The Nugget


Author: Iain Slater


30 Years Slater

So Slater Design is 30 this year. When I left the University of Ulster back in 1993, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d start a design agency — let alone one that would make it to 30. After a failed attempt at studying architecture in Liverpool, I was fortunate to find something I loved.

Finding a job… I wasn’t so lucky. With the exception of a small stint with a Derry agency, the opportunities didn’t exist. I still tell everyone that I wrote to every ad agency and design studio in the country, asking if they had any positions going. I exaggerate, of course… it was more in the region of five to ten letters. But I was filled with enthusiasm. Thankfully, I began getting projects from friends. Mainly for bars and restaurants and some other random businesses. The work grew and grew, although I was often bluffing my way through. The company was started from my bedroom on a second hand Apple classic computer. 

‎Then, a leap of faith. I moved the business from the bedroom in my parents to an even smaller space above a printers in Holywood. This was Slater and I employed a designer and then a bookkeeper. We now had multiple computers and some bigger clients. Slater moved again, this time into an Old Mail sorting office… it was f***ing freezing. But soon came more work and new clients, including a large American brewery called Budweiser, who we loved. Also, a chicken producer and video rental shop (they rented videos per night, an unusual concept) as well as large retailers.

Still not content with the size of the office… we went even bigger. Architects were drafted in. They were amazing spaces with a team to fit them. I was now happy. It was 2008, oh dear and clients began to drop like flies, but we had a client who was a sandwich company. We dug in, came out the far side and made our biggest change to date: to close down Holywood and move to Dublin. I had intended for us to stay on a smaller scale, maybe two designers max. But it didn’t stay that way. Designer by designer we grew, and we hired another bookkeeper (this one went to jail, but that’s another story). The work was brilliant, and for the likes of food services, other big breweries and fast food chains.

And finally, having overcome a pandemic, we have moved yet again to a beautiful building on Mespil Road … and breathe. This is a summary of our journey, but only a fraction of it. There are 30 years of stories. During this time, I have been blessed with many wonderful clients and have loved (almost) all of you. Thank you for being so receptive to our designers, putting up with our creative mood swings and for having faith in us. Sometimes that faith was what we needed. 

Also, a thank you to the amazing, talented and creative people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. You have created the most amazing work over the years, which I am in awe of. It is because of your talent and our friendship that I love my job so dearly. It is a gift to get up every morning and see what fantastic ideas will be created by you on a daily basis. Each and every one of you has inspired me and given me a purpose. Without you, there would be no Slater. And one final thank you to those closest to me. The people who support me, even though I can be a bit weird when it comes to design. Those who, on the few occasions I have found it beyond tough, provide the words of wisdom to enable me to brush myself down and carry on.Is this the last chapter of our journey? No. Will we move again? That one I can’t be sure of… maybe.

I have loved every minute of this 30 year adventure, and I don’t plan for it to end any time soon. Design has given me so much joy and purpose; I will always be grateful for it.

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