I started Three Blind Mice in Soho in 1994. I was a young man who was convinced that the world owed him a living and was generally hell-bent on making a go of things on my own, after realising that I was never going to be a very good employee for anyone else.
Soho at that time was a buzzing creative hub and working life in the ad world was a blur of big budgets, expense accounts and generally questionable behaviour. I often hear people of my age and older talk about the ‘glory days of advertising’ when money was no object, ‘cost controller’ weren’t words that had been put together yet and the internet was still a gleam in the eye of Tim Berners Lee. I agree it was a lot of fun at times, our original studio was opposite the Dog and Duck on Bateman Street in central Soho and most evenings working late were punctuated by people dropping in, or us dropping out, and most weeks it felt like the party would never end - you know, it was the epitome of work hard play hard and all that that entailed.
But it was all unsustainable. There is a lot of nostalgia for those days amongst ageing media and creative folk and most of them have forgotten what a wasteful, bloated, archaic animal advertising was at that point. It had to change. We recognised that and began to make the changes that led us to where we are today. Technology started to cut the fat, clients began to get savvy to the huge sums of their money that were being wasted by some of the ad agencies, recessions came and went, cost-cutting suddenly became prevalent and some of the partying had to stop. Everything got a bit more serious and so did we.
We moved out of Soho, north to our current home in Charlotte Mews, scooping up all the freelance talent that we used at that time and gave them a single home in our new studio. Strange white boxes called Apple Macs started to appear on desks and the squeaky magic markers began to disappear.
There was no longer a queue of grumpy bike couriers waiting in reception, as the internet began to make all that a thing of the past. We began to change and adapt, we went through several phases of growth, at one point we had an in-house typesetting studio, and for a few glorious years we were the world’s leading supplier of CGI-modelled interiors to the Cruise Ship industry. Strange times.
Three Blind Mice eventually begat Jelly, which soon became its own entity and has grown exponentially since then, although both studios have always been intertwined to a certain extent.
Our evolution has been constant. I firmly believe that every creative business must always keep one eye on the future whilst servicing the present, it’s the only way to ensure growth and survival. Relatively recently we have expanded our services to embrace scribing and live art, as a natural extension of our visualising and concept artwork. This has meant that we have shifted from being purely a third-party supplier agency to being a studio that works directly with clients as well. This has meant a substantial change in the way that we do business and think about our services, which has led us to the name change for the company, from Three Blind Mice to Think Artfully.
As part of the newly-formed TBM Group, Think Artfully takes its place alongside Jelly and our overseas studios as part of a larger ‘whole’ – a group of companies on a mission to become B Corps, giving us a purpose above and beyond business transactions.
It’s a long way from the Dog and Duck, but throughout our evolution, from ragtag freelancers, through Three Blind Mice to Think Artfully, Jelly and the TBM group, I like to think that we have managed to maintain the original values that made us successful and have added to them.
It’s easy to try and hold on to the ‘safe’ things that make you feel warm and cosy, that’s how nostalgia works, but I had no qualms in changing our brand to Think Artfully after 30 years of Three Blind Mice, because change and the embrace of it is what drives creativity, not the longing for what used to be. Just look at Disney and Lego, or Netflix who, you might remember, started by mailing DVDs to your house!
My point being, change is an important part of growth. Without change there can be no growth. My gut told me now was the right time for change; that our legacy could evolve under a new guise. And if a gut feeling had got us this far, I knew it was time to embrace this inspiration once again and move forward. Because, after all, if things don’t change, won’t they just stay the same?