We chat with Creative Director of STUDIO L'AMI, Fred L’ami, about his career & experiences before starting STUDIO L'AMI (previously named theycallmefred), including the challenges he once faced moving from a studio to an in-house role; his three must-read books he wouldn’t repeat his career without, and we discuss how advances in automation will put even more emphasis on ideas and concepts.

What are your three must-read design books and why?

These might sound familiar, but I wouldn’t repeat my career without them:

1. How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul — by Adrian Shaughnessy

I bought this book in 2005 about 10 years into my career, it’s well thumbed and bookmarked in many places as I still refer to this book frequently. It’s pages are filled with countless tips for challenges you might encounter — it’s a bible of sorts for all designers.

2. Run Studio Run — by Eli Altman

Perhaps a good follow up to No.1 This book is similar in many ways but with the addition of many valuable insights from studio leaders, every book comes with a great manifesto (poster) you can live by. It has a permanent home at STUDIO L’AMI.

3. Things I have learned in my life so far — by Stefan Sagmeister

I was hugely inspired by the sabbaticals Stefan Sagmeister would speak about in his lectures, closing down his studio for periods of up to 12 months to pursue some much needed soul searching & reflection. This collection of small books provides a valuable series of provocative thoughts that you can use to as a guide for your own internal journey.

What’s your take on internships?

Fundamental. This might be your first real insight into the inner workings of a real studio OR a window into at how another studio operates. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the various roles within a design practice. You might be trying to make decisions about what role you’d like to pursue, or what kind of creative environment you’re looking for. The right internship may also lead to long-term relationships that may lead to future opportunities.

As students, we were encouraged to spend our holidays working in commercial studios doing all sorts of jobs, sometimes real project work, but mostly soaking up the atmosphere, sitting in on meetings, talking to designers about projects, clients, etc. I think I learnt as much about the real-world through those exchanges as I did at school. As a young designer I made every effort to speak with senior designers or studio owners at events or industry gatherings.

I would encourage you not to work for free, all internships should be paid. Everyone benefits from having you there. Know what you want to get out of the internship — learn new skills, some real-world experience or a stepping stone to a FT gig.

(Do you take interns now?) — We’re still small but we’re growing slowly so we certainly hope to offer this at some point soon!

Design work by STUDIO L’AMI The Design Kids interviews STUDIO L’AMI work-2

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

1. Ideas, ideas, ideas. For me it’s all about a designers evidence of thinking. Beautiful work is important too, but presentation & crafting skills can be learnt along the way. I would encourage students to include sketches, map out some of your process to show a prospective employer how you think.

2. Show yourself in the work. I love seeing someones personality come through their approach, this can influence their approach to strategy, composition or the messaging, type or typography choices and illustration. These decisions say a lot about who’s behind the work.

3. Be bold. Put yourself out there, make appointments to visit studios, send out something with a link to your work that gets people excited — Good Luck!

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

I think we’ll continue to see advances in template-based design services. Anything from printed material, publications, logos & online services - have all benefited greatly by automation and I think this trend will continue. This puts even more emphasis on the concept as this aspect is more difficult to automate. I’ve always placed huge importance on ideas, resisting the urge to design until a concept is fully formed. I typically do this by sketching as I find it’s immediate, offline and organic. I think having solid thinking behind every creative project is the best way to ensure your work’s not replaced by tech.

Design work by STUDIO L’AMI The Design Kids interviews STUDIO L’AMI work-4
Design work by STUDIO L’AMI The Design Kids interviews STUDIO L’AMI work-4

I’ve always placed huge importance on ideas, resisting the urge to design until a concept is fully formed

2019 for you in a sentence.

In addition to establishing STUDIO L’AMI in Los Angeles, my wife and I have a Therapeutic Perfumery brand called BODHA which has been undergoing a re-brand. We’re excited to be launching it later this year!

What’s the worst design job you’ve ever had and how does that make you a better designer?

At some point I made the decision to go in-house, leading the brand team of an international brand — something I hadn’t really considered. I’d worked for large commercial studios in cities like London & Amsterdam, which catered to large clients — but I was moving from a small independent studio with a handful of cool niche clients, where the work was hands on… which in hindsight was great, but I was restless, lured by big ambitions, a well-respected leader & a decent salary so I decided to take the leap.

The role provided me with immediate challenges, the faster pace & volume of projects was very different from what I was used to. I had to adapt — thinking on my feet for a large part of the role. I was looking at design challenges through a new lens. I was more aware of the impact of our design decisions on the business, and I would very quickly see the results of our initiatives. As designers we don't often get to 'live' the design we create — this was a huge learning.

BUT ultimately I realized I prefer the pace of a smaller studio, the hands-on nature of the work, the intimate client relationships and the tight-knit framework of the team. Choose a studio that aligns with what drives you, what you enjoy and ultimately what you believe in!

Design work by STUDIO L’AMI The Design Kids interviews STUDIO L’AMI work-6
Design work by STUDIO L’AMI The Design Kids interviews STUDIO L’AMI work-6

Where to find STUDIO L’AMI online.


Instagram: @studio.lami

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