Born in 2011 and growing ever since

Over the years we’ve built a fantastic team at TDL and have worked on design projects across the globe; read on to find out how it all started.

Information design at the core

After finishing his BA in Product Design at Staffordshire University in 2004, Oliver Tomlinson spent nearly three years working as an in-house designer within the Highways Sector. His user-centric design approach, and skills in explaining things visually, led him to be part of the bid team where he produced graphics and diagrams for some of the largest highways contracts of the day.

In 2008 Oliver decided to become a freelance designer (Tomlinson Designs) to broaden his skill set. He didn’t want to call himself a ‘graphic designer’ as he felt it didn’t quite encapsulate what he did; instead he thought he actually translated information into graphics – an ‘information designer’. A quick search on the internet for this term (hoping he could have the domain!) unveiled a whole new world of information design, so established it even had a dedicated Masters Course at the University of Reading. There was really only one direction for Oliver here, to enrol on the MA…

Oliver at University of Reading

A team starts to develop

In September 2010 Oliver graduated with distinction, and freshly armed with his MA Information Design, set up Tomlinson Designs Limited in April 2011. His focus was still in understanding complex information and translating it into graphics, predominantly for large bids and tenders.

Hard work and dedication to his clients soon led to too much work for him alone, so it was time to employ some help from like-minded designers; designers who put functionality and usability before pure aesthetics, and who could work face-to-face with subject matter experts to really understand the content they were visualising. We moved into our first office in June 2011, located in Earlsfield, London.

TDL office in Earlsfield
TDL office in Earlsfield, 2011 (just need to get some equipment next!)

In early 2012 the team created a new identity for the company and started trading under the name TDL-London. Oliver wanted to show the company wasn’t just about him, so omitting ‘Tomlinson’ from the name illustrated the company’s desire to be more about ‘we’ and less about ‘me’.

Deciding the TDL-London brand values

Why settle in Richmond?

The team soon started to expand and quickly outgrew their office in Earlsfield and found themselves in Clapham North where they shared the space with a bid management company, PCS. The Clapham North Arts Centre was a great place to work but could only contain the team for a year before they found their long-term base in Richmond-Upon-Thames, where you will find the TDL-London team based today.

People have wondered why a creative agency would like to be based in Richmond rather than trendy East London, but we’ve found it’s a great place to work with reliable connections into London for client meetings, and gorgeous surrounding boroughs for the team to live in. Richmond doesn’t just seem to work for us; PayPal, eBay, Not on the High Street and Graze all have head offices there.

Team lunch on the Green in Richmond, our TDL HQ, 2015

As TDL grew we found we had more design skill-sets within the team, so our projects and client sectors became more diverse. Instead of purely working on bid and tender graphics, we successfully designed things like newsletters, menus, how-to guides, instruction manuals, timetables and editorial infographics; but whatever we worked on, we would always ensure the project had a focus on information design – making the information and data easy to understand.

Giving something back

Around 2014 we decided to start working on a few pro bono projects for good causes, projects where design can really impact lives. Our first was an instruction manual design to help Syrian refugees keep warm during winter – designed for CARE International. It was a great success and is still being used as a guide for relief agencies during disaster situations. We now have a structured approach to using a proportion of our profits to design projects that can really make a difference.

TDL and CARE teams with their international, award winning, designs for Syrian refugees (2015)

We felt it was also important to give something back to the design community, and help our clients understand more about the benefits of good design. For this reason we created a resources section of this website which will be continually updated with inspirational and useful information.

Expanding the TDL ‘Galaxy’

In 2016 Oliver and his family moved back to their home county of Herefordshire, so it was the perfect opportunity to expand the presence of TDL by starting a new ‘solar system’ in the West Midlands. TDL-West Midlands, like TDL-London, will be offering our renowned face-to-face design service to existing clients in the West Midlands, but also to businesses in new sectors that will benefit from our expertise in information design. By Autumn 2016 Oliver and two new graduates will be settled into a new TDL office in Birmingham; watch this space for more news!

Looking forward to the next chapter…

For more details on office life over the years, please take a look through the archives on our Facebook page.