Many companies will go the extra mile for their clients. But in the case of one of region’s longest-established design and advertising agencies, that has meant going around the world many times, metaphorically speaking at least.
The family-owned and run Creative Studios based at the Creative Gallery in St Johns Hill, Wareham, is coming up to 45 years in business. And in that time they have counted as clients some of the world’s best cruise lines and agents (including Seabourn, SeaDream, Cunard, Celestyal Cruises, Deluxe Cruises and Cruise Advisory Service) as well as some very familiar names much closer to home.
If you ever flew on a Palmair day trip or holiday or browsed through a Bath Travel holiday magazine, you will be more than familiar with the design skills of Creative. For 30 years they produced all the travel firm’s eye-catching brochures and Whispers inflight magazines.
Founder and managing partner Cliff Towler said: “We have come a long way since the early 70s, both literally and figuratively. We have worked with and continue to work with some of the biggest brands in the world of travel, but we remain at heart a true family business and we are very proud of that.”
Cliff and his brother Graham both went to Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and then tentatively began business in 1976 from the dining room table at the family home in Langside Avenue and then the garden shed. Cliff, who had previously been a trainee silk screen printer was still a student. On leaving college in 1977 Cliff decided to go freelance, building on a fledgling client list doing artwork and illustrations for advertising agencies and printers and takes on short term contract work as a technical illustrator for Airbus Industries in Bremen, Germany. The following year Cliff moved into his first office in Bournemouth at 230 Old Christchurch Road and bought his first proper drawing board. He undertook frequent short term contracts for The Atomic Energy Establishment at Winfrith on illustration, design and exhibition work.
Cliff explained: “Our big break came after a move to the basement at Dorchester Chambers in Yelverton Road, near the Echo. “I designed a low airfares advert for Don Lanning, then managing director at Bath Travel and charged £10. “The company loved the work and so began a 30-year relationship that lasted as long as the travel firm itself. “They were our biggest clients for decades and it really helped put us on the map. It was a hugely exciting time.” An avalanche of work followed this first major account gain, including the first of many two year contracts with AEE Winfrith and airbrush illustrations for IPC Magazines, Young Advertising, Riggs Advertising and many more. It means buying lots of new equipment to keep Creative in the forefront of the latest technology which has always been a big part of its success.
There was another huge step forward in 1981 when Creative began work for the National Trust producing maps, property leaflets and information panels for most of the National Trust properties stretching throughout Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, The North and South Downs and the Isle of Wight. This would also a long term relationship.
Cliff and Graham’s sister Annie left school in 1982 and started working for the business on a government YTS scheme. More staff are taken on to supply the studio on site at AEE Winfrith. In 1985 Graham left Link House Publications to join Creative which moved to new premises at 60b Nortoft Road, Charminster, a design and production hub all under one roof. Neil Allen joined as studio junior in 1987 and the Bath Travel work was increasing as Creative take on all of their advertising and print work. Projects like the Palmair brochure, Bath Travel Holiday brochures and magazines were all produced within the new ‘hub’ environment.
In 1988 Annie and Neil married cementing the family nature of the business. More clients came on board in this exciting phase of the business including West Dorset District Council and South Somerset District Council who decided they wanted to become a major tourism destination second only to the Cotswolds.
As the 90s began there was more expansion. The London Tourist Board commissioned the team for projects promoting South East London. This led onto the SE London Green Chain, a huge project linking together London’s open spaces and involved, birds eye maps, information panels, leaflets and an early website. 1994 saw Creative produce the first ever ground-breaking tourism brochure for West Dorset Council. They are still producing the brochure to this day.
In 1996 Creative set up its own repro film separation system, a ten step process from design to print. Creative were appointed to produce the Palmair Whispers In-flight magazine and the following year, 1998, Cliff’s son Robert joined to run the pre-press production department. He quickly became invaluable forming a formidable working relationship with Neil which is now the bedrock of the business.
In the mid 2000s, the firm relocated to Holdenhurst Road as changing technology meant less space was needed. It later moved to its current home, the Creative Gallery in Wareham. More cruise work came in and the company’s global expertise in this sector continues to be recognised. In 2018 Creative was appointed as part of the worldwide marketing team by Cypriot owned Celestyal Cruises to create bespoke pieces in multiple languages for their Cruise Line based in Athens, Greece. It was also hired by Prestige Holidays Travel Agency in Ringwood to produce their holiday brochures. Cliff said: “We developed a great reputation across many sectors but travel and tourism has always been right up there at the top and indeed continues to be so in our work with Celestyal and Prestige. It has been an incredible journey, in more ways than one, since those early days at the dining room table and in the shed.”