From it's base in Gateshead, Atomhawk works on projects including Marvel films and Mortal Kombat videogames. Tim Wilson, the company's head of operations, explains why being based in the North East benefits both the business and its team.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Atomhawk is a visual development studio. We work with entertainment brands to create art and design for games, movies and theme parks. We helped shape the look and feel of Marvel movies including Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, plus the Mortal Kombat series of videogames.
And what’s your USP? What makes you different; innovative?
We’re known for the high quality of our ideas and delivery. We have one of the largest teams of concept artists in the world, assembled from around the globe but working from our head office in Gateshead. This has allowed us to attract clients including Marvel, Amazon, Google and LEGO. As well as our head office in Gateshead we have a studio in Vancouver, providing us with a foothold in the North American market.
What’s your role in the business and how did you get to where you are now?
I’m the head of operations, so I look after the day-to-day running of the UK studio. I also work with our senior leadership team on shaping future strategy for the business as it continues to grow. Prior to joining Atomhawk I had a successful career in the creative communications sector, working at Cravens in Newcastle on campaigns for brands including Virgin Money, Vodafone and Kew Gardens.
How would you describe your business to a novice?
We bring ideas to life through art and design. Clients come to us with the kernel of an idea and we work with them to create a visual solution to their brief. We design characters, environments, weapons, vehicles; pretty anything that clients may need in their games or movies. On a practical level, our artists paint and design everything digitally, allowing us to work quickly and create effects that would be almost impossible with traditional media.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
We are part of Sumo Group plc, one of the UK’s leading businesses in the videogame sector. Within the group there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that we can draw on. Closer to home, we utilised various local schemes in the early years of our business which provided access to finance, training and mentorship. Gateshead Council have been very supportive of us since we founded and our studio is based at one of their leading office facilities, the Northern Design Centre.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Since we founded in 2009 Atomhawk has won a number of awards and has grown dramatically in terms of headcount, turnover and profitability. However, the thing that still gives us the biggest buzz is seeing our concepts brought to life in blockbuster movies and videogames. Nothing beats the thrill of seeing something that we designed on the big screen!
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We put as much thought, detail and creativity into our production processes as we do to our artwork. Clients come to us for the creative services that we offer but it’s often the service that they receive that secures them as long-term partners. All of our artists and producers work together in-house. This creates a fantastically collaborative culture which helps us to solve even the biggest creative challenges.
What do you like about being based in the North of England?
The quality of life in the North East is a big benefit. Our team can afford to settle here and maintain a healthy work-life balance, something which can be tough to achieve in more expensive parts of the world.
Where do you see your business in five years’ time?
We are growing all the time and will continue to do so. We opened a second studio in Vancouver last year which has become a success in its own right, so taking the Atomhawk brand further around the world would be an exciting challenge!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or innovators?
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. There is plenty out there and most business leaders who started as entrepreneurs are typically happy to lend their support as they remember how tough things can be in the early days.
What are you looking forward to about the Northern Powerhouse Business Summit?
It never fails to amaze me how many hidden business gems there are in the North East. Events like this remind you how many innovative, world-class companies there are in the region. I’m looking forward to meeting them and sharing our stories.
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