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Omega Moon Invitation, Downey & Co.
2nd August 2017

Rooted in History: Q&A with Downey & Co

Earlier this year, Leo Turner was rummaging through his parents’ attic when he found a box containing a stash of archive paperwork from Downey & Co, the third generation family-run printing business that he now directs alongside his cousin Joseph Turner.  Within the paperwork was a price list from 1919. Leo’s Grandad would have been an apprentice for the company at the time. 

“Interestingly, Joe and I had no idea the company was based in Great Portland Street in 1919,” says Leo referring to the address on the header of the price list. “We knew about New Carlisle Street, but not Great Portland Street.” 
It is Downey & Co’s rich history, not to mention its century-long expertise in printing, that gives the company its edge. Much has changed over its 100-year existence – not least the swift arrival of digital printing technologies – but Downey & Co remains loyal to its founding principles: skilled craftsmanship, attention to detail and impeccable service. It’s a combination that has won the company an impressive portfolio of clients. Today, Downey & Co crafts stationery, packaging and watermarks, to mention a few, for clients including Dom Perignon, Paul Smith, Ace Hotel and Burberry

Thrilled to announce Downey & Co as the latest addition to our client list, we were eager to catch up with Leo and Joseph to find out more about the company. 

Coat of Arms Stationary, Downey & Co.
What inspired the move from engraving to full printing services in the 1970s?

We responded to the demand of our clients at the time. They wanted a one-stop-shop and, as we were engraving the printing plates to a high standard of quality and service, the clients wanted a printer to match. Downey had dabbled with sub-contracting this service. Sub-contracting worked initially but we quickly found that our high standards could not be met. The timing was quite fortuitous too. Around this time, Bill Turner's youngest son, Chris Turner, had just completed an apprenticeship as a die stamping machine minder and this provided an ideal opportunity to join the family firm and set up our own production element.
Omega Skyfall Invitation, Downey & Co.
How many people work for Downey today and what do they do?

We currently have two locations with 41 members of staff. At our production site in Norfolk, we have 32 members of staff made up of our production management team, estimating, accounts, R&D, archives, HR/HS, and shipping. We have all of our highly skilled team of machine minders and hand finishers, the artisans of the business, also based at this location. 

We also have our London studio. There we have the senior management, a dedicated team of project managers, along with our design team and marketing department.

Unusually for a printer, you have your own design department. What’s the advantage?

The design department is a great asset for us. It means that we can respond quickly to our client’s requests for visuals and ideas, which is all part of Downey's service. It also allows us to become involved with a project at an earlier stage. Straight away we are able to offer clients guidance and lend our expertise which allows them to achieve their ideal end result. Clients can describe their vision and through design and print we can bring it to life. It is much better than simply being handed a finished design that, when printed, can be limited and not adhere to the initial vision.
Daks Fashion Show Invitation, Downey & Co.
You have a production base in Great Yarmouth and a London studio. What happens in each and what’s the relationship between the two?

There is constant communication between the two locations. With the production being done in Great Yarmouth and client/project management being in London, we are always discussing projects, deadlines and scenarios in order to keep the level of service and reliability high for our clients. Although we are split over two locations, we work well as a single team.
Netjets Owner Kits, Downey & Co.
What sort of machinery do you have? There must be some very old kit…

We have a whole host of die stamping presses, both automatic and manual. There’s multiple Heidelberg Platen and windmill presses for letterpress, foil, die-cutting and embossing. We also have 2colour and 4colour litho presses, along with thermography and many types of finishing equipment. Our most recent machine is an HP 5600 Indigo which is giving us great excitement and results when combined with the traditional artisan processes.

How has the company evolved with the rise of digital?

Over the years, Downey has constantly adapted and embraced the technological shifts in the industry. From introducing computer typesetting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, to embracing the latest Indigo printing process, we are always looking at what is around the corner and how it can benefit the way we work and the quality of work and service we can offer to our clients.
Madame Tussauds Presentation Box, Downey & Co.
As a family business, do you feel the weight of previous generations on your shoulders? Does it make it difficult to innovate?

There is always a sense of loyalty and a healthy respect for the generations that came before us, but also a sense of freedom to adapt to the current market climate and future trends – if we didn't have this then how can Downey last another 100 years? The fundamental ethos and core values of the business will never change. This happened when the second generation replaced the first and is the same for us now.

What’s the best kind of project to work on?

One that allows for creative freedom, a combination of multiple processes and effects with a healthy budget to boot. Put simply: the opportunity to make something beautiful.

And the strangest/most unexpected request you’ve had?

One project that stands out is when we were commissioned to produce a set of hand-painted Russian dolls to act as a save the date and invitation set for a private client's birthday celebrations. 
Patek Philippe Exhibition Gift Bag, Downey & Co.
You’ve worked with some extremely prestigious clients. What is it that makes Downey such an attractive proposition for luxury brands and illustrious individuals?

We are proud to be a safe pair of hands for our clients. Once the project is placed with us, the client need not worry about reliability, quality, or service. They can instead focus on their needs. We have always worked in the luxury industry where attention to detail is an essential part of the job. Because of this, we share common values with our clients.

What’s your favourite part of the process?

Delivering a perfect piece of stationery, packaging or invitation into the hands of the client and hearing the “wow” that follows. It's a buzz every time.

If you weren’t in printing, what would you do?

Joseph: music producer. 
Leo - marine biologist or rum bar owner (or both). 
Visit the Downey & Co. website to discover more. 
Print is Not Dead Invitation, Downey & Co.
Contact:

Studio 3
De Beauvoir Block
92 De Beauvoir Road
N1 4EN

hello@zetteler.co.uk
+44 (0)20 3735 5855