Meet our friends… typeface
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 our friends typeface to learn more about their origins, what makes this Wellington studio special, their approach to collaboration, the work they do, the culture they foster and their ambitions.
Tell us about typeface’s milestones and evolution from inception to today?
typeface started over twenty years ago. It was the passion and enthusiasm of Marty Hunt who had a vision for creating a boutique agency positioned to offer quality team-based design to all, not just high-profile and big budget clients.
Where are you based and what shape does the typeface team take?
We’re fortunate to be based in central Wellington, not far from Cuba Street in Te Aro. We’re a team of six, representing New Zealand, South Africa, the US, France and the UK… we’re just missing a studio dog! We enjoy an open studio space that is really conducive to sharing ideas and collaborating across projects.
Your service offering is broad with strategy, branding, print, digital and illustration… How do you define roles and cross-pollinate between disciplines in the studio?
While our offering is broad it’s down to the strength of the team that we’re able to deliver on all fronts. Individuals not only have a passion for design at their core, but also have a specialised skill set in a key area – whether that’s strategy, digital or illustration etc. Our team-based approach ensures our clients receive the best from typeface as a company, not simply the best from an individual. We make a conscious effort to ensure the whole team gains experience across all types of projects and believe that is the best way to keep delivering creatively. Depending on scale and circumstance, projects are managed by either individuals, a partnership or the whole team, but all projects benefit from the greater team input at some stage of the design process.
Your website talks about you working collaboratively and your clients having direct access to the design talent! What insight can you give us to your client relationships and how to get the most out of embedding the client within your creative process?
For us the client is always an invaluable part of the process – a genuine partner, we wouldn’t be here without them. So many great design ideas come from first-hand conversations, vernacular, even body language, so a collaborative approach helps us join those dots faster. We’ve all experienced different studios where a project manager, or account manager acts as a mediator between the client and the designer; a model that works well for some. While there is certainly a place and benefit for this, we value going straight to source and fostering a personal connection. In our experience, this approach means we have greater empathy for the client and their challenges which often gives them a strong sense of reassurance. One of the most important things in life are the relationships we build, so we try to cultivate them on all fronts at typeface.
You are on the All-of-Government (AoG) Panel for Graphic Design, what opportunities has this led to for typeface?
The best result is that it has allowed us to maintain a range of long-standing relationships with clients and contractors within Government across many departments. We also gained some new business/partnership opportunities.
The resulting work has provided us great insight into some of the challenges and opportunities facing New Zealand. We’re really grateful for our collaborations with the many acronyms across Government.
What achievements or projects is the studio most proud of?
In terms of the mushy stuff, we’re most proud of creating and maintaining a studio environment that has held true to its initial values for over two decades.
Our longevity is evident in both team members and clients. Our team embraces ownership of their environment and their projects and our clients enjoy our studio-based approach… as well as our bad jokes!
We’ve maintained a strong ‘industry award winning’ history throughout this time, most recently our Annual Report design for Marlborough Lines won two golds in Print In Print and our client was also awarded a record tenth straight gold at the ARA for the report. We’re also excited about seeing more of our work for Biosecurity New Zealand become visible as part of the Wilding Pines campaign.
2020 has thrown us some curveballs, how has typeface adapted?
2020 has been ‘one out of the box’ for everyone – I think we’ll all remember where we were when we were told to lock down. Thankfully we were all able to successfully operate remotely, through the use of some great tools and by keeping up the studio banter. We even had one team member work through from Atlanta, Georgia. But the great part of it was that it still worked, everyone pulled together and we’re all grateful to now be reunited inside the studio.
We’re very fortunate to have a team of positive, energetic and engaged individuals. These were some of the prominent characteristics displayed by the team and were instrumental in the internal success of typeface during lockdown (and of course the clients). The change and shift has certainly promoted a further definition of who we are and how we share this with others.
How do you manage the day-to-day side of the studio management at typeface?
Our toolkit isn’t solely reliant on tech. Communication is promoted and underpins all that we do (no subscription needed). We have a morning team WIP meeting over coffee to kick off each day, where Matt is our conductor and helps orchestrate workloads, relationships and balance. All work is displayed for creative discussion and peer-reviewed before it leaves the studio.
In terms of software, we’re in deep with Monday.com, Adobe, and GSuite tools, along with all the other usual suspects. We use these daily to keep track of project status and deadlines.
What do you enjoy most about working at typeface?
It’s hard to pick one thing, but the genuine team approach is great and we all band together whatever the project or deadline. We enjoy the creative discussions, and having a huge pinboard to share ideas helps this (as does coffee, chocolate and home-baking).
And finally, where to next for your studio, what are you working towards?
Given the challenges of 2020, I think everyone is looking forward to a long Kiwi Christmas and a respite from this year’s adventures so far! But we’re certainly optimistic about the future. We’ve been super encouraged by the content and resources DA has contributed to our industry, especially through lockdown. It’s great to be on board now and connect more with the New Zealand design community. We’ve also got our sights on a few more branding and strategy projects that we’re excited to get stuck into, and hopefully more of the same for the years to come. And at the risk of sounding like a cliché, the team takes genuine pride and ownership in their roles such that we’re always discussing how we can be better.
It really is a unique and ever-changing industry we perform within.