Last week I caught up with London-born illustrator, graphic artist and general music man Mason London to talk about his new clothing line, No Sweats. Having produced artwork for the likes of J Dilla, Bombay Bicycle Club and Madlib to name a few I was really excited to see what Mason has in store for launch.
London-based digital studio, Sennep just celebrated it’s tenth birthday — no small feat in an industry which is constantly changing and pushing what’s possible.
We’re long-standing fans of the studio‘s work here at FFF. So we caught up with founder Matt Rice, to hear how things have changed over the last decade and learn more about the studio’s work and approach.
Inside the Sennep studio (illustration Nic Tual)
Ahead of the release of their stunning new game Monument Valley, we speak to ustwo‘s Ken Wong about how a project like this comes to fruition. Click through to the post to read the interview in full and get an exclusive chance to sign up for the Monument Valley beta.
Hi Ken, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to our readers?
Howdy! My name is Ken Wong, and I’m a video game artist and designer at ustwo. Last year I made an iPhone game called Hackycat, in Australia. The year before that I art directed a game where Alice battles Wonderland, in Shanghai. This year I’m in London and I’m designing a game about geometry, architecture and forgiveness.
What can you tell us about your latest project Monument Valley?
Monument Valley originated from wanting to make a game where architecture was the main character. It’s a surreal exploration through fantastical architecture and impossible geometry where the player guides Ida through mysterious monuments, uncovering hidden paths, unfolding optical illusions and outsmarting the enigmatic Crow People.
Monument Valley is a beautiful, exploratory experience, somewhere between exploring a toyshop and reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
In preparation of the OFFF digital media festival in May 2014 we are launching a series of interviews with selected speakers from the event. To kick things off we spoke to OFFF founder Héctor Ayuso about some of the challenges he faced organising the festival.
Hello Héctor, would you mind briefly introducing yourself to our readers.
Introducing yourself must be the trickiest thing you could do, but well I’m Héctor Ayuso, I’m a curator and OFFF Festival’s founder and director, also known for a huge Sigur Ros fanatic that owns thousands of blu-rays back at home. Hope that sums it up!
I read somewhere that you came up with the idea for the OFFF and launched it that same day. What was the biggest challenge organising that first event?
That is true, and I can never count the times someone has asked me this question and I really hope every time my answer will influence most of the people out there with a strong passion to do something. Basically the biggest challenge I have ever faced is the fact that I had no previous experiences in such things and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a passion to do create something new, a place where people could gather, meet and get inspired by the awesome talents we have out there. I would say that I probably lost a lot of money in my first event, but that only taught me something new every year. And once you have a strong will to do something, you fall, you pick yourself up and you basically learn how to do it better each time.
We’re all glad you persisted! What would your one piece of advice be to someone who is thinking of organising a talk or event.
If you want to do something, just do it, go all the way till the end until you achieve that goal. And that’s the main reason OFFF has been going on for its 14th edition now. Another important piece of advice: don’t think about the event’s profits, don’t organise something focusing on the money that you will make or any such thing. Focus on your audience and give them something that will change their life and this will give you the opportunity of success.
In our latest Freunde von Freunden interview we gain a rare glimpse into the lives of Singapore contemporary art & design collective PHUNK. Alvin Tan, Jackson Tan, Melvin Chee and William Chan met during their studies at LASALLE College of the Arts and in 1994 PhunkStudio was formed. Sharing one Macintosh in a rented space in Chinatown, the beginnings were rudimentary to say the least. Without anything other than a dream, they drew on each other’s friendship and creative talents to reach for the skies.
Emerging from a creative climate that could best be described as a cultural desert, like their hometown of Singapore, this group have grown, evolved and diversified to seek out new opportunities and create new histories. PHUNK represent a new generation of free-thinkers who are forging new professional pathways. Embracing collaboration, and the, ‘creative meeting of the minds’, their joint efforts have resulted in the establishment of a studio and gallery that works with a range of artists and brands to produce innovative projects.
Each member maintains a different day job while working simultaneously for the collective that informs their approach to PHUNK. Alvin has his own sunglasses line called Mystic Vintage; Jackson works on branding and curatorial projects for various companies; Melvin produces commissioned paintings; and William runs a motion graphics and film production company. While offering a tour of their studio and gallery, they provide some insights into daily life in Singapore and discuss how their ultimate project is always their next collaboration.
This week we launched out latest interactive masthead collaboration with Jeffrey Bowman. We had a chance to chat to the illustrator and designer, who left the UK for a log cabin in the Norwegian country side, to ask him about his new surroundings and how he had to adapt his working process.
Hi Jeffrey, can you tell us a little about where you are these days and what lead you to Norway.
At the moment I’m based in a place called Hemsedal, which is a mountain village about 4 hours north of Oslo. It’s a pretty incredible place, based around an active outdoor lifestyle. In winter it’s Norway’s snowboard capital and in summer it turns into a hive of outdoor activities from climbing, hiking, fishing, camping, downhill mountain biking and so much more. It’s a super chilled place with a really easy pace of life, which is one of the reasons I ended up here. One of my students from my time at Shillington College lives here, so I came out to visit last summer. I love the mountains and being outdoors, hiking, climbing and snowboarding and the lifestyle that goes with it, so when I came to visit for 3 weeks I fell in love with the place. I was really sad to leave after my trip, it was like I’d found my second home, so I decided that it was a lifestyle I wanted, so packed up and moved here in January. Everything is possible here, in summer the 19 hours of sunlight means you can do so much with each day, we call them ‘double days’. I go to the studio do 5-6 hours of work and then head out to explore. Winter is different the daylight is around 5-6 hours and its down to -25 for a lot of the time so you spend your time between boarding and working. And if I’m honest I really got wore down by the city and the 8-6 everyday, I never felt like I had a life, it got tipped way out of balance, juggling a full-time teaching job and freelance. Plus dealing with the daily encounters of Manchester. I loved my time there and the people I met, but city life can be tough and ugly, so I opted out. I still have dreams or ‘nightmares’ of being back in a city and not being able to get back to Norway haha. At the moment I do feel like I’ll be sticking here for a few years, it’s the right lifestyle for me. I’ve swapped sirens for the sweet bird sounds and the chavs for mountains.
What’s your new work space like?
I work in a log cabin called ‘Igloo’. It’s in the village centre, set up as a shared studio space by Anki Grothe (photographer) and Mari Soderholm (graphic design and former student of mine). It’s a really cool space, it’s as authentic as you can get! I love working down here, I think anyone freelancing needs a space to work, and for me it’s the dream I’ve always had, a cabin tucked away in the mountains. The creative community here is really strong so people come by to work from here a lot, and we have regular exhibitions from local creatives. There is a good sense of community and it’s building stronger as we go.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished the cover of issue 15 of The Albion BMX magazine (it should have been issue 13 but it got put back and added too quite a lot), it’s been quite a ride doing that and I’m super stoked to see it finished. It’s 15 famous BMX spots from around the world made into one crazy ‘dream’ spot! I’m also working on more promo material and branding for Sheffield Uni. Also a range of longboard and decks for a Brazilian skate company and off the back of that I think I’ll be re-branding them too. And I’m also working on a ton of other small branding projects including Sim Warren who is a videographer, working on graphics and branding for his video ’64 Days’ which documents his trip through the national parks of America filming the wildlife and mountains. And as always I have personal projects I’m working on, one of which i’m currently in talks with to produce a book all being well.
We’ve teamed up with Freunde von Freunden to bring you an exclusive look into the lives of creatives from around the world. Starting off with Fons Hickmann, who founded Fons Hickmann m23 in 2001 in Berlin with Bjoern Wolf.
Their work focuses on the design of complex communication systems and is working mainly in the cultural field, ranking among today’s most awarded design studios. The studio lends its expertise to everything related to events, communication and visual identity.
Here’s short excerpt from the interview…
Which clients are your favourite?
I really appreciate clients from the cultural and social sector. Semperoper, theatre festivals, music labels, Amnesty International… it is a great gain to work with cultured people who respect and understand what we do. It was a hard road to be where we are now, to be able to choose for whom we want to work for. But the work was worth it and continues to be. Working with equally respected clients means that both sides will profit, be feared, and will learn from each other. For me it is very important to work with people I like. This is a good idea: never work with assholes.
Can you tell us about your journey as a designer that turned you into what you are today?
I don’t consider myself as a designer. I also studied philosophy which still influences me today. During my studies I mainly did artistic work, even though I couldn’t truly handle the etiquette of art and design.
I did my diploma under a painter, Dieter Glasmacher. This man put an immense amount of life into his teaching. He showed me the true importance of passion in work and that one should be willing to burn for it. At the end the medium of expression didn’t matter – I still don’t know how to paint. However, the work needed to express an idea. Something you feel or something that shows a bridge between heart and brain. I underwent this journey until I understood that design was best for my expression. It was so beautiful to realise that people understood what I did. The idea that design is not something hermetical but should communicate with words and prove its relevance.
Of yours, Uwe Loesch also influenced me greatly, under whom I studied in Wupperal. Still to this day he is one of the smartest designer celebrities that I know. That’s how I became a designer.
Do you have a favourite piece of furniture or object in your flat?
I really like my action figurines. The salamander figures come from the shoe store of my parents. As a child I used to play with them in the shop windows. My books are also really important to me, both literature and novels. Books change over the years, they live! Even the stories of a book alter, the content always changes. Just like Heraclitus said, one couldn’t step twice into the same river; for the other waters are ever flowing on to you.
Check out the full interview at Freunde von Freunden.
Ariel Di Lisio, aka Negro™ is a graphic designer from Argentina, specialising on the craft of typography, logos, and print. His work is a fine mix between fresh and modern, always thinking about the functionality and the range of possibilities for the types he creates, showing a great love for shape and geometry. There is nothing he enjoys more than to create his own types, for both personal and commercial projects. He takes deep pleasure in the process, from making decisions about the concept and mood, through the production stage, and then seeing them on their final output.
Hello Ariel, can you tell me a little about Negro™?
Negro™ has been around for approximately 10 years. At first it had a traditional agency format with several people but eventually I decided to work by myself. This allowed me to get back to something that has always been a big itch, which is typography. I needed more time to work in a precise way in the treatment, design and development of fonts.
Today Negro™ divides its time working on design and typography. It specialises in developing Corporate Identity and Typography. Of course typography conforms an important part of my design work; practically all projects are made with my fonts. Negro™ seeks to provide quality design with a high degree of simplicity. I believe in the simple ways of saying things through design, in the right choice of typography, in a tailored colour palette for a project, and a careful respect for white space.
What are you passionate about?
Design and Typography are my main passions. When I speak of passion I’m talking about working on it for hours and hours without ever getting tired. Sometimes I feel lucky to be working for something that really excites me, it is a privilege. Also I love hanging out with friends, playing soccer, going out to eat and see shows.
I know you travel a lot, what do you like about the design culture in Argentina and the other countries you have visited?
I have traveled for work to Chile, Venezuela, México and the United States, also many other countries as tourist. Currently I’m in Buenos Aires, where I live. I like the design culture in Argentina, there is a lot going on all the time: design events, festivals, conferences, etc. It is good to have this kind of events where young designers can learn from the experience of professionals. I think these events are very helpful for the design environment and I like to connect with designer friends and talk about our realities. Besides, I admire many of them.
We were blown away when we saw FFF’s Sean Rees and Purpose colleague Nathan Webb present their work for speech therapy course the McGuire Programme at London’s Point conference. From Sean’s very personal story of recovering from a stutter, to the creative and business challenges of working with a global not-for-profit organisation, we met up with them to find out why the project meant so much, and how they pulled it off.
We caught up with Nick Couch, creator of Open Studio Club and ex-Creative Director at Figtree to pick his brains about the increasing flux in our industry, the impact of freelance, and what it all means for the future of graphic design.
If you travel a lot the ingenius Currency App by Simple Simple will quickly gain a permanent spot on your home screen. It has a beautifully minimal interface for quick access to conversions and with over 160 currencies from all over the world you’ll always be up to date.
I got in touch with Alex Penny, the designer of Currency, to ask him about the project.
Hi Alex, tell us a little about the team behind Currency.
Last summer I contacted developer Matt Davenport to collaborate on some iOS projects. Matt is a developer in Manchester, UK and I’m a designer in New York. We decided to start on something small, and quick to make. So many basic utility apps are available, yet most lack in any thoughtful and useful design. Eventually we decided a simple, well designed currency converter was completely missing from the app store.
What problems where you hoping to solve with a ‘better’ currency app?
Matt and I experimented with different interfaces, and took a break to mull things over. While traveling through France and Switzerland I realized the reoccurring necessity I have for converting multiple currencies while abroad. People traveling are often skipping from country to country, and comparing the conversions between currencies all at once is so helpful.
I love the graphic flags you designed, is there one for every currency?
Yes, the flags were inspired by navy signal flags. I started designing the flags for every currency, then simplified the details to replicate iconic swiss posters. After meticulous illustrating, we had 160 cohesive flags, the centerpiece for Currency.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Alex!
You can download the Currency app from the App Store
Could you sum up in a few words what you do?
We are a graphic design agency that makes beautifully simple work.
Can you tell us a little about the team behind StudioMakgill?
We are currently four permanent staff with a rolling roster of freelancers and interns to help with the workload.
What spurred you on to start your own studio, and how did you make the leap?
This is actually the second agency I have run. I founded Red Design with a friend back in 1996. So the process of setting up StudioMakgill wasn’t scary to me. In between Red Design and StudioMakgill I spent four years working with some great agencies in London and this had really helped shape the kind of agency I wanted to run.
You’re based in Brighton, what influence do you think location has on a studio’s output?
The decision to be in Brighton is because I live down here and I want to have a decent quality of life with my family. StudioMakgill was very nearly based in London, but the thought of being a lifelong commuter was too depressing.
It presents some challenges, but I feel that you really don’t need to be London based to be recognised as a serious agency. I hope that we are proving that to be true.
How do you approach creating ‘beautifully simple work’?
I think firstly it isn’t a completely conscious process. It comes from a desire for and appreciation of simplicity. But there is a process which in itself is actually quite simple. We constantly ask ourselves what is important in a design. What can we get rid of before we compromise the meaning or integrity of that piece.
Do clients ever come to you with something specific in mind?
We don’t take on every project that comes to us. But a client with something in mind can either be a great thing or it can be potentially toxic.
It really depends on so many factors. It requires learning a lot about people and becoming a good judge of character. Experience has really helped here, though taking on the wrong client is a mistake that can still happen. Read more
With Volume 2 of Computer Arts Collections already on the shelves of your local Newsagent for a few weeks now, we caught up with editor Nick Carson & art-director Luke O’Neill to find out about the new series.
FFF: Great work on the first series, how was the feedback from your readers in general?
CA: Feedback has been extremely positive, both to the premium production values and the content itself – particularly the guest-edited Studio Project, which is a really strong USP of the title, and the depth and industry access of the Process section. The Trend Report, another strong USP – produced by a professional creative consultancy on a rolling basis – has stimulated strong opinions on both sides (including on FFF!) – which is exactly our intention. It’s the kind of topic that *should* provoke debate.
FFF: What we’re you able to learn from the first volume and how did this influence the design of the second?
CA: The entire magazine has benefited from a creative overhaul, including a totally new approach to the cover design (complete with luxury soft-touch laminate, on which we worked with finishing specialists Celloglas) and the various internal sections have had a shake-up too to keep things fresh and current.
There are various editorial tweaks – the Trend Report has been adjusted to put greater focus on the smaller, self-contained ‘micro trends’, with more space for larger imagery to show off more inspirational work – and the broader ‘macro trend’ feature is delivered as an update that charts how the style has evolved and developed, and explores how it’s manifested across the different disciplines we’ve covered so far. It’s all about building up an ongoing reference series that studios can continued to dip into and back-reference.
The Industry Focus section has also been reworked as an A5 booklet, illustrated throughout with a Pantone spot-colour and printed on matt art paper for another quality production touch. Editorially, in the first volume we went for a more expansive overview of the whole industry; in the second volume we’re putting sharper focus on a particular field, discipline or issue in a ‘special report’ format, kicking off with branded app design (and we’ll be looking at bespoke typefaces for brands next).
We also made the decision to reduce the total pagination slightly, in return for upping the paper stock considerably – from 90gsm to 130gsm. This included scaling back the Talent Directory at the back from a rather self-indulgent 16 pages to a more sensible five.
Finally, there’s a new regular slot in which a designer introduces the city in which they live and work – all their favourite creative haunts, eateries, places to be inspired, etc, illustrated with plenty of their own photography. It’s the most ‘lifestyley’ piece in the mag, and after a lot of intense, in-depth, investigative content about style, process and creative approach, feels like a nice laid-back way to conclude the mag. We kicked off with Portland; next time it’s Bangkok. We’re hoping it’ll go down well.
FFF: Where there any challenges to face in the design of the second series?
CA: Haha, there was one little production issue, in that we were told that 130gsm was the maximum possible weight that could be web-fed by the printer – but it turned out that we’d pushed it that little bit too far and it jammed the press, shutting it down for a few hours. Still made it to newsstand in time though, fortunately! Subsequent issues are going to be sheet-fed instead to overcome this.
FFF: Have you already selected topics for each issue of the second series? Are we allowed to know what they are?
CA: That one’s easy – the topics are consistent year by year: graphic design, typography, illustration, branding, photography and advertising. The concept is to build an ongoing collection that reviews the 12 months that have passed since the last time we covered that topic, and issues back-reference each other wherever appropriate with this in mind.
FFF: Are there any plans to incorporate the Collection into the CA website in the future or do you see the Collection purely as a printed resource?
CA: Occasional Collection content is made available on the CA site, and we’re sold through there of course (as well as digitally on iPad, Android, Zinio etc) but yes, Collection is designed primarily as a collectable, desirable print title for the studio bookshelf.
Get a copy for your bookshelf at your local bookshop, newsagent or online.
— Positioned as ‘affordable luxury’, the Mama way is a unique mix of warmth, friendliness, communality with chic and eclectic design interiors but with a touch of surreal humour.
The Mama Shelter logo is very bold and unconventional, playing off the values of Mama it’s both warm and cozy but also surreal and surprising, we even hid an egg within the sheltering legs of Mama. This logo has been adapted with a tag to signal each new location.
The messaging and tone of Mama is many different overlapping tones, with exposed concrete walls colliding with graffitied blackboard ceilings and retro artefacts, its unique atmosphere is a combination of relaxed cosiness and an offbeat artist’s commune.
We were briefed to create the identity and all touch points throughout the hotels. We needed something memorable and unusual to reflect the electric nature of Mama Shelter.
For the rest of the items, we had a very ‘non-branding’ attitude from the owner, where each location is to have it’s own version of keycard holders, restaurant menus and do not disturb signs. The items are meant to feel unbranded and ‘found’ so instead of having the logo plastered on everything, we built on the Mama brand through the tone of each objects.
There are multiples of each idea too, so for example there are 8 other chicken keycard holders.
Also we have done some work for Mama Pizzeria, it was a tiny identity for their in house Pizzeria. Mama’s take on the fat jolly cartoon italian chef you normally get on pizzeria’s boxes.
— Thanks Ross!