Thriving on that neighbourhood feeling

by Simon McClelland Morris
Large format, Print, Customer service

A recent article by writer David Sax in Monocle's The Entrepreneurs journal struck a chord with us. The article is summed up nicely in its subheading,

'The business that knows its place as a part of the neighbourhood will be rewarded by the custom of the community.'

During the early stages of the pandemic, with lots of time on our hands, plenty of stress and uncertainty, premises we could not physically work from, and the conundrum of whether to actually continue in central London at the end of our current lease (we are staying in W1), we undertook some useful analysis. The pros and cons of staying in Fitzrovia, if you like. David's article reminded us of a previous conversation we had had with our landlords about just how much we bring to the area, how much our presence is noticed, and what our visual identity – played out through creative ways on our own large window displays – brings to the streets in terms of exciting visual impact. (we know at least a handful of freelancers who made a detour past our studio when they're in central London to see what we've produced for the windows)

Fast-forward a few months to the summer and the results of our location analysis – now this didn't actually tell much that we weren't already aware of – being in central London IS our business. Yes, we could operate fully from elsewhere, via email or an online ordering system, but we'd be leaving home. Firstly, the already tantalisingly crowded online marketplace relies on so much – a huge online marketing budget, competitor cutting business zapping super cheap prices, and the best SEO in the world to compete with others already offering what you're trying to sell. So what is important to us? What are our strongest 'assets'? Without a doubt, they are our people – The Graphical Tree team and their collective knowledge, our reputation, and our location.

Because of the volume of large-format graphics, we produce for local businesses within our local W1 area (Fitzrovia, Bloomsbury, Soho, Mayfair and Marylebone) and the local community – we, thrive on the convenient aspect of where we are and how we operate. The door is never closed at our place – if you want to see us, come on over. If you'd like to see material samples; if you'd like to see print samples of your artwork; if you need some quick graphics produced; if you want to have an idea but can't articulate it via email and a person-to-person conversation would be easier for you; even if you 'just' fancy a catch-up and a cup of tea, that's what we can offer. As David Cox says, "the heart and soul of running your own venture remains analogue."

Analogue could be construed as a somewhat boring, dry, dated word - but actually, it holds depth in one of its meanings ~ (adj) 'Of, relating to, or being a device in which data or a signal is represented by continuously measurable, physical quantities.'

So what would be a measurable attribute to the physical experience of The Graphical Tree?

A friendly, relaxed, yet professional nature; reliability; honesty; and of course the central London print production location – a physical space you can visit. A huge part of the deal is making life easier for everyone. Being in W1 means we make life easier for ourselves, as we make life easier for you. You may be surprised just how many people need display graphics in central London once you come off of the Oxford Street/Regent Street thoroughfares. The multitude of art galleries with cut vinyl decals highlighting shows; PR companies who need bespoke printed boxes for product launches; restaurants needing new menus; designer decor outlets needing window displays; pop-up boutiques; and sample sales outlets. That's all without the larger retail brands, who are also on our doorstep and need servicing easily from our unique vantage point.

Part of our job is making people happier, whether by taking some of the stress of a project away or by what we produce and where. So let's not forget about the abundance of offices which surround us. We're regular installers of office graphics, which can make a marked and positive difference to an environment. Take a look at two of our interior projects for and Bear Nibbles as evidence.

Regardless of how many people physically return to their work location full time, they are likely to be there for some period at least – so let's enhance their place of work to a space they want to be in. Hardly anyone wants to work at home all the time, especially if you live in a big city. As well as the abundance of retail, cafes, bars and amenities the area offers, the comradeship and interpersonal nature of working amongst your fellow colleagues are often what makes your job so good. We know how our own staff felt coming back to the office in person after long bouts of Covid restrictions – they were super happy to see each other and catch up in a way that is impossible from online calls. It's this energy that transmits between anyone you work closely, and regularly with, be it from colleague to colleague or customer to supplier.

Back to the Monocle Entrepreneur article – the crux of the message is that business relationships are strongest when they are firmly rooted within a space and people in the real world. It's about being part of a neighbourhood community. This is the essence of our own research. We serve the community because we are part of the community. We lose count acknowledging just how many businesses we work with in our local vicinity, let alone within the wider W1 postcode and surrounding area. London is, and always will be, a destination. It is the epicentre of one of the worlds most creative, continually evolving, 'global' cities and will be even after Brexit and the pandemic have run their course.

A few years ago, Boris Johnson, Home Secretary at the time, paid a visit to The Graphical Tree, commenting "Everyone wants to be in central London don't they!"

As a result, we're blessed with a host of support for our business – a top visual merchandising accessory supplier on our street; material merchants and haberdasheries; book shops and art galleries for inspiration; fantastic restaurants and cafes; some great bars for after-work socialising; and even a rope specialist if we need something special for hanging an installation. And not least by the inspiring local customers that we see every day in the studio.

We love our community and our home. We enjoy contributing to its vibrancy and its heartbeat from our studio on Great Titchfield Street, the people we interact with, the services we offer, and the vibe we contribute. The world is hugely dependent on digital technology now, but it doesn't stop a neighbourhood from operating in a good old fashion and honest physical format too.

So how can you be a big part of your neighbourhood and community, and how can we offer more to own? Hopefully, we'll all be able to do this together soon. How do you take your tea?


Two more articles of interest may be these, where you can read more about local community and about the benefits of a Central London production studio.