ATOMHAWK'S founder and director, Ron Ashtiani, set up the creative design agency in 2009 with three other artists following the demise of Midway Games where Ron had previously been Art Director.

Their aim was to provide outstanding digital art and design for the video games and digital media industries and to challenge the way that creative services within those industries were being delivered. Since then the company has been flying high working with global companies such as Warner Brothers, Sony and Marvel. We caught up with the team at their office in Gateshead.

What drew you to base your office in Gateshead?

We had great support from Gateshead Council in providing us with affordable office space and access to the finance we needed to get out business off the ground.

What do you specialise in?

We specialise in creating digital art and design for the entertainment industry, from games, film and TV to theme parks. We work with our clients to create ideas for new worlds and characters then bring them to life through art, design and animation.

What makes you stand out from competitors?

We have a team of highly skilled artists and designers drawn from across the world who all work in house together in our studios in Gateshead and Vancouver. We also have a brilliant production team who help to facilitate world-class work and deliver an outstanding service to our clients, meaning we’re able to sustain long-term relationships and retain our reputation for being a high-quality service provider.

Do you have any exciting news to tell?

We’ve recently been listed in Creative England’s CE50 list of the best up and coming, innovative and disruptive companies in films games and digital tech as well as being nominated for a games industry Develop Award for Best Visual Outsourcer. We’re also proud to be involved in the 2018 Great Exhibition of the North with some of our artwork being exhibited at the Great North Museum: Hancock as well as our Founder/Director Ron Ashtiani speaking at the museum about our work on Guardians of the Galaxy.

What are your thoughts on PROTO, the new R+D Centre for Emerging Tech in Gateshead?

We’re excited to see how PROTO will impact on the growing digital and creative sector in the North East and look forward to seeing some innovative and exciting new projects being developed so close to our own home.

How (if at all) have Gateshead Council supported your business?

Gateshead Council supported Atomhawk in getting started as a small start-up and has continued to aid the company’s growth by allowing us to take on increasingly more space within the Northern Design Centre and helping us to create a positive and personalised working environment for our team.

What is a common misperception about the North-East?

I think a common misconception is that the region is stuck in a past that was wholly reliant on industries like mining and manufacturing when the reality is that there’s a growing number of digital, tech and creative companies who’re really looking to the future and changing the culture and expectations of what the North-East can offer.


Favourite North-East building and why?

I really love Cragside, the home of William George Armstrong and now a National Trust building. He was a man ahead of his time and the interesting engineering solutions he had built into the house are really inspiring.
What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

My first paid job was a paper round when I was 14, then I was a relief manager for the Co-op while I studied. I think it was paid £4.50 an hour. My first proper job was as an Artist and Animator in Leeds (1997) and I was paid £11k a year.

What is the worst job you’ve had?

I did a short stint in telesales when I was 18; I lasted two days before getting up and leaving without a word. I learned that is not the way to sell something.
What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?
Fish pie – about the only recipe I know off by heart.

What would your superpower be?

Insight like Charles Xavier from the X-Men.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.

Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Alanis Morissette and Bob Marley. Should be an interesting mix.

Most expensive thing you’ve bought – other than car or house – and how much?

I am not that big a spender surprisingly; that’s what growing up in Yorkshire does to a man.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

I avoid Twitter; I think social media is ruining society and yet is a necessary outlet for business marketing. Atomhawk is very active on social media but personally I only use Facebook to stay in touch with friends.

Favourite book?

“The Heart Goes Last” by Margret Atwood

When did you last cry?

I got a bit of “hot eye” when I read that those Thai boys had been rescued and that all those people from nations across the world had pulled together with a single purpose of saving them.

Greatest achievement?

I suffer from depression but I haven’t let it beat me yet and hopefully never will.

What’s the best piece of advice in business you’ve ever been given?

Treat everyone with respect, from the cleaner to HM the Queen.

Favourite animal and why

I love bears, mainly because they are a bit like me. Generally okay unless they are hungry.

Most famous person on your mobile phone

I don’t know any famous people.

What was the last band you saw live?

It was my mate Pete’s band Vendetta in Trillians (Newcastle) about five years ago.
Describe a perfect night in

House party with my friends and their families.

In another life I would be...

An explorer.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

Charlie Sheen.

What irritates you?

People who don’t consider how their actions affect others.

What’s your secret talent?

I am a pretty reasonable DIY mechanic and have built my own track cars and an engine. My Dad gave me a 1972 VW Beetle when I was aged 16 and I got into mechanics out of necessity because I didn’t have the money to pay someone to fix it.