The Road To Elmwood

Tomorrow I begin my work experience with Elmwood, one of the best (statistically perhaps the best) branding and communication agencies in the UK. I've brought my car 'up north' from my humble hometown of Lichfield, where it normally resides, and I'll be commuting from my house in Sheffield to the Elmwood office in Leeds every day for the next two weeks.

Following my mother's advice, I did a 'trial run' to Elmwood in the car this afternoon (with the girlfriend navigating), just to familiarise myself with the route, and to ensure I don't end up horrendously lost and turn up embarrassingly late on my first day. The journey to Elmwood took about an hour, although that was on a Sunday afternoon and the traffic was minimal, so I think I'll have to leave at least two hours in advance when I'm doing it in rush hour traffic. Elmwood's Leeds office doesn't actually seem to be in Leeds, rather it's in the small town of Guisley, just up a bit and to the left of Leeds, and once we got to Guisley it took us a while to figure out where abouts their office was hidden. Eventually it turned up down a little side lane, and we pulled up in the carpark and had a quick gander at the building. To be honest, it's a bit ugly on the outside. From what I can tell it's made almost entirely from concrete, and the main building looks a bit depressing, however, the entrance to the building did look quite nice as it had lots of greenery growing around it, and we peered through the windows, and what I could see of the inside looked a lot nicer.

Before I begin tomorrow, I thought I would recap how I got given the work experience in the first place. At university we were given a brief, sponsored by Elmwood, entitled "Remember my name". The objective of the brief was exactly that, I had to try and get the folks over at Elmwood to remember my name, the only difficulty being that there were 80-odd other students on my course also trying to get Elmwood to remember their names. It was an exercise in branding, but not for a typical client, I had to brand and advertise myself. Now I like to think that I know myself fairly well, having lived with myself for the past 21 years, four months and three days. However, it's inevitable that my own perception of myself will be slightly different from everyone else's perception of me. I might think I'm great, but I know there are numerous people that might think I'm a complete twat. Whether I'm a twat or not, I am who I am and it's unlikely to change, so all I wanted to do was to try and get my personality across to Elmwood, and hope to God that they like it. Anyway, I won't bore you by rambling on any further with the details of the project, instead I'll just show the end result. For the final presentation to Elmwood, I made an animation, which looked a bit like this:

Remember My Name from Matthew Young on Vimeo.

And amazingly, they liked it! According to the feedback I got, it "blew their socks off", which I assume is a good thing, although personally I prefer it when my socks stay on. I found out a few days after the presentation that I had been selected as one of three people to be awarded a two week work placement with Elmwood. Good times!

Then, last week, the week before I was due to commence my work experience, I realised there were a few things I ought to know before I turn up on Monday morning. I had questions like "what should I wear?" and I was really worried about "should I bring a packed lunch?" for some reason. Some of my concerns were more relevant than others. I was going to email Elmwood and ask them, but I wanted to send them something more exciting than a plain text email; they must receive loads of boring emails every day, and I wanted mine to stand out a little bit, to make an impression and perhaps get them talking about me again before I come in.

So, I picked out the most relevant questions, and made another short animation, in the same style as the one which grabbed their attention in the first place. It took about a day to make, whereas writing an email would have taken a few minutes, so I was just creating unnecessary work for myself really, but it was a lot more satisfying than sending an email. This, is what the finished thing looked like:

Questions for Elmwood from Matthew Young on Vimeo.

I was a bit worried that perhaps it would be overkill on the twee animation front, but thankfully I got a really good response from Alex Nelson, who's head of digital at Elmwood, and seemingly the one who'll be dealing with me for the next two weeks:

Dear Matthew,

Thanks for the non-email, lovely stuff.

In answer to your questions:

We don't have a dress code per se, however most of our placements seem to have a self initiated uniform of ultraskinny jeans and big hair. I don't think trouser tightness affects tea-making ability, so it's unlikely anyone here will mind either way.

I'd like to say that all you need to bring is your imagination, but that would be a lie. Please also bring your Mac and a memory stick. Oh, and your portfolio too. We have a WHSmiths-esque variety of pens and papers, so no need to worry there.

We'll do some proper briefing with you when you start, so don't worry about researching anything first. Apart from perhaps some scone-based compliments now that our housekeeper Jean is back. Perhaps some belly-stretching exercises too, as she likes you to have seconds.

See you next week,


The friendly, slightly humorous and down to earth tone of voice definitely put me at ease, and I think I like this Alex already, despite never having met him. However, that could all change tomorrow of course.


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