Featured Studios


June 2014

Happy Monday, today we talk to Melbourne studio Motherbird! They recently turned five, held a sold out TDK Studio Workshop and participated in the Terrible Twos and Threesome exhibitions with us, not to mentioned they have worked with MTV and Qantas over the years, enjoy the read!

Tell us a bit about yourself, your creative path and the beginnings of Motherbird.

Our beginnings date back to high school where the three Creative Directors (Jack, Chris & Dan) met. We followed a shared passion for creativity to university to study Communication Design. For years we had floated the dream of starting a studio together, but it wasn't until our studies drew to a close where we thought to take the chance on it. Midway through our final year of study we conceived the name Motherbird, built a holding page and printed a set of business cards. We found a studio space and toward the start of 2009 we officially opened our doors as Motherbird and haven't looked back since.

You have been involved in some amazing projects, what have been your favourite to date and why?

Our projects vary greatly in scale, sector, deliverables and of course outcomes. We like working across a vast array of different projects, allowing something new to happen every day. The work we are most proud of isn't necessarily the work that has received the most accolades. However working on the Billy Blue College of Design brand extension and campaign has been a truly enjoyable and rewarding project with a very unique approach and process. This particular project allowed us to push our comfort zones, push the clients expectations and create a memorable outcome. The project has been really well received by the design industry and the education sector.

More recently we have been working with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) on several projects including the brand identity and campaign for World Cancer Day. While being a global initiative, the campaign was primarily targeted at developing countries where awareness and education surrounding the disease is very limited. Everybody at some point will be affected by cancer, directly or indirectly and we are extremely passionate and proud to work with the UICC on such a worthy project. Designers cannot save the world, certainly not alone, but they can do their bit to assist organisations and initiatives to take positive steps in improving the lives of people on a global scale.


Describe a typical day at Motherbird?

As previously mentioned, we have such a diverse range of projects that each day is entirely different to another. As business owners, a lot of our day gets taken up by general management and operational tasks, which are very important to the long term prosperity of the studio. As a small studio we each have to wear many hats - this means that throughout the day, almost the entire design process will be covered. We have many live projects at any given time, which means someone will be doing concept development for one project and someone else may be doing finished art for another project. Many of our projects involve hand generated imagery of some sort, so nobody is too far away from cutting, scanning, gluing, sticking, painting or folding. It's also a good way to break up the day and remove yourself from staring intently at the screen.

What advice do you have for recent grads looking for a job? What gets your attention?

Good work never goes unnoticed. But it's only really half the the job, fitting into an environment is the other half. Studio culture is paramount to the success of any small studio, as you're in each others faces 24/7 - therefore personality is a very important factor when looking for a new employee. If you get an interview, your work is good enough to be part of that studio/agency. Therefore the interview is for the employer to scope you out to see if you'll fit in to their culture. Make sure you're approachable, friendly and generally likeable. Having a sense of humour is a good trait for a designer. Yes, at times the work can be serious but at the end of the day if you can't have fun designing, what can you have fun doing? Humility and not taking yourself or your work too seriously will go a long way to your personal and professional development. It is also really important to stick to your guns and be yourself. Don't follow trends - they disappear, find what you're good at and be known for that.

What have been some of the most creative job applications you have received? 

A six pack of beer was a good one. Not overly “creative”, but certainly respected…and enjoyed! Designers applying for positions here understand our culture, and often respond in kind, so we really enjoy the variety of different responses.

What’s your creative process like? What do you do if you come to a creative block?

Our creative process often varies depending on the scale and objectives of a project. Most branding projects are initiated with mood board development through a discovery phase that includes creative workshopping both internally and with the client or designated project team. We put a lot of time into the concept development stage, keeping the client central to the process and as involved as possible. Firstly this allows us to build a mutually beneficially relationship, and secondly uncover and understand the clients’ problem and the projects objectives, giving us a greater insight through the concept development stage. Each piece of work that is presented to a client will have a significant amount of creative thinking input from each team member at Motherbird, essentially avoiding arriving at a creative block – if one person is struggling, another chips in. In the instances of a creative block it’s really important to step back from a project and get external opinions or thoughts – this is the same for any creative industry. Looking outside design is a good way of alleviating creative block – listening to music, walking into new spaces, reading, writing creatively, word association, looking into work from other creative industries (photography, architecture, fashion, product design, food etc), these are all good methods for distancing yourself from a particular problem that needs a solution.

Which blogs are a must read for you?

The Design Kids of course.

What about books?

Anything written by Michael Beirut, Adrian Shaughnessy, Debbie Millman or Kevin Finn will usually tickle our fancy. It’s important to read and engage with the world of critical design thinking – it’s a huge part of what we do every single day. These writers go deeper to reveal, examine, pick, prod, expose and present ideas and creative thinking in such a profound way – aiming to challenge our perceptions, push our boundaries and ask questions about design in a broader context. Kevin Finn’s Open Manifesto series is one of the most important Australian journals in recent years and is an essential read for any designer, local or not. For any designer entering in the industry or starting a studio, How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul is the go to book.

What’s on the horizon?

In the coming months we will have a new website with completely new work – we’ve been working away for the past year on several projects that we’re extremely proud of and can’t wait to share.

In terms work on the horizon, we’ve just been commissioned to produce the hero artwork for a number of music festivals, a boutique grocer, as well as being appointed to create the World Cancer Day 2015 brand campaign – which is a huge honour.

Twitter: @motherbird
Facebook: Motherbird Studio
Instagram: @motherbirdstudio


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