our clients following us to a new home in the historic Globe Works where we incorporated the partnership in 2008.

I think we are most proud of the relationships we have built over the years and the companies we have supported in their plans for growth; A few examples would be:

Safe Technology, a small software developer in a very niche market – we gave them a branded image that made them stand out as being really different in their market place. We produced their literature, exhibition stands and presentations for 13 years, their American distributors being particularly impressed - they grew over a decade to become World leaders in their field and inevitably were bought by the French multinational Dassault Systèmes (3Ds).

Essential Impulse Products had a range of insect repellents – DEETFree was just that – the only completely safe and effective insect repellent for use on children, pregnant women, or anyone else, with no melting effect on plastics or maximum number of applications – but this small company was up against some very big beasts in the sector. Almost fluorescent packaging, point of sale and an animated TV ad led them to outsell every other repellent (put together) in ASDA.

Results Squared are still working with us after 7 years, producing their branding, marketing literature, direct mail and websites, growing rapidly in school/parent/pupil communications, child safety and asset protection – and now “cracking” the States.

Over the last two years we have taken services into schools – the latest rebranding saw us not only producing the brand but transforming the environment at Ecclesfield School with over 40 large format displays, window and wall wraps ranging from 4 metres to 17 metres long by (up to) 4 metres high, all individually designed for each department.

We have had fun conceiving, producing and project managing everything from animated TV ads to nationwide signage roll outs, point of sale displays, exhibitions, endless brochures and other printed items, crafting new logos, designing brand guidelines and everything else from direct mail to more websites than you can shake a mouse at.

Always punching above our weight, and being lucky enough to survive yet another recession, (that a lot of our industry didn’t come through), we are building on the growth spurt started in 2012, when we had a short sales and marketing campaign and expanded our capabilities and capacity by luring on board Joss Wilson, a “veteran” of IKEAs in house department, who has slotted in nicely; bringing yet another angle to our offering while he appreciates being appreciated in a way he’s not felt before.

In 2013 we moved home, after nearly 9 years at the Globe Works, and embedded ourselves at Works 57 south of the City Centre (can’t get away from that word Work), coincidently 5 minutes’ drive from the house where I was born – life really is a circle.

Trying to write a compressed history in 2014, all those years since Marc was first paid for working on an Apple, and the many more since I was first paid for working on a drawing board – It has made me wonder how we can still be so excited about the work.

We have collated such a highly diverse level of design experience, along with the equally strong, pragmatic and practical knowledge of seeing projects all the way through, you might think we’d seen it all; we probably have, but I think the enthusiasm of our clients makes every project a new challenge and 2015 like every year before feels like a new era.

According to our clients we must be doing something right; although the words “quirky” and “unconventional” seem to come up a lot; as well as the occasional “crazy” and “passionate”. I’m not sure if these are always compliments, but if not they can only be talking about me, as my colleagues all seem to be quite stable – for designers - so it’s a good job I have skin as thick as an elephant!

Whatever the future holds we will always appreciate our brilliant (and brave) clients, keep working hard for them and keep taking great joy in telling their stories.

If you are enthusiastic about your business – we are always up for a discussion.

Dave Atkin

Dave Atkin

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