Studio Republic are shaping the digital spaces of non-profits and charities.
Lead by a strong ethical compass, Studio Republic improve the lives and environment of the people their work impacts upon. Shaping the digital spaces of non-profits and charities, this agency has a foundation of integrity that shines bright throughout their work
In 2003, Studio REPUBLIC, Like Many Design agencies, Began In a Spare Room. Chris todhunter, the Digital Director and the Founder of Studio Republic, originally created the business as a digital freelance resource for local agencies. However, Chris’s journey to that point wasn’t all plain sailing. Dropping out of his Software engineering Management course at Bournemouth university, Chris spent his spare time touring as a drummer with various bands, playing gigs across the country — and even having the opportunity to play at glastonbury. It wasn’t until his meticulous attention to detail scored him a job as an artworker that his path in the creative field started to take hold. When the digital era started, Chris found his true passion — web development. excited by the new advancements in the tech world, he spent his evenings teaching himself how to code. as the digital industry grew, Chris’s talents grew alongside it. Chris’s flair for tech generated enough business for him to start working as a freelance developer and, before long, he had so much work he started thinking about expansion, so Studio Republic was born. “For the next eleven years, Studio Republic worked to provide its clients with high quality, ahead-of-the-curve digital services — doing such a good job that some of our very first clients still work with us today,” Chris explains. “But it wasn’t until 2014, when Jack De Wolf joined Studio Republic as Client Services Manager, that the business started to become what it is today.” Jack De Wolf graduated from university with a first class Ba Hons in Design and went
“as well as keeping up-to-date with new technologies, we’re keen to roll up our sleeves and develop new tools ourselves. In an effort to balance our collaborative approach with clients and get rid of any bottlenecks in our planning, designing, building, managing and training processes, we’ve started using a new system that we’ve designed and built as a plugin for our MODX CMS systems” Chris Todhunter Digital Director and Founder
“When Jack became partner, Studio Republic really took off as an ethical creative digital agency”
straight into the industry to work as a designer for a London agency. not enjoying London life, and realising that working as a designer wasn’t the right fit for him, he spent the next few years travelling the world. upon his return to the uk, Jack worked in a variety of industries — from recruitment to footwear — trying out various roles before realising that he still had a love for the creative sector, but wanted to take on more of a client-facing role. In a Business Development Management role for a company on the South Coast, he realised he’d found the right fit. “When Jack joined the team here at Studio Republic, he took our client list and grew it significantly,” says Chris. “Jack and I worked hard to realise the potential of Studio Republic as a full service, digital creative marketing agency specialising in the charity, not-for-profit and ethical arena. In 2017, when Jack became partner, Studio Republic really took off as an ethical creative digital agency. Since then, the agency has gone from strength to strength. our team has grown significantly, and we’ve never been happier doing the work we love, for the people who make the world a better place.” Chris explains how he named the business: “It’s always the way when you think of a great business name that someone has already purchased the domain name. Competition wasn’t as fierce back then as it is now, but out of the long list of 20 or so name options, half had been taken. to me, Studio Republic best summed up the independent nature of the business, and the rest is history.” agencies approach their websites as calling cards and often as a first point of contact for potential clients. as Chris explains, keeping their own site up-to-date is often a challenge: “our clients’ websites always take priority, which leaves very little time for our own site and has often pushed our own marketing to the back of the queue. “In the past, we’ve been pretty slack when it came to updating our own site, but now, with our new focus and larger team, we ensure that we regularly update the website — we’re going through another re-fresh as we speak. our website should reflect who we are and what we can do, and that takes work. We treat ourselves as another one of our clients: we set a budget and assign time each month for that welldeserved TLC.” the channels that agencies use to gain their clients can often be diverse. “over the years, we’ve been very lucky to receive the majority of our clients through referral,” Chris explains. “each new project we launch acts as Studio Republic’s new ad campaign. this year, however, we’ve mixed things up, giving ourselves a marketing budget, which Dee Russell, our Marketing Lead, has invested into memberships, events, awards, Seo, ppc, etc., in order to attract clients in the charity, not-for-profit and ethical business sectors. “We don’t creatively pitch for work, as anything you present before getting to know your client and their business needs would just be a ‘pretty picture’. Instead, we lead each pitch with our tailor-made strategy and impressive credentials.” Having the ability to choose which clients they take on hasn’t limited the breadth of accounts that Studio Republic have worked on, as Chris explains: “We’re fortunate to choose the projects and clients we get involved with. We live by our values and are privileged to work with a wide range of clients who share our outlook.” Chris also shares: “there have been a few occasions where we have politely declined working for businesses simply because they don’t share our ethos. It’s not so much the size of a project that we decline, more the values of the people we’d be working with, or uncertainty that we can bring something to the party. We will only ever work on a project if we are certain that we can add value. We’re not an app, pr or media-buying agency, and we
each client requires their own targeted set of services. For ismybillfair, they needed innovation. Ismybillfair came to Studio Republic with a new business that was set to disrupt the price comparison market. there is significant price disparity for uk customers of utility and service providers, from energy to broadband.
the founders saw this unfairness and wanted to challenge it, supporting people to remain with their providers whilst still getting the fairest price. the task was to brand the business (which only had a working title at the time) and build the uk’s first price transparency site offering users the opportunity to stay with their providers for a better deal.
to achieve the client’s goals, the team needed to innovate and utilise new technologies as well as create a highly tailored site that would match the vision for ismybillfair. everything was designed and developed bespoke for them.
Studio Republic’s designers worked closely with the development team to carefully create and refine a bold, user-friendly site. the central journeys of the site — the pages which lead users to the ‘priceometer’ that tells them how much other customers with the same services are paying — were carefully designed and developed with ease of use in mind and were rigorously tested.
the resulting site guides a user through a series of questions about their usage of various services (such as broadband, energy or mobile phones) and then presents them with an easy-tounderstand priceometer, which shows whether what they are paying is high, low or average compared to other users with the same levels of service. users are then offered a chance to ask their supplier for a better deal, or to see a range of alternative suppliers if they wish to switch.
CIWEM Chartered Institution of Water and environmental Management ciwem.org
at the end of last year, the Chartered Institution of Water and environmental Management (CIWEM) approached Studio Republic to pitch for their website redesign, and the agency jumped at the opportunity. Since refocusing their efforts at the end of 2014 to work only with clients that share their values, Studio Republic have wanted to work with an organisation that’s prioritising the environment.
Since winning the pitch, Studio Republic have worked very closely with CIWEM, getting to know them and their organisation inside out, in order to pinpoint and understand the issues CIWEM’S website presented to their users as well as revealing opportunities within their business that could be developed or improved.
as an international organisation with members in 89 countries and hopes to expand their member numbers, CIWEM required a site that drove membership and a simplified member journey, which was more user-friendly. their original membership sign-up and journey were lengthy and complicated, and the Studio worked very closely with the team at CIWEM to streamline this process to make the user experience as easy and hassle-free as possible.
CIWEM’S new site shows a simplified membership journey of just three steps (reduced from the original seven) and also enables users to save their application midway through and return at a later date to complete the process.
“HTML5, CSS3 and JS are constantly evolving to provide us with new and interesting techniques”
would never agree to take on services that are not our core specialism, but there are no digital projects that we can’t deliver.” As an agency that designs on an ethical basis, Web Designer asked Chris if there was one project that really encapsulated the ethos of his business: “The Green Party website would be one of the projects that best defines our purpose, capabilities and scalability,” Chris added. “They are the epitome of ethical and we really align with their values. The website we designed and built for them was independently ranked the winner of the 2017 general election; according to CBR, ‘The Green Party is the winner of the General Election, at least when it comes to digital performance’.” “From one single installation of the MODX CMS we built the main website and 180 local microsites through a control panel that gives 200 users granular access levels. In the four weeks leading up to the General Election, the site received a huge amount of visibility achieving 823,000 visits.” Tools? Chris explains which tools Studio Republic favour for their work: “As with most agencies in the industry, we use a lot of Adobe software but, over the last few years, the market has become a lot more competitive, with a lot of other third-party software being launched — obviously an amazing thing for everyone in the industry! We use both Sketch and Invision for designing and prototyping on all of our digital projects. Invision seems to be going from strength to strength, with new tools, product launches and even documentaries coming out all the time. they’re a great resource for designers. although we love the latest software, sometimes you can’t rule out good oldfashioned pen and paper. We tend to start a lot of our wireframes off on post-it notes or in our notepads as it’s such a quick way of prioritising information and working things out.” Chris continues: “HTML5, CSS3 and JS are constantly evolving to provide us with new and interesting techniques to use on websites. Being able to utilise technologies such as CSS grid, Webgl, SVG animations and even HTML canvas elements creates unlimited possibilities. If we could have seen the way we build our websites now a few years back, our minds would have been blown. In such a fast-moving arena, it’s hard to predict where web technology will go — even in just a few years! What we do know, however, is that wherever it goes, and wherever it takes us, we will always look for the most innovative and creative applications. “as primarily MODX developers, we are always looking for new plugins and features for that framework. new features and extras are constantly being created and improved and, as we’re very active within the MODX community, we often suggest updates for the creators to implement. “and as well as keeping up-to-date with new technologies, we’re keen to roll up our sleeves and develop new tools ourselves. In an effort to balance our collaborative approach with clients and get rid of any bottlenecks in our planning, designing, building, managing and training processes, we’ve started using a new system
Ordnance Survey Photofit
ordnancesurvey.co.uk/blog/tag/os-photofit Studio Republic been working with ordnance Survey (os) for a number of years now, creating engaging campaigns and related software that has always inspired large numbers of people to get involved.
ordnance Survey had an idea that needed to be delivered within a very tight timeframe. the project was photofit, which aimed to encourage customers to engage more with the os brand.
together, the Studio and os developed a national online competition that enabled members of the public to upload their own photographs using the bespoke geotagging service we designed and developed specifically for them, as well as allowing users to vote for their favourite shot. the geotagging functionality enabled the winners from each region to be selected with ease, with the winning photographs being featured on the iconic ordnance Survey paper maps.
the Studio team had an extremely tight project timeline of just two months to build the interface, deliver complex functionality, and to fully test the site before it was launched. the tight-knit team pulled together to ensure the deadline was met and that the product the client received was exactly what they needed.
Studio Republic didn’t stop there: ordnance Survey had a scheduled appearance on the one Show, which they anticipated would lead to a high influx of traffic to the site, so they ensured that the infrastructure of the site would be robust enough to deal with high visitor numbers and content upload.
the site received 15,000 hits and 700 uploads within 24 hours of going live, which it handled without a hitch. the campaign generated 471,000 page views, 46,000 users, 11,480 entries, and 59,889 votes cast.
“We spend more time with our colleagues than we do our own families”
that we’ve designed and built as a plugin for our MODX CMS systems. “now, when a client logs in, the first thing they see is a simple interface that shows exactly what’s in the pipeline, what’s completed, and what they can be getting on with. We introduce them to the system when the first templates have been signed off and built, which enables them to start using MODX a lot earlier, rather than having to learn everything just before the site goes live. In the not-too-distant future, we’re hoping to give this software away for free to help other developers in the MODX community and their clients.” the tools in use are not the core driver for how a design is approached and executed. “our designs are always created with the primary users in mind — if mobile is the primary device used to access the site, we design mobile first. Responsive designs utilising a fluid layout are key for a consistent experience,” says Chris. “this has been important for some time but, with google now indexing by mobile first, and with the way that people now consume the web, this has never been truer. With adaptive designs being less flexible and not allowing for scalability for all mobile screen sizes, we feel the extra effort given to designing and developing responsively always pays off for our clients and their end users. It just provides a more polished and engaging product. “We try to always have the end user in mind. the extensive initial research period that we undertake on all of our projects means that we can start to outline and analyse who will be using the website or service and how they’ll be using it. From there, we plan how best to serve them the content they need. Working with a lot of charities means we’re constantly trying to improve and refine how people interact with online services — especially the way that they are able to make donations. Whilst a desktop screen provides loads of room to convey the impact of giving money, keeping the donation experience simple but informative on a mobile device is where the real challenge comes in.” Chris also explains Studio Republic’s approach to social media: “With billions of people using social media channels every day, it’s a vital way of driving traffic to a site. use of social media is bespoke to the project; each channel obviously comes with differing audiences and varying ways for them to be targeted,” he says. “our first step is always to work out who we want to attract and, from there, we identify the best way to engage with them. the great thing about being a full-service agency is that we can offer a wide range of solutions. each of our campaigns take multifaceted approaches with social media being one, among content creation, ppc, guest blogging and printed material.” the ethical stance the agency takes influences the people that want to work for the agency. Chris concludes: “Studio Republic is made up of the people that work within it. When looking for new team members, we look for passionate people who have researched and understood why Studio Republic exists. In applying for a role here, we hope that they’ve connected with our ethos and approach. We spend more time with our colleagues than we do our own families and, in a tight-knit team of like-minded individuals, it can be disastrous to get it wrong. Whilst skills are important, they can be learned and improved, so it’s the right personality and outlook that we try to find.” Studio Republic not only create sites that enables clients to make a positive impact, they craft digital spaces that speak to their own values, too. the close connection to these ideals colours every aspect of the striking work the agency has created over the last 15 years. With their fingers on the pulse of what digital design means today, Studio Republic’s ethical compass ensures that their clients aren’t just clients, but partners who want to develop new digital spaces to improve the world that we live in.
Jack De Wolf (Client Director) and Dee Russell (Brand and Marketing Lead) putting their heads together for an upcoming project pitch.
Halina Myers (Designer) and Harley Southwick (Lead Designer) at work on their latest project
It was vital that the website functionality worked flawlessly no matter what device was used to access the new service
the priceometer is a fundamental component of the site, which Studio Republic built from scratch
a faster, highly responsive and more streamlined member journey was at the core of the redesign
It was vital to understand the business in order to develop a new site that supported its membership.
Harley Southwick working on some interface design for a client project
Visitors are able to zoom into the incredibly detailed maps that os is famous for in order to locate photofit winners from any part of the country
a tight project development timeframe didn’t faze Studio Republic, who rose to the challenge of developing what has become a popular community
the functionality of the photofit project and its underlying infrastructure was paramount to ensure a flawless user experience