All Purpose detail changing their name from Our Place after six years in the industry
After six years in the industry as Our Place, London-based duo Alex Gross and Ted Heffernan have decided to relaunch their design practice as All Purpose; signalling a refreshed and exciting new direction for 2021. We had a chat with them both to find out the details behind their decision.
EM What triggered the name change?
AP It’s something we’ve been considering for a long time… probably a year and a half or so. It stemmed from a few things, mainly we felt that we’d outgrown Our Place – we started the studio fresh out of university back in 2014, the name felt associated to that time and we’ve come such a long way since then. With everything going on this year it really pushed us to reflect and invest more into strategy and direction for the studio.
We’d also got into a bit of a rut in updating and showcasing our work because we’d be releasing it under an entity that we no longer felt represented us, which was a difficult situation to be in.
We let that build-up, and a lot of the work you’ll see on the new site is from the past couple of years. There’s so much more in the pipeline that we can’t wait to share too!
EM Did ‘All Purpose’ come naturally or was it the result of a process?
AP It was definitely a process and it took us a long time to get there, adding names to a growing list on the studio wall. One morning deep in lockdown we had a group call and discussed all the names to date. We’d had MULTI PURPOSE listed from months back but the whole ‘multidisciplinary’ bit threw us but this put us on the idea of the name being part of everyone’s vernacular – it’s got a sense of familiarity and clarity to it. We took this one step further and landed on ALL PURPOSE. We were all so eager to get something out we pretty much made the decision there and then and got straight to work. It felt right… some times these things just stick.
It was definitely a process and it took us a long time to get there.
EM What would you like people to understand about your studio as a result of the new name?
AP Our work is opening up to wider possibilities and offering a more rounded service, not just graphic design, we wanted to capture this flexible approach to projects and clients we work with which resonated well with the new name. We’re taking it up a gear, to grow both in the scale of projects and clients, saying that we’ve always wanted to keep a small core team so we’re always hands-on as directors, working directly with our clients on projects.
EM Do you have a dream client?
AP Difficult question… nothing too specific, there a lot we would love to work on. The nature of what we do is about people and what’s most exciting is how they interact with a publication, a digital platform, a product – ultimately projects that incorporate as much of this as possible such as public spaces: galleries, hospitality… and of course moving towards larger-scale fashion and music-based work.
EM What have been your greatest lessons since you started out?
AP We started pretty young for a studio, so there was a lot to learn. Most importantly navigating clients, behaviour and communicating our ideas. It can be so difficult to gauge the scope of a project from the start, quoting up, over-delivering and sticking to proposals has to be the biggest journey. There’s also of course learning how to run a business. When we started out, we hadn’t really considered the inner workings of running a studio and just wanted to get ourselves out there and into the industry – it was perhaps somewhat naive but we managed to make it work! We’ve got our fair share of horror stories from over the years, but none of that with ALL PURPOSE…
EM Has there been a structural or procedural change alongside the name change?
AP Not so much structural, but we’re definitely offering more as a studio… approaching projects more holistically. As we grew, we began offering more than just design to our clients, often working on the strategic side, as well as taking a more directorial role whether that be art direction for imagery or brand development generally. The whole rebrand really just goes hand in hand with our attitudes towards working now… it’s much more mature and conversational. We generally like to avoid the word collaborative, but our approach to working with clients is just that. We think a big part of this is working with clients we see eye to eye with and like what they’re doing. We like to get more involved than just delivering what’s required and saying goodbye, which was often the case with early Our Place projects. We’re in it for the long haul and prefer to develop projects over time, building on working relationships.
We wanted more character and personality.
EM What’s the thinking behind having 22 logos?
AP As we’re sure many people reading this article will know, branding ‘yourself’ or your own business is always tricky… over time we’ve been going simpler and simpler with our identity, stripping it all back and felt that although it looked good, it didn’t feel like us as a studio. We wanted more character and personality so took a more freeform approach and had some fun messing around with all sorts of ideas. We’re not going to stop at 22…
We can both get bored of things pretty quickly… this infinite number of logos both means if we get tired of one, we can retire it and replace with something newer… and also gives us something to do if we need to get out of a creative block! We rarely get a chance to draw lettering like that, as it’s quite different to what people know us for, so maybe this will bring in more work like this, or encourage people to take a different direction with their logos.
It’s not all OTT though, we’ve also drawn the typeface on the site, unsurprisingly called All Purpose Grotesque… it does what it says on the tin really, or at least it will do when we build out the rest of the styles into a full family (it will eventually be publicly available, lots more to come on that side of things).
EM Did you draw each logo from scratch or are they based on typefaces?
AP We rarely get a chance to draw lettering like this, it’s far from the usual and we hope that each style appeals to a different crowd. Some are based on typefaces, but they’re all drawn from scratch (apart from the type in the grapes logo… which most people don’t see as grapes). They generally stemmed from doodles, sketches and killed logos. Some of them quite organically, and in the instance of the black metal style one… that was just something we just wanted to try for a long time. There’s also the Pacha one of course… always loved that logo and actually designed 90% of the typeface, but never got round to finishing so it had to be included – its a favourite of ours.
EM How do you typically find new clients?
AP This really depends. When we started there was a lot more ‘finding’ than there is now. We’ve been lucky that work usually comes by organically – lots of word of mouth from other clients and friends/friends of friends, but then the longer we’ve been going the more requests we get out of the blue usually through Instagram, press and the odd credit on websites.
It keeps things feeling fresh for their posters.
EM What is the thinking behind the stencil-esque grid found within your identity for Form Presents?
AP The nature of the project just made so much sense to have this dynamic grid to frame the content – whether this is image size/format or the lengths of artists names – the middle crossbar of the grid (or the crossbar of the F) moves to allow for more space above or below. It keeps things feeling fresh for their posters, whilst also retaining flexibility for the content.
EM How do you make sure each issue of Contra feels fresh?
AP We’ve been on board since the inception of the magazine and designed the identity and typeface for it too. It’s been growing as a publication both editorially and visually and alongside that comes a constantly evolving design. This third issue is their most accomplished in terms of content and structure and is broken up into more sections than previously. We also switched it up from a gloss laminated mag to be purely uncoated, bar a tipped-in section on gloss. We work within a general style to retain the visual language for each issue however take on a new grid and experiment with typographic treatments for a fresh read! Issue 3 also features a new introduction to the Contra typeface family – Contra Serif, which we designed in collaboration with our good friend William Lyall.
EM What can we expect to see from you as we head into 2021?
AP We’ve got a new visual identity and website for Topsafe, a favourite publisher of ours, a clothing brand MISSING, which will be growing and launching properly in spring 2021, a new site for a music pioneer, alongside the identity for a cycling brand which has been in the pipeline for a long time now. Many of our projects got pushed back with the pandemic so has been a bit of an anticlimax with getting everything wrapped by the end of the year. Saying that, it’s looking like the majority will be going live around then same time in the new year so will be exciting to set this all off in the next month ahead!
On the extracurricular front, we’ve just launched Lichen Books – a new publishing practice with our artist friend Lucas Dupuy (the first book by him is just out), and there’s a lot more coming with that. Along with Left Alone, where we’ll be releasing the first compilation which is a big moment for us!