Module 1, Week 1

Week 1: Reflection

As soon as anything becomes too slick, we try to saw one leg off to unbalance it again

Lehni-Trub, cited in Shaughnessey, A. and Brook. T, (2009), Studio Culture: The Secret Life of Graphic Design

This week saw us introducing ourselves with a very personal design piece that showcased our abilities and told our story so far. Watching the webinar it was amazing to see other designers light up when talking about their work or what they do – the passion in this group is infectious and inspiring. The resources given were also vital to further our understanding of the culture of studios and how each individual designer has their own story.

The Quad Regarding the feedback on my design Quadriptych, I found the biggest emotional response from the others in the group came from my synopsis and not necessarily my Quad. Of course the synopsis is a vital piece to the puzzle but perhaps I need to improve my storytelling skills through my art. The graphic design piece I chose to showcase as a pivotal moment in my career so far garnered the biggest response too – a few comments on my use of colour so I will definitely take this on board and experiment with colour more. From our group, I was so inspired by the many pieces of work submitted and the clear connections to the individual were evident. Matt’s work was fascinating – he posted the Quad before the blog and it left me wanting to find out so much more! When he described his thought processes on the Webinar the image just came to life – suddenly the most abstract and simplistic piece told the biggest story! He’s taught me that design doesn’t always need to be obvious, in-your-face storytelling.

The Resources When reading and watching the material given to us, I found I was starting to put my notes into a number of different categories relating to the studios and the way artists work. I had to highlight this and have chosen to reflect on the resources by category.

Collaboration Having seen how Intro Design used their studio – to collaborate with other designers but focus individually on their own projects – and then watching how Sam Winston values privacy and quiet, light and open spaces, Shaughnessey’s book highlighted the importance of all of this. Even from the leaders to the intern, the people in the office need to have the same mentality and ability to work either collaboratively or separately. It’s all down to the individual way of working and having absorbed all the opinions of the different designers, I don’t believe there is one “perfect, fits-all” layout. One design studio may work for Winston but put him in a studios owned by SomeOne and suddenly his work would change. I felt his paragraph on the narcissistic culture in Design back in 2009 is more relevant today than ever before. Can a narcissistic individual really collaborate effectively with a large group? Can they accept changes to their work or take on board suggestions from others? Does this individualism suddenly hinder design where before it could have been stronger from collaborative input?

On the opposing side, smaller studios allow designers to do the work they want to do, to not have to conform to a certain style but promote and push forward their own way of thinking. However, looking at the studio Paula Scher works in, it’s immensely collaborative and yet individualism in promoted. The round studio designed by Spiekermann is still relevant today; having the space to increase communication within your team but also value quietness and calmness so much the whole outside of the studio space is dedicated to this. But then again, this studio is very different to the modern open studios where everyone works together and hot-desks weekly.

The way It’s Nice That uses not only collaborative work within their studio but also bringing in outside work from freelancers or designers who want to work with them. They don’t work for the company but collaboratively create brand new work. It was evident that they love the collaborative opportunities this blog has given them. Being so interconnected and bringing together multiple streams of thoughts creates amazing one off work. So should all studios follow one set layout? NO! Each individual designer works in different ways, be it by themselves, in a group they are comfortable with or using designers they’ve never met before. These different studios therefore create completely contrasting designs in many walks of life.

Technological Advances This came up in the majority of the books and videos. I felt because Shaughnessey’s book was over 10 years old, his thoughts and opinions on technological advances were quite old fashioned – but if I was a traditional designer and artist in the sense of still using paint and paper perhaps I’d agree with him. I feel we need to keep up with the advancing world to stay relevant – the sheer amount of resources available at our fingertips is rich, multicultural, valuable and imaginative. What more could we ask for?

The incredible work of Posavec inspired me – Her data visualisation projects and how she tracked data to turn into a story was so much fun. The online world helped her promote her work, without it I think she would have struggled to stay relevant. It provided her with inspiration and data to use in her designs. The humour in her work meant the storytelling went beyond just laying out data in a clear way – we could step into someone else’s “digital shoes” and physically make the steps they made digitally.

David Barringer quoted in Shaughnessey described his vision of a new world of virtual studios – he was very much ahead of his time in thinking this. At the time of speaking, there were very few virtual studios working effectively. Nowadays there are some fantastic studios using “virtual designers” who can tap in on each others resources from around the world without being in the same office. Creative Bloq listed a few on their blog – Browns&Co reported they made massive savings on studio space, they could tap into a global pool of talent and their designers didn’t just take inspiration from the city where the studio was based giving their work a totally new, global vision.

Curiosity This came across as the most valuable “muscle” (to quote Micheal Wolff) for all designers. In order for us to problem solve or transfer words to images or art, curiosity is needed. To do Posavec’s work, she needed to be curious about digital footprints. It’s a state of play. It’s a need to find out more about the client – Regular Practice demonstrated this perfectly. To be a designer is to be curious. It’s what we’re all about!


Shaughnessy, A. and Brook, T. (2009). Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio (Links to an external site.) London: Unit Editions.

Price, J. Yates, D. (2015). Communication Design: Insights from the Creative Industries (Links to an external site.). London: Bloomsbury

May, T., 2020. 5 Design Agencies That Do Things Differently. [online] Creative Bloq. Available at: <; [Accessed 3 April 2020].

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