Create GB; Mercy

JournalArt & Culture

Create GB; Mercy

Passionate agency with unadulterated creativity at its core...

Founded in Liverpool – and now with a satellite office in London – Mercy is a creative agency that don’t do things by halves. By day, they’re knocking out designs, brands and campaigns for youth and arts orientated clients – by night, they’re involved in the unadulterated creativity of producing and curating exhibitions, hosting workshops, and producing and publishing their own work. Their work ranges from local nightclub flyers to Arctic Monkeys record sleeves, and is awash with youthful vigor and boundless creativity. They’re also stringent supporters of young designers, and actively work against the creative industry’s unpaid internship culture.

We spoke to co-founder Gemma Germains, finding out her views on London, the design business, collaborators and weightlifting (strong’s the new skinny, don’t you know?)…

Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy

Where’s your hometown, and where are you based now?

We’ve been based in Liverpool for over ten years, three years ago we also opened a satellite office in London.

Do you think location affects creativity?

To an extent yes as we all need stimulation and collaboration to be truly creative. I think our surroundings have a huge impact on our creativity, be that your studio environment or proximity to other creative souls when you need a chat or some advice.

Is Britain’s creative industry too London-centric?

It’s becoming less so as the profiles of non-London agencies grow. I also think clients are becoming a bit more savvy with their budgets and recognising that a non-London agency doesn’t have London overheads to cover, this helps to raise the profile of the non-South creative players.

That being said, some of Mercy’s Liverpool staff still feel the pull of London, especially when we’re on a peak time train into the city for a 9am meeting (£279), or when we’re missing the events and exhibitions that make London so exciting. Work-wise, its much less of an issue that it used to be. Socially, it’s tough as so many of our friends (and Doug Mercy co-founder) are in London which makes a Sunday walk in the park troublesome.

Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy

Are there any quintessential British traditions that inform your work?

Good grammar. It’s at the heart of everything we do! We have a sister arts agency specialising in spoken word and experimental language so the written word is hugely influential in our day to day design practice. Doug is something of a grammatical pedant which was actually extremely useful when we were designing for Random House earlier this summer.

Where in Britain do you feel most inspired?

Honestly, round the big table with the rest of the Mercy team. We’ve been working together, in some cases for more than 12 years and we find ideas very easy to come by. Yes, I know it’s soppy but there’s a reason why we stay small, and it’s to have that kind of intimacy.

The top 3 British creatives who have inspired you?

We’re a small team and work closely with some amazing collaborators to do what we do. Of those, I would personally choose as having inspired us:

Emily Speed, John O’Shea and Luke Kennard.

Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy

Will you be watching the Olympics?

Personally no, the greed disgusts me.

Which sport would you like to compete in at London 2012?

The weightlifting. Seriously. Strong is the new skinny.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever been given…

I think advice is a bit overrated, because there’s nothing like experiencing a stomach churning failure for yourself to learn a valuable life lesson. Personally, I think the best thing I ever learned was that it’s not important to be important. I used to have a very well paid job where I managed a lot of staff, had two blackberries on the go and generally flounced around like I had all the answers.

Thing is, I was bloody crap at it. I was barely keeping my head above water, didn’t know how to ask for support and saw my (very young) kids for about 20 minutes a day. After I left it took me a long time to mourn the job title and authority. Now, five years later I look back at that time and cringe, I was trying to hard to be some Gordon Gekko power hound when I should have been working in an industry I loved (design), as opposed to one that made me feel important. Never again.

We’re going to the pub and we’re buying, what are you drinking?

Everything. We’ve all got a nasty binge drinking habit at Mercy. Our Christmas party is a source of great, great shame.

Any other views on the British creative industry?

I could rant for hours and hours about the unsustainability of unpaid internships and the creative industries, as agencies continually devalue the raw talent our industries are built on. We’ve always felt extremely uncomfortable about having interns in the studio, feeding ideas into paid projects and launched the Young Pines programme as an alternative.

Frankly, it irritates me that 3 month, unpaid internships are still being offered by sizeable agencies. If they can’t afford to pay someone to complete the work, then they should seriously reconsider their existing business model.

Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy Create GB; Gemma Germains, Mercy
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