From London to Portland: An Interview with Adam Robbins

AIGA member Adam Robbins is an award-winning British Design Director, soon to be leaving the UK’s shores and plying his trade here in Portland. Originally from rural England, Adam studied graphic design at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth and moved to London in 2009.

Whilst in London, he worked at a range of digitally focused agencies on projects for the likes of Coca-Cola, BBC, and Sony Music. Four years ago he co-founded his own agency, Rotate° – a digital design and development studio where he led projects for brands and businesses including Tracksmith, Seedlip, Loewe, and more.

Having always desired to work outside of the UK, Adam recently decided to make the switch from London’s creative hub to the thriving design scene here in Portland. We caught up with him to find out more about his decision.

Adam Robbins, British Designer

After almost 10 years in London you’re making the move to Portland. Would you tell us a little about that?

Sure. Most UK-based creative professionals will tell you that London is where the best work in Britain (if not Europe) is happening, and I’d tend to agree with them. It’s a vibrant city that boasts some of the world’s best agencies, most interesting tech start-up, and most exciting brands. So the decision to leave the city, and my business (Rotate°) behind didn’t come easily.

In recent years, former colleagues moved stateside and talked incredibly positively about the design scene and creative opportunities there. So upon returning from a particularly enjoyable holiday (or vacation, should I now say) in the US last year, I drew up a shortlist of American studios I admired, and pretty near to the top of that list was Portland’s own Instrument.

Are there any stand-out projects you’ve worked on during your time in London?

Since making the switch from designer to studio owner, I’ve had a closer and more leading role in every project I’ve touched. The increased exposure to brands and business owners helped create a deeper connection between the work I’m doing and the impact it has for the client. For instance, I led eCommerce projects for lifestyle brands Chilly’s and Seedlip that enhanced their financial return and brand reputation. The Chilly’s website now achieves a conversion more than double the industry standard, and they benefited from 200%+ increase in online sales. Seedlip has shipped thousands of units to customers in over 40 countries globally via online sales to be served in the world’s best bars and restaurants.

I’ve also directed highly rewarding projects for start-ups such has HELM and Digital Mums, both of which have helped them grow from fledgling businesses into thriving digitally-focused companies. In addition, I’ve led the design of portfolio sites for established agencies including Armoury and DesignStudio, which provided an opportunity to collaborate with other great studios.

I’m eager to bring the learning and experience from my time in London with me to Portland, and continue to develop professionally with the folk at Instrument.

What attracted you to Instrument?

There’s a clean, contemporary aesthetic that runs through Instrument’s work, which feels akin to my own taste and design style. Their digital projects always demonstrate really strong UX thinking, often applying solutions that for some designers could be seen as simple and obvious, but sometimes simple and obvious can be difficult to execute with that level of finesse.

These attributes are evident in their SNKRS (Nike) and Dwell projects. Both feel very stripped back and bold in their execution, therefore creating slick experiences that really allow users to focus on content and products.

During the early stages of my interview process, I started to develop a positive feeling about Instrument. The team seemed super excited about the work they were doing and everybody had a great energy. I knew pretty quickly that it was where I wanted to be.

What design values and ideas will you bring to the Portland community?

My personal approach to design has always, in part, been about trying to break new ground—if only in a small way, on every single project. With Seedlip, I did this by leading them to become one of the internet’s first direct-to-consumer spirits brands, and with HELM,I reimagined the luxury vacation booking experience by designing a system that asks users intelligent questions about their specific needs and expectations from a trip, the results of which are then presented back to them in the form of uniquely tailored holiday packages, which can be booked instantly.

Instrument is working with some of the world’s leading tech, fashion, and lifestyle companies, for whom they’re constantly doing exciting and progressive work. I’m keen to keep the spirit of progression in my work as I undertake this new challenge and immerse myself in Portland’s design scene.

By Duncan Lawrence
Published September 17, 2018
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