Never Now is the Melbourne based studio of Australian designer Tristan Ceddia. We caught up with him to learn more about his practice.
Hey Tristan. Can you give us a quick introduction to your studio?
Never Now is me. I started working on commercial projects while I was at design school and things rolled on from there. I was hellbent on learning my own way. I wanted to work on projects that I found inspiring and was hanging out with older friends who ran their own labels and studios, and this looked exciting. Now I work with a network of designers, photographers, artists and developers across a range of independent and commercial clients. I have the flexibility to expand and contract, depending on what is coming through the door. I enjoy the agility of working like this.
About 3 years ago I put together a co-working space on the top floor of a beautiful deco building in the middle of Melbourne’s central business district. Currently we have a really nice a mix of designers and photographers and we all share ideas and work on projects together. It’s a really refreshing and open environment.
A lot of your clients are in the food and music industries. What do you enjoy about working in those areas?
When I was twenty I started working for a friends fashion label which lead to my first freelance job, an album cover for Modular Records. From here I started designing club flyers, and working with friends who had bands and independent labels, which lead to work with major labels.
Music provides such an amazing platform for design, art, photography, film etc. When all the elements are working well together, in any situation, something really great happens.
This year I worked on the Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice album with my friend Danny Cohen. He made this great vice-versa photograph of the artists that split right down the middle which he bought to me for a design concept. We ended up overlaying yellow text and graphics which were hand drawn by Courtney, and made a really nice vinyl package that opens like french doors. I’d never seen that done with vinyl and it was a real kick holding the final product. Vinyl is key for the artists I am lucky enough to work with, so we get to make really beautiful physical records.
And food… when I was in high school I started working as a model maker at an architects office. I learnt about scale and how to draw perspective, so I got a good understanding of how space works. Its exciting designing a restaurant with an architect. Thinking about how you can make a space come alive with different surfaces and materials, how the space flows, and how you can incorporate graphics and signage in a neat (or chaotic) way.
Food has also given me the opportunity to work in neon. The first sign I designed for Shop Ramen became really synonymous with the restaurant and street where it is located. New food clients always comment on the effectiveness of this sign.
“I’ve always enjoyed suburban pizza shop signage and messaging, so I put my own spin on this.”
What is the thinking behind your brand for Primo?
I worked on Primo with my architect friend Emlyn Olaver. We had a really open brief and were given a lot of freedom to create a super exciting space. There’s been this really big Italian food renaissance in Melbourne over the past 5 or so years. Super authentic restaurants, run by a new generation of Italians. The idea was to make Primo feel like an Australian play on Italian culture — a Joint rather than a Ristorante. We came up with the name, Primo, which sat neatly within the Italo-Australian vernacular, and I’ve always enjoyed suburban pizza shop signage and messaging, so I put my own spin on this. The pizza box, the neon signs, the whole project makes me feel really happy.
“I’m really interested in the simplicity of everyday messaging and thinking about the way people and businesses communicate with their public.”
Interesting copywriting is at the forefront of a lot of your projects. Primo and Donut Shop are a prime examples. Can you tell us about your creative process for writing copy?
I love short sharp messaging. Words that fit together neatly, look good and make you smile. The bi-line for Primo — ‘100% All Good’ — is a combination of two slangy Australian terms. It seemed like a casual way to describe good pizza to a friend, and worked well as a phone greeting — ‘Primo, 100% All Good, can I take your order?’.
I’m really interested in the simplicity of everyday messaging and thinking about the way people and businesses communicate with their public. I am constantly taking notes and pictures of signs and graphics that I pass on the street. The more normal, chaotic or naive, the better.
Comparing notes recently with American designer Jonathan Maghen, he used the word vernacular to describe my work. I hadn’t really thought about this term in relation to my own practice, but it totally made sense. For instance, I’m really into the word etcetera (etc.). It’s quite lazy, but I use it all the time, in and out of work. It says so much for three characters and a full stop. Hence ‘Sandwiches Drinks Etc.’ for Hector’s Deli.
Do you create a range of different concepts for a project, or do you know early on what direction you want to take?
I generally work on two to three concepts for a job, depending on the brief, and the budget, and from there I will push for what I feel is the strongest.
A few years back I worked on a brand for a BBQ restaurant, and came up with this idea to crate a mascot — a pig that personified the business name and offering. The original concept showed the pig folding back his side to reveal his spare ribs. This was a play on the classic stolen watches in the waistcoat gag, and formed an open menu in the pigs side, with ribs in place of writing. I was convinced that the idea was brilliant and suggested that the client get a life size pig costume made with an actual menu that would fold out of the side of the pig. The client was convinced that this would be too morbid for their customer. We ended up stripping out the rib reveal, replacing this with a hoof on the hip, which worked well too.
“The Hector’s Deli logo was influenced by former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam’s 1972 political campaign It’s Time.”
What inspired the typography used for Hector’s Deli?
The Hector’s Deli logo was influenced by former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam’s 1972 political campaign It’s Time, lead by Paul Jones (creative director of Hansen-Rubensohn–McCann-
The deli is set amongst houses on a quiet back street in Richmond, an inner suburb of Melbourne. The building is a small, commercial space which no doubt would have been a corner store at some stage. The 1970’s Aussie Milk Bar theme came through naturally and played fairly heavily on the copywriting and overall aesthetic. I had been waiting to find the right project for Gill Sans Ultra Bold Condensed (known intimately as GSUBC) for a really long time, and it fit the bill beautifully for secondary type.
The client has a super strong concept for Hector’s offering — coffee and 5 giant sandwiches that would bust in your hand, which lead to the hand icon. Together with the black Hector’s Deli logo and blocky GSUBC sub text in red and yellow, this came together really nicely as a brand.
Why did you decide to make your ‘Shapes’ book?
I made shapes after looking closely at the letter Q, which is basically a circle with a line over one quarter. I wondered how many other shapes correlated to letters, and made some drawings which turned into a book. I wanted to share the idea with people and use the book to teach my kids about the magic of shapes. Originally I approached each letter as if it were a logo, but decided to strip the graphics back to simple, consistent line drawings so the idea would pull through.
What is your dream project?
This changes all the time. One thing I have always wanted to design is a fruit box or a fruit sticker for a farmer. Something really ordinary and run of the mill. Our building is surrounded by restaurants, and everyday I pass by discarded food and fruit boxes on the street. I find the rudimentary aspect of this kind of design really appealing, and necessary — limited colour palette, illustration and simple messaging — it’s the way I like to design.