Interview with Andrew Murray of new creative studio Gatsby

Tips - 4th Sep 12 11:11 am - 0 Comments

Let’s go back to the beginning…what is your background/what did you study?

I grew up in the Mornington Peninsula before moving to Melbourne to study visual communication at Monash University.

Where does your interest in design, art and typography stem from?

I’ve always loved reading. As a kid I devoured everyone of them of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series. All of the physical properties of the book really appealed to me: the faded paper, the exquisite illustrations (pen and ink drawings by Eileen Sopers) and even the way the words looked on the page. It all facilitated such a vivid, compelling version of events. I remember getting a re-branded glossy Famous Five book and dismissing it immediately. Whilst the content was the same, it lacked that noble, nostalgic sense of adventure so noticeable in the earlier editions. I probably ended up re-reading the old ones. Every story was practically a spin off of the same book anyway.

How did you get in to the design industry?

It started with an internship at Alter studio. I actually walked two kilometres in the wrong direction and nearly missed the interview. A guy who owned a pub down the road offered to drive me back in his ute. It was an old ute. Naturally, I was pretty anxious by that stage. Still owe him a beer.

Can you tell us more about Gatsby and how it came about?

Gatsby seemed like a fitting name for the aspirations of the studio. The studio is in its infancy and started this year in Melbourne. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, ‘The Great Gatsby,’ the protagonist embodied the great American dream. Everything he did was of colossal significance; a promise that something was about to happen. There is a quote in the story that ‘nobody was ever invited to his parties. They just went there.’ In that sense, the name Gatsby became more than a man’s name. It became an event – a sense of entitlement that all things are possible. That’s an exciting prospect.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am about to start a pastel/drawing for the guy who runs a film studio next door.

Can you walk us through your typical creative process?

I read a statement once that ‘the hand is a philosopher,’ and it really stayed with me. It was part of an essay on the arts and craft movement, which stressed that happy accidents are rarely a product of rationale thought. Most of the time that breakthrough is achieved by a sense of risk and play composed by the hand. So regardless of whether the job involves a website, logo, drawing or layout, it’s usually a very tangible process. It always starts with a pencil and paper, or anything else thats lying around.

What has been your most fulfilling project to date?

Designing the branding and campaign for this years Sex Drugs & Helvetica conference was really rewarding. The collaboration was a real pleasure (Zac Solomon and Adriana Berdano) because every time we got a bit stuck, someone would suggest a new direction. We came up with this idea of creating a velodrome/racing track to promote the idea of six speakers talking about one project from start to finish. But its aesthetics started to get stale. By luck and some handy advice of my trusted design confidante at Print Express, we were introduced to the photocopier. We had wanted to relax the cold rigidity of the whole thing, but didn’t know how. The breakthrough was a relief, because it really left us with a new kind of beast: a drugged up, sex fuelled psychedelic modernist mash up that felt like a worthy homage to the name of the conference and its whole rock and roll vibe.

Who/what inspires and influences you?

Design icons like Milton Glasier and Bruno Munari are inspiring because they tried their hands at so many things, and did them so well. Both of them traversed the separation between art and design with their thought provoking dialogue and prolific body of work. I’ve had a few bit and pieces accumulate on my desk: a book about German painter Emil Nolde’s watercolours, a small zine featuring the works of photographer duo Lillian Bassman and Paul Himmel and a postcard featuring a new show by Masayoshi Nakajo. They’re all fantastic.

Are there any books or magazines you’re currently reading?

I’m trying to get O.F Bollows Human Space. Like everyone, I’m guilty of a well designed book, and no one does this better than Hyphen Press. It’s a comprehensive study on space and how we experience it. I just have one foot in it at the moment. It’s at the critical period where I have to commit to the book or retreat and give it some breathing space for a while.

What advice would you give to the next generation of designers?

Find space and time to actually make the work. It easy to consign the creative process as a part-time hobby, crammed into spare time free from the perils of girlfriends or part-time work or watching Breaking Bad. Letterer Jessica Hische once wrote that “If you are not getting client work, do self-authored work.” Self initiated work shows that making things is really important to you, and people respond to that. It also allows you to play to your strengths and promote your wares. There are so many distractions, and sometimes we can convince ourselves that design is only 10% of the business. Good work requires time, and its important we gives ourselves that time.



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