Rhubarb Design House, based in Wakefield, was set up by entrepreneurs Alex McIntosh and James Lodge. The pair studied Graphic Design together at the University of Cumbria and went on to work for a range of agencies across Yorkshire, dealing with local, national and international clients. They came together to set up Rhubarb Design House, a design studio which specialises in design and branding for ‘experience-led’ clients mainly in the arts and culture sectors, such as museums, galleries and theatres.

The agency officially launched in April 2019 and takes its name from its Wakefield base, which is within the ‘rhubarb triangle’ – a nine-square-mile piece of land famous for producing forced rhubarb. One of the company’s biggest projects so far has been ‘Summer in Wakefield’, a 16-page guide produced to highlight the city’s 2019 summer events programme, which was distributed to 250,000 households across the district.


Once Alex and James had set up the business, they approached AD:VENTURE who, with their programme, then helped Rhubarb Design House to define their market niche.

“At first we just set out with the intention of being a good design agency and were open to working with anyone,” James said.

“Then we started working with our business development advisor Keith Evans to work out how we want to market ourselves and the type of clients we want to work with.

“Keith asked us to map out every person we knew before narrowing it down to people who we knew were well-connected and could potentially introduce us to their network, ultimately helping us to get more work.”


By working with their AD:VENTURE advisor, James and Alex decided that they wanted to focus on the arts sector. “We’ve both worked in agencies and done work for corporate clients in the past, and while that was enjoyable, we both realised that working for clients in the arts sector allows us to be much more creative.

“We tried to target ‘experience-led’ companies like theatres and arts organisations rather than having a scattergun approach, and that focus has definitely worked for us. We’ve done far better than we ever expected in the first few months.”

Alex and James also attended free AD:VENTURE business events which broadened their knowledge on the legal and administration side of business. “I underestimated how much of my time would be spent invoicing, replying to emails and quoting for work, and not doing the fun stuff we are being paid for,” James said.

“But the events we attended really helped us to be better at that side of the business. Alex went to a legal workshop which he said was really insightful, and we’ve also been to sessions to help us with subjects such as GDPR – these are all things that you don’t initially think about when you set up a business but are really important.

“We’ve also been attending the monthly Get Me Started workshops in Wakefield which have been a way of hearing about what challenges other start-up businesses face and it is reassuring to know we aren’t alone in the struggle to establish a new business.”


James says the support Rhubarb Design House have had from AD:VENTURE has played a big part in the company’s growth.

“When it’s just the two of us in the office, sometimes you need that reassurance that you are actually doing a good job!” James added. “We have regular meetings with our advisor, and I think it’s important to have the perspective from someone outside of the business.”

To find out more about Rhubarb Design House, visit https://rhubarbdesignhouse.uk