Mirella Arapian details the process behind Vertigo's relaunch as purpose-driven design studio Mek
Having realised their name no longer aligned with their people and planet-focused vision, Melbourne-based studio Vertigo relaunched as Mek in the final stages of 2020. To find out more about the new name, as well as the process behind it, we caught up with Creative Director Mirella Arapian.
EM How long have you been thinking about renaming and rebranding the studio?
MA A couple of years now. We had outgrown Vertigo – the name and brand weren’t aligning with our vision and the work we wanted to be doing. After seven years it was time to make a change and own who we are, which is strongly connected to the values we uphold in our personal lives. As a vegan and animal activist, I always thought that would be off-putting to non-vegan clients and projects, but thankfully so far the rebrand has had the opposite effect. While we don’t exclusively work with vegan companies, having a defined brand that encompasses the bigger picture has now given us the confidence and push we needed to take the business to the next level and work with people who share similar values. Also, there wasn’t really anything differentiating us from all the other design studios out there. We wanted to have our own unique point of difference and we’re super happy we’ve achieved that with Mek.
EM Did the name come naturally or was it the result of a process?
MA It came naturally. I knew I wanted the new name to represent or reference some kind of connection with people and the planet, and for it to have one non-ubiquitous syllable. I researched spiritual and natural words which led to some interesting Buddhist meanings but none of us are Buddhist so it wasn’t appropriate. One day I was talking with my mum on the phone (in our native language Armenian) and she couldn’t hear me for a second so I repeated myself, “mek, MEK!”. Later that day ‘mek’ randomly popped into my head, and the rest is history. Mek is Armenian for ‘one’. One people, one planet.
After seven years it was time to make a change and own who we are.
EM Why was it important to you to reference your Armenian heritage in the new name?
MA It wasn’t important or even a consideration – what mattered was that the name was short, simple, unique, memorable, and had a strong correlation to the vision of the studio and the ethos of the new brand. We definitely hit the jackpot with Mek and don’t have to worry about cultural appropriation.
EM Other than the name, have there been any other changes?
MA Yes, many. We rebranded from the inside out. Everything from brand strategy and brand identity, vision and mission, messaging and positioning, to clients and projects, website and social media, content strategy and marketing. It took a very long time and of course, as designers, we’re our own worst clients but we’re very proud of the outcome and excited for what the future holds.
We hope it inspires people to walk their talk and forge their own path.
EM What is the thinking behind the design of your new symbol?
MA The symbol represents a combination of the Armenian eternity sign and circularity. The eternity sign is an ancient Armenian symbol and a symbol of the national identity of the Armenian people. It has eight curves as eight is the number for revival, rebirth, and recurrence (our rebrand). In a circularity context, it represents reduce, reuse, recycle, remake, and rethink, which embody the concept of circular design and economy (our ethos).
EM What would you like people to take away from the rebrand?
MA We hope it inspires people to walk their talk and forge their own path. To determine their values and live by them. To consider the choices they make and how those choices affect the environment, humans and non-humans alike. To inspire others to do the same.
EM Do you have a project that you feel best defines the new direction of the studio?
MA To be honest, all of them, but if we had to pick one it would be Present Company Included. Not only is it functional and beautiful (if we do say so ourselves), it encompasses all of our brand ethos. Ethicality: vegan food with a transparent supply chain and no exploitation of animals or workers. Community: bringing people together to strengthen community ties and form new friendships. Sustainability: seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers or purchased in bulk with minimal to zero waste, recycled papers with plant-based inks for menus and packaging, leftovers donated to a local shelter or composted.
While our projects vary in client and scope, they’re all grounded in purpose. For us, that’s what design is all about.