StudioSmall is a creative studio based in London. Check out our catch up with Partner & Creative Director, David Hitner below.
Congratulations on recently celebrating your tenth year of collaboration with Margaret Howell. How did that relationship get started and how has it developed over the years?
When we established the agency one of our first clients was Anglepoise Lights. Margaret Howell is a great admirer of mid-century British product design and held an exhibition on Anglepoise at her Wigmore Street shop in London. Following this Margaret contacted us as she liked the design work we had undertaken for them. Our first project was the design of a calendar based on Span Housing, the subject of their next exhibition.
Following this they asked if we would work with them on a more formal basis to produce all their communications from look books, product branding, invitations, exhibition design all the way down to graphics within their shops.
Of the projects you’ve collaborated with them on, is there one you’re most proud of?
The website and digital experience of Margaret Howell is one of the projects we are proud of. Margaret Howell was not an early adopter of digital so when they looked to go online it was important that we reflected the same experience a customer would have walking into one of her shops; arrive at the site, browse the brand and then go to make a purchase rather than screaming shop at the earliest possible opportunity. With digital it is easy for brands to lose their personality as the medium pushes them to behave in a certain way. Our aim is always to produce websites that reflect the client rather than fitting them into a cookie cutter template.
Another area of work we have produced for Margaret which we are proud of are the calendar designs, each year Margaret selects a theme which is a personal interest and our challenge is to make each design feel different but remain on brand and within the same format. As fabric and make are integral to the Margaret Howell products, we look to reflect this in our choices of material and production. Our show invitation designs communicate this when we may only have a fabric swatch or key colour from the collection to work from.
How important is collaboration in forming a long-term partnership with a client?
Collaboration is key, building up a relationship and understanding is the best way to produce good work that is right for a client. We feel our job is not to project our personality in the work but communicate the personality of the client which can only come through collaboration. Through this we have been fortunate to have maintained long relationships with most of our clients.
Why did you decide to collaborate with photographer Mark Sanders to celebrate the studio’s tenth anniversary?
We had worked with Mark on a few projects and really like how he sees the world. Over the years he has been taking personal images which he had been collating into Moleskine diaries. One day he came to us to see if we felt that anyone would be interested in seeing them. At the same time myself and Guy had been thinking about ways to mark our tenth year in business that wasn't solely focused on the output of the studio over this time. We thought it would be a great idea to curate and stage an exhibition as it would be of interest to both the industry and our clients. We hope this will be the start of future collaboration where we partner with fellow creatives to highlight their personal non-commissioned work.
How have you seen the studio change and progress since you started?
Experience makes you become more focused and understand what is appropriate for a client and a project.
Employing the right designers and staff to compliment myself and Guy, they bring their own point of view which has been key to how the studio has developed over the years.
As the studio has grown we have been mindful to keep a good mix of work across different disciplines, allowing us to work for all types of clients from established brands to small businesses.
It is important to have different perspectives and experiences of working in one area that can feed into work for another client in a different area.
All your projects are presented with consistently clean and contemporary photography and art direction. Do you believe that part of the project is just as important as the design work itself?
It is all the design, the layout, the image, the words, the execution. You cannot consider any element in isolation because they all have to work together and communicate the message.
Where does your inspiration come from, outside of graphic design?
The usual places; photography, art, architecture, travel, family and friends.
Do you think it’s essential for a design studio to be active on social media in this day and age?
Not essential, it depends on whether it is suitable for them and their client audience.
What do you look for in a young designer, fresh out of university?
Good understanding of typography, ideas and experimentation. For graduates it is important for them to use their time to try out ideas and executions which don't mirror what is going on within the industry. Without a strong idea behind a piece of work it is effectively wallpaper no matter how slick, polished or well executed it is.
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