Gush Mundae, the founder of creative agency Bulletproof: “We have no time for mediocrity”

Strategically seminal, creatively devastating, fiercely independent — they are Bulletproof. Today the team of 50 occupies two huge floors in Covent Garden with a second office in New York. Bulletproof was started back in 1998 by Gush Mundae, and soon after was joined by college friend Jonny Stewart.

Hard work and a burning passion for design and creativity has taken Bulletproof to becoming one of the Top 5 independent UK design agencies, according to the Design Week Top 100 Survey, 2011. Gush talked to Popsop about what being young means to him, what shaped his career in the creative industry, and what should be the ‘driving force’ behind a successful brand and design business.

Popsop: How would you define Bulletproof: a branding agency, creative, strategic agency?

Gush Mundae: I never get hung up with definitions, simply because I believe we help solve business problems through creative thinking and doing. We listen first and foremost then act intuitively with head and heart.

Popsop: When I visited studio, the first word that came to my mind was ‘youth’. Then – ‘optimistic’ and ‘engaging’. What does being ‘young’ mean to you?

Gush Mundae: Young means having a fresh, energetic and fearless approach, which I believe is paramount in any progressive business. Youth is inquisitive and tenacious; it never stops exploring, learning and asking questions, which is the lifeblood of Bulletproof.

Popsop: You have some very well known global clients, such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, Heineken and Georgia Pacific. How did you acquire this clientele? And what was the breakthrough point, when you realised Bulletproof was flourishing as a brand & design consultancy?

Gush Mundae: We acquired our clientele by challenging the conventional thinking mechanics and always delivering knock-out creative. Our hard work ethic and collaborative approach delivers confidence, which ensures our relationships remain strong for the long term.  Only now we are starting to flourish and this is only the beginning, I’m still waiting for that breakthrough moment.

Popsop: To your mind, who’s the “driving force” behind a successful design and branding business: management or the creative team?

Gush Mundae: Management and the creative team are one in the same thing at Bulletproof. This stems from my background as a designer and is amplified today with our creative director Nick Rees being plugged into the business decision making at all levels. As the founder I lead from the front but always involve our core team at every juncture.

Popsop: I read that your background is in branding & packaging. Where did you work before starting Bulletproof?

Gush Mundae: I’ve been very fortunate to work with the great and the good in design. I was influenced most however by Dave Richardson at Shoot That Tiger! – A creative hot shop specializing in music and film. It was his no-nonsense approach, constantly great ideas and hard work ethic that shaped my career the most.

Popsop: Can you agree on a statement that a really great product needs neither advertisement, nor branding?  Do you know of any such any examples?

Gush Mundae: I disagree with the statement and believe it simplifies both the disciplines you mention. It all comes down to the product and business ambition and where they are within their lifecycle. It also depends on what you define as advertising and branding? In today’s world advertising and branding is more prevalent than ever before, it’s just being created and implemented in different ways and is less in the hands of the businesses and more in the hearts of the consumers. Nothing has changed – it’s just evolved based on market force and consumer desire.

Popsop: Do you believe that branding and design can add value to a product, which is mediocre?

Gush Mundae: No I don’t, it may affect it for a moment but it’ll be found out if it’s a poor product. Bulletproof is driven by the brand story linked to a product truth and consumer desire – the product is everything. We have no time for mediocrity.

Popsop: As I said earlier, you work with global businesses. How do you manage those relationships?

Gush Mundae: It begins by employing the best people. I’m most proud of my team, they are the driving force behind a business built on client relationships. We build our relationships on trust and respect, we utilize technology to connect with our clients but have found no substitute for face-to-face meetings and presentations – no matter how far our clients are. We have a truly open and honest dialogue and wear our hearts on our sleeves.

Popsop: If you hadn’t started Bulletproof, what other career would you have liked?

Gush Mundae: I live in the ‘now’ and never think about what might have been. I feel fortunate to work in an industry I love, with a team I respect, for brands I have a deep connection to – I never want to change that!