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Branding; Flex and adapt 

kokou adzo



Luke Manning Pencil Studio

We talked to Luke Manning of Pencil Studio on how to bring brands to life.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Luke Manning: Ok. We’ve all pulled together to help each other when feeling like it’s getting on top of us. We’ve generally made the most and are spending more time together, helping each other out.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Pencil Studio.

Luke Manning: I founded Pencil Studio in February 2008, so we are an old start-up. I’d worked for a great agency straight from finishing my degree, and it was here that I really learnt the trade. I left after 5-6 years and worked for another agency for a short while, which is where I realized that I needed to try starting my own thing.

How does Pencil Studio innovate? 

Luke Manning: A great question. In essence, we are always innovating. Any opportunity to demonstrate how powerful design can be; to educate to change perceptions or narrate a brand to an audience. So any chance we get, we create short-run pieces to send out to existing and prospective clients, whether that’s Halloween, Christmas, or any other element we can use to connect and share our values and personality.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Luke Manning: Work-wise, we saw a few clients ease off and put the brakes on a few projects but mainly working from home meant we all had to adapt. Zoom calls don’t replace the ability to have face-to-face and bounce ideas off each other, so projects, where we are all working together meant we had to allocate time slots to have zoom meetings to thrash ideas around.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Luke Manning: The only real difficult choice was making sure we were ready for what the other side of this might look like. The effects of Covid for our industry will come later when long-term effects start to come into effect. So it was difficult to plan how we need to be ready to operate.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Pencil Studio in the future?

Luke Manning: The one main thing that came out of this is being a smaller agency makes us more agile and flexible. We don’t run a huge team of account handlers and artworkers. We are all designer/artworkers, so we can adapt easier without having to lose members.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Luke Manning: Our competitors are basically every other agency. What allows us to stay in the game are the foundations which Pencil was built on, design is much more than aesthetics. It’s about connecting and engaging. To truly understand who you are working for and who they are communicating with so that honest communication can be made between the two.

We are so passionate about the work we provide our clients, and this passion fuels the desire to keep on doing what we do.

Your final thoughts?

Luke Manning: I think if this has taught us anything or shown the importance of something, it is the need to be adaptable and flexible. Brands need to be able to flex and stretch from time to time and be constantly aware of their market and be able to flex when needed.

Your website?

Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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