Our Place — Interview
Interview with London based design studio Our Place.
Dennis Moya: Hello Ted Heffernan, Alex Gross and Rifke Sadleir, how are you?
Hi! We’re good thanks. Really busy. Alex is about to go on holiday, and we’ve been working hard on some really exciting projects we’ll be able to share soon!
DM: Can you introduce yourselves?
Ted and Alex : We co-founded the studio with each other. Also with us is Rifke who recently joined OP as our designer and developer.
DM: How did you come to start up the studio?
AG: Whilst we were studying at University, we started working on a couple of freelance projects together. We decided that it would be great to be able to work for ourselves, so we managed to get a few more jobs and saved up the money to start renting a space. Now we’re in our fourth year as a studio.
TH: Yeah, it was a natural progression from University… we jumped into things pretty quickly. At the time we didn’t think it was much of a risk as we didn’t have full time jobs to give up. We felt like we should give it a shot because we both shared the same interests and worked well together. We exhausted all of our contacts to get the work in, our main priority was (and still is) to build our portfolio. We didn’t have years of experience working in studios so we learnt a lot as we progressed, naturally there’ve been some mistakes on the way but it was a case of learning things as we go. We see this as a positive thing, and over time we’ve built up some great relationships with our clients, other designers and studios over the past few years, many of whom we’re still working with.
DM: Where does your interest in design come from?
TH: For me, skateboarding is a big influence. I made skate edits when I was younger and loved the whole scene – board graphics, the visuals, the clothing, the music. There is also an overlap between skateboarding and graffiti – the music, being in London, etc. We both grew up in London so we’re into the same stuff. The city itself has always been a major part in influencing both of our tastes, especially from a music perspective.
AG: Music definitely helped spark my interest in design – through both record sleeves and posters. It was something I wanted to be involved with pretty early on, and now a lot of our work is within the music industry. I was also into graffiti when I was younger, and although I was never any good, it got me into typography and naturally pushed me towards type design – another big part of our studio output.
RS: I originally wanted to be an illustrator which was taught alongside graphic design at Brighton. This led me to take a strong interest in typography, so I ended up switching courses a few months in, eventually developing more of an interest in code and web-based work.
DM: Can you tell us more about the Left Alone Zine?
AG: The Left Alone zine is something I started to run alongside the events I put on with my good friend Ashton Holland. The events have been going for a few years now and we wanted to expand it into something physical. Both Ashton and I have always loved old punk / diy zines and felt with the artists we book, we had the content waiting – so put together some interviews with the help of a couple of friends and we got going on the design side. We also invited the artists we featured to record a mix which comes on a cassette packaged with the zine. Our next issue will be coming out either the end of this year / early 2018.
DM: What was the idea behind the Contra website?
AG: Contra is an upcoming publication (Issue One will be out in November) exploring the relationship between art and conflict, which we’re working on collaboratively with our friend Scarlet Evans. With their first issue being themed around Displacement – the site was a typographic response to the subject.
RS: This decision came from setting ourselves a strict rule— we decided to keep the site entirely typographic to avoid placing any bias on the subject matter, or detracting from the copy. The restrictions this rule placed on us informed our need to reflect the theme of ‘displacement’ purely through graphical means, resulting in our semi-abstract interpretation. Using the type driven layout was also an opportunity to introduce Contra’s brand typeface which Alex has drawn for the project.
TH: A lot of the work we do include bespoke typefaces. We like to be able to communicate an identity through letterforms and typographic treatment. Alongside the website we have been working on a series of posters and promotional collateral in the lead up to the launch.
DM: How do you feel about the current design scene in London?
TH: It’s great! London is a very active city, there are loads of book fairs and exhibitions popping up all over the place. It’s nice for us because we get the opportunity to work with other small studios and meet other designers. London is a huge city, and within that you get a variety of microcosms: small galleries hosting talks, book fairs, workshops, music events etc. Where we are, in Hackney Wick, there is a small design community which it’s nice to be part of. Most the studios are small, and similarly to us, figuring it out as they go along: it’s a nice shift away from the design scene being dominated from the major players.
RS: I’m originally from a small town near Bristol, and up until several months ago, I was living in Brighton, so London is still relatively new to me! I’m really enjoying it—I think that being surrounded by a busy and talented creative community is really important in terms of keeping yourself motivated to produce work. With all of us, it’s important that we have our own projects running alongside the work we do at OP. There’s a lot of people about, so it’s good to be able to discuss new projects with the people around us.
OP: The small building we work in is full of designers, architects, publishers etc. many of who we work with. The reality of sharing a building with a whole load of creatives are the long email chains about who didn’t lock the back door, but then being able to freely chat to people and discuss each others projects, as well as having a beer at the end of the week, makes for a great environment to work in.