From its humble beginnings as Sprint Print in 1969, A3 Design & Print has grown considerably over the past 50 years. Tony Pooles first joined as an apprentice in 1976, back when the company was still run by two brothers.
Within a year, one brother had left and started up his own separate business, taking a couple of the eight staff members with him. This presented an opportunity for Tony to move quickly through the ranks and in 1982, he became Managing Director.
The company name changed from Sprint Print to A3 Litho Ltd in 1984, reflecting the move to dedicated high-quality litho printing services. The ‘A3’ part of the name seemed appropriate given our location on the Ladymead (which was then the A3 road) in Guildford and, of course, the paper size as well!
In 1989, we then moved from our base in Guildford to a brand-new, purpose-built base in Farnham. At this point, we had five litho presses and a fandangle digital press in the corner that no one really knew how to operate! But times were changing, and the print world was increasingly shifting to digital – as such, we had to effect technology changes and move where the demand was.
This led to another name change in 2001 when A3 Design & Print as we know it today was created to help the company move into the digital market and prevent us from being pigeonholed as a litho-only printer.
A controlled expansion
After working at the company for 20 odd years, Tony was keen to expand and invest in new equipment. When the previous owner retired in 1992, he seized the opportunity to buy A3 Design & Print from him – agreeing to keep every single one of the staff members who, over the years, had become firm friends as well as colleagues.
In 2002, an opportunity arose to buy another Farnham-based print company, Commercial Press PLC, and take on all its employees. At A3 we strongly believe in investing in people and to this day, we still have four employees from this acquisition, as well as two from before the buyout. The acquisition meant A3 doubled in size overnight and we were able to drive forwards by speeding up the services we offered whilst also bringing more print options to our clients.
Our measured expansion over the years has enabled us to maintain control of every aspect of the print process. Our print room, finishing department and bindery are all under one roof – meaning if clients ring up asking about the status of a job, we can go downstairs and physically see where we’re at. It is this hands-on approach that has allowed us to thrive, even in a shrinking print market economy.
Keeping us on our toes
Over the past 50 years, we’ve carried out a wide range of varied and exciting projects – some more challenging than others. While it isn’t our total market, we tend to attract niche industries and flourish when working on elaborate and complex projects which involve high-quality and challenging prints – such as a small print run of pristine, personalised brochures for London Fashion Week.
As well as these projects, we also work with a number of clients, such as Hobbs London and Coach, on a retainer basis. For example, we look after the whole fulfilment for over 100 Hobbs stores and 32 Coach stores across the UK, Ireland and Europe. Therefore, unlike print brokers, we deal directly with the client and cover all aspects of printing, distribution and POS fulfilment – meaning projects can be actioned quickly and smoothly. That’s why people like using A3; everything is taken care of.
A3 Design & Print have also recently been shortlisted for two different categories at another national print awards which, for the relatively small printer in the Home Counties, is no mean feat!
Much more to come
A big part of our success over the years is down to word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals. For example, Hobbs is owned by a large corporate entity with a variety of companies under its umbrella, which are now coming to us thanks to referrals from Hobbs. In recognition of this, we launched our referral scheme at the beginning of 2019.
As well as referrals, A3 has also received great recognition from the print industry and managed to collect a couple of awards during its 50 years: we won an award for the ‘Best Report & Accounts on the Stock Market’ in 1989 and received the ‘Creative Use of Digital Imagery’ category’ at the national 2017 Digital Printer Awards.
Today, we have one high-quality litho Heidelberg Speedmaster press and two top-of-the-range digital Heidelberg Versafire machines – allowing us to carry out both types of printing speedily and to an impeccably high standard.
At A3, we are constantly looking toward the latest innovations to help us be at the forefront of technology – enabling us to move with the times whilst continuing to offer the same quality service we always have.
That being said, we often get asked about 3D printing – but we think we’ll leave that to The Supervet, who can put the technology to much better use!
To view some of our recent work and projects, click here.