Interview with James Garlick, Brand Manager at Pink Pig International
- Can you give us a brief history about Pink Pig International?
Pink Pig was created in 1992. Our Managing Director, Nick Wilson, has always understood the importance of high quality paper and the needs of artists and art students from his background in art, design and printmaking. He explains: “Our first customers were the surface pattern designers in art colleges. I used to drive to them in a van and the demand was unbelievable. I am so proud of what we have achieved, built and continue to maintain. From what started in a small terraced house, which we quickly outgrew, to now, a multi-channel global business. I am honoured to be involved with such a dedicated team of 24 staff.”
Nick is still very much involved in the day to day running of the business, just like he has been for the past 25 years. We think that this has been instrumental to the ethos of our business and what has kept us so true to our original values for so many years.
- We understand that Pink Pig International offers the largest range of sketchpads and notepads globally. Can you tell us a little bit about the typical markets, customers and uses of your products?
The reception we get is fantastic. The market is predominantly female but we are working hard to expand our male market. Mixed media is popular right now and we see lots of customers using it on our social channels, like Instagram, which is amazing because it’s so visual. We also see great works created from watercolour, ink and paint pens and receive superb feedback about how well our quality paper stands up to these media.
I recently started a #worldartsteam with illustrator Peter O’Toole, we sponsor artists with sketchbooks and in return they post their work in our books on their social channels. It’s the beginning of a worldwide ambassador programme! In response to demand we try to place our products strategically online to maximize impact and sales and currently sell in six countries on Amazon.
- What are your most popular products? Why do you think this is?
Our white drawing cartridge sketchbooks are by far the most popular. That said, our brown cappuccino paper is now cherished among artists, as is our 270gsm Ameleie (our own brand of watercolour paper). All types of medium are used on this, including acrylic. In general our artists and art students love colour and choice and we certainly provide that!
- What’s the philosophy behind the Pink Pig International brand and what makes you so unique?
Our mission statement reads: “Our goal now is to put all that we’ve learnt into offering traditional British manufacturing to the world. We will showcase our brand to the best of our ability to attract a global audience, to whom we will offer outstanding customer care and an honest service. We endeavour to provide high quality artist materials and a plethora of choice through a range that is unrivalled by our competitors”. I think this defines our ethos and what we are trying to do. We exist because of creative – artists, art students, illustrators and designers – and they are the real reason behind what we do and why we do it best.
- What’s your background?
As a kid I drew race cars. I was never academic. I just always wanted to make stuff and my best grades were in art. I started my creative journey at Batley School of Art and Design. A fantastic gentleman called Ged Flynn kept me inspired as he had spent many years in the creative industries. I owe him a lot and I doff my cap to him!
After gaining my BA Hons in Graphic communication, and off the back of my end of year show, I landed a job at a large format print and design company that specialised in bespoke solutions for retail customers like New Look. It was short lived because at the time I was going through a dark period in my life. I almost quit design because my confidence was shot. On reflection I learned important things and I took what I learned and applied it to Pink Pig.
My role initially was a part time gig, which quickly became full-time. I went from junior graphic designer to brand manager in less than five years. I never really believed in myself and my own abilities so if I had to give any advice at this point it would be firstly, to get your head around the fact that you can’t be good at everything, and secondly, to surround yourself with good people who can fill in the gaps. That’s how you create the perfect team!
- As Brand Manager for Pink Pig International, can you describe your role and talk us through a typical day in your life?
Coffee helps and it’s the first thing we do in the office at 9am! It’s also good to write lists and prioritise these, I find crossing items off is refreshing and I encourage my staff to do the same, you never miss a trick that way!
Working for a small to medium-sized enterprise means that you have to be able to adapt and multitask and so I manage the office and customer services while overseeing our web activities for our web developer.
I take an interest in all my team members, in their work and home lives, because a happy team is a productive one. I like to think everyone at Pink Pig is looked after as they are the key to our successful brand!
I also create Pink Pig’s marketing materials, and produce the majority of the photography in house
- What do you love most about working at Pink Pig International?
For the first time I feel I have brought experience to the table. Over the past five years I have made significant changes that have been of benefit to the business. An obvious highlight was achieving Brand Manager status but I feel my most accomplished project to date is the Pink Pig short film I art directed to showcase our brand. I’d never done anything like this before so it was great to be involved and I’m already excited about producing the next one!
- What are you working on at the moment and what’s next?
At the moment I am producing another catalogue and I have just made a room at ‘Swine House’ (the actual name of our headquarters) into a studio where I can photograph, film and do my own artwork inside our books. The plan for 2017 is to produce more film for our You Tube channel so that we can show our pigs in action. The dream is to become a global success without a doubt and that dream is a daily work in progress.
- Pink Pig International is often described as a young person’s brand, do you agree? If so, what aspects make it so?
It is well loved by a younger generation for sure, although I like to think of our sketchbooks, scrapbooks and notebooks as quality arts materials that appeal to everyone. There is a rule that we live by, and that is to be noticed by a young audience who in turn tell their parents that they need Pink Pig. This passes the book full circle, so to speak, and means that we hit a wide target market.
- What are your three golden rules for effectively managing a brand?
- Listen to and look after every single customer
- Know your target audience
- Focus your Advertising and Marketing in the right places
Quick fire questions
- How would you describe yourself in three words? Approachable, self-deprecating, passionate.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received: My mum and grandad always said: “You can only ever do your best”.
- What are you currently reading? Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown. I encourage everyone to read it.
- In your free time you enjoy… Cars and Stock car racing, travel, The Pacific Northwest, history and tradition, design and tattoos.
- Three things people don’t know about you…
- I have an unhealthy obsession with Steve McQueen, the legacy and the influence that remains in today’s fashion and film industry, I see his style everywhere, people often don’t recognize the connection.
- I want to live and work in Canada (probably already told a ton of people) perhaps Pink Pig would let me work there remotely someday…?
- I dislike pointless art that requires zero effort. I like art that has a purpose, a meaning or is made with skill and technique, for a specific reason. I like a good story behind things!
Exclusive factory tour
Members of the Make it in Design team enjoyed a fascinating visit to Pink Pig International where they met the team and were transported into sketchbook heaven with an exclusive behind the scenes factory tour.
Based in Yorkshire, UK, Pink Pig International has been supplying quality handmade sketchpads to artists and art students for over 25 years. In fact, Rachael Taylor and many of Make it in Design’s team members have been using Pink Pig sketchbooks since high school (some twenty years ago!).
Pink Pig International boast the largest range of sketchbooks as a company globally with over 1400 iterations of products varying in size, format, colour, and cover design – AWESOME! We were privileged to get exclusive access to the factory floor to watch their quality products being hand assembled, to meet the team and discuss some exciting projects.
We enjoyed a fascinating meeting with Rachel, Pink Pig’s Business Development Director and the chief pig himself, Nick Wilson. We had lots of cool discussions about the projects we each have lined up in 2017 and how we can collaborate – we can’t wait to get started. Watch this space!