THERE comes a time in everyone’s life when they want to control their own destiny. For Keith McQuade and Craig Bickett, co-founders of Sevenfive Creative, that moment came 10 years ago when they quit senior jobs to set up their own design and advertising agency.

By then both had been working in the design and advertising industry for over 10 years, McQuade for advertising agencies that are now defunct and Bickett for Glasgow-based design companies 999 Design and Freight Design. Going it alone gave the former Glasgow Clyde College graphic design students more control of their time and allowed them to offer their clients a more holistic service.

"We wanted to supply all the services of the agencies we’d worked at but for smaller clients," says McQuade, managing director at Sevenfive Creative.

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The company initially specialised in working with start-ups. By combining their design and advertising expertise, McQuade and Bickett felt they could offer these clients "bigger thinking".

"I have a lot of background in corporate communications, and stand-alone items don’t work well," says McQuade. "You need a whole message, and to brand across all media and platforms."

Fishbox, a seafood subscription service that delivers fresh fish and shellfish direct to the customer’s door, is an example of how this bigger thinking works. When organic growth and new funding from Edge Fund allowed Fishbox to rebrand, Sevenfive Creative worked with it to create a new suite of sea blue marketing materials that emphasised Fishbox’s sustainability credentials.

Sevenfive Creative reworked the company’s packing and print materials and commissioned new photographs to tell the story of how Fishbox works with small fishing boats in Scotland to supply a mix of sustainable fish within 48 hours of it being landed. It then created a revamped digital presence that spread Fishbox’s message and promoted customer engagement.

At its best, this kind of holistic approach doesn’t just change how a company’s customers see it; it changes how the company sees itself.

"We rebrand, remessage and take them out of their comfort zone,’ says McQuade. "Taking out a business a card and not apologising for it. Taking out an advert in the trade press that you’re proud of. These things allow companies to discover their strengths for themselves."

It’s an approach that doesn’t just work for start-ups. As Sevenfive Creative has grown – it now has four members of staff, all of whom are creatives – it has acquired larger and longer established clients, including Greaves Sports, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and whisky bottler Hunter Laing. A rebrand can give an established company or product a new lease of life. Carron Bathrooms, one of Sevenfive Creative’s largest clients, for which it recently created a magazine, is a case in point.

"We created work for them across every medium," says McQuade. "The magazine we created for them is also their product brochure. The brochure hadn’t changed in decades."

Unusually, Sevenfive Creative is led by two creatives, which means that creativity is the driver. The potential drawback is that McQuade and Bickett must handle the business and financial management themselves.

‘We’ve learnt by our mistakes,’ says McQuade. ‘Anyone can do it, but you have to be on top of it. Accounts are not something you can ignore.’

McQuade and Bicketts’ training at Cardonald College, now part of Glasgow Clyde College, helped to foster this practical approach to the business of design. The HND in graphic design offered hands-on, vocational training that prepared students for a real job in the real world.

"It taught us about the industry and what was required to work in it," says McQuade. "Creativity is important, but you have to do the job."

Sevenfive Creative’s aim for the future is to grow at a steady pace. It hopes to take on one or two new designers over the next 18 months and to double in size within five years. Meanwhile, McQuade and Bickett are doing the job they love within their own company and – through networking and trial and error – have acquired the business skills they need to make that possible.

‘You can balance the business and creative sides,’ says McQuade.