– Hi MFS! Y’alright mate?
[Puts on Alaska voice] Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii. Yeah, I’m alright, ta.
– So, a part from running Glug Leeds, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Martin Farrar-Smith, Branding + Design Director of Manifest - a creative comms agency with offices in London, NYC, Stockholm and soon to be San Francisco & Capetown (y’know, politics dependent and that).
– How did you end up doing what you’re doing now, then? What’s the story of ‘you’?
Well, I kind of owe a big chunk of my career to two people – my wife and Alex Myers. I was a bit naïve coming out of high school and didn’t realise that I had to do a foundation course before being allowed to get into a University to study Graphic Design. So I did that and ended up studying in Hull for about 6-7 months. It didn’t pan out so I ended up coming back home and starting questioning what I really wanted to do. After a year of doing not a lot, my girlfriend at the time (who, dear reader, is now my wife) applied me to the University of Huddersfield to study Creative Imaging: Advertising as it was ‘the closest thing to graphic design and means you don’t have to move away’. The course was a mix of design, art direction and copywriting so I think it gave me a good foundation into what I do now.
At the same time I was graduating my best mate Alex had just got a job at Manifest Comms, a small design & PR agency based in Huddersfield who were looking for a new designer. He couldn’t actually make my end of year show as he was ona night out with them, but he did spend the entire night convincing them to hire me, so I guess he made up for it! I started there in 2005, moving with them from office to office, eventually working out of Leeds until 2016 when I decided to go freelance. That jaunt lasted about 3 or 4 months before being wooed to the big smoke by Alex, who had just bought out my old 2 bosses and taken the Manifest name.
It’s a very complicated story, but I do feel I’m now at an agency doing some amazing things, with some amazing clients. Plus, I get to work from home (as I’m based in the north) so get a lot of family time (I say family time, it’s basically that BBC video from a few months ago) and I also get to work with my best mate too, so it’s pretty win win.
– What do you get up to when you’re not working? Got any exciting side hustles or passions to tell us about? Other than running the local Glug Chapter, that is…
At the moment, we’re expecting our third child (I really don’t like sleep) so down time consists of nesting at the moment! Other side hustles include ‘tech support’ for close family and neighours (y’know – because I ‘work in computers’) and I’m also the designated CBeebies Birthday Card artist for all my relative’s kids (my work has been featured on the BBC for the past 6 years). Hobbies include rebuilding Star Wars Lego after my 7 year old son has had a massive dark side / light side battle and playing princesses with my 4 year old daughter.
– Speaking of Glug — how come you got involved in the first place? And why Glug out of all the creative communities?
I might be the only advocate of ‘tipsy tweeting’ with this one. I remember working quite late one night and saw Nick Clement tweeting about starting new Glug events all over the country and, as I worked in Leeds at the time (and after a few cheeky Punk IPAs), thought I should throw Leeds into the mix. Thankfully, the ball had already started rolling with Hannah so Glug Leeds actually became a thing. Without her I think it’d still be that one task in Asana that always gets pushed back.
– Running a Glug Chapter takes time and effort, but what is the one thing that makes it all worth it in the end would you say?
Everyone seems to think we get paid to do this (we don’t), so it’s definitely NOT the money (as there is none). We’ve been doing this for (at time of typing) nearly 10 events in 3 years (I’ve had 2 kids and one on the way so I have baby brain so this might not be accurate) and the one thing I always love is just that feeling that we have a really nice community of agencies and creatives who just get along and have great stories to tell. What more, they all seem to correlate and resonate (with me at least) so you get the feeling that you’re not alone – everyone has the same issues and highs and lows. Also the swearing and beers are good.
– What’s the hardest thing about running a Glug Chapter would you say?
Ask Hannah – I just do the posters… but seriously (Phil Collins ref. FTW) it’s fitting it in with the day job. Again, we don’t get paid for this, we do it because we love it, so striking that balance of creating a killer event as well as bringing in the benjamins can be quite hard. On a personal level – getting everyone’s presentations in the right format is always fun. And then when you have a full presentation sat on Dropbox and your boss changes the name of the main folder causing the entire thing to crumble before your very eyes an hour before the event starts is always a good thing. Keeps you on your toes, that.
– Could you tell us about your favourite memory from a Glug event and why?
It’s a toss up between when my BREXIT joke landed (took me 6 events but I actually managed to land one) and my literal breakdown at the TechOff (but I can’t really remember that).
– If we go a bit dreamy, who are you hoping to bring to your local Glug stage in the future?
We’ve already had Michael C Place speak, so I’m pretty fanboyed up already, but future crushes would be DixonBaxi because I wanted to work there since I saw their MTV2 stuff back in the day; Non Format because their tenure of WIRE magazine was the best editorial work anyone has ever done; and then, outside of agency – Chappell Ellison who’s Twitter Round Up is the greatest thing ever and Jen Lewis who created the Kisses Fingers Like A Chef emoji; finally (and most realistically) Daniel Benneworth-Gray as he said he would, at some point. Maybe. If I stop stalking him.
– Ok, enough about Glug, let’s go back to ‘you’ again. If you were to swap job with someone else in the creative industry, who would this be and why?
That is super tough. Anyone who I admire is way more talented than I am, so I’d pretty much kill their brand. I’m happy being me – this weird, emo designer guy who references Mean Girls & The Simpsons too much.
– And… If you were given the opportunity to move anywhere without having to apply for any visa what-so-ever and we’d sort the packing for you — where would you go?
As much as I want to say NYC or Stockholm, we already have offices there so somewhere in Canada maybe. I just want to get fat on maple syrup and watch Hockey. Also maybe Paris.
– Ok, and last but not least! Please give a link shout-out to 5 pieces of inspirational, or just plainly awesome, work that you’ve stumbled upon recently…
*checks feedly quickly*
– Robot Food have always been one of my favourite agencies – they have a really consistent output and a really, really talented team.
– Massive shout out to my former Manifestee Jamie Bugler at Vapour – they don’t shout about their stuff enough and it’s amazing.
– Man, all I look at are memes of that stock pic of the guy looking back. I really need to sort my life out.
– Mike Sullivan is everyone’s reality check on Twitter and his work is phenomenal.
– Last but not least, Mr Gauky is my favourite illustrator. And not because I used to go skating with him.