Fuzzco is a North American creative studio with offices in Charleston and Portland. We recently caught up with Helen Rice, who is one of their Co-Founders and Creative Directors, to talk about a few of their projects.
What makes Fuzzco Fuzzco?
A lot of what makes Fuzzco Fuzzco is the lens through which we see the world and how we see our work fitting into it. We’re obsessed with creating considered, distinct experiences — from brand design to interior design to digital design to physical product design. Nothing is a formula and everything is open to interpretation. As people, we’re curious, determined and resilient. We’re also inherently entrepreneurial and bring that perspective and experience to everything we do.
With your two studios being located on opposite coasts of the US, what is the working relationship like between them?
The offices are in constant communication, yet operate semi-autonomously. We share the same values and processes. Each project is owned by one office, but that office will often pull the other office in to collaborate or review the work.
Josh (who runs the Charleston team) and Ann (who runs the Portland team) work together very closely and their camaraderie and intensity are what really keeps the business humming. The culture of the offices can be described as twins who’ve recently gone to different colleges — we’re so similar but we’ve each got our own vibes. I think all of us feel an admiration for the office on the other coast. We don’t know what each other ate for lunch every day, but we’re always hanging out on Slack, video chats, company retreats, etc so things always feel natural and friendly.
You guys seem like you’re always having fun and expressing yourself. The playfulness of your website is a great example of that. How important is it to not take yourselves too seriously sometimes?
Very important! I think we’re trying to create the world that we want to live in. We’re generally very optimistic, happy people and that is reflected in the work that we do. We often say that we take our work very seriously but not ourselves which is true. It can be hard to make playful and polished work and the process can be rigorous but it’s always rewarding.
We actively try to take an unbiased approach to our work — importantly, not taking ourselves too seriously makes us better listeners. I think we’ve had a lot of success but we still feel like we have so much to learn and so much to experience.
What was the process like for art directing and shooting the new photography for FIG?
Shooting FIG was an event! We spent time with the team at FIG before the shoot to schedule everything we’d be shooting down to the minute. The whole kitchen crew was on hand and made almost everything on the menu. Plates and drinks came out right on cue. We moved between several environments in the restaurant to capture different subjects and the changing natural light.
We discussed the style of the shoot beforehand and looked at inspiration to pinpoint the mood. It was important that the photos accurately reflected the dining experience. FIG is all about quality of ingredients and sincere, smart service with no frills. For example, they don’t iron their white tablecloths. We ended up shooting 5,439 photos and edited them down to the very best 60.
Which of your projects are you most proud of?
I have to divide my answer into two parts — internal and client projects.
We’ve always had a love of architecture, interior design, furniture and objects and we’ve been able to manifest those interests in a couple of side projects. We started Serious Buildings as a way to catalog our own real estate development projects over the years. We’re working on two projects right now that we’re really excited about. One of them will be a renovation of a building built in 1790 that will house our new office and home in Charleston. We’ll also install (and name and brand) a little market in the building that will sell fresh produce, flowers, wine, beer, pantry goods, packaged food items and coffee. The second project I can’t talk about yet — I don’t want to jinx it. I’m having a great time collecting inspiration on the Serious Buildings Instagram if you want to follow along.
I’m also really proud of Pretend Store. We’ve made a lot of things I never thought we’d have the opportunity to make and it’s been a fun, and ongoing, challenge to turn it into a self-sustaining business.
It’s so hard picking favourite client work! I love so many of our projects. You asked about AIR Serenbe which was certainly a highlight. I’m really happy with how that identity system came together. It’s so flexible and easy for the client to use successfully. I love following what they’re up to and how they’re extending the brand.
An example of something small but meaningful is something we’re starting to do more of which is content creation. We offer photography and video and we create visuals and strategy for social media and blogs. For example, we created a bunch of Instagram post templates for Montessorium and Primary to help them create more consistent feeds that I think turned out really well. They were a dream to work with and were great partners throughout the process.
Then of course we’re super proud of all of the work we’ve done over the years for MailChimp, Mohawk General Store’s website, we did this dope stop motion animation for Etsy that no one has seen, all of our short videos for Bonobos, our collaborations with Jeni’s Ice Creams, the Bike Law branding, it was a long time ago but we made a pretty great website for Mario Testino, Death to Stock, Trends on Trends, Collective Retreats, Palace, the Candlefish work… I could go on.
The Coast Brewing identity uses a fluid approach with multiple logos. What do you feel holds it all together?
We think that some brands can benefit from a logo system that is built around a concept or design formula rather than a singular logo expression. For Coast, we chose a distinct typeface, a palette of mostly blues and created shapes with the text that referenced nautical themes. The diversity of the system lets them choose the shape that best fits the purpose or space. It also keeps things interesting not only for consumers but also for the folks at Coast.
What qualities does a designer need to work at Fuzzco?
We look for designers with distinct design sensibilities who share our interest in the world beyond design. We have an intuitive, iterative internal critique process that requires a willingness to experiment and push past comfort zones. We look for thoughtful designers with excellent communication skills and positive, energetic dispositions — people who have our back, stick around to make sure things get done right, people who really care.
What’s on the cards for the rest of 2017?
We’re working on a bunch of cool projects including several for the Bezos Family Foundation, Google, University of South Carolina, Flatiron, Tide, MailChimp and a bunch of awesome local companies and startups.
We’ll be spending more time on Serious Buildings, working on some bigger photo and video shoots, new products for Pretend Store, drawing new fonts, designing furniture for Portland, renovating our Charleston office, growing our team little by little and our company retreat.
What did you think of the interview?