Back in 2001, Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi set out to launch their eponymous branding agency with a list of dos and don’ts – from promising originality in their work, to not following others or being afraid. Two decades later, it’s clear that DixonBaxi’s vision has paid off in spades. Focusing on design for real people, the London-based agency’s portfolio has included capturing the imaginations of footie fans with a branding experience for Premier League, and helping to keep brands like Netflix, Hulu and Channel 4 looking sharp on our screens. We speak to brand writer Eva Munday about collaboration, bravery and taking an “always-in-beta” approach, before some of the team share further insight into what it’s like to work there.
How would you describe what DixonBaxi does? We’re a creative studio and group of people who are curious about the way the world works, and serious about changing it for the better. We create brands and brand experiences for brave businesses that want to challenge convention, including Hulu, Audible, AT&T, ViacomCBS, Capital One, Premier League, IMAX, Channel 4 and Netflix.
Our work starts with strategy, creating strategic principles that drive every part of the brand and project. Then we translate the strategy engine into a design system that works across any application or expression of the brand. This process connects the dots between how the brand manifests in the real and digital worlds, and how people navigate and use it.
Working this way requires a varied team of producers, strategists, designers, motion designers, user experience experts, writers, operations managers and new business specialists.
Inside the DixonBaxi studio
When and how did DixonBaxi come about, and how has it evolved since? Aporva and Simon started the agency 20 years ago with a list of things they would and wouldn’t do (below). And they’ve stuck to that list. The way we look at creativity and the way we look at ourselves as an entity is always deliberately evolving. We’re persistent, constantly learning and developing to create a body of work that sits at the edge of the world.
Simon and Aporva’s list of dos and dont’s
Does the team have a mantra or philosophy? Be brave. This means taking risks, making mistakes and stretching yourself. It’s a mindset that leads to new and original work, and helps us create lasting change for our clients and the people they serve. Designing for real people is what inspires us.
“We create brands for brave businesses that want to challenge convention.”
Work for Canada Water (still from DixonBaxi’s review of 2021)
Work for Hulu (still from DixonBaxi’s review of 2021)
In terms of projects, what have been the highlights from the past year? Our body of work is the main source of our happiness and success. Making work we’re proud of is what pushes us forward in a positive direction.
The past year has been monumental for us, not because of a particular project, but because of our ability to pull together and create great work, regardless of the challenges we’re facing. That’s not to say we haven’t had some big moments: projects for Canada Water, AT&T and Hulu come to mind.
DixonBaxi’s review of 2021
Are there any projects that have been fun to work on that don’t get publicised? We fill day-to-day projects with the same level of creativity and personality that goes into personal work. Being more open-source is really important to us. It’s also part of the reason we created the Be Brave V2 book, and The DixonBaxi Way platform. They’ve both been published but they’re also very personal projects – candid testaments to the fact that there isn’t one way to have a career, run an agency and create.
If we’re on the DixonBaxi Instagram, what’s one thing we should absolutely not miss? Definitely our birthday post: we turned 20 this year.
Work for AT&T (still from DixonBaxi’s review of 2021)
Team and Culture
What would you say the culture is like at DixonBaxi? DixonBaxi has a dynamic culture of curiosity and difference. We’re constantly questioning the way things work, both in our studio and the world. We have an “always-in-beta” mentality that protects our ability to try new things and leads to creative invention. There’s a really positive sense of restlessness that comes from a collective hunger for more.
We also believe that great design is born out of difference: different perspectives, different experiences, different approaches and different skillsets. That’s why we seek these qualities out when we add to our team. We come from all over the world – from Seattle to Nigeria to Hong Kong and everywhere in between – which makes for a rich, vibrant, open environment full of ideas.
“We believe that great design is born of difference: different perspectives, different experiences, different approaches and different skillsets.”
Branding work for Channel 4
Branding work for Premier League
Branding work for Hulu
What is the office and location like? Our studio was built around the way we work – it’s a highly functional creative space. It’s also the heart of all things DixonBaxi. We work with creative teams across the globe from our London studio, so it’s a place of connection and collaboration. There’s always a feeling of intense creative energy and freedom thanks to the wonderful group of people that fill the space.
How did the team adjust to working from home during the pandemic? We’ve
always worked remotely in some sense: we work all over the world.
Habits and rituals are really important because they’re how you stay
connected as a team. That kind of shared behaviour is what should drive
the way you work rather than letting technology push you forward. It’s
less about what software you use and more about what you’re using it
for, what you’re trying to achieve together. Keeping that in mind,
keeping who you’re designing for in mind, is what it’s all about.
An insight into working life at DixonBaxi
When you think about DixonBaxi in 10 years’ time, what comes to mind? The
way we work is about being in the moment and creating things on the
edge of now. That won’t ever change, but our processes will. We embrace
change and are always searching for new, better ways to do what we do. I
can’t predict the future, but I know DixonBaxi will always play a part
in creating it. And that will look as different 10 years from now as it
did 10 years ago.
How often do you add to the team? And is there something you always look for in new applicants? Frequently. We look for people with different perspectives and experiences – as diverse as possible – who care about what they do. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach being into what you do. That’s why we hire people, not CVs. If you’re truly interested in the work you’re doing, you’re willing to push further and create new things.
Inside the DixonBaxi studio
If you’re an emerging creative wanting to work with DixonBaxi, what’s the best way to reach out or get noticed by the team? The most important thing is
creating distinct work that’s original. Be yourself. Have a perspective,
join wider conversations and engage with people. You need to be able to
tell your story – explain what you do, the benefits of your work and
its impact, as a narrative. Get under the skin of what you think and
what you care about.
Beyond that, do your research. Have a clear understanding of the role
you want, which agencies are the best fit for you and why. Be
consistent in how you build connections. Talk to as many people as
possible by getting involved instead of waiting for a position to open
up. Always ask questions. And never bullshit. Ever. Then, once you’re ready, say hello.
Branding work for PlutoTV (Viacom/CBS)
Branding work for DNEG
Do you ever take on interns? And if so, how can we stay in the loop on how to apply? As often as we can. A significant portion of our team has come through our Intern Academy. Even if we don’t have an internship opening, you can still connect with the Academy here.
“You can teach skills, but you can’t teach being into what you do. That’s why we hire people, not CVs.”
When the team is in need of a bit of fun, inspiration or regrouping, what do you do? We have our own rituals that uphold a strong balance of focus and fun, both as a group of people and within our processes. Everyone at DixonBaxi loves what they do, but we aren’t precious about our work. Part of constantly trying new things is being able to realise when they aren’t working and having the confidence to stop and recalibrate. When we do that, we do it as a team which makes it a positive and inspiring thing.
We also go out into the world and experience new things as often as we can, whether that’s setting up a studio in New York City to work with Samsung for a few weeks, visiting Milan to understand one of football’s finest clubs, or taking a day trip to the Science Museum.
Inside the DixonBaxi studio
On a social level, we take every opportunity to celebrate. Each week
we have Champagne Thursdays when the team comes together to shout out
successes and milestones – and raise a glass. There are big moments like
our summer and Christmas parties, when we revel in the things we’ve
been able to accomplish together, and small moments like Monday morning
meetings when we share project updates and talk about our weekends.
Everyone gets one DixonBaxi weekend a year, which is a three-day weekend
and trip abroad for two – no catch, just a presentation about what you
learned once you’re back.
Meet some of the team
Below we get to know some more of the brilliant team members working behind the scenes at DixonBaxi.
Haydn Clarke, senior producer
How would you describe what you do at DixonBaxi? I help make the impossible possible by being the client’s voice in the room, juggling timelines and ensuring creative work can flourish.
Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work? I gained a BA Honours [in classics] and it has indeed been helpful within a working environment, as it’s important to have breadth in your education and interests. It also makes for a more eclectic and creative studio.
If you could pick a meme or image to describe what it’s like to work at DixonBaxi, what would it be and why? The below, because the work we create is cool and if it isn’t, we’re not afraid to check ourselves and reset until it is.
What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now? My [tennis player] Björn Borg matte black water canister.
If you could recommend us something inspiring, what would it be and why? “Adapt and overcome” – I didn’t coin this saying but it is one that I remind myself of every day and is applicable to every facet of life. In a similar vein, I’d recommend The Ancients, a podcast hosted by Tristan Hughes. It’s fascinating learning about past civilisations and our evolution, or lack thereof, to the present day.
Philippa Large, producer
How would you describe what you do at DixonBaxi? I’m responsible for taking a design brief and making it reality. In the production team, we work collectively to coordinate the designers’ and creatives’ time.
If you could pick one emoji to describe what it’s like to work at DixonBaxi, what would it be and why?
It’s my most-used emoji when working. It sums DixonBaxi up entirely.
Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work? I studied fine art photography. Even though my photography knowledge doesn’t directly contribute to my job (although I’ve found a part-time job in being DixonBaxi’s resident portrait photographer) I did learn to balance multiple creative projects at one time with varying deliverables and deadlines, which is ultimately the definition of a producer.
I don’t believe my role required formal training. I started as an intern and learnt through my colleagues. I do, however, believe it requires a specific personality. Someone who enjoys being hyper-organised, at times a little bossy and finds joy in creating spreadsheets.
What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now? In the studio, a book: Think Like a Street Photographerby Matt Stuart. At home, seven rolls of film I keep saying I will develop at the weekend.
What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do the same kind of work? Jump right in and grasp any opportunity that comes your way. You will fall on your feet eventually.
Tobi Arawole, brand strategist
How would you describe what you do at DixonBaxi? As a strategist, my responsibility is to underpin the creative execution with real-life, strategic research and insight that grounds the brand system in something real, thoughtful and tangible. The work we do at DixonBaxi is fundamentally compelling.
How did you land the job? I slid in to [head of strategy] Dave Blendis’ LinkedIn DMs, found some former colleagues that told me all the amazing things about working with DixonBaxi, then I applied for the role. Big tip: making a personal connection is a great way to put you in the front of their minds and show that you really are interested.
If you could pick one meme to describe what it’s like to work at DixonBaxi, what would it be and why? The below – DixonBaxi has an incredible way of authentically simplifying and strategically delivering world-class work, without bullshitting.
If you could recommend us something inspiring, what would it be and why? Photography has an incredible way of guiding your perception of reality and triggering a sense of pain, pride, confidence and happiness. Trinidadian photographer Kelly-Ann Bobb has an incredible way of photographing Black people that truly showcases a spectrum of beauty. Her work makes so many people feel seen.
Sarah Reid, studio manager
How would you describe what you do at DixonBaxi? As studio manager, I’m responsible for the studio running smoothly and making sure it’s looking its best. No day is the same and I’m always keeping several plates spinning, but my core responsibilities are managing the diary and calendar, overseeing security and maintenance, health and safety, training and recruitment, managing holiday and absences.
What recent project at DixonBaxi are you most proud of? We can’t talk about it yet!
What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now? A mini cactus. It was on my desk on my first day and is just too cute.
If you could recommend us something inspiring, what would it be and why? Architectural Digest on YouTube. I’m so nosey and love interiors so it’s really my dream channel.
What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do the same kind of work? Try and see what you can learn from every opportunity you wind up in, even if it’s not your dream job or more of a means to an end. There are buckets of transferable skills from one job to another, it’s just key to have a good attitude!
Karun Agimal, senior designer
How would you describe what you do? I use design and visual storytelling to create exciting brand experiences for clients all over the world.
If you could pick an emoji to describe what it’s like to work at DixonBaxi, what would it be and why?
It perfectly represents the energy and fast-paced mindset we have as a team.
How did you land the job? DixonBaxi first got my attention after the Premier League rebrand. I emailed the studio manager asking for an internship. I was fresh out of university and ready to take action. It’s always nerve-wracking waiting for a response, but thankfully I got the answer I was hoping for.
If you could recommend us something inspiring, what would it be and why? I would have to say Nicole McLaughlin’s Instagram account. She repurposes forgotten objects and turns them into something unexpected. I especially like the Carhartt “bread” beanie.
What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do the same kind of work? Be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge around you. If you’re applying to work somewhere, always do your research on the company. Find out who’s who – LinkedIn is the best tool you can use. There’s nothing worse than being unprepared in these situations. I always encourage people to stay in touch with the studio, regardless of the outcome. It’s important to be at the front of people’s minds.
DixonBaxi is a Creative Lives in Progress brand partner. Every year, we partner with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Creative Lives a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]