June 14, 2016

That's Brexit sorted then. Great little interview with some of the AllofUs gang in last Saturday's Times, on how terrible this could be for the UK's brilliant design industry...

The whizzkids who thrive on connecting with the continent
Borders mean nothing to nomadic staff at trendy design agencies . . . and they are worried

They are the “work nomads” for whom the very idea of Brexit is like trading in an iPhone 6s to buy a fax machine:it simply makes no sense.

They are the coders and creatives who spend their working days on Skype calls with clients on the other side of the world, and in Google Hangouts with colleagues on different continents. They are as bewildered by all this talk of borders from “old white dudes in suits” as one imagines that many Ukippers might be by their job titles.

If you visit any of the best digital design agencies across London, the chances are that a huge proportion of the workforce, if not the majority, will hold a passport from an EU member state.

Take for example, AllofUs, a design and innovation consultancy near Russell Square, central London. Anyone who has recently visited the British Museum, the V&A, the Serpentine Gallery or the Science Museum will have probably seen the digital tours and information screens designed by this small team of 25. About a third are young Europeans, like Lily Madar, a “creative technologist” from France with a London accent, who will be celebrating her 26th birthday on the day of the referendum. “Hopefully it will be a nice present,” she said.

Still, she is worried. “We don’t have any say. We feel a bit helpless . . . I love it here, but I would feel hurt if British people decided they didn’t want me to be here,” she said. “It would feel like they didn’t want my contribution. It would be like getting picked last at sport at school.”

As someone who has been coding a new website aimed at connecting children from different countries, she is baffled by the talk of division.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around it. We’ve grown up with an EU that is all about freedom and collaboration. We are so connected all the time. Why would these politicians want to put barriers against that?”

Her colleague, Janos Koos, 27, a designer from Hungary, is similarly bewildered. “It’s crazy. We grew up with this state of mind that people should be able to travel freely. But I see the Brits enjoying it too. Why should it be harder for them to go for stag do’s in Budapest?”

Blaise Galinier, 34, an “experience director” from Grenoble, France, said: “It’s so counterproductive, a lot of hassle. Nationalities don’t matter to us.”

He gestures to the office space in a converted art deco garage, where his young colleagues are listening to music, while doing clever things on computer screens. “This feels quite disconnected from the old white dudes in suits in Westminster.”

Rodney Paul, 30, from Paris, a senior designer at AllofUs said: “I understand that when people are afraid they want to protect themselves, but this would be a step back.”

Laura Pison, 28, from Belluno, northern Italy, said: “What also concerns me is that it’s not really clear what would happen to us. I’ve read a lot about it but no one seems to know.”

Their boss, Phil Gerrard, the agency’s founder, said that he would be terrified to lose his talented team. “We’ve just gone through a nightmare dealing with the Home Office, trying to get a new senior person over from America. I would hate to think what’s going to happen if we had to do that with everyone else.”