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Time flies when you're having fun

4th January 2019 by Josh Beadon

On the 1st January this year Toucan turned 19 years old, and honestly the years seem to have simply flown by. So please indulge me, whilst I recount the story about how Toucan came to be….

Toucan was originally a partnership, between myself and a talented designer called Rachel. We were lecturers at Exeter School of Art & Design, which was then part of The University of Plymouth, and were also both active freelance designers. At some point in late 1999 we sat down to discuss a project that Rachel was working on. I can’t quite remember what the project was, but it had some complexities, and deciding that ’two heads were better than one’ we got together to brainstorm some ideas over a cup of tea. And that was it…we immediately realised that working together was not only hugely enjoyable, but that it also ultimately produced a better design solution. So we decided to work together.

We had no business plan, no client base to speak of, and certainly no studio - we worked originally from respective spare bedrooms - and being graphic designers, we were much more concerned about what our company name and logo should look like, than how the ‘business processes’ might be managed, or how we were going to attract clients etc.

One can’t but 'two can'
But a name’s important right?  Originally we were going to call ourselves ‘2’. We liked the simplicity and it sounded ‘cool’. After about a week of failing to render the numeral ‘2’ in a graphically interesting way, we realised that it was a hard ask. It was one of our students, Heather, who suggested ‘Toucan’ and we leapt upon the idea (completely unaware that there are numerous businesses called Toucan across the UK and beyond). Rachel quickly visualised the Toucan ‘bill’ logo, and I added the ‘2’ into it. Toucan was hatched.

Armed with nothing but our design skills, a couple of G3 Macs and a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm, we launched on 1 January 2000, figuring that even we couldn’t forget such a momentous date! (we were feeling quite smug at the time, because the very real fears of the effects of the ‘Millennium bug’ were a ‘PC thing’ that weren't going to affect us enlightened Mac users)

Anyway, back in 2000 it was fashionable for a company to have a ‘mission statement’ and we were no different. We looked at what other design agencies said about themselves, we drank a lot of tea and coffee, we discussed lots of ideas at great length, and after much deliberation we decided upon… “We do nice work, for nice people"

On the face of it, it sounds a bit silly, naive even, but that ‘mantra’ has served us extremely well - of course we’ve updated it bit over the years - we now say “Toucan do great work, with great people”, but the underlying premise is the same. Toucan is, and always has been, about creating the best possible work, within the confines of the project (time/budget etc.) and working ‘with’ people (our clients, suppliers, colleagues) to get the best out of everyone in order to deliver robust, imaginative and eye-catching design.

So here we are, a full 19 years later. We have a studio, with a team of designers, web developers and administrators; we have an ever-growing client base; we even have a fancy coffee machine and a boardroom; but most importantly we’ve retained our energy, passion and enthusiasm for creating beautiful and engaging design solutions.

Bring on the next 19 years…

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