December 6, 2008

Serve Surprising and Pleasing but Don’t Overcook

An Interview with Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay of Raw-Edges Design Studio
by Ziggy Nixon

Raw-Edges is a design studio in London run by Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay that tries to continually challenge the basic premises of why a designed object has to be the way it is and how it functions.

The End
Ziggy Nixon, 05.12.2008


Aargh, I can’t do it! I simply can’t fit enough about these guys into one sentence, despite their inspiring input (keep reading). We’re going to have to revert back to the usual long-winded blogger style, sorry for this:

Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay (pronounced ‘Ya-el’ and ‘Shy’, respectively) are not only partners in design but partners in real life, too. This Israeli duo – both in their early 30’s – first met while studying and receiving their BA degrees at
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. After this, they decided to further their design education and experience. They were both accepted into the Royal College of Arts masters degree in London and just as importantly got to participate in the prestigious Platform 10 program.

Their combined talents have received numerous accolades from design publications, shows and exhibitions, and awards alike. You may have seen some of their creations in your favourite museum shop, or housing a bat that may need a place to hang around in for the night, or even ironed on to the stained shirt of a colleague. Oh, and that purse that looked like someone is carrying a head around in it; this is theirs, too.

Ziggy Nixon was very pleased to get a chance to discuss life, hard work and the joy of messy studios with Shay, the male half of this very busy and talented dynamic design duo (update: even later getting to quickly follow-up with his partner, Yael, who was very helpful in polishing up the overall piece!):

Hi Shay, thanks for your time. In terms of your education, I wanted to ask about your – and throughout the interview please accept that as meaning both of you wherever appropriate – decision to get a graduate degree at the RCA. I’ve met a lot of people that have done their BA in different areas of design, but why did you re-enlist and sign up for more in terms of the graduate program?
Well, obviously we started our studies in Israel. Don’t misunderstand; Israel is a great place to study and a terrific place to come to find very talented and creative people and market chances. Still, it is a relatively small market.

We did get a very good basic education in design in Jerusalem, but it was more limited than what we wanted ultimately wanted to do with design and our careers. Not that the teachers or education were conservative or in any way restrictive. But we both wanted to expand the way we were approaching and looking at design, as well as look for a chance to get more exposure.

The RCA was an ideal opportunity for both of us where we were very fortunate and thrilled to get the chance to study there, as we found that their approach best met our targets. What was so important for us is that there you learn to not only look at products or product designs that solve specific problems but you truly get to do what you want to do. And they push you in this direction and challenge you to take advantage of this freedom. It’s a bit difficult to describe, but we were really drawn to the chance to broaden our vision like this.

Why did you choose the RCA in London vs. a chance to study in Paris, or New York, or Tokyo, just to name a few other key hubs of design?
Again, the style and program at RCA very much attracted us. We believe that Europe in general is one of the best places obviously to have wide exposure not only to people but styles and approaches to design. Plus, we had the opportunity to study together with a very strong group at the RCA.

It was such a great experience. I can’t put it into words, but it was an amazing team in London. Plus it was so cool that almost everyone was from somewhere else, meaning we were a group that came from all over the world. Almost right away we didn’t feel like strangers in a strange land, but along with the other students we felt like we were a big family. We definitely didn’t anticipate this or know it would be like that. But it was terrific and the feeling only grew stronger over time.

You were involved in the
Platform 10 group, part of RCA’s acclaimed Design Products department which is known for many things including its “playful thoughtful ethos ... that it seeks to challenge existing product typologies”. What was this experience like and how was being involved in this affected your career and your approach to design in general?
The basic premise of working in Platform 10 was just doing things we wanted to without necessarily finding a good reason to do them. We were constantly challenged to question why people do things the way they do. We learned to just keep asking basic questions about the world around us and were pushed to try and break out of our typical ways of thinking.

We were taught to not just think about designing something but to think about the ultimate object’s intended function and work from there, not from a standard set of premises. Our professors encouraged us not to call something we had in mind with just a noun – like for example ‘chair’ – as this leads you to think ‘design a place to sit on with four legs’ instead just thinking of it simply as ‘design a functional thing to sit on.’ So we had to do our best to not box in our way of thinking and creating objects. Instead, we had to constantly try and look at something’s basic functionality in a completely new way.

It was incredibly open and new in the way of thinking for us. And we made such great friends while we were there. There was a fantastic kind of group dynamic that developed and we were able to really take advantage of everyone’s unique and different ways of looking at things. We still all worked on our own designs, of course, but everyone helped with the concepts and critical evaluations.

What motivated you to start your own agency right out of college vs. moving into a more established design agency or group?
I think this has a lot to do with our experiences at the RCA as well. For two years, the school pushed us to do whatever we were interested in. It almost created a feeling that we didn’t want to work for anyone after the school … or maybe we even thought we couldn’t work for anyone else. It’s just you begin to realize that you want to keep doing your own stuff and hopefully be able to earn some money from it.

Plus, we decided that if we wanted to extend any kind of energy at anything – and were willing to invest the same amazing level of effort it took some of our friends just to find ‘external’ jobs – why not invest this for us and start something for ourselves? Not that one approach is more right or wrong than the other, it was just right for us to start our own studio.

It’s not easy to start from scratch like we have for the last two years. But you have a kind of a trade-off with the creative freedom you enjoy and the ability to make a living. It just wasn’t within our wishes to go the established design house route and as such, here we are at Raw-Edges!

It seems that you have a general interest in environmental issues or social responsibility.
Well, I have to say that I’m not sure how you got this impression. I can see that maybe we do have a social aspect in our work and I would say that such values come again from our University background.

In terms of a green approach, I don’t see this so much in our designs. Yes, we’re aware that being environmentally responsible is very important, but we’re not so clear on what’s good to use and what’s not good to use. The current state of input about recycling is kind of confusing anyway, especially if you’re making furniture or other objects to go into someone’s home.

But now that I think about it, whereas we’re not focusing on these issues per se, we do feel that if you’re producing top quality, good design, that its going to be naturally environmentally-friendly. For example, even if an object is made of plastic and has a long life-time, if it’s good enough quality and design so that the end-user does not want to throw it away, that’s positive for the environment. So much of waste is people throwing away things that are even only something like 2 years old.

For me its like if you take the classic designs in so many areas, even furniture from the 60’s: usually, people don’t throw timeless stuff like this away. Are these objects made with recyclable materials? Probably not, but then again, they don’t wind up in the land-fills so quickly either.

Part of my impression was based on you participating in the recent charity environmental auction sponsored by Adventure Ecology and Phillips de Pury & Co. What did you learn about your design processes from this experience?
To be honest, it had a completely different interest for me than what the sponsors initially had in mind. I mean, I had heard of the auction but didn’t know all of the details. But when I heard that it was not only about bird houses but also for other flying creatures including bees and bats, the first thing that came to my mind was to do an
UpsideDownHouse for bats. Suddenly, I had this idea in my head and I just had to make it. I couldn’t think about anything else.

I thought it was a great approach also because you were limited to use what was in the studio and you didn’t have to buy new things. So this was really fun.

You have some work being that is being produced by
ARCO, among others. How do you move things into mass production in terms of the processes of going from your own workshop to the large-scale production facilities?
Basically, with ARCO the process was already established and the scale-up production of was very quick and straightforward. I think this was simply because of our close attention at Raw-Edges to the initial prototyping process. Moving on to ARCO’s facilities was made even easier through our own experiences and experiments.

You see, it’s so important for both of us to be able to make the designs we create. It’s kind of like the ‘Bauhaus’ way of teaching, where you actually have to form and make your own stuff, you know, getting your hands dirty. In order to be really good at designing, we feel that you have to truly get an understanding of how all the different processes work together or even how you have to combine different parts to create the final object in terms of its functionality. And we’ve done lots of exhibitions where we’ve had to produce prototypes, too, sometimes under some pretty stressful deadlines.

In terms of the story of the project for ARCO, I met them at a show a couple of years ago in Germany where they liked my Pivot design. So they asked me if I wanted to mass produce it and I said yes! I was really excited to do this. Obviously as a designer, I want to create an idea and afterwards I think it’s terrific to have the chance to have it expertly manufactured.

I mean, I knew they were going to do a good job, after all, this is their expertise. I’m not a carpenter, I’m a designer. So I was quite happy that they took it into production and it was great to see it being made right for the first time! We have other pieces that we’d love to hand over to someone. Plus, we want to move on to other stuff as well. It’s boring to just make the same thing over and over anyway. We get way too restless.

Your work has been described as ‘al dente’. What does this mean to you?
We believe any idea should be able to be explained in one sentence.

It’s the same with design. We want to keep one aspect or one issue at the forefront with each of our products. I mean, you can write tons of books about processes, but why not keep it as simple as you can? And through this, we hope to reach as many people with our concepts as we can.

Very importantly, we think that when you look at a piece, you should ask ‘what’s special about it?’ But that doesn’t mean we want to overcook an idea. We don’t want a style that creates, I don’t know, multi-functional stuff that goes way beyond some basic function. You know, like having a kitchen set-up that’s not only used for cooking but also to access the Internet or watch a movie or whatever while you’re in the kitchen. That’s a bit crazy to me: when we design we want each piece to have a clear aspect that can be described in one core sentence.

Well, with that in mind, how would you describe in one sentence your studio’s vision?
To come up with ideas you’ve never seen before.

Maybe it sounds like a hard job, to keep designing stuff you’ve never seen before. I mean, there’s so much good stuff around. But I hope we can continue to follow this route because I really believe that if it looks like something else, it’s disappointing to me. I mean, I don’t want to do something someone else has done.

In fact, we have this little saying: we kind of call our reaction to such things ‘the allergy’. If we critique each other’s designs and we say ‘you know that reminds me of something else I’ve seen’ or it looks like to the other one to be something someone else has done, afterwards we just can’t work on it anymore. We become immediately allergic to the piece and have to stop working on it at once.
Designer Tomoko Azumi said to you that your ‘work still needs to be connected to society.’ Considering this, how do you decide that something is truly practical vs. just for fun? Is there a point in design where you can say okay the purpose is gone, this is now just kitsch and has essentially lost any connection to the world around us?
We always think about practicality. Exactly how that’s defined depends on the object. If something is going to be used for furniture, it has to be practical and this is extremely important.

As another example, take a look at Yael’s
Evacuation Skirt : she never intended to make this a practical or functional object. Instead, the design ‘implements’ were only intended combine an emergency situation – here Hurricane Katrina – with beauty or fashion matters. So the design of an object can solve a conceptual problem with no practical means. The design can also be used as a way of communicating in a language that makes sense to more than one area or audience or even connects different matters.

How about your rotating piece A Day in a Life : would you consider this practical or just a flight of fancy designed with the intention to get your audiences to think about life, the universe and everything (with apologies to the late, great Douglas Adams)?
This is another design where I really enjoyed the process of wrapping my thoughts around it and forming a unique concept. The original idea can be described pretty simply: when you move into a new flat (ZN: flat = apartment), you of course are initially looking at how you can arrange it with the furniture you have or want to have. However, you essentially only – or let’s say primarily – look at the floor space. Like “put the couch here, the chair here, the table here, the bed here, etc.” Everything is just set, boom, on the floor.

But we pay usually much less attention to the wall spaces, except for maybe putting up some shelves and hanging a picture or two. Even then we usually only look up to a certain point on the wall but typically not up at the highest parts. In addition, the ceiling is just regarded as a place to hang lamps from. So much of the useable space is therefore not being utilized, with the exception of the floor – which again in this way of thinking is very busy.

So instead of just focusing on the floor, I wanted to turn the wall into the kind of functional space for use, just like the floor. I wanted to take different furniture and where it was usually put, and instead place these same objects into these empty spaces. For me it was kind of like imagining living in a corridor: how could you still get the most out of the square feet of space with which you have to work?

Like with our experiences from Platform 10, the simple premise was to redesign space and its usage. It doesn’t have to be practical. It could work but it doesn’t have to reflect reality. In this case, yes it’s a desk, a dining table and a fish tank etc. and all you have to do is just rotate it as you need it. But again, think about it in a different light: sure, we’re limited by gravity but otherwise why does our decorating have to be the way it is? Why are we just using the floor as the place to store our stuff? These are the kind of questions both of us love to ask and an approach we very much enjoy.

I find your Stickystains iron-on stickers absolutely brilliant (“Turn Your Stain Into A Doodle”)! What inspired you to create this (messy eating and a student’s clothing budget perhaps)?
Well, if you have a nice shirt that you like and you get a stain, you either throw it away or just go around with a stain on your nice shirt. That’s the normal thought process. So I wanted to come up with a way that you could still wear the shirt without having an obvious and potentially embarrassing stain on it.

So what I did was approach the problem by creating iron-on stickers that turned the unsightly stains into attractive doodles. Again, it provided an alternative way to prolong the life of stained clothes. I offered a postcard sized sheet of designs that were enough to rescue at least 4 different stains. The concept really worked and after graduation, I sold more than a thousand in a few months! But since then I don’t have too much time for it, though I would like to go back to it. Sometimes it’s too bad we get so busy because this approach was a lot of fun.

You said earlier that you’re not a carpenter; but you must still need some basic materials and even engineering know-how. If you’re making for example a new sitting device, how do you ensure that it doesn’t break when a guy like me who needs to lose a pound or two (or three or twenty) sits down? Is your process trial-and-error or do you have – or better said have access to – significant materials and structural mechanics expertise?
Again it depends on both practicality and experience and as I’ve said, we invest a lot of time and energy into our prototypes. For example, we’ve had designs shown at fairs where we had to put up signs “please don’t sit here” which we definitely don’t like to do, because we do want our designs to be fun for the observer and make a great first impression. In this case, we just didn’t have the functionality of our prototype where it needed to be yet.

In terms of how we produce and test prototypes, you just have to keep trying and you use as much common sense as possible. We’re not engineers, we don’t have laboratories or testing facilities, we just have to keep working until it works. But that happens to people as well with more expertise as we have.

Your materials of choice are typically wood and paper, as well as obviously also textiles, polyurethane foam, etc. Are there other material(s) that you have not yet worked with that you’d like to experiment with in the coming moons?
Of course! We’re just at the very beginning of our career (I hope!). I’m not sure what new materials we could use but we want to try as much as possible. Right now, a lot of the decision is based on what we can afford and what’s readily available. We look for what’s around us.

No doubt, I’d love to work and play with all these exotic new materials that you read that are coming out of NASA or other places, like carbon fibers and other materials. It’s all about experimenting and fooling around to see what you can do and test the limits of not only the materials but your imagination as well. But no matter the material, again for us so much is about making the first prototype ourselves and working hands on with the materials we’ve chosen. We don’t want to be the kind of designer that just sits at the computer and comes up with the diagrams for someone else to make a prototype out of. For us, we want to see, know and feel what we get with our designs. I can’t tell you how important this is to us.

Do you try to ensure that your work has a sense of play or even fun to it?
We just try to have our work be as surprising as possible. For example, when people first see Pivot : perhaps they’ll only see two drawers against the wall. Maybe they won’t get what’s special about it. But when you show them how it works – with it’s flexible fanlike structure which allows the drawers to open simultaneously, noting each drawer is slightly taller in back, so it catches on the piece above, holding it in place (the back of the table is attached to a screw drilled into the wall) – and the advantages and terrific functionality it has, you see their expressions change. In this case, I remember well that a lot of people didn’t even believe that the drawers could actually move!

To be fair, people do see so much in today’s world and the market is loaded with so many good ideas. So the ability to surprise and please is very, very important and special to us. It might be that people see a ‘sitting device’ we’ve designed, but at first can’t believe it’s so lightweight and yet so durable, comfortable and functional. So that’s great when people have this kind of reaction.

On the other hand, how do you ensure that your design does not go too far in terms of your imaginations (if that’s possible even in design) and become just show-room fodder or again, kitsch?
We’re not into shocking our audience. I don’t think we have too much if anything that’s shocking or has this aspect in it.

Again, at the end of the day, yes, we want to have a surprise but without making something overly complicated. We want to keep our designs simple. I mean, most of what we’ve created could have been made 500 years ago as the basic manufacturing processes haven’t changed that much. What is important though is that we understand the function of our designs, which will always remain in the center of what we’re doing.

Obviously design is a very emotional field. I would also assume that being not only partners in your work but also partners in life adds to your own emotional investments both professionally and privately (long, very quiet pause)… uh hello?
(laughs) Yes, I’m still here.

Okay, granted it is a little unfair that Yael is not there, but how do you balance the emotions you have for your designs and also for each other?
I don’t know, maybe sometimes we don’t do this so well. At the moment, it’s gotten a bit quieter. Getting ready for all our shows this year has been a bit crazy but now it’s getting to be the holidays and as such, life is returning to a bit of calm.

A couple of months ago, it seemed though like everything was blending together. We were kind of consumed by our work and we didn’t have anything except what we were doing. There was no separation from work and home life. So maybe during this time the balance in our lives wasn’t so great.

But again, when you work so hard and later see the reaction at a show, it makes all the hard work worthwhile. You understand what the project has achieved, something that you can’t get just by focusing and working on it on your own for so long. Plus we have our colleagues around us who help with opinions. Again there are more and more busy periods and sometimes they can get very frantic. But it’s not always easy, no.

What does the phrase performance-based design mean to you, which I’ve seen you refer to in other interviews?
This started in the living space project and specifically with A Day in a Life. Again, I was working against a force or law – in this case gravity – so I had to bring in function to make this area useable. I’ve called it performance-based design or you can phrase it differently if you want. But no matter how you describe this, what is most important is that the piece is functioning. It’s not about how the piece looks but how the piece is actually performing the function it was designed to fulfil and what it is that makes it work. You’ll see again that we don’t have complicated lines or complicated mechanics in our designs, they just work.

For example, I wrote my thesis on a subject similar to animation films, you know like the Road Runner series: the Coyote always wants to catch the Road Runner and he always has some inventive way to try and get him. Yet to me, all his devices seem so real and appear like they could work in reality. It’s an effect that you can’t get in a normal film, even with lots and lots of special effects.

The great thing is that this way of thinking shows we aren’t limited by the constraints we have in life. In animation, you essentially have this magical space to work in. I was always thinking that the approach of an animator could be terrific for a designer. I was totally enthused about this concept in terms of using it as a premise in my design. And also with animation, it’s not just one picture. The picture changes with time and becomes functional. This is very similar to our pieces or the effect we want to create.

Can you provide an example of one of your collaborations where you think that the unique aspects of you and Yael’s design personalities best come together?
For both of us, the aspect of creating something new and combining our different skills is the essence of our studio. If I had to describe our ‘specialties’ briefly, I’d say that Yael has such an amazing mathematical brain and can immediately visualize how to use things in new ways. I have more of a mechanical way of thinking, where I love to understand and visualize how things could move and function. It works very well together but it’s also why you see the difference in our designs.

One good example of our collaboration that we’ve worked on has been these new lights. They're functional and combine Yael’s interests – including from skills she learned in Japan learning their very fine art of how to fold and work with paper. She worked on the lamp shades and I looked at the movement and the functionality of the overall piece.

But our designs don’t have to appear to be a combination of our talents. Every project is a result of us just being together, working side-by-side and pushing each other in a new direction. We don’t have works where we are trying to say “this is Yael’s project” or “this is Shay’s project.” Again, any results of our projects are a result of us being together.

I wanted to ask about the Head Hand Bags which have been called ‘an amalgamation of violence and dissimilarity’ or even as one blog even proclaimed ‘Ladies..., do you want to kill somebody and carry the victim’s head around?’ So Shay, I guess what I really want to know is: how does it feel to be the partner of a lady that designs a handbag that looks like it has (your / a) head in it?
I think it’s fantastic, again this was actually a great project. There’s also a super story behind it and it was so much fun to be involved in the actual process.

This came from part of a college brief by Platform 10 that asked: why are museums so exciting but the museum shops at the end of the tour so boring? Yes, you can buy souvenirs or books or even reproduction postcards from museum shops, but this isn’t exciting or truly unique to the adventure of visiting a great museum or exhibition.

So we tried to look at new approaches in a few different museums. Along the way, Yael was asked to design something for the
National Portrait Gallery in London. So she came up with this head design, which is of course was based on the biblical story about Judith and Holofernes. The bags also have a kind of visual representation reminiscent of the Renaissance and each bag is unique enough to tell its own story.

I don’t think she expected the kind of response she gets for it even today. Maybe it also shows something about human nature. I think it also shows that there’s kind of a lack of the female touch in the world of design or even a shortage of truly famous female designers. I think there should be much more.

Was there for you a specific break-through or let’s say wow moment when you said, ‘Hey, I can do this! I can be a successful designer!’
Hmmm…No. (laughter)

How have your design processes evolved over time?
Lots more mess. No, seriously, A LOT more mess.

We are very messy; we’re probably the messiest in our studio which is messy anyway. Like when Yael starts folding paper, she’ll lose track of time and before you know it, the floor is covered with different models and different constructions. Plus we’re both doing so much at the same time it’s often hard to see the floor or our workspace any more.

You know some times I look in magazines at studios where designers are so clean and organized. With us, it’s just the opposite. So lots of mess is pretty much how we’ve evolved.

What has been the biggest change for the Raw-Edges team since you both left college?
I have to say that there hasn’t been a lot of change. We’ve been talking about this lately. We want to keep our work fresh and want to continuing try new ideas. But at the same time, we wonder how we need to best move ahead with the structure of our studio in terms of trying to grow the business and be more successful.

We’re still working in this kind of college-atmosphere in our studio. Yes, we are occasionally getting some good exposure in magazines and all, but we do wonder how we should organize ourselves for the future. Looking to the future, I really have no idea how our business will change or even what the new trends will bring. I don’t want to change what we’re doing necessarily, but certainly we want to gain more experience and have the opportunity for more and more projects. It’s difficult to say.

But keeping the studio running definitely takes a lot of work. And obviously with Yael and me, we’re not just sharing design space but our lives. So sometimes it’s hard to let it go and just be us. It’s hard to see some times the bigger picture of how things work at the beginning and yet also keep everything in life balanced. Again I am glad it’s a quiet period.

Plus it’s freezing in the studio so it’s not as crowded and busy right now!


Despite their relatively young age, it’s easy to find lots of mentions of both Shay and Yael’s work on the Internet. They’ve been recognized for example at the
Milan Student Show in 2006 – Yael for her creative Milk Carton forms – where the different milk cartons distinguished between the rates of fat in the milk by using form rather than color – and Shay for his Bin Bag Bear. They’ve also participated in the Disturbance show at the Great Eastern Hotel, with again both getting quite a lot of mention in different press releases and reviews. In addition, their work received critical acclaim at the RCA’s masters’ show and the Pivot shelves – again in production by ARCO – were featured broadly in the press and event magazines for the Internationale Möbelmesse in Cologne Germany this year.

Other works in progress in terms of mass production include both their
Volume – part of the Tailoring Furniture series, where these are seats made out of big sheets of pattern paper or wallpaper and filled with expanded polyurethane foam, which acts as a mould – and Stack designs, which have been licensed by Established & Sons for its collection. They’ve also recently exhibited in several shows both large and smaller, including at the Fat Galerie in Paris along with their good friend Peter Marigold. And if this isn’t impressive enough already, as mentioned they’re had a busy second half of 2008 including the Toyko DesignTide 2008 show, “Under the Same Roof – New Work by the OKAY Studio”, which was generously sponsored by the Aram Gallery and also “From Now to Eternity – Plastic in Design”.

Although their studio name expresses their interest in the character of different materials, its clear that Yael and Shay’s work is no longer raw – other than it remains as uniquely fresh as ever. Their on-going collaborations will be watched with a keen eye by many in the design world and beyond for many years to come.


Epilogue 1: Ziggy Nixon would again like to thank Shay and Yael for their tremendous patience and courtesy during this interview process. It took a while, but we did it! Seriously, both really went out of their way, so kudos all around (too cheesy again?)!

And after Yael indicated that this long, “conversational” type of interview was a little, hm, let’s say, ‘unique’ in its style for them, I’d be re-miss if I didn’t include this link to a
MUCH SHORTER video. Great stuff!


All photographs and images used by kind permission of Raw-Edges Studio and may not be duplicated or other-wise manhandled without written permission of the artists. Pictures used of the Tug lights and Tailored Wood, as well as at least one of the portraits by
Luke Hayes, those of Stack are copyright of Mike Golgwater, Pivot from the ARCO catalogue by Petrik Pantze. Maybe we missed one or two, sorry.

November 15, 2008

It’s Not His Fault That So Many People Like His Work

An Interview with Jesse Parrotti by Ziggy Nixon

Jesse Parrotti is a San Francisco-based designer, illustrator, and painter who has been gathering quite a lot of attention over the past couple of years. Fans from across the globe have been eager to spread the word about his unique style that combines elements of past influences with techniques of the present day.

Whether you’ve seen his work as an illustration, a playbill, a poster, a logo, an album cover or even printed on a tee-shirt, Jesse’s style will definitely catch your eye. One thing that you have to admit about his work is that it’s just plain fun to sit and stare for a while at the images and let your mind wander.

And whether his work makes you think back to the early 1900’s, the late 1960’s or even a future or reality yet to be defined, that’s okay with him. The stories Jesse weaves with his art open the gateways to just about anywhere you want to go.

Ziggy Nixon is happy to have caught up with this young talent to discuss his art and influences:

Jesse, from the brief snippets about your education and career I’ve been able to find, I see that you graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ohio University in 2004, and afterwards worked with the Berkeley Repertory Theater, sorry, Theatre in San Francisco.

Just to be overly nosy, how did you find yourself moving from Ohio to San Francisco for a design career? Why didn’t you look to find something either overseas or even more foreign than that, say, in New York City?
San Francisco, or better said, the Bay Area, was not my only choice of places to move after college. I just knew I wanted to get out of Ohio. Don’t get me wrong: I love where I grew up and went to school, but after living there for so long… Well, I wanted to move on.

So I just started applying to any design jobs I could find in a couple different areas I would want to move to, the Bay Area being one of them. It ended up being the place that I got my first job. Actually it was an internship to be accurate.

Jesse, just about every entry I found for you in the past months lists you as someone who, quote, ‘creates work that looks like it’s both from the future and a throwback to 60s psychedelia.’ Another blurb that I disagreed with was ‘Jesse Parrotti’s style can only be described as groovy.’ I’m just curious if these descriptives are in line with your own vision of your work?
I’m ok with those descriptions I guess. I like to think my work goes a bit beyond the realm of the psychedelic, but I’m certainly not opposed to that description.

I do like it that people might see it as a mixture of the past and future.

Do you worry about getting typecast with such buzz lines floating around the web? Like ‘oh, if you want something groovy and psychedelic, just call that Parrotti guy!’
I’m not really worried about being typecast. I think, unlike an actor, a visual artist can change their style at any time without any resistance; you just need to make it happen. It’s really whether people will like your new work or not. There will always be people that you alienate and others that you bring into the fold.

I hope as my style evolves, people will say, ‘oh, check this new shit out, way to change it up’. I certainly don’t plan on doing the same exact thing over and over.

What are your main inspirations, including current or past influences?
There are a ton of things that inspire me to make art. I think one of the biggest though, is just my love of building new worlds, creating stories. It’s fun as hell. Being able to make up anything at all, and then make a little story out of it, in the form of an image. To me that’s really gratifying, even if no one else really understands what the story means.

People can make up their own stories for the images I make, that’s okay, too.

I love to try when I’m first exposed to an artist’s works to imagine what may have influenced their work or what they might enjoy in life that supports their creative process. These are some of my first impressions that your work brought to my own mind (tiny as it may be) –
· First of all – and this may just be because I’ve become enamored with his work since recently watching the extended ‘
Pan’s Labyrinth’ DVD for the first time as well as viewing an on-line interview with him – would be the creations of director Guillermo del Torro, who is also the director of the ‘Hell Boy’ movies (with a nod to Mike Mignola’s unique imagery in the original comics featuring same). This comes across strongly for me in this image that you’ve also chosen as your background for your website, which is perhaps my favorite so far of your images;

· Secondly – and pretty obvious really – would be a selection of my old Beatles’ and/or Hendrix LP covers (ZN recommends coupling Jesse’s work with ‘
The Wind Cries Mary’ or ‘Little Wing’ for the full sensual ride);

· I sense in addition a pretty strong affiliation to science-fiction in general (less Frank Herbert and more Asimov or especially Heinlein and Bradbury). Also, without giving away too much about our age difference, I see some of Ralph Bakshi’s imagery and especially background detail from his film ‘

· Finally, there seems to be a bit of
Alphonse Mucha in your works, particularly in the kind of (I hate to use this term, sorry) art deco backgrounds that occasionally appear. For example, this really came across to me in your piece ‘Grimwood Son’, shown here.

Now after that long bit of bloggy rambling (no worries, it’ll get tightened up if this makes it to a real web-site): Which of these fit in with your own tastes or inclinations and which are just way off base in your eyes?

Everything you mention here is pretty close. I really enjoyed the imagery from Pan’s Labyrinth. I’m not sure it had any direct inspiration on me, but it’s definitely something I like.

I’m also a huge fan of the science fiction genre. I definitely include sci-fi on my short list of inspiration. I have seen Wizard’s, but it was a long time ago, I should probably check it out again soon.

In terms of Alphonse Mucha, yeah, I love his work. Certainly it’s kind of played out in a way. I mean he’s one of those artists you always see on calendars and silly little fake vintage posters. But I really love his high level of precision and craft. You just know he spent a lot of energy on each piece. It’s not his fault that tons of people like his work.

What led you to favor an approach that features primarily classical illustration and/or painting techniques, including watercolor, acrylics and even markers (correct or did I miss some?)?
I really just work in those mediums because of my limited workspace. I plan on getting myself a proper studio soon and will most likely be branching out into bigger and, perhaps most importantly, messier mediums.

How has your design process evolved over time?
I think my work has gotten a lot more organic, less structured.

The aforementioned ‘Grimwood Son’ was not just watercolor on paper, but was in addition digitally inked. How does this combination of techniques work?
Basically, I do a normal pencil drawing then I color it with acrylic and/or watercolour. Finally, I scan it at high resolution and ink it with a
wacom tablet. Pretty basic.

How much work do you do with computers to compliment your art?
Not a lot right now, other than digitally inking some pieces. I am experimenting with certain digital processes and applications and will certainly be utilizing them more in the future.

Have you even considered working exclusively with computer-based illustration techniques or do you wish to keep at least part of the hands on aspect?
I really love working digitally. But it will never really replace a pencil and paper for me.

Like I said, I do see myself working more digitally in the future, especially for paid client work. It’s so much easier to make edits and changes; really stuff you just can’t do in the real world.

But when I am working on a personal piece, it really means something to me to have it in my hands as an object, a touch-able thing, and not just a digital file. This makes it a bit more personal. Even when working digitally, I usually start with a scanned drawing anyways. That will never go away I think.

I’ve really enjoyed looking at your pieces and trying to de-construct if you will how they come to be, from the first sketched line and/or drop of paint. I’m curious therefore if you start with an image already in mind or does a piece sometimes develop outward from some first part of the picture?

To put it a different way, which comes first, the sketches or the color or have you started works coming from both directions (I hope that didn’t sound too weird or offensive)?
Usually I just get an idea for a scene or character, and just start building from there. Sometimes ideas are more fleshed out before I start, and sometimes they are not. Other times I just let my hand move and see what happens.

Some of your pieces almost strike me as an amalgamation of often dissimilar images (whoa, that bordered on sounding intelligent, noting I’m writing this with my thesaurus open). Is that intentional or are do you sometimes aim to include seemingly disparate images in order to tell a deeper, even more mysterious story?
Usually my pieces tell a story. But I like the idea that anyone can look at it and come up with there own narrative.

So many other inputs on the web in the past months have featured your work ‘Magician’s Triumph’. Again, a fantastic piece of work but I also find myself wondering how these often ethereal (bingo, this is how I would describe your work!), yet spiritual, political or even romantic images fit together?
Yeah, for me that piece is really about conquering god as a practitioner of magick, becoming your own god. I think that it really tells that story. But again, it might be totally different for someone else and that’s cool.

Was design for you a life-long ambition or did you decide later on that it was attractive owing to the flexible working hours and lack of heavy lifting?
Well, I always knew that I wanted to make images for a living. I just didn’t really know what form it was going to take. I kind of still don’t.

There was kind of a moment when I began working as a freelance illustrator and designer, I think 6 months or so into it, when I said ‘wow, I guess I’m making a living at this’. I still don’t really feel like I am settled into one area or another in regards to how I make a living.

But for me, I don’t ever really want to settle into a career, which I guess is why I chose to work freelance; all the variety, a bit of mystery and enough stress to keep me on my toes.

Jesse, what does the phrase ‘pushing the envelope’ mean to you, and specifically how do you think you’ve already done that or will try to in the future?
I don’t really know if I have ‘pushed the envelope’ or not. I guess to me it just means being on the avant garde of what is happening around you. I don’t even know if that is my goal or not. Certainly I want to keep progressing as an artist and person. Whether that qualifies as pushing the envelope, I’m not sure.

I think maybe everyone is trying to accomplish that, that is, pushing the envelope is really just current mainstream culture. Most people are doing it in one way or another, or at least trying to.

Obviously, exposure is important to any artist or designer. You’ve had an interesting collection of different showings that I’d like to get your insight on (in no particular order):

You participated in the ‘
Toil & Trouble’ event in June 2007, which was listed as an exhibition and fund-raiser for the film ‘Story about a Witch’ (how cool, I have never heard of a fund-raiser for a film!). How did that work out for you?
It was ok, just a little one night show. I actually didn’t sell any of the three pieces I had in there, so you know…

But there was free wine, so in the end, it worked out pretty good!

The band ‘Innaway’ seemed to be pretty impressed with your album cover, saying it was ‘so cool that we pressed a two song single onto 12’ vinyl just to enhance the cover art.’ How has your working relationship with this band or other musicians worked out?
Innaway is a great group of guys, and
their music is phenomenal. I have a great relationship with them and am currently working on the cover for their next album. And sure, when the set-up is right I’m happy to work with other bands, too.

I was also fascinated to see your work featured in of all places as part of the invitation to the recent ‘
Jack the Ripper 2008 Conference’ that was held this year in Knoxville, Tennessee. Is this kind of weird for you (what do these people possibly do together?) or is any exposure = good exposure for a rising design star?
Ha, yeah. I did a book cover for this annual magazine about Jack the Ripper; apparently he has a big following. But you’re right, I’m happy to have the exposure plus I’m still alive and all.

Looking perhaps even further back in your development, I see you were invited to participate in ‘
PEEP!’ that not only helps Bay Area artists get their works shown but also I believe supports arts in general for public education in this area. Was this your first serious exhibit?
That was a while back. It was a good show; I definitely got a lot of exposure from that. It was probably my first real showing of work.

Recently, you’ve had a good deal of success with your work designing tee-shirt motifs, including for the company
Deeper Shades of Soul – more commonly known as ‘DSOS’ – among others (e.g. Zoo York or Von Zipper). In fact, you mention that some of your designs will soon be featured in shirts and accessories offered across the nation at a ‘major brand-name clothing store’.

How does it feel to see your work offered in such a way?
I’m ok with it; I mean it certainly is and will continue to be a decent amount of exposure as long as the prints are out there.

In terms of business, is this lucrative in terms of earnings for you (like a commercial jingle, do you get a % of each tee-shirt sold)? Or is it a one-off licensing deal?
Nah, I just got paid to do the artwork, the company owns the rights.

How involved are you in the actual larger-scale production of these prints? Just as an example: let’s say someone wanted to change the basic color scheme of one of your designs. Do you then have the right to scream ‘no way’ or how does it work exactly?
For the DSOS work, yeah, I worked very close with the production. I even spent a lot of time travelling to Indonesia to actually manage a lot of the sample production.

For other jobs, I usually just do the design and then it is out of my hands. I like being involved in all aspects when I can though. I think it is important to know how things are made, things we buy.

On the other hand, do you have any mixed feelings about going more ‘mainstream’, even wondering if any of your friends would tease you about ‘selling out’?
That kind of thing does not really bother me. Plus most of my friends are sell-outs so there’s little chance I’ll be an outcast ;)

The fact is, everyone has to make a living; well, not everyone, but most people. And if you are not lucky enough to be independently wealthy, then you have to work.

But I still consider myself very lucky because I do something I love and make enough cash to pay rent. Some folks live a lifestyle where they never have to ‘sell-out’ or even work for that matter, but again, usually those people have rich parents.

Your main media have focused on using paper and also managing to get your works onto textiles (or as one blogger recently put it ‘Jesse puts his semi-psychedelic, bold yet soft images on anything he can get his hands on’). I also see in your portfolio that you’ve worked on logos, swing tags, web design, and various hard-copy materials particularly for your work with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (is that enough plugs for them yet?).

And now the actual question: what media have you not yet worked with or worked with extensively that you’d like to try more with in the coming moons?

I’m super excited to start doing some oil painting. Also, I have recently been exposed to working with spray cans, I have some friends who paint graffiti and it’s really enticing.

How do you see your work developing in the coming years? Is your target to remain more illustration focused or to branch out further into the general ‘design’ field?
I definitely see myself moving more solidly into illustration actually. I love good design, and it complements good illustration. But I really just love drawing pictures.

Where do you see design in general – in all its shapes, forms and incarnations – heading?
That is a good question, and I really don’t know. It seems like there are really no rules, or at least fewer rules with less and less restrictions. I’m just not sure where that will take design.

Finally, what IS the joke about the 3 midgets and you (noting there are lots of other listed ‘
Movie Night Members’ which one could eventually track down and ask)?
Man, you really googled the shit out of me. Movie Night was a thing me and my friends did back during High School in Ohio. It had quite a big following; sometimes we’d have up to 20 of us at a movie night.

Basically, it was just a bunch of teenage jerks watching the worst movies we could get our hands on, consuming way to much caffeine and generally causing trouble before and after the movie. Nothing too special.

As for the midgets, man, I honestly don’t remember that one; it was probably something completely absurd.

Insert here - free space for any advertising you want to do:
I have a new shirt coming out through
Friends United Network, a group where I’ve sold some other stuff before as well. It should be out soon, so keep checking back. I’m also working on getting my on-line store up and running (don’t buy anything yet, it’s just in the test phase!).

And as always your readers can always check out my
website for my latest updates and work! Give me a shout if you see something you like or have an idea for something I can do for you!


All images are full copyright of Jesse Parrotti, including for commercial items, and are used exclusively for this article (or licensed reprints of same) by kind permission. No further usage of these images is permitted without full written consent of Jesse Parrotti and the Commisioner's office of Major League Baseball.

November 9, 2008

Manifest Plainness, Embrace Simplicity, Design Terrific Logos°

An Interview with David Pache of the Creative Studio 'dache'
We have a confession to make – when setting up this interview, we initially thought to ourselves: what the heck does a logo designer have to do anyway? Seriously, it looks so simple, anyone could do it, right? All you do is take a company’s name, study a bit what the client wants to say, what and/or to whom they wish to sell, fool around with Microsoft Paint and maybe PowerPoint, maybe refer to some color swatches if you’re feeling really fancy... Then, BANG, the next Nike swoop or big fat IKEA sign is born with instant global recognition and world-wide acclaim being assured.

Well, how do we put this? Needless to say, we were wrong about the whole logo design thing. Very wrong. Very, very, most extremely, nauseatingly wrong. And we want to apologise to not only all the artists out there working on logo design, but all the people who may have been inadvertently exposed to our efforts (that poor garbage collector is still in a coma). In fact, we found that not only is logo design NO WHERE NEAR as easy as it looks, but especially fighting the urge to adjust, or add an element, or continue to tweak a color or a line was overwhelming. We’d probably show our age too much if we reminded everyone of an episode where former President Ronald Reagan once
‘squoze’ and picked at a pimple (which was actually skin cancer) so long that he had to go to the hospital to get it treated… so we won’t do that, keeping in mind this guy had his finger on THE button for 8 years… we mean, what if he had wanted to pick at that instead?

You may have even noticed in recent e-mail rantings that we’ve picked a final Ziggy Nixon logo and even letterhead-slash-business card theme; but it also needs to be noted that this was only achieved after much hullabaloo and Nixon family brain-storming (read: in our house this is accomplished by great amounts of shouting and chasing one another around the yard with large sticks in order to settle our differences). In other words, our selection came down to throwing in the towel and giving up after a good 20 or 30 main designs, admitting we were lost and using our best shot. In addition, we knew that this was far away from a commercial reality in that it’d look even worse on a billboard or on the side of a truck or gods forbid presented by any other form of mass hysteria, we mean, media.

In the end, we did confirm one thing: making bad logos is very easy indeed (just ask
Swisscom – or better said their CEO [translation: the boss is NOT happy!]– or the 2012 London Olympic Committee). Clearly after this personal introduction, we gained a lot of respect for this branch of design and especially anyone who regularly produces quite aesthetically pleasing and commercially successful logos. And David Pache – from the Swiss-based design firm dache (pronounced “dash”) – is a terrific person to talk to if you’re looking for someone who’s knows how to get it right.

If you do have some exposure to the world of logo design, you’ve probably run across David’s name or at very least mention of his work. He’s had his wide array of logos and other work reviewed and featured many times recently and has provided a number of interviews for various publications as well. See for example these references to the dache brand of design at, and also, all very well known sites amongst designers and clients alike.

Ziggy Nixon caught up recently with this talented – and extremely busy – young Swiss designer: David, can you tell us please a little about your business, including the scope and even your likes and dislikes of running an agency?
Sure! I started the business out of college in 2005 and have been building it up ever since. I’ve had some good exposure and have also managed to continually upgrade my website, offers and contacts.

At this time, my client base is predominantly US-based but I also have clients in Canada, Mexico, the UK, Asia, India, Australia and Europe. This has really been exciting for me, in that what started off as a national business here in Switzerland has expanded and taken me to an international level.

In terms of running a business itself, I have to admit that I do not always enjoy the business element which sometimes takes the passion out of design for me. For example, this is why I have previously offered discounted logos to start-ups or offered logos at lower cost through other channels. I also try to stay pretty flexible with my pricing structure in order to be more accessible to a wider customer base.

I plan in future to widen this kind of activity and even try to offer my work to charities. I enjoy doing this as it helps me then balance the pure business aspects with my passion for what I’m doing.

How would you describe the dache style?
My style is contemporary with classic elements. I enjoy simple logos and their interpretations. Sure I am able to produce all different types of logo styles as you can see on my site. But I do have a preference in that I really like the geometry and symmetry of logos.

My work has been featured on many websites as you mentioned and can soon be viewed in books such as
The Web Designer's Idea Book and LogoLounge V (see also here for more details to which logos from my portfolio are to be included). I’m also very excited that 10 of my logos were recently published in Los Logos 4, which I also describe on my website here.

How would you describe yourself – or let's say your professional title – best?
Ultimately, I consider myself a multi-media services provider. However, the reason why I focus a lot of my time and energy on logo design per se is that this is the area that 90% of my clients require from me. And it really is my passion.

Logo design is the most dynamic aspect to my job as it allows me to use small snippets from my entire portfolio of pictures and other artistic creations to really showcase my designs. For example, if I am asked to design a web page, the business brief is much more limited for me as a designer. This is because the client already has an idea of what style he requires including format, lay-out, colors, etc.

In general, what types of new customers do you like dealing with the most?
As I really focus on offering the highest value for the customer’s money, I find that much of my new business is sourced from start-up companies. These types of businesses will obviously have a name but not always be sure about the style of overall branding they want to establish. It is very satisfying to help this type of client find this initial starting point from which to launch their business.

How do the additional aspects of your work beyond logo design fit into your business and daily routine?
I am constantly reviewing my portfolio – if you will for marketing purposes – to see if there are any aspects which will generate additional business beyond just logo design. In many cases, I will initially be asked to provide the logo for a company; but then later down the line, these same clients will re-visit me to do also perform website revisions, create business cards and letterheads, etc.

Most recently, I have spent most of my spare time updating my own web page in order to make it easier to use. This includes setting up a new
online quote page, which allows potential clients to complete a simple questionnaire, including all their contact details and the basic brief for the project. This is then sent to me in a pre-formatted e-mail for me to begin the creative discussions. Also included in the online quote is my pricing so clients may see upfront what would best suit their budget.

How do you set up the operational part of the business with customers, including pricing?
I offer 4 set price packages but each of these allows the customer to add on certain elements. I find this is working well and it is a new idea where the clients, in effect, can build their own package. So again, setting this up has taken a lot of my time but it seems customers really appreciate it.

In addition, I’m trying to support my business even further with my new blog forum,
dacheboard, which is also run from my site. I use this to feature articles, illustrate processes and post general information that is a useful reference point to fellow designers and new starters to the profession. (ZN recommends surfing all the available pages and articles, there’s a load of terrific input and offers some key pointers for us novices as well!)

Although we've lived in or near Switzerland for over 16 years now, how would you describe to the non-initiated what having a Swiss Touch means in terms of design?
This is a good question and I suppose it’s really a matter of personal opinion.

However, I would say that the Swiss in general have a reputation for clean, good quality products in all areas of business – and the world of design is no different. I like the geometry that certain projects allow which also is part of the true Swiss style for me. If I had to summarize it then, I’d say that using simplistic, clean lines to create a reliable, quality-oriented finished product that meets the client’s requirements is what I offer as my Swiss Touch for logo and web design.

We have quite enjoyed surfing all the available examples of your logos, it's really very inspiring. Now, we want to ask a few questions that we hope do not in any way insult your craft:
1) In so many ways – where you've mentioned this yourself in other interviews – successful logos are frequently relatively simplistic, even seeming (later) to be very obvious designs in terms of fit and message including as examples both NIKE and Adidas brand logos;
2) When going through your collection, we found ourselves again and again thinking "hey, that's the logo, without question", almost like it had always existed like that (actually, we mostly thought "well, duh!" but we’re beginners at this). A couple of the best examples we could mention would be your own professional logo (a subtle combination of a “d” and “+” that acts as well as a tie-in to the Swiss flag) as well as
'Ecstatic Media' (so straightforward yet so brilliant!! See also in the logo section of the website for more!);
click on image for larger view:

3) With this in mind how do you either keep your logos simple enough to convey the message the customer wants to get across? Looking at this slightly differently, how do you keep your designs from going too far and becoming, if you will, over-engineered?
This is a very valid question and I think touches on why a lot of start up designers may struggle. They try too hard with the design process and wind up making a product that is far too complicated.

I think I manage to retain the simplistic interpretation of a logo as I find that brainstorming / sketching on paper really helps me maintain a good oversight. Of course, by talking with the clients, looking at the brand name and establishing what the client wants their logo to portray, I find that in 80-90% of cases “the simpler the better” is most often the best philosophy.

I try to not take too much away from the logo itself, which allows it to be workable and have an almost obvious interpretation, as you say. If I wanted to produce very artistic logos then my clientele would be different, I guess, but my style is what it is. The existing and new clients comment on this when they first approach me to work for them. They find the honest approach to my work appealing.

One of our favorite examples of your work is the 'Social Generations' logo shown below; it really spoke to us in terms of the family unit and color scheme. Can you describe how you created this example, including the decision-making interaction with the customer?
I think it is easiest to provide a general view of my design process, rather than be specific, as different projects require different approaches. As mentioned earlier, clients typically initially approach me through e-mail to find out quotes, where again, my new online quote page ensures that all emails I receive are from potential clients who have seen my pricing levels and have already made the decision that they want to move forward.

At this stage, I take a look through their brief and try to focus on the main points of what they are trying to say with their logo and to whom it will ultimately be presented. I brainstorm ideas on paper for a few days and once I have a few ideas that I feel the client would like, I then start preliminary sketching on grid paper. Very early in this process though, I already report back to the client for their initial thoughts on the direction I’m going in. If it seems we’re in agreement, the initial drafting can then take place.

Importantly, I provide one concept at a time to allow the client to consider each in its own right. This is something which developed over time because I found out earlier in my career that if two concepts were presented together, they would wind up being compared to each other rather than each being judged on their on merit. I found then that this was really unfair to the client to be in this situation, namely where they felt that had to choose rather than just focus on the big picture of their targets.

Admittedly, it’s often the case that a client will love the first concept, therefore I may wind up doing revisions on just one approach anyway. Still, most clients want to see the initial drafts and later potentially the revisions of at least two concepts, dependant as well on the price package they’ve chosen.

It is, however, critical at this point to hold a very thorough dialogue with the client; this is paramount in order to achieve their targets. After this, I then begin to finalize the revisions and present the finished concept to the client in their specified format. I think the key point is that client consultation is something that cannot be replaced in order to obtain the desired logo.

How do you decide on the color schemes to include in your logos? Is it necessary for example to make adjustments to fit into your customers' already existing media (for example, brochures or online communications, etc.)?
I do not have any pre-determined color sets with which I work. My influences are taken from combinations of colors that I see everyday.

When my clients approach me, they will often go ahead and indicate their color preferences – which is part of the briefing questionnaire. It may be as well that they will have already created part of their business image already – e.g. with an existing website – therefore the colors with which I should work are specified and fixed.

Examples of dache-designed typography, click on image to enlarge:

Other clients give free reign and leave it to my personal judgment. These are the most liberating projects for me as I really enjoy being asked to look at all aspects of the logo as opposed to working within a given set of criteria. If I am indeed given the choice, I will still do all I can to choose colors which I feel will best interpret a logo in the correct way the client wants, and not based solely on my personal opinion.

How has your design process evolved over time? Have you always been essentially computer-based in your design work or has this changed, and if so, in what ways?
The available software over the years has certainly got better and better both in terms of the quality of the final products you can make as well as the different programs’ ease-in-use and flexibility. My process has therefore become faster as a result of working in the Internet based industry for a while.

That being said, I continue to place a great deal of importance on sketching by hand and grid work. This is a manual process on one hand; but on the other, scanners make it possible to integrate it directly into my work with the software. This also allows me to find the lines which I want for a particular logo.

For example, the project for ‘brokers’ used a simplified bull symbol. I first sketched the lines on paper, then in a grid book and then finally scanned the image into the software for me to work with. I have an article regarding this project on the dacheboard on my website if you’re interested in finding out more about this example.

We've seen you mention travel as being an integral part of both your creative process and also of your personal life. How does this help your designs?
The reference to this was the general travel of everyday life – trains, buses, walking, etc. It is a time when I can just clear my mind. Then, when I least expect it, I will see a landscape or the clothes of a stranger which may inspire one of my current projects. These influences usually materialize in the color palettes that I select for a particular project more than the actual design element.

Sure the various holidays that I’ve been on in different regions of the world have also exposed me to an amazing assortment of unique designs and architecture. For example, I was recently approached to design a logo for a UK-based finance company specializing in and wanting to represent the Middle Eastern market. The
finished design featured an inlay (see below) which was inspired by architecture from this region I’d experienced and which gave the desired effect. It is these areas of the travel that feature in my design process.

Looking ahead for the next years, do you see any particular design trends in your fields?
To be honest, I think it’s difficult to predict how the field will change or develop. But I have noticed a slight trend in reviving styles from the 70’s. I suppose therefore it would be expected that the 80’s will have a strong influence over the next phase.

Also, in logo design, there is great influence from the other genres of graphic design. I see a trend then towards very illustrative, photographic, even almost what many might think of as ‘arty’ effects. These are being used more and more by designers to fall in line with where the field is going.

In general, I think that the future outlook for design is very positive. With the market in the recent decades developing with the mass production of computer technology, we are now seeing a period where the general public are aware of our market, are more willing to accept the concept of design and are hungry to seek out good work. This is good news for the industry as we are seeing more clients and are being encouraged to produce better quality projects. We are also being given much more freedom to experiment in our approaches.

How do you see your own business evolving?
If I look back to starting dache, the first two years were, as expected, a lot of hard work. But in 2008, I have really seen the benefits. I’ve established a solid client base, new business is coming in regularly and this makes all the time and energy I’ve invested worth it.

As mentioned earlier, I have re-worked the website to provide a space for discussion and also to provide online quotation. In the short-term, I plan to do much of the same to make the service which I offer as streamlined as possible for the clients. In the long term, I will see how it develops, with the view to possibly expanding into other areas.

We don’t know why but we get some kind of morbid pleasure asking this question: have you ever had a project that you thought just didn't work out – for any reason, including lack of ideas, problems with the customer or just general malaise – and if yes, what did you learn from this experience?
No doubt there are teething problems with any business. For example, in the first months, I had a couple of clients who approached me to produce logos for them; however, rather than asking me to actually design new logos, they provided drafts of the logos they wanted and said, “Do this, please”. As you can imagine, to a designer this allows no creative freedom and it did seem to be a pretty pointless exercise.

But it was a part of the learning curve in terms of realizing how different clients expect different results and how they can differ as well in terms of how much control they are willing to give you. Even when I am given full creative freedom, I still stay in constant contact with the client to ensure I am heading in a direction with which they will be happy and satisfied. But this is something which has very much developed through my experiences in customer service.

You also mention that you are interested in sculpture, music,
suprematism and painting. How do these different aspects of your interests contribute to your work?
I would not say that each of these specifically contributes something to my work; however, they are all areas which are of great interest to me culturally. By studying them and even following the current views on them, this has allowed me to be influenced by them in order to make a logo work or get the correct perspective on a certain concept.

The suprematism movement is an art genre which I love to use for inspiration on colors or shapes. As for sculpture, painting and music, these are all hobbies of mine so these act really as a bridge between my personal and professional life.

If you could do any other kind of work in the world, what would it be and why?
I have recently been editing some video clips from the camcorder and the editing software was something which I had not used since I was in college. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the process. I never chose to pursue this area; however, I think if I could not be doing what I am doing now, being a film maker would be of great interest.


Graduating from the nearby Ecole romande d'arts et communication, David picked up various skills along the way including working with multimedia design, graphics, communication, project management, sound and video, 3D illustration and photography. Some of his tools of the trade include working with Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Fontlab Studio, Flash and Dreamweaver.

He is officially the Owner and Art Director of the self-created design company, dache, located between Geneva and Lausanne in the mountain village of St. Cergue in Switzerland, a place where the locals have to suffer tremendously owing to being surrounded by the sheer beauty of the region and having to live in one of the most spectacular areas on the planet. Alas despite this, it was indeed after his college days that it dawned on David that he should set up his own business in order to do what he loved most of all – website and especially logo design. And since forming his own company in the second half of 2005, he’s never looked back.

dache focuses on logo design, corporate and brand identity, multimedia, illustration and production of internet and print marketing campaigns. And David will proudly tell you that he is all about creative and dynamic out-of-the box thinking, Swiss style. His tailor-made and original concepts continue to satisfy a wide range of local, national and international clients to the fullest.

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°CONFESSION 2: the main title of this article is based on a quote we like, namely:

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.

Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC), from ‘The Way of Lao-tzu’
(ZN note: Lao-tzu is perhaps better known for this quote:
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’)

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EPILOGUE 1 – for a quick and dirty run-through of various ZN favorites of dache’s logo portfolio, check out these links (in no particular order, just listed pretty much at random). AGAIN NOTE THAT ALL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN ORIGINAL FORM VIA dache’s
LOGO LINK so visit now! You’ll be glad you did, ‘cause there’s tons of neat stuff, where especially enjoy the input about how the links came to be or what David was aiming for:
- African Tradition (love the Giacometti connection!);
- TreeSpread (great descriptive included: ‘For this design a fractal was created,
a beautiful and natural phenomenon of growth and infinity.’);
- hope stewart (we had to stare at this one for a while to get it [we confess to
thinking it was an Alpine ram], but now it’s so obvious!);
- goodtogether (again the simplicity is grand!);
- foxsaver (seriously, we would buy a cap or other merchandise with
this logo! Free advertising people!!);
- Slicejack (getting redundant now about simplicity, but the story is great here, too!);
- crazy japanese videos (hee hee, no doubt this would never fly in the US, but we’re so sick of being politically correct);
- MediaFactory (filing this one under ‘things that make you go ‘hm’’);
- Grooveshark (who wouldn’t want a chance to design a logo for a company with
this name? Well, there is always
- twuut (which is coincidentally also the sound a 400 lb. parakeet makes,
so the logo fits right in);
- the sapient group (we have no idea what sapient means, but this is too cool!);
- and last but not least,
The Creative Inbox. ‘Nuff said.

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ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK! At this link you’ll find a quick run-down of the ZN home-made logo design process (from our soon-to-be-patented 5 minute blog entry approach). YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
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All images - well those from the David Pache/dache bits above - are used by exclusive agreement and kind permission of the dache design agency. All usage is strictly by restricted to written permission of David Pache. Some images have been resized or combined in such a way as to ensure their fit into this blog article. All original images are available at www.