Hype Type on their bold new website, living in LA, and working with huge clients as a small studio
Six years after our first interview and alongside the launch of their bold new website, we caught up with Paul Hutchison’s Hype Type Studio to find out what they’ve been working on, what’s changed and what has stayed the same for the Los Angeles-based practice. Having worked with the likes of Sonos, Patagonia, Nike and Therabody as a one, and now two-person team (Design Director Ross Burwell joined in 2021), we spoke about their growth, work-life balance and how they collaborate with huge brands as a small team.
PT Hey Paul & Ross, how are you?
HT All good here, feeling refreshed after the holidays and stoked to kick off the new year with a new site!
PT Congrats on that! Are you relieved to see it go live?
HT Thank you! We have been so busy with client projects the last few years but showed very little new work, so it’s exciting and a relief to feature many previously unseen projects and have the new site live. More recent projects and case studies will be rolling out soon, along with a new Hype Type book and type foundry later this year.
We couldn’t have made it happen without our talented friend/developer, Bryant. He’s always up for a challenge, so it’s been fun to see where our collaborations lead.
We explored a somewhat unconventional, utilitarian approach to the design.
PT Your new site has a bold, interactive and type-driven approach – what led you to pursue that direction?
HT From the start, we knew we wanted to feature a typeface from our type foundry (coming soon), but what drove the bold look was less of an intentional statement and more of an experiment that wound up feeling spot-on for us as a studio. Rather than considering desktop and mobile as two distinct layouts, we explored a somewhat unconventional, utilitarian approach to the design aiming to give (nearly) the exact layout and experience on every screen size. In doing so, everything scales proportionally so that the type is always set the same, no matter the screen size.
As for interaction, we’re always drawn to sites that feel easy to explore without losing your footing, so we came up with the idea of a macro version of a mobile list selector – projects scroll-snap and dynamically open to content. We never want the user to hit a wall, so multiple ways exist to enter, navigate and exit projects. It all sounds straightforward and practical in theory, but our developer may argue otherwise.
PT Since our last interview – all the way back in 2016 – you’ve been joined by another designer, Ross. How did you two first meet, and why did you decide to grow the team after running the studio solo for so long?
PH The projects coming into the studio over the past few years had been getting more extensive in scope. I ran the business, managed the projects, liaised with clients, and did the design work. I had too much on my plate, and as a result, occasionally had to turn down some fun projects and started thinking of hiring someone. Ross had just moved to LA; he was freelancing and reached out to see if I had any opportunities. The timing couldn’t have been better. We met up for lunch and hit it off right away. I hired Ross as a freelancer, and we collaborated on several projects, which was a good test to see how we worked together. We clicked on both a work and personal level, so I was excited to offer him a full-time role, and he became the first Hype Type team member at the start of 2021.
PT What does he bring to the Hype Type team? And how has the running of the studio changed?
PH Having another member on the team has massively helped with the running of the studio; we are able to manage projects, clients, and the business side much better. Of course, there are still some days when it feels like we are juggling a lot, but overall, everything is more streamlined and efficient.
PT What else is new for Hype Type since we last spoke? What projects are you working on these days?
HT Now that the website is live, we will focus on releasing our book and working towards launching our type foundry, Hype Type Type, in the summer. At launch, there will be four font families and a handful of single-style typefaces. We have several other type concepts in the early stages of development, and we will dive back into those once the foundry site is up and running, so it’s looking like a lot of type-related things are on the horizon.
We continue to work on a number of projects and product launches for our long-term clients, Patagonia and Sonos. And at the same time, collaborating to help shape the visual identities of several other companies and brands. It’s too early to get into the details, but we look forward to sharing more on these projects throughout the year.
PT How’s life in LA? What are you currently enjoying outside of the studio?
HT We couldn’t have picked a better place to base the studio. Work-life balance is essential and woven into our studio culture, and we believe feeling fulfilled both in and out of the studio makes for the best work. We are lucky to have the ocean, mountains, and desert so close to Los Angeles. Days typically start with an early morning surf or a bike ride in the mountains. Weekends are often spent in nature, camping, hiking, backpacking, or more surfing.
PT What does your studio set-up look like now?
HT We both live in Los Angeles and work remotely from our studios. We have daily Slack calls in the mornings and will share work and ideas throughout the day. We often get together for face-to-face time or will go for a bike ride into the mountains before work to catch up on things.
Our clients prefer working directly with the people doing the work.
PT You’ve worked with some huge clients like Nike, as well as Patagonia and Sonos that you mentioned. How do these relationships tend to start and maintain? Is it ever challenging to convince brands of this scale to work with you as a small team?
HT We’ve been very fortunate – our projects have all come from friends, word-of-mouth, recommendations, and introductions from people we have previously worked with.
We are in touch with many of our clients daily, and maintaining the relationships feels natural and easy. It’s just the two of us, and from what we’ve found, our clients prefer working directly with the people doing the work. No layers between client and designer simplifies the process. Less opportunity for misinterpretation makes maintaining the relationship much more straightforward. As a bonus, working this way has allowed us to build friendships with many of our clients.
PT What does the future look like for Hype Type? Do you plan on growing the team any further?
HT We don’t have any immediate plans to grow the full-time team, and keeping the studio small allows us to be selective with the projects we take on. The studio’s goal remains the same: to continue making good work for good people.