It's all cool beans!
Nick Limb, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Curve Digital rarely waxes lyrically about the company. But after much persuasion, we managed to capture some quiet time with him and got him to share his vision and thoughts about Curve life, his values and the Curve ethics.
Starting out Nick worked in a traditional repro-graphic environment where he gained valuable experience being the link between the designers and the printers, making sure a client vision was created. Sounds familiar! His career path wasn’t a straight road to where he is today, but then with a company name like Curve you wouldn’t expect it to be. We asked how have your previous roles helped you in your work today?
Well, I suppose the basics of repro gave me discipline and the process, a consistent way to produce. It also let me see the files that other people created to reverse engineer them, pick them apart and find their tricks. You could say I’m a problem solver, or I just love to know the details behind a final image or product. The fun part, and the part I most enjoyed was image manipulation from scanned transparencies. Especially in the early days when people were amazed that you changed the colour of a t-shirt. The words of my very first boss still ring in my ears though. ‘Attention to detail!’. As much as I hate to admit it, he was right. The devil is in the detail, and now my focus is definitely on the detail.
Curve was launched as a partnership in 2005. You are now the sole owner of a multi-national company. It has a very different look and feel to when Curve first started. What was the turning point that made you think ‘I want to run my own business’?
I guess I have always been quite driven to succeed. I have never been the kind of person to go home at night and switch work off. I’m always thinking and learning. Working for myself was always going to be the best solution. The difference between then and now, well essentially the ethos is exactly the same, to surpass expectation, within budget and on-time.
Our expansion in to CGI some four or five years ago was a long and painful road. We’ve seen lots of changes, and lots of new software and hardware. It wasn’t something everyone could get on-board with and we lost some good guys along the way. But with this essential evolution, we have become a more rounded company. We still amaze each other with what is possible with CG and retouching working hand in hand and our clients seem to like what we are doing which is great.
Setting up your new studio in LA seems to have been an organic next step and has been very well received by the industry. What have you learnt? And apart from the timescales and the currency, how do the markets differ?
Yes, opening in the U.S seemed the logical next step as our reputation began to grow over there. Culturally the U.K. and U.S. differ quite a lot from a business perspective. We have been made to feel very welcome in the U.S and the people have such a positive outlook on life, which is quite a departure for a self-deprecating Englishman. However, banking in the U.S is like going back 30 years. I can’t remember the last cheque I actually wrote in the UK. But am now the proud owner of a shiny new U.S. cheque book.
You say you like to unpick things and you are a ‘devil for the detail’ but your company strap-line ‘High-End Image Creation for Elite Brands, done by the Good Guys.' is quite simple. What you do isn't simple, is it?
It isn’t simple but I think the trick is to try and make it look simple and effortless, when the reality is that the guys work so hard to make it appear that way. We never let a client down. That sounds like a bold statement, but it really is our core belief, and we will stay all night to achieve that.
What is it about other people’s work (those you may consider competitors) that motivates you to be better?
I still enjoy dissecting how things are created, and we have some very talented competitors so there is no shortage of inspiration. My motivation is to be the best I can be, at whatever I do. Image creation requires observation of the world around us including competitors, and a dogged determination to excel in whatever software is required.
The industry you are in is full of talented individuals and teams, all vying for the same market space. Everyone uses the same software, to some degree. So, how and why do Curve stand out from the crowd?
It’s still quite bizarre to me that we actually do stand out. I still feel like a local boy from a sleepy village in England. But seeing our work on billboards in the U.S, I guess we must be to a degree. The internet has given us the ability to be seen internationally but that's the same for everyone. I guess what it really comes down to is grabbing the chances you get and trying your absolute hardest to impress clients. Happy clients spread the word for us, and as we have discovered, recommendation is worth a million cold calls.