Interview: Kind Studio

How much experience do you need to have before you can set up your own creative agency? Youthful designer-makers James Richards and Sean Murphy had barely graduated when they established Kind Studio, a thriving business specializing in branding, digital and environmental design. Among other notable projects, they’ve just designed the new packaging for subscriber copies of Elephant magazine...

James Richards and Sean Murphy, Kind Studio

You both studied graphic design in beautiful Nottingham. What are the main professional lessons you took away from your education there? 

We found our time there more of a practical experience, learning the ins and outs of print techniques and various software programmes. It was immediately after leaving education that we really found that the professional lessonsbegan, whether that was internships, jobs or postgraduate education. Its hard to teach the process and workflow of professional design studios in university, mainly because every agency has its own unique structure, methods and output.

Elephant Packaging

How easy was it to decide Now were a studio? How (and at what point) did you know it was going to work out?

I think we had to psychologically convince ourselves we were a studio from day one. We took the leap and rented a desk in a small co-working space in Brixton. We had no clients, contacts or professional portfolio. Without convincing ourselves we were a studio, and therefore fully capable of taking on various projects, I dont think we would have made it past the first couple of months. We had to exude confidence, because at the time we had no other cards to play. It is very difficult to run a successful studio without committing to it full time. We had to take the leap and just do it. It was definitely a risk but we are glad we took it.

Storyboard. Image Tom Porter

Youre both millennials. Does design for print have any appeal or meaning for you? Is it nostalgic pleasure?

I think print design has a special place in every designer’s heart. Its often said that print is dead, but as young designers it’s an area we love working in. We see print as an opportunity to combine interesting, creative content with an increasing number of materials, print techniques and finishes that are available to create really lovely work that really pushes the boundaries of our craft. A book or a piece of print is nostalgic, it’s an object. The binding, the paper, even the smell is part of a sensory experience that leads people to collect and treasure books and prints that have been carefully considered by designers. Weve recently got into the habit of combing through charity shops looking for interesting items to add to our collection.

Storyboard. Image Tom Porter

Youve designed the new subscription packaging for Elephant, which means that subscribers get not only a copy of the magazine but also a cardboard mammal to cut out and keep. How did you come up with that idea?

Packaging is often great opportunity to include flourishes or elements which add an extra dimension to design. With Elephant we wanted to take full advantage of this, creating something which not only reflects the playful, creative nature of the magazine, but is also a practical packaging solution.

Storyboard. Image Tom Porter

You work with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which is part of London College of Fashion. What does that involve, and what are the particular challenges?

We started working with CSF earlier this year, branding their Art for the Environment residency programme. Our latest project with them involved an online publication showcasing LCF students collaborative project with H&M creating garments which were showcased in window displays across London. Working with CSF has been an opportunity for us not only to create work with great content, but also to design freely for a very open and creative client. So far weve not met any negative challenges there. Our relationship with the client is great and there is a real mutual trust. It is one of those rare client-designer relationships that just clicks. The only real challenge is making sure that we are consistently pushing ourselves creatively while still answering the brief.

Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Youre based in Brixton in south London where you recently unveiled your Brixton Pound Cash Machine. Where did that idea come from? How does it work?

The Brixton Pound is a local currency and charity based here in Brixton. They have their own printed notes which can be exchanged at most independent shops in the area, consequently helping to boost local businesses and encourage spending within Brixton. We were approached by the Brixton Pound to develop a concept for an alternative means of cash exchange, which could be placed in one of the indoor markets in Brixton without any requirement for it to be staffed. The project involved repurposing a vending machine by reprogramming the software and retrofitting a note reader. Aesthetically, we wanted to reflect the vibrancy and eclectic visual mix in Brixton. We did this by designing, producing and fitting an external case to the machine and wrapping it in the colourful branding of the Brixton Pound. The machine has been a real success, people love the fact you can see the money in the machine before you buy it and have said that there is an excitement you get when your purchase tumbles down behind the glass.

Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Youve also designed an interactive game: Storyboard. How does that work?

Storyboard was created around the idea of subverting the linear nature of narrative by allowing readers to make decisions post-publication. The machine encourages users to make decisions about the structure and length of the narrative by selecting content from twelve different genres, which pull randomly generated statements from a range of existing literature, stacking them into a unique short story which is then printed on a small receipt for the user to keep. We originally built Storyboard as an experiment and to help our understanding of electronics like Arduino and coding languages such as C/C++. It has been exhibited several times in 2016, gaining quite a bit of attention. Were looking into creating new iterations outside of literature: for example, a version that could pull live content from the web or a version that could be put into schools and programmed with custom content to promote collaborative creative writing.

How kind are you really?

Too kind. 

www.kindstudio.co.uk

Centre for Sustainable Fashion
Centre for Sustainable Fashion
Centre for Sustainable Fashion
Centre for Sustainable Fashion
Brixton Pound Cash Machine. Image Mark Manzi
Brixton Pound Cash Machine. Image Mark Manzi
Brixton Pound Cash Machine. Image Mark Manzi
Brixton Pound Cash Machine. Image Mark Manzi