Written by Viveka van de Vliet
Graham Sturt boldly launched a new professional career last year. As Creative Director and Partner, he set up the Amsterdam office of D8, a strategic creative agency with studios in Glasgow and Hong Kong.
Originally from England, Graham lived and worked in London for more than a decade before relocating to Amsterdam in 2007 to follow his passion for Dutch design, where he progressed to the role of Creative Director at VBAT until November 2020. Roel Stavorinus spoke to him in this first English podcast of the Designers Inc. series.
Gif: Pride Amsterdam 2022
“You have to be ambitious and make the right choices,” states the curious and restless designer. Graham regards the latter as a personal struggle, as he is always looking for new creative challenges himself.
Even at fourteen this held true, when he entered a competition to design a logo for his new school. He won. “I didn't really know at that point what a logo was, and I didn't really know what a graphic designer was,” he discloses to Roel, “but I was quite artistic at school and the competition sparked an interest in me.” And despite trying all sorts of different things before university, such as textiles, printmaking and furniture design, he always kept on going back to graphic design, because that was the thing that really excited him.
It was a design lecture in 1992 featuring the work of Gert Dumbar, Creative Director of Studio Dumbar at the time, that built a bridge to Dutch design and subsequently to the further course of his career in Amsterdam.
However, in the early nineties London was “the centre of the universe at that point”, Graham recalls. He was lucky, as he ended up working on The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge Tour at the small agency 4i (now Thinkfarm) within his first year. It was an amazing start to his career: a close-knit group of people, a new network, high-profile clients and award-winning work. Following his tenure at 4i, he worked for three years as a senior designer for the large multidisciplinary design agency Fitch.
Studio Dumbar’s brand identity for the Dutch National Police was one of the reasons Graham came to Amsterdam. He fell in love instantly. “I thought: how cool that the police force is driving around in Porsche 911's that are branded so beautifully.”
Initially he was to stay at the design agency VBAT for six months. Fast forward to fifteen years later. As it turns out, he was in the right place at the right time; his international experience was perfectly suited to the increasingly international aspirations of the agency.
To his surprise, the then Chairman of agency VBAT Eugene Bay invited him to be Creative Director and added: “Do it in your own way”. “I am grateful to him for saying that,” Graham recollects.
Listen to the podcast
Would you like to know how Instagram led Graham to an online friendship and a new job with D8? Or how he started as an entrepreneur with no business experience?
In Designers Inc. Roel Stavorinus talks to designers about their collaboration with clients and each other, about strategy, development and growth, and positioning and visibility.
Illustration: Rob en Robin.