Public-Library is a cross-disciplinary design studio based in Los Angeles, California and Portland, Oregon. We caught up with Founder & Creative Director, Marshall Rake.
EM Why did you decide to start Public-Library?
MR Ramon and I started Public-Library in 2011 originally as a way to challenge ourselves and each other. We both had day jobs and were working freelance gigs, but for me design was starting to feel a little safe and stale. So having someone to bounce ideas off of and tell you things are horrible or great really allowed us to grow. We are both people who get bored really easily, which doesn’t fit well with the standard design profession. Public-Library is a place where we can be more flexible in the type of projects and types of people we collaborate with.
We tend to experiment a lot with visuals and without a concrete direction those explorations can't be quantified as right or wrong.
EM How the studio work being based across two cities?
MR It takes a lot of communication. Ramon and I are constantly talking to each other through e-mails, phone, Facetime, iMessage, Snapchat, whatever. What is really great about our process is when we begin we aren’t influenced by each other. I can start sketching without seeing what he is doing and reacting to that. It’s kind of like a weird game of telephone.
EM Do you have a process when approaching a new project?
MR We always start with explorations and writing when doing a branding project. Writing has become a very important part of our studio because it gives us something tangible to react against. We tend to experiment a lot with visuals and without a concrete direction those explorations can’t be quantified as right or wrong. By writing a statement of what we believe the brand is, it gives us more control but it also places rules on us which we can then choose to follow or break.
EM Do you find that projects for larger companies like Nike require a different approach to projects for a startup?
MR We always start the same way, what changes would be time allowed for this phase, and the scope in which we explore.
You can't break the Queen's rules.
EM Can you talk about your logo for Benney, and the way it’s executed across the packaging and print?
MR The most interesting thing about the Benney logo is because it includes Royal Warrants (which are issued by Royal families), there are specific guidelines in which they can be used. You can’t break the Queen’s rules. Those warrants have to exist over any other logo, they had to go on top. That obviously was as concrete as a mandate can get. We also inherited the circle mark (which is a GB, the initials of Gerald Benney), and we were tasked with taking these heritage elements and creating something contemporary that reflected where the brand was going without ignoring or becoming stuck in where it had been.
EM How much do you keep up with current design trends?
MR Not too much. There are a few studios we follow (Hort, Brian Roettinger, Experimental Jetset). Lately we have found a lot of inspiration in retail design. The experience of walking into Alexander Wang or Acne Studios in SoHo. Those moments a brand has you in their store they have full control of your senses.
EM Do they influence the work you produce?
MR A little. I think it’s more about process than necessarily the solutions. The way those three designers conduct themselves and run their studios, their own individuals brands.
EM What’s the concept behind your flexible logo for Switzerland?
MR The immediate image when someone is branding anything related to “Switzerland” is that little red cross. We went back to what influences us most in regards to Switzerland, and that’s Swiss type or the International Typographic Style. That movement came from a place that really reflected Switzerland (the country), and Switzerland (the company) as a creative institution, felt ripe to be inspired by this movement.
EM How important is Instagram to you as a studio?
MR Instagram has gotten to (or maybe beyond) the point where it is important to everyone. It’s a company’s most public face. For us it’s an outlet to mix internal projects that a lot of people don’t get to see as well as our final public projects.
EM Which of your projects are you most proud of?
MR In the fall we finished our first large spacial design project for Nike. We hadn’t done a lot of work with environmental or interior design, but this was an opportunity for us to design every detail of a brand experience. What does the furniture look like? What kind of lighting, wood, finishes, way finding, tile, paint, the list goes on and on. We just thought of it as an extension of branding and storytelling. We like to be as uncomfortable as possible, and this project definitely provided it.
EM What is the process like when collaborating with October’s Very Own?
MR That was a really fun project for us. We definitely play a lot of Drake in the studio, so to collaborate with them on typographic and art direction was great.
EM What does 2016 hold for Public-Library?
MR We’re finishing up some large projects from last year, and working on a few big things for our studios 5th anniversary.