In the very first of our new ‘Spotlight’ series Lucy Fry & Naomi Akikusa-Dawber of Play On Play share their professional journey and what inspires them to grow as creatives.
What led you into Graphic Design?
Naomi: I’ve always had a strong interest in design, even from a young age. I used to pretend I was a creative director of my own fashion label and doodle in my diaries. In my earlier 20s, I wanted to get into fashion but things didn’t work in my favour so I worked as a retail manager and then an in-store visual merchandiser. I knew I wanted to do something more, something that allowed me to create and communicate whilst providing a service to others. It was through working in retail that brought into sharp focus my desire to be a graphic designer. That’s when my love affair with typography began.
Lucy: When I was younger I would paint, draw, and craft things for hours. As I grew older I stopped drawing as much, but still had a strong passion for all things creative. I have always had a strong focus in fine art and the relationship it has with design. I love the freedom that making art allows you to have, but I found that I liked the challenge of creating art with guidelines, which is what I feel graphic design is. It’s being able to express an idea using visual communication while conforming to a brief.
If there was ever such a thing, what would a typical working day look like?
Laying on the beach drinking pina coladas and listening to smooth disco. We wish.
What pieces of work are you most proud of? And why?
We are most proud the work we have done together for Ladies of Leisure. In particular the NGV collaboration for the 2017 Melbourne Art Book Fair and Edition 3 of the Ladies of Leisure publication. Both these projects were so multifaceted that it allowed us to produce works that touch on so many different areas of design from publication and web through to merchandise. Also, working for such an amazing organisation has inspired us and further implemented our desires to start our studio.
What tools / techniques / approaches did you use to create these projects?
We started with the basics and kept the computer as far away from us as we could in the initial stages. We were very much into jotting ideas down on paper and physically pinning up our inspiration to workshop each concept. The studio walls were covered in inspiration clippings. Creative chaos is so handy and gets our juices flowing. We used some older techniques such as scanning and risograph printing which helped us to form an original concept.
What was the catalyst for making the jump from freelancing to starting your new studio?
It’s a bit of a love story. We met each other during our Communication Design course at RMIT, and it was best friends at first sight. During our time there we worked on multiple projects together and spent a lot of late nights at uni creating our own studio vibe with a groovy Spotify playlist to help fuel us through our briefs. After uni we briefly shared a studio space where we would bounce ideas off each other. As individuals we were taking on a lot of freelance work and since we were collaboration with one another, and due to the lack of creative jobs out there that fit our mould, starting something together just made perfect sense.
What are the most common challenges you encounter in the job/industry?
Knowing exactly what to charge someone without burdening ourselves with too much work is something that is a challenge as a startup studio. We have learnt over time that some projects should be charged by the hour, and others according to the value of the job itself. Another challenge that we have faced is being able to meet deadlines when collaborating with other creatives. We have been involved with projects in the past where we have had to rely on the punctuality of others. For example if we were to collaborate with writers or photographers, they have their own schedules and deadlines which must be met in accordance with the ones we are collaborating on as well. Through this we have learnt the importance of contingency planning.
Can you name/describe another brand’s product design you have recently been excited by? And why?
Le Roy is a magazine based in New Zealand run by creative director Kelvin Soh. The magazine is dedicated to publishing new ideas in art, fashion and visual culture. In each issue, contributors including artists, writers, stylists, and photographers from all over the world to respond to a specific theme. Then they allow them absolute creative freedom in regards to their contributions. As a result of this, the design of the publication is very DIY – mixing cartoons, with high fashion, with fictional stories. The design of the physical magazine is a work of art. Accompany their publication is a website that is a complete interactive experience featuring flying text and moving imagery.
How do you keep evolving and growing as a designer?
Many ways – being a designer is so much more than just sitting behind a computer, although keeping up with the ever evolving software updates is crucial. Involving ourselves in the design community of Melbourne as much as possible is something that is very important to us. We enjoy creatively expressing ourselves through other outlets such as music and art. We find that by doing this our work cross pollinates and feeds back into our graphic design style, which continues to help us grow as creatives.
If you’re in a creative rut, do you have go-to places either physical, virtual or both where you go to get inspired?
Yes, lots! We have quite the extensive collection of books. Not only your typical design books, but more so the old romance or sci-fi novels from the 70s. We could swoon over the covers of these for hours and find that a lot of our inspiration comes from designs of another era. Getting out into nature is also vital! A fifteen minute walk is good for the mind/body.
Any advice for aspiring designers?
Be proactive! If you want it then absolutely take everything you’ve got and go for it. Research, network and put plans into action. It’s amazing how quickly you will see things fall into place. It’s not easy but the rewards make up for the more difficult times.
Any projects you’re involved in at present that you want more people to know about?
We are currently working with Melbourne based cinematographer, Indoor Fountains, on a series called Calendar Girls. Calendar Girls is a series of twelve different short films comprising of a monthly muse, each using a zodiac sign as the basis for its content. Each month there will be a different short film, with a different muse and a different director. We are currently working on the film titles, posters and a few online assets.