Hello, I'm Joshua Darby, Creative Director and Founder of Studio Question Marque. I'd like to take you on a journey through my life and career, culminating in the birth of Question Marque, a creative agency with a unique vision.
In June 2021, I embarked on a remarkable entrepreneurial journey, founding Studio Question Marque. The genesis of this venture can be traced back to a significant turning point in my life. I was among the many individuals affected by the unforeseen consequences of the pandemic, facing redundancy from my role as a senior designer at Immediate Media Co., a prominent media and publishing company. While this period was challenging, it was also the spark that ignited my ambition to establish something truly special.
A Design Odyssey
My journey in the design world is like a colourful tapestry woven from various experiences and stages that have greatly shaped my career. During my journey as a designer, I've had the honour of collaborating with remarkable individuals and working with a number of prestigious companies. Notable clients include the likes of Google, Amazon Audible, Lego, BBC Top Gear, Next Retail, Radio Times, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, Quaker, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, EasyJet, Vodafone, GSK, Westfield, and BBC Good Food.
My time at Immediate marked a pivotal chapter in my professional narrative. I stepped into the role of Senior Corporate Designer, charged with the responsibility of nurturing and expanding the company's corporate brand. This role was a dynamic intersection of creativity and corporate strategy, offering a unique chance to shape and grow Immediate's identity. It included working as part of Imagine (Immediate’s internal creative agency) and working predominately within advertising, and forging strong collaborations with the events team, plunging into the exciting world of live events. This would include the privilege of working on the identity and communications for Immediate's flagship event, the 'IMFestival,' an effort that earned the prestigious 'Highly Commended' recognition at the Drum Awards in 2019.
But the challenges and triumphs didn't end there. I also embarked on thrilling one-off projects, such as crafting the visual identity and wayfinding solutions for Immediate's innovative office space in Bristol, 'Eagle House.' This project stood as a testament to Immediate's commitment to creating a collaborative and creative workspace for its 500-strong workforce, bringing together employees who had previously worked in a dated, disjointed office space. This project led to multiple industry accolades, including the BCO Awards 2020 and Insider South West Property Awards 2020.
Prior to embarking on my time at Immediate Media Co., my professional journey led me through diverse creative landscapes. I navigated through my design career by immersing myself in roles at several small, specialised design agencies while simultaneously embracing the world of freelancing. Each stage of this journey contributed to the layers of my design expertise, and each phase was marked by its distinct constraints and aspirations. Before my tenure at Immediate, I honed my skills at Splendid Design, a design and marketing agency specialising in the property and real estate sector. This role stretched across brand identity and digital design, and dived deep into the world of print design, providing me with a solid foundation for understanding the nuances of print media. Prior ti Splendid, I had the privilege of working for my father's design agency, Pod Design, a specialist brand and design consultancy. This experience opened doors to diverse clients, both locally and overseas, and further enriched my understanding of branding design.
Admits these full-time roles, I would try to balance a freelance career. This journey was a whirlwind of creative opportunities. It allowed me to collaborate with an array of clients, ranging from the retail giant Next, to major and independent record labels, as well as small business startups and everything in between.
Freelancing, for all its rewards, presented certain limitations. It was a part-time endeavour, one I pursued fervently outside my 9-to-5 design roles. This constraint prevented me from investing the time and resources needed for substantial growth. What I yearned for was the opportunity to lead, to take the helm on more substantial projects, and to make a more profound impact on the creative landscape.
As I reflect on these chapters of my design odyssey, I recognise that each experience contributed to my growth as a designer and entrepreneur. The path was rarely straightforward, often accompanied by challenges and sleepless nights. However, every obstacle was an opportunity, and every triumph a testament to the enduring spirit of creativity.
The Desire to Lead and Create
At my time with Immediate, I thrived in being a senior member of a thriving creative team, often collaborating directly with C-suite members and spearheading projects of significant magnitude and success. Yet, the entrepreneurial spirit within me couldn't be tamed. I was inherently proactive, constantly dissecting visual communication in search of ways to improve it. The desire to solve problems, effect change, and lead my creative vision prompted me to explore entrepreneurship.
The Call of Entrepreneurship
Indeed, the entrepreneurial bug sunk its teeth deep into my ambitions. The magnetic allure of charting my own course, making pivotal decisions that propel change, and being gifted creative freedom proved irresistible. Don't get me wrong; working for larger organisations possess their own unique merits, but they often encase innovation within a rigid corporate structure, impeding the ability to fully flex the creativity required to set groundbreaking ideas into motion.
The idea of starting my own business was like a constant background tune in my career. Over time, it became stronger. I wanted to break away from the usual way of doing things, leave behind the structure of big companies, and fully explore my creative ideas. Being my own boss wasn't just about having personal freedom; it was about taking control of my own path without the restrictions that can slow down innovation in larger organisations.
One thing I've come to understand on this journey is that true innovation thrives in environments where creative freedom flows unrestricted. It's in the uncharted territories, the wild and untamed spaces of entrepreneurship, that groundbreaking ideas are born and nurtured. Here, the limits of what's possible are dictated not by hierarchy, but by the expansive horizons of our imagination.
So, I started this entrepreneurial journey with a strong determination, even though I knew it would be tough with lots of challenges and nights without sleep. But it's in these challenges that you learn the most and truly become an entrepreneur.
A Vision Beyond Business
My vision for Question Marque goes beyond typical business goals. A huge part involves a deep commitment to supporting up-and-coming talent and creating opportunities for young aspiring designers, especially those from backgrounds that aren't often well-represented. Growing up in South London was a privilege, exposing me to diverse set of cultures and people, shaping who I am today and giving me a range of experiences.
Getting into industries like design has become increasingly challenging because more and more people are trying to make a living through their creative skills. I experienced this firsthand in my early career, often applying for jobs along with hundreds of other candidates. It's even tougher for young people from backgrounds that aren't well-represented. While there have been positive changes in recent years, there's still a lot of work to do.
In an upcoming journal post, I'll dive deeper into this mission and share our efforts to empower and inspire the future leaders in the field of design.
Challenges and Triumphs
The journey into the realm of entrepreneurship has been far from a smooth sail. It's been a path characterised by sleepless nights, personal sacrifices, financial uncertainties, and a fair share of inevitable missteps. These challenges have been valuable teachers, offering lessons that have shaped the evolution of Question Marque.
Amidst the complexities of this journey, life presented its own unique set of trials. Less than five months into the inception of Question Marque, I faced a personal loss that left an indelible mark on my entrepreneurial path. My father, Michael Darby, was not just a parent but also my design idol. With over four decades of experience in the world of branding, he had been an invaluable source of guidance in my career. His sudden passing created a void that words could not fill. During this period, I stepped away from work, grappling with grief and the realisation that I could no longer tap into his vast knowledge of running a design agency.
Navigating the demands of co-parenting and adapting to a world irrevocably altered by the pandemic further added to the complexity of the journey. Yet, even in the face of adversity, there was an underlying exhilaration—a sense that each challenge was an opportunity for growth, learning, and resilience.
Question Marque, in its nascent stages, became a tribute to my father's legacy, a platform to carry forward the principles and passion for design that he instilled in me. It was a testament to the belief that his influence, though physically absent, would forever be embedded in the very fabric of this agency.
As we journey forward, these challenges are not burdens but stepping stones, each contributing to the unique story of Question Marque. They have reinforced the unwavering commitment to excellence, innovation, and the pursuit of dreams. It is a journey I embrace with renewed strength, armed with the enduring legacy of my father, Michael Darby, as a guiding light.
With each new day, we stride confidently toward the horizon, ready to face whatever challenges and triumphs lie ahead. This is the essence of entrepreneurship—an odyssey where every twist and turn is an opportunity, every setback a lesson, and every success a celebration.
A Bright Future Beckons
As I reflect on the remarkable journey that brought me to this point, I can't help but feel a profound sense of optimism. Question Marque has opened doors to a world of opportunities that continue to exceed my wildest dreams. Yes, it hasn't always been easy. But every challenge has only fuelled our determination to strive for excellence.
As we move forward, I am filled with excitement and anticipation for the path that lies ahead. The creative journey we are embarking on at Question Marque is a canvas waiting to be painted with innovation, inspiration, and collaboration.