Craig Mann and Charlie Barr.


Both aged 53.

What is your business called?

Studio MB. Originally the MB was simply taken from the ‘M’ for Mann and ‘B’ for Barr.

Where is it based?


What does it produce?

We design and deliver narrative-based, immersive visitor experiences for museums, heritage attractions and leading global brands the length of the UK, as well as internationally in the Middle East and India.

To whom does it sell?

We create brand experiences for the likes of JCB Excavators and Triumph Motorcycles. Our team have designed and are currently managing the production of a new visitor experience in Delhi, India, for JCB, having already opened a 2,500m2 experience in Staffordshire. The Triumph Factory Visitor Experience opened in 2017 to great fanfare and won the SBID International Design Award 2018 for Best Public Space Design as well as being awarded the Design Grand Prix and Best Exhibition Design at the Scottish Design Awards 2018.

We also work extensively for museums, heritage destinations and visitor experiences. Projects have included: The D-Day Story in Portsmouth; King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester; Coventry Transport Museum; Titanic Belfast; York Army Museum; Roman Vindolanda Museum near Hadrian’s Wall; The Quest for Longitude at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich; Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill at the Tower of London and the Al Salam Palace Museum in Kuwait.

What is its turnover?

For the last three years its averaged just over £4million per year.

How many employees?

We currently have around 22 in our team, which has been consistent for the last three years. Although we supplement that number where and when required with freelance artworkers, as well as specialist consultants in fields such as lighting design.

When was it formed?

Studio MB initially traded as an LLP from March 2004, before being incorporated as a limited company in 2009.

Why did you take the plunge?

A combination of self-belief, after designing and delivering projects over the previous sixteen-year period, opportunity and the fact we were both getting nearer the big 40 and deciding it was then or never!

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

We both met whilst working for a Leith based commercial design company that no longer exists. Prior to that I was an associate in an architectural practice and Charlie ran the design studio of a leading advertising agency in Singapore.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We invested in ourselves with what savings we had. No borrowings were required, but equally no salaries were taken until the business could afford it, which happily was not very long.

What was your biggest break?

We have had a number of key milestones in the last 15 years which include project wins and also recognition through industry awards.

The standout wins each grow in prestige and proportion to each other as we’ve demonstrated our ability to handle bigger and bigger projects and achieve greater success for our clients. Winning the ‘Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill’ exhibition on the 500th anniversary of his coronation at the Tower of London was a standout moment, as were our respective wins at Bosworth Battlefield, Roman Vindolanda, The Story of JCB and Triumph Factory Visitor Experience. The biggest however, would easily be winning the commission to design the Al Salam Palace Museum in Kuwait, transforming a ruined 15,000m2 former royal palace into a new immersive museum and visitor experience, that tells the 300-year history of Kuwait through the achievements of its 15 rulers.

What do you most enjoy about running your own business?

We have built a great team that works closely together sharing a passion for what we do. This is a super creative industry that combines architectural environments with immersive storytelling about amazing brands or significant events in history. We are very fortunate to do this for a living.

What do you least enjoy?

Tendering for projects is exciting and great when you win, but not so much fun when you don’t!.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

Our work for The D-Day Story in Portsmouth has recently been nominated for European Museum of the Year 2019. This is a huge acknowledgement for our studio and our client’s ambition. If we won, it would be a great honour, and an illustration for where we stand, right at the top of this industry.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

I think, like every business in the UK and indeed every person in the UK, we would ask our Governments in Edinburgh and Westminster to resolve the exit from Europe situation. Closer to what we do, I would like to see both Governments recognise how vitally important our nation’s narrative is including our built and natural heritage, to our identities, our attitudes, our cultures and our education.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Each disappointment we have encountered more often than not offers up new opportunities.

How do you relax?

I had my first painting exhibited and sold last year at the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour exhibition at the Scottish National Academy.

Charlie plays the absurd game of golf and drums in an absurd band.