Why design agency Elmwood in Leeds will now be known as Born Ugly

The boss of well-known design agency Elmwood has handed control of the business to its leadership team after demerging operations and unveiled a new brand identity for the studio in Leeds.

By Ismail Mulla
Thursday, 18th March 2021, 6:00 am
The new branding and name is Born Ugly.
The new branding and name is Born Ugly.

Jonathan Sands, who completed a management buyout of the then Leeds-based design firm in 1989, has diluted his shareholding in the business by awarding shares to staff.

Elmwood is now operating as a standalone London-based business with Mr Sands revealing a new brand and name for the Leeds Studio. The studio will now be called Born Ugly.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “The name is Born Ugly. The idea is all ideas start ugly because they lack craft. They lack validation. They are raw. Our job is to spot the potential.

Jonathan Sands completed a management buyout of Elmwood in 1989.

“It’s very different from Elmwood and that’s good because we want to create clear water between the Elmwood brand and Born Ugly.”

Mr Sands will also be awarding shares to staff in Born Ugly and diluting his shareholding there.

The design entrepreneur says that he has watched many of his peers sell their businesses but feels that it should be placed in the hands of employees rather than being sold off.

Mr Sands said: “I always felt I was handed a baton back in 1989 and at some point I would hand that baton on.

“I suppose I’ve grown up and watched a lot of my peers sell their businesses for a lot of money and what has happened is they have disappeared off into the sunset with a big wad of cash and the businesses have withered on the vine in the main.”

Born Ugly will have around 30 staff in Leeds. The firm’s brand positioning and identity was created in house by its team of strategists and designers, and crafted by Grammy nominated and Cannes Lion winning artist Alex Trochut.