We caught up with Matt Tambellini of More Studio, who’s slowly making his way back to Melbourne after working/travelling abroad for 17 months! He tells us exactly what a Worldwide™ based travelling designer is; we chat about how most (good) positions aren’t advertised, and rely solely on networks and word of mouth; plus he has THE BEST advice ever for students and interns – ‘eat nothing but cheap ramen noodles in cup form’.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
It was always about drawing and creating things growing up, forever having a tool for making in my hand. During primary school I would scribble letters and my nickname in margins, and try different lettering styles, taking cues from those spiral bound alphabet books that would showcase different bubble type and block lettering that kids could recreate. Early high school I fell in (love) with the skateboarding/graffiti crowd, which was this amazing cultural and creative outlet for a kid going against the grain, with its own visual language, but still not knowing or having heard of what graphic design was. Being obsessed with these things, fuelled another passion: collecting magazines. So at 13, I started hoarding Thrasher and Transworld and anything remotely related to these, and searching high and low for graffiti magazines in North Melbourne hole-in-the-wall paint can stores where you had to be buzzed in through a crack-den like door. I was getting my crack, high on design. News agencies became a daily routine, and in 2000, there wasn’t exactly much to devour. So I was always extremely passionate about letterforms and being over exposed to publication layouts, and really lucky to learn what graphic design was fairly early in middle high school. As soon as I figured that out, that’s all I wanted to do. Then came Refill, Grafik and Tokion which really started giving me this broader perspective of what graphic design was, and just kept fuelling this insatiable obsession.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? Well … That’s kind of tough because it changes so dramatically at the moment. I’ve been travelling abroad for the last 15 months, being a Worldwide™ based travelling designer, and leasing with collaborators and clients primarily based in Melbourne. I was renting a small apartment in Isla Mujures for a month in April, and would work from 8am-12pm every day, and then go sit on the beach with a six pack of Modello® and sporadically check emails from there, but mostly sit under a palm tree or do breast-stroke. When I was designing the latest issue of the literary journal Going Down Swinging over the past month, I was working solid hours remotely in Guatemala and later in Oaxaca Mexico and staying up to stupid o’clock to get feedback from the Melbourne editorial team. Once we were doing final revisions, the day consisted of road tripping through the southern USA, Arizona and Mojave desert, with me in the passenger seat using mobile hot-spotting and making changes. Which is also a testament to the namesake of the journal, if there was any location to make things more complicated to succeed, this would be it (par from atop the Himalayas using some type of digital messenger mule hybrid). So it’s wildly different everyday, not knowing what’s around the next corner, the only constant is the device in which I work from.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
That I continue to get new business. Ha! Not having a website for over a year and a half, and still getting new (and amazing) people approach me is a constant highlight (although a full website is in the works—promise!). Helping bring Joshua Lynch’s brainchild Many Hands to fruition with Clare Acheson and Josh himself, was a huge highlight for me— and really solidified the appreciation of collaboration and how quickly you can get ideas off the ground with the right people and with the right amount of passion. It was a highlight because I was working with super talented people who I click with, creating this thing separate to our (then) jobs. It was nice to build something for a worthwhile cause that wasn’t part of the studio or advertising system, but that existed solely to help and benefit people in need (the first season being asylum seekers) through creative mediums.
What have been some of your biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it? Printer problems for the launch of the first Many Hands collection and website at Allpress Studios, definitely. The printer didn’t print as die-cut vinyl stickers, instead on huge sheets of vinyl, and they were getting delivered just hours prior to the opening of the event. And we also didn’t have an AV cord for the projector, so there was no visuals. It was a huge success nonetheless and we made do, but taught me about communicating 110% of what needs to happen to all people involved— even if you’re working with professionals, you need to build the communication trust first, and this rings true with client/designer relationships as well. Dealing with clients is a whole other learning curve, and people who do it well are worth their weight in gold— but being honest and clear about the process and the work goes a long way, and they have, after all, hired you for your expertise.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months? Building and growing MORE as a Studio, and bringing new people into the fold. Slowly on the return home back to Melbourne (somewhat semi-permanently) to focus on this after working/travelling abroad for 17 months, so that’s exciting, and has breathed new life into Melbourne for me. Launching a few side-projects that we’re currently working on, and seeing where that leads. Without giving too much away, The Shelved is an online interview collection with people interested in books and printed ephemera (and no, not related to drugs). Then there’s a few ongoing side-projects; Found Matter, which is a collection of found (printed) ephemera from travelling and home–which stems from me not wanting to hoard and collect so much design related printed materials (otherwise i’ll need a few filing cabinets), so I photograph it and then throw it away. The other one is Doors & Things (but mostly doors), which is a collection of photographs of doors/entryways from Mexico, Guatemala and other parts of Central America which were just extremely inspiring to me for their DIY craziness and juxtaposition of absurd colours/dimensions/shapes/materials. And a (hush hush) collaborative food related project called DECONSTRUCTED:NON—GOURMET, coming soon to a theatre near you.
Whats your take on internships? Do them. Live on nothing, you’re young – treat your body badly and eat nothing but cheap ramen noodles in cup form – Take as many risks as possible, and just get out there and meet people, and the only way to do that is to jump head first into the proverbial water (or real water depending on where the studio is located). Most (good) positions, and this is true of everywhere, aren’t advertised, and rely solely on networks and word of mouth. By doing internships, you’re getting in front of people, and the more you get in front of them, the more they are likely to think of you when something comes up. So, intern it up.