Where I Work: Dave Palmer of LOVE

Dave Palmer is the Executive Creative Director of LOVE, a UK-based creative agency that focuses on storytelling and creating visionary branding, packaging and advertising for top global brands. LOVE is located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in an old Victorian textiles warehouse that’s been converted into offices. Spread over two floors, the open-plan office has a “Victorian-industrial” vibe, according to Palmer, with playful local humor and cultural references, and a revolving door of the employees’ dogs and two bars! Palmer is one of LOVE’s founders, working with brands, including Haagen-Dazs, Johnnie Walker, Guinness, PlayStation and Moët & Chandon. Since COVID-19, the agency has had to pivot to mostly working from home with occasional visits to the office under safe conditions. For this Where I Work, Dave Palmer shares his office space that they all hope to return to one day soon, and shares a bit about his process.

How is your space organized/arranged?

Our office is split over two fairly spacious floors with the creative department housed on one floor and account management, strategy and finance on the floor above, we have multiple break-out areas across the two floors that encourage lots of ‘cross-pollination’ of personnel.

For years I resisted the idea of having my own office, I like to be very much in the middle of the action and I’m not someone who suffers from self-importance, but running a business often involves difficult conversations that you can’t have in front of everyone, so in the end I relented.

So, I have a small office just on the edge of the creative floor. And yes, it has a door, but it’s a glass one and it tends to be open, all the time. The creative department has 3 long runs of desks that house around 40 creatives. This generates (in normal times) a huge level of energy and buzz, which as we’re in another lockdown, I miss very much.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

We’ve been in this current space since 2013, firstly on one floor and then, as we’ve grown, we’ve moved onto the floor above. Before that we worked in the same area of Manchester’s Northern Quarter but in a weirdly awkward triangular shaped space that never quite worked.

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

I don’t have any heating in my office! We occupy an old industrial textile mill space that has many wonderful features, but the old Victorian pipes that provide warmth to the whole space don’t route through my office, so I have to have a fan heater, which I’m not a fan of…

Have you had to make any adjustments to how you work because of the pandemic?

Many! We upped sticks and dispersed to our homes in March 2020 and waited to see what panned out from there. As it became clear the pandemic was going nowhere fast, we implemented a full set of Covid-19 protocols to make the office safe and reworked its use as mainly a ‘drop in’ centre for LOVE people to assemble in small groups. So now we see each other daily on Zoom which is a very poor substitute for real human interaction.

How do you see things changing in your workplace moving forward 
with COVID-19 now a part of our reality?

An interesting question, many are predicting that workplaces will never be the same again, and many are enjoying the various benefits of working from home, but lately after 11 months of this, I’m beginning to pick up on a shift in point of view, some of our people are finding it very wearing, the dislocation, the suffocating communication medium of Zoom, the lack of real, in the moment human interaction. I think the introverts out there will want this way of working to continue, but extroverts will still need to draw from the energy of others. That’s when I’m at my happiest at work.

Is there an office pet?

No, there’s no office pet. Instead, we have a rolling cast of different dogs coming in to spend time with us, so in fact it’s a rare thing not to have a dog roaming around.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

In the wider office we have Sonos speakers and a daily Sonos war is waged for musical supremacy, but the one luxury I’ve afforded myself is a vinyl record player. I’m a sucker for the ritual of putting on a record, it feels much more special. But to answer your question music is something I do require to work, if it’s possible between all the meetings. Right now, favorites would be The Strokes The New Abnormal (the title says it all), Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker and Matt Berninger’s latest, The Serpentine Prison.

How do you record ideas?

Scribble them down in a notebook. Nothing radical there, but it works.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

We create inspiration boards for just about every project we work on, so right now we’re looking at a new retail design concept that must have a fluid structural form to it. On that particular board is a bunch of reference images drawn from interior architecture, modern sculpture, art installations and experimental graphic design.

What is your typical work style?

My working style would be fairly freeform and quite haphazard, it’s how my mind seems to work, but now as we work from home during the pandemic, it’s extremely regimented and scheduled. I literally click from scheduled Zoom call to Zoom call. I can’t say I enjoy it, but we’ve been lucky to be busy throughout this time, so I’m not going to complain. And no, 2am isn’t ‘idea prime time’ for me. It tends to be 4.30am and then I struggle to get back to sleep!

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? 
Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

There are many types of projects and many ways to work through them creatively. Sometimes we kick things around, very informally often with some light stimulus that we’ve individually gathered to ignite the thinking. Sometimes its having the brief in your head and looking elsewhere. I often look at contemporary art imagery through Pinterest, I’m not sure why this works, but it seems to get me in the right place. And sometimes it’s quite linear – brief – insight – strategy – ideas – design executions.

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

In terms of design objects, I’ve got a whole wall of vinyl record sleeves that I tend to rotate to keep things visually fresh, I’m probably the same as many designers of my generation where record sleeves were the first tangibly covetable instances of graphic design you encountered. Beyond that there’s a Penguin we designed for Moët, some file copies of a bunch of gins, rums and whiskies we’ve designed, a Pillsbury Dough Boy figure and 2 Peter Blake posters of Elvis and The Beatles. In the wider office we tend to showcase our work which in recent years has revolved around booze, so we have TWO bars, one on each floor. These house our bottle designs and examples of others we like from brands we don’t work with. We also have a Tesco’s supermarket trolley filled with the awards we’ve won over the years – they’re in the trolley to remind everyone that its nice to win an award, but don’t let them go to your head!

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

No, once our space would have had some big old Victorian textile machinery dotted around, 
but now it’s all pens, mice, Macs and magnetic boards.

What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?

A black pen and a notebook. It means I’m away from the screen, which is a good thing for when I have to think quick.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

Nothing to get excited about here. I’ve got a Mac, that’s it.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

I spend most of my time in Adobe InDesign, sometimes Photoshop and occasionally Illustrator. I used to be all over the software side of things, but now I don’t really get to sit down and design, it’s more about giving direction, so I’m very much in the rust belt of software capability.

What’s on your desk right now?

I’ve got some sample bottles with work in progress alcoholic liquids in them. We’re looking to create a few of our own brands, so liquid development is the start of the process. There’s also an un-opened bag of Just Marshmallow Lucky Charms. This is a highly sought after, limited edition pack we designed that went live earlier this year over in the States. Who would have thought?

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

Well, that’s a really difficult question. We’ve been really lucky to work on some amazing projects over the years, but I guess it must be the Johnnie Walker Bladerunner 2049 Limited Edition. It took me years to persuade the Brand to do something about the fact they’d had a futuristic bottle in this cult sci-fi classic film. Anyway, luck struck and a sequel was announced and the Global Brand Director at the time gave the project the green light. It was designed under the radar, over a period of a month and then hand delivered to Budapest where the film was being shot at the time. The liquid is special too and I had involvement in its development, flying to LA with the Johnnie Walker Master Blender to work with the film director, Denis Villeneuve, to create a ‘Bladerunner style’ liquid. I think it was my steer to deliver a ‘neon sweetness and dystopian smoke’ flavor profile. A career high.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

I’m being serious when I say I can’t tell you anything about the projects I’m currently working on. We have to sign non-disclosure forms to ensure we’re legally bound to protect the confidentiality of our client projects. Our lips are sealed, otherwise we’re toast.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

I thought about this and then realized with some sadness that I don’t.
 Or maybe on second thoughts, that’s a good thing.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.