Review of the Year 2018: Back to Back with Astrid Stavro and Jody Hudson-Powell
It’s fair to say that Pentagram has had a pretty wonderful 2018. The venerable institution has worked with the likes of retail giant John Lewis, African entrepreneurial start-up Harambeans, and the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home - and those are just projects which have emerged from its London office.
In addition to consistently producing work of the highest quality, Pentagram has proved itself to be one of the hottest headhunters around, amassing a global team of some of the best creatives around. This year saw a flurry of new faces ambling into the Notting Hill offices, with Yuri Suzuki, Sascha Lobe, Astrid Stavro, and Jon Marshall all being unveiled as partners.
On a chilly late-November morning It’s Nice That headed deep into west London to meet with Astrid and Jody Hudson-Powell, keen to see what a newcomer and a (relative) old hand thought about life at Pentagram in the year 2018.
JHD The first day at Pentagram? You walk in and nobody knows who you are at the front desk, nobody shows you to your desk, you probably don't have a chair. You might have a computer.
AS I had a computer and a chair!
JHD I had neither! You just make it up as you go along. It isn't that daunting because we've all built our own businesses. That's part of what defines being a Pentagram partner; you should have started and grown your own practice. It's a bit strange starting it again...
AS It feels like you're going back rather than forwards, in a way. In a practical way. My InDesign didn't open. My Photoshop didn't open. So you find the tech guy, the tech guy is nowhere to be seen.
JHD You've probably left a studio with lots of facilities and people and you start again pretty much on your own. At Hudson-Powell, it was just us. We wanted to keep it like that. Now it's a bit weird because there's 14 of us or something. We've scaled up.
AS It's me and two interns here. There were 15 of us in my studio before. It's a change of environment thing, just figuring everything out. By the end of the first week I could print an A4 piece of paper. Hurray, I printed a fucking piece of A4 paper!
What Makes A Good Year?
AS There are so many layers to a year. There's personal things, professional things. It's a mixture of those things. You had a baby this year, right?
JHP The first year we joined both myself and my brother had kids. That was ill-thought out! That was a dumb thing to do. And I broke my leg as well. That was a crazy year.
AS Creatively speaking, for me it has been a fantastic year. I've worked on super exciting projects. And living in London gives you constant stimulation.
JHP The way I see it is, come the end of the year are we still doing the mix of work that feels like me and Luke? Are we doing some techy cool stuff, have we done some cultural work, have we got a book out? Are we doing all of those things that used to get us excited and got us here? It's being mindful of how being here hasn't changed us too much. It hasn't morphed us. Is our DNA still present? That's how we judge a year.
AS And has it been a good year then?
JHP Yeah. Definitely.
AS I always arrive late and it is really crowded! I don't know if it's always been like this?
JHP Well, we have so many partners now, and so many people...before, everyone could fit on those tables. Now there's people wandering around with plates looking for meeting rooms. But everyone definitely eats here. We do vegan, we do vegetarian, and there's a meat option.
AS The food is good, too! I was surprised about that...
JHP It's necessary too, given that here in West London a sandwich is about 12 quid...
AS I don't have much time to enjoy things because, like Jody, I have a kid, and weekends are...busy. We went to see the Renzo Piano exhibition and that was good, but the Anni Albers was a real highlight. I just love her work. What's the best thing you saw at the cinema Jody?
JHP I'm scrolling through Instagram to remember what I did this year!
AS I love the cheesy Hollywood movies I only watch on planes.
JHP When we all get off the flight from the IPC everyone's asking, “What did you watch?”
AS Mission Impossible
JHP Yeah, the stuff you can't get away with watching. God, I can't remember where I've been or what I've seen this year at all. I'm sleep deprived!
What Are You Looking Forward To About 2019?
JHP I was thinking about this on the tube in. The strange quantum nature of this group...as a business we started as a multidisciplinary thing but now we're that and we're pluralistic. There's never been such a mix of types of people. Astrid, Yuri, and Sascha and John have added different tensions, practices, and approaches. That adds to this funny superposed state of Pentagram that it can be anything. It's an organism reaching out in different directions.
AS The people are so different, with different ways of seeing and thinking about the world. Yuri sits on the table next to me and I see this guy sitting about with these sound machines. I just want to take pictures. It's amazing. This year, with four partners coming in...
JHP It's usually more staggered...
AS Four at once with such different practices.
JHP Oh, we've got this project set to drop with this collective in Atlanta called Zoo. It's pretty wild.
AS The crazy thing? It's totally out there. It's mindblowing. What the fuck is that!
JHP You look and think, “What was I looking at there? What was that?”