Design Assembly has become the home of New Zealand visual design – providing a collaborative digital and physical platform for kiwi visual designers to learn, keep up-to-date and be inspired. We couldn’t do that without the support of our Friends. This series profiles some of the studios and individuals who have shown their love and support for DA. Today we spoke to Karen Hurley to learn more about our friends Peg Creative
Can you tell us a little about the highlights of your career history so far and what lead you to found Peg Creative?
The birth of Peg Creative 6 years ago is one of our favourite tales, mostly because it was such an amazingly unbelievable opportunity for me! I was working part-time at a local branding agency, but not loving it. To keep myself emerged in visual communication I ran an advertising and design blog on Tumblr; unbeknown to me, my site had quite a fan base building at Tumblr HQ over the years.
In 2014 Tumblr launched the Creatrs program where they recruited designers from all over the world to partake in curated social advertising for leading brands. I was in shock when a call came through from NYC asking me to be part of their latest program designing for Olay’s Academy Awards campaign. Not to mention to joyful surprise that this was a paid contract.
I was assigned the task of creating typographic pieces using keywords and phrases from Olay’s ‘Your best beautiful’ campaign. Part of this project was using a laser cutter (I went to borrow the one at my old University) to create small scale type installations.
I loved the experience so much I knew I’d found my calling. We saved up; bought a laser cutter and threw ourselves into the deep end!
Whilst I have Tumblr to thank for the push in the right direction, there has been a lot of hard mahi along the way. We’re super thankful for all the support to aid in our growth and are absolutely loving our new sunny studio space in Takapuna!
Since its beginnings how has Peg Creative evolved?
We always dreamt of the studio being a massive collaborative space for designs to come in and use the machine themselves. We quickly learned this is a terrible idea!
Whilst we adore working alongside other creatives and agencies we’ve come to realise the machine has a lot of details to learn to create the perfect cuts and engraves. Tweaks on speed, power, focus, inverting, masking and more all help us to supply a high-quality product. We hate the thought of people using the machine incorrectly and telling everyone their terrible work is from us!
Our client base has also evolved rapidly. We started off just advertising on local community pages to individuals, anything to get our name known! We’ve since had the opportunity to work with many corporate clients; this was always a long term goal for us but did not expect this branch of the business to take off so early on. Given my passion for advertising, it’s always an honour to work with these companies to create unique event invites, styling, and promotional puzzles and gifts.
I’m also super super thankful to have built a small team around myself now. Working alone for the first couple of years was a challenge in its self. It’s so much more enjoyable with them!
Closed eye giraffe is something Peg creative ask new staff and collaborators to do in the first few days of working with them… (The DA team have taken up the challenge – It’s harder than you think, give it a try!)
When did Plunket join the team?
Plunket has been a founding member of the team since day dot. She’s fantastic at keeping little people amused while their parents are discussing projects. She also managed to woo our past courier driver so convincingly that he bought her banana treats in the afternoon. She’s rather daft, but we love her!
You work across, Design and Production but also retail a range of awesome laser cut products… How much of your work is client focussed vs self-initiated?
A large portion of our work is client-based. It’s a struggle to find much time for passion projects these days but we’re working on setting hours aside for this. Our business is pretty equally split between corporate clients, individuals needs / decor type products and speciality items for events. We don’t often get design files supplied ready to go so we are always designing and creating for projects in some way or another. We love the fact that it’s so varied, we never know what next week is going to hold.
What do you love most about craft-based design?
There is something so special about the tactile nature of visual communication. In a world where everything is going digital, it’s clear that standard printing is fading in popularity. This allows speciality techniques to really flourish. I love working with woods, acrylics, detailed paper cuts to create something people want to hold on to. It’s awesome to be able to use our Macs to create the design, and then see it transform in front of us. Gluing, sticking, stringing, peeling and such can be quite therapeutic after a few hours at the screen.
Your native-inspired pieces are wonderful, how does the Aotearoa environment shape your ideas?
Thank you so much! We saw a huge demand for non-tacky souvenirs that were actually crafted locally so did our best to take on the challenge. Nature is always full of hidden beauty and amazing silhouettes so it was easy to get inspired. We love combining the unexpected, whether this is fluid curves in nature into rigid wood or unlikely material combinations.
What does a typical day at peg creative involve for you?
A lot of darting around! I try to stay on top of email enquiries, designing, running the machine, production, social media, and packaging all at once. Small business life! I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful little team who help to keep things running relatively smoothly.
Do you have a project that is memorable because it challenged you but that you ended up loving and being really proud of? If so, what lessons did you learn from that project?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I think I’d have to say our work for Dairy NZ late last year. The brief was to create small slot together puzzles based upon four key icons representing their brand – a lightbulb, diamond, speech bubbles, and a rocket. These were to be supplied un-assembled as brain teasers and team-building tasks at their conference.
I am not familiar at all with 3D software so created them in illustrator. My graphic design lead training means my brain likes to think quite two-dimensionally. It’s been a challenge though this career path to try and broaden that.
Making all four puzzles feel similar, yet different was a massive struggle. Especially trying to make a fluid 2D shape like a speech bubble 3D with only sheet bamboo and a laser – and at such a small scale with few pieces. After late nights and failed trials, we finally came up with some great solutions. They appear super simplistic once completed but have some challenging elements upon assembly.
This project taught me a lot about our internal workflow and where our strengths and weaknesses lie. I’m lucky to have spent that extra time developing my skills with more three-dimensional projects which will (and already have) helped with similar projects since. Can’t say we loved hand sanding 100s of tiny pieces though; glue-free joins and working in natural materials can be fiddly!
It’s always rewarding being able to guide and collaborate with the client through from their initial idea.
Do you have a dream project or collaboration you aspire to?
I don’t have a specific project in mind; I think that’s the magic of it. If I had dreamt it up and could complete it alone it would already exist – I’m so lucky to have so many tools at my deposal.
We really do love collaborating with other designers and creatives on their projects though. Dreaming up things neither of us could have created without the other. My passions are typography and advertising so any cross over into those fields excites me.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve put in your machine?
Ah, where to start! We’ve done some awesome things with biscuits, pancakes, and bananas! Our worst trial would likely be the cheese though, that smelt… unique.
What do you see as the biggest benefit of being a DA friend?
We’re a tiny team; it’s important to stay relevant and inspired by as many avenues as possible! Chatting to others in similar fields is perfect. You never know when those connections and lessons will come in handy.