Studio Sly’s Lauren Finks on being a ‘one-woman show’ and doing more print work than ever before
Based in Melbourne, Studio Sly is home to the output of graphic designer and former homewares label founder Lauren Finks. Using her experience across multiple industries, from graphic to product, she produces cool, charming and considered identities for brands both locally and internationally. To tie in with the relaunch of her studio stationery, we had a chat with Lauren to find out more about her background, process and practice.
EM Hi Lauren, how’s 2021 been for you so far?
LF Short answer is whirlwind. Long answer honestly is equal parts amazing and equal parts going with it. With multiple lockdowns and industries being pushed and pulled in multiple directions I was expecting the type of work to shift strongly to digital. But I have been amazed at just how much desire for print there has been and I could not be happier about that. People still crave tactility in design and that’s what I love.
EM What’s your background prior to starting Studio Sly?
LF I worked in agency for about 10 years in small studios in Melbourne and Sydney and wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I then dabbled in my own homewares line for about five years selling in Australia and focusing on overseas before returning to my roots as a graphic designer and going solo in 2016 with branding.
EM What made you come back to graphic design?
LF I missed it a lot, manufacturing product is not easy especially when you’re doing it solo so it was either grow and push forward or call it a day. I called it, and it was the best decision I ever made.
People still crave tactility in design and that’s what I love.
EM How has the studio and the work you do evolved since you started?
LF Since returning from homewares I found myself starting to do more bespoke work, and having had experience working with materials really made me start integrating texture more heavily in my work so clients get a more rounded brand and more unique experience.
EM What’s been the most memorable lesson that you’ve learnt over the years?
LF Back yourself, your ideas and do not undersell yourself. Hard at times!
EM Do you have any advice for those looking to start a studio?
LF Start in agency. I recently had an interesting conversation with a fellow creative and agency director. He was hunting for a senior designer, he told me how hard it was to find a designer who had agency experience. These days the idea of freelance and going out on your own is more appealing and more and more are choosing to start this way. BUT I would never trade the experiences good and bad I had in agency as a younger designer. It’s actually vital in setting your foundations, learning about business and gaining skills around client management as well as honing your craft. Then when you can no longer grow, go for it and give it everything.
Back yourself, your ideas and do not undersell yourself.
EM When you started the studio, did you have clients lined up or did you risk it all?
LF I was very lucky to be handed my first client by my old art director from agency (I’ll never forget that) which kicked things off but I am a hustler and there was a lot of happening too to build a client base in the early days. It’s been over four years since then and can honestly say it’s taken that long to find my real groove and evolve the studio into doing the work I love and actually want to do.
EM How would you describe the aesthetic of your work?
LF Minimalist with a bit of punch. I like simplicity, but I like complexity in simplicity. I like for things to feel effortless but really executed with detail.
EM Do you have a project that you think best represents that aesthetic?
LF Tough one. I am working on two at the moment that have really honed in on execution. Jordan Boi packaging pushed some boundaries design-wise for that product category with an edgy aesthetic that is very Studio Sly. Ross Farm too, although a totally different style embraced the execution holistically, telling stories and creating complexity from simple ideas within their spaces. For me, the successes are the connections between story and execution.
EM What were you looking to achieve with the relaunch of your studio stationery?
LF Amidst the COVID chaos it was apparent I was sending out so much print work to my clients so for me it’s an important exercise to set good examples for my beautiful clients and not just preach about investing in design and print. It also was a good time to freshen things as I start evolving and pushing into more varied areas of work.
EM What do you find makes for a nice working environment?
LF Natural light, plants, always music and numerous cups of tea. (And a little room to dance when you need to think – yes that happens).
EM What would you like Studio Sly to look like in five years time?
LF This answer changes for me often. I have thoughts about growing, my family are also quite creative and I have thought about growing the studio with them. But I am also incredibly content with my one-woman show and for now, it’s a sweet spot doing great work with interesting people and that’s where the focus is.
EM Being a ‘one-woman show,’ is it ever challenging to keep on top of running the studio and doing the design work?
LF YES. Running the studio takes a lot of time and I am really conscious of taking on brands carefully so I can mentally dedicate enough time to telling their story properly. A bit of juggling, but it’s so worth it.
EM Lastly, what are you looking forward to this month?
LF I have some really interesting projects in the works, ranging from art, wellbeing, interior design, health to food. Lots on the go but really excited to roll them out.