Take 10 with… Matt Grantham
The DA team want to support our community through these unprecedented times – something we kept coming back to is a focus on connection and community. So we want to do what we think DA does best, sharing ideas, inspiration and information and profiling our community.
With that in mind, we launched a new series Take 10 with… to do a pulse check on how you’re feeling, how you’re working, what you are missing, and what your hopes are for the future. We invited some of our friends, peers and the DA team to participate and we hope you enjoy these honest and candid profiles of Aotearoa designers today.
Matt Grantham, Creative Director of Onfire Design – a packaging and brand design studio based in sunny Takapuna, Auckland.
How did you get into design?
After a burning desire to be an architect faded when I found out how long the courses were (I was an impatient teenager!) and my general lack of any understanding of deep and meaningful maths I discovered I could turn my love of art into an occupation through a school teacher who introduced the idea of graphic design. That took me to a degree in Communications Arts in Maidstone, Kent UK (where I had a close scrape with turning to fashion design), managed to hustle Pfizer Chemicals into sponsoring my MA at the same university. Worked as a junior designer in Holland straight after (long story), then like a gazillion other UK grads, moved to London.
What do you love about design?
For me, it is problem-solving and creating stories. As designers, we have unique skill sets that are perfect for taking a clients brief, breaking it down into its separate components and building visual and verbal solutions across any number of touchpoints. Working for so long in packaging design, seeing a brand which I worked in someone’s basket or trolley always makes me smile—that, and spending the time agonising over the crafting of the final design.
What or who inspires you?
I would like to think anything visually can catch my attention and inspire for various reasons – beautifully crafted, exciting idea, sheer cut through visuals or something that has incidentally happened. I always gravitate toward street art. Some of the Pentagram partners are consistently producing incredible work like Paula Scher (Read. Her. Books.), Harry Pearce (who in 1992 designed a Boots the Chemist Wart Remover pack which goes down as one of my favourite pack designs. Google it.), and Marina Willer.
I consider myself very lucky to have spent a good chunk of my time working with Rob Coats, co-owner of Coats Design. His dedication to traditional craft, his knowledge, unbridled passion and knack of building a great family orientated studio environment has had a lasting impact on myself (the same can be said of Sam Allan, owner of Onfire who worked with Rob prior to my time there). We both consider Onfire’s culture to be heavily influenced by our shared Coats’ experience.
How are you feeling right now?
These are strange times. We have many clients across a spectrum of disciplines, so to talk to them after the news broke, we witnessed various degrees of emotions and questions. Me too, it was a rollercoaster for the first few days. While there is still uncertainty and the Kiwi economy will irrevocably change after this, I am buoyed by how the businesses we work with have met these challenges. It has undoubtedly been a refocus time for myself, to learn more, be more flexible and work in this new (short term) environment.
Are you working right now, if so what does your work from home day look like?
Yes, Onfire has got a full slate of work from across the board with our clients, and we are busy with several brand and packaging projects at varying stages of development. Made all the more interesting by going digital with all our WIPs, client meetings and crits with video calls and phones. We have even managed to inject the usual Onfire mentality into our morning catch-ups (see below).
What’s your one tip right now?
Focus. Being at home is such a joy. But having this time also allows time to plan on the next steps for your business once NZ is up and running again, time that is usually taken up with commuting! That, and enjoy the people around you in your bubbles.
Tell us about your current workspace.
Luckily, at home, I have a dedicated office space, so it wasn’t too much hassle setting up. As you can see, the work mac compliments my one well, the fact that my one is now a glorified Spotify machine is another matter. I also share it with an old lady who snores and farts (I’m talking about the Chihuahua). Oh, and I hijacked the studio coffee machine because….caffeine.
Which local business are you going to miss most during our isolation period? Allpress, Victoria Park. Ark, Takapuna. Crave & Kind, Morningside (spot the caffeine-fuelled pattern). Sarah and Ryan at Flash City Barbers, seriously my hair is getting ridiculous.
What do you hope for the Aotearoa design community going forward? To take these valuable lessons forward. Working remotely like this has undoubtedly made me seriously think about how we communicate as a studio and talk design, craft and deal with client management in the digital space. With its limitations of social interaction – these weeks will teach us a lot about how we talk to each other. After all, while designers love their art, we need to know how to talk about it.