Alright Studio on avoiding a house style to focus on working with clients of all shapes and sizes
Based in New York but operating globally, Alright Studio is a “deliberate and dynamic” creative studio with an intentional lack of allegiance to a particular type of design, client or medium; with rebrands for a pizza restaurant, ice cream brand, venture capital firm and philanthropy platform under their belt, to name just a few. We caught up with them to find out more about their background, process and plans.
EM How did you guys meet and decide to start a studio together in 2017?
AS Alright technically started in late 2017 as a formal collaboration between founders (and married partners) Hope and Garrett DeRossett. It quickly expanded to include Ian Hatcher-Williams, a technologist in NYC who now runs a shop called Gardener. At the time, the partnership felt right and our work shifted from a purely graphic and identity practice to a focused digital consultancy – offering detail-oriented design and development services under the same discerning eye. After Alright and Gardener amicably went our separate ways around the middle of 2019, we took some time to regain our footing and centre ourselves a bit, which was right around the time we met Spencer Joynt. Joining as a talented and excitable designer and art director, Spencer really became a catalyst for helping us chase what really felt right to Alright – which, ironically, was to zoom back out in scope and revert back to a more full-service agency. But the group didn’t feel complete yet, and when Spencer introduced us to friend and web developer Tucker Schoos everything clicked: despite all four of us being incredibly multidisciplinary at heart, this lineup really allows us to focus on what each of us individually do best from organisation to strategy to design to launch.
EM Your site mentions that you started the studio after becoming disillusioned with the fast-paced creative landscape. How have you countered and made sure you avoid those problems in your own practice?
AS It really all begins with intention. We’ve chosen to form the studio around what we believe can make for a sustainable, efficient agency model. This often takes the form of being a little on the choosier side with our clients, but it also extends to our process and how we structure our time. For example, we’ve built many websites in our day – enough to know where we can cut corners, and where we can’t – and if the project has unrealistic demands that can’t reasonably be met, we speak up and provide solutions. We believe it’s more responsible to communicate and set guardrails for a successful engagement – and from day one, we don’t want anything to get in the way of doing the best work possible: not timelines, not egos, and certainly not peer pressure.
We don’t want anything to get in the way of doing the best work possible.
EM You describe yourselves as a ‘creative & technology office.’ What role do new technologies play in your practice and process?
AS We’re thoughtful about how we use and interact with technology in a few different ways. One, we always follow the best idea wherever it leads – whether it be a book, a website, or beyond. We’ve worked on everything from straightforward e-commerce builds to fully autonomous education platforms, and we treat each as a new chance to expand our knowledge. Beyond that, we task ourselves with using technology in non-technical, or at least easily digestible ways, and our goal with everything we touch is to hand it back to our clients in a way that will allow them to maintain what we’ve worked on together, ideally, in perpetuity. Whether that’s by building robust content management systems, putting together documentation of our work, toolkits, coordination with in-house teams and other agencies, or otherwise. We love the design and tech community that we’ve come up with here in NYC, as well. We make a point of being aware of the choices other people are making, and using that to continuously inform our process. It’s important to us that we balance the creative process with the often binary requirements of tech platforms, i.e. always aligning our design and content choices to what and how we’re building.
EM Was it always your intention to work with such a range of clients, from food to finance, for example?
AS Absolutely. It was the primary reason we opened the doors, and constantly plays into how we choose new business. While we all have our strong suits and passions, variety is what makes our jobs worthwhile and fun. Moreover, we really pride ourselves on our ability to work across industries and mediums. It keeps the work fresh, and our perspectives varied.
EM Who, or what industry, would you love to work with?
AS Anything film, anything music, anything restaurant. But, at the end of the day, if it’s something we’ve never encountered before, regardless of the industry, we’re going to be interested.
Variety is what makes our jobs worthwhile and fun.
EM How would you describe Alright Studio’s DNA?
AS Alright is a tight-knit group of very different people with a common focus of making really, really good work. We’re small, but we’re also big. At any given time the studio is between 10-15 people, including the full-time staff and contractors. This allows us to put the right people on the right projects, scaling up or down based on the needs of the client. One thing we always say is that we don’t have a house style or an allegiance to medium or method. Meaning we work across disciplines and make a point of evolving our work from project to project.
EM Do you have a project that you think best reflects that DNA?
AS Our identity and website for Canopy may be one of the best examples of this. We were brought in from the moment of conception, working with the founder on every facet of the brand from naming all the way up until public launch. We got to touch the copywriting, the brand, the tech, and even an impromptu photoshoot in upstate New York on a shoestring budget. They’re a small, smart team which we feel a certain kinship with, as well as a group that is hyper-focused on genuinely making the world a better place.
They’re surprised that all of this varied work is coming out of one small studio.
EM Working across multiple disciplines, do you look to hire people that have multiple skill sets, or specialise?
AS We really look for individuals that are able to cross genres of work, which applies to anyone we bring on. We’ve been fortunate over our short careers to put out a catalogue of work that has no singular sensibility or style – which can sometimes be off-putting to both clients and other folks in the industry because they’re surprised that all of this varied work is coming out of one small studio. But, it’s all very deliberate. Working in this way means we’re able to span a huge variety of industries and clients. As a web developer with us, you might work on a Shopify store one day and a super interactive site for a musician the next. Our designers need to be excellent writers and speakers to get their ideas across, and our project manager is just as discerning about the execution and aesthetics of a project as the creative directors are. To remain small, it’s really important that everyone who is a part of the studio is able to do a few things.
EM What have you found to be the key to creating a positive working environment for a small team?
AS Our team structure is intentionally flexible and inclusive, and since we work with a wide variety of folks from full-time to freelance, we’re able to pull together the right team members for the right projects. We really make it a point to take the time to understand individual strengths and celebrate those differences – and give people the opportunity to do more of what they’re interested in. Also: a flexible WFH policy and a fairly liberal stance on wine.
EM A lack of house style, as mentioned earlier, must mean a wide variety of influences. Who or what do you tend to look to for inspiration?
AS As our work is very often rendered digitally, we make it a point to draw on physical objects and other forms of media for inspiration. We’d be remiss to pretend that we aren’t looking at all the cool websites and branding projects from our peers, but in some cases, we might be just as influenced while designing a website by an issue of Sneeze Magazine as we are by something more obviously related to the project at hand.
EM What are you looking forward to over the rest of the year?
AS We’ve got a really good split of work in the shop right now, ranging from more consumer organizations like Ghia, Two Robbers, and Noom, to nonprofit-facing orgs like Overflow and Art Start, to cultural clients such as Denzel Curry, Love Injection, and Parquet Courts. We’re also hyper-focused on getting our new portfolio site up around the end of summer – and, of course, we’re taking a two-week break at the end of August to rest up and experience the world a bit.