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Social Impact: A new, no-nonsense approach to the traditional design studio.
All the entrepreneurs we’ve ever interviewed for #ParadsieRowCurates have said that there were signs early on that their lives would take a turn for the unique. Take Alexandra Lunn, designer, artist and founder of Alexandra Lunn Studio. Also currently a member of the Paradise Row Studios community, her creativity and love of creating something from nothing at a young age set her in her stead for a successful life in design.
Now working with typographists, copywriters and fellow designers, she treats each brief like a piece of art, working for a range of clients looking to stand out through bold and thoughtful design: from herbal teas to jewellery brands.
We sat down with her to discuss early influences in her artistic approach, current projects and her tips for starting a business:
What was it about your personal and professional journey that led up to setting up your own studio?
“I used to roam around my dad’s wood workshop in Yorkshire, terrorising his colleagues and making wooden sculptures. I’d accompany him to the demolition sites of the old mills of the North that were being pulled down; everything within the mills was meant to be burnt, however, he’d salvage wood, bobbins and cast iron objects and use the the materials to make floors and furniture out of the reclaimed timber and other items. The idea that you can make something out of nothing inspired me.
We’d also spend time at carboot sales, haggling over the prices of ceramics made in the pre Wiedervereinigung era and selling them on for a profit. The objects themselves are so beautiful and reflect an interesting era which gave me an appreciation for their design, craft and art history but equally, it was the idea that we would find one for 50p together and then I would sell it on for £17 whilst my dad was scouring the rest of the bootsale for more bargains that excited me. After school I went onto get a BTEC in Art and Design. Alongside this I was caring for children and working in nurseries.
In 2007 I moved down to London with a bunch of friends, where I worked as a nanny and here I quickly realised that I wanted to be the person making the books or animating the cartoons so I went to Central St Martins to do a short course in Art and Design. In 2009 I travelled around India, Nepal and Morocco before moving to Glasgow to get a degree in Communications Design at the School of Art. The art and music scene in Glasgow is very connected; I learnt equally as much as I did from my course from being a part of the creative community there. In 2011 I studied traditional animation in Budapest and then moved to Berlin to do an artists’ residency called TAKT. After interning with a design studio in Amsterdam, I began caring for my 103 year old grandmother in London. In 2016 I helped to set up Evening Class, a self organised design education experiment in London.”
How has your style developed throughout your career?
“My style is bold, vibrant and playful. Art is in my DNA. I create paintings, sculptures and videos in my spare time because it matters to me and because it's non-linear. I love the process involved with making art. When it comes to our design practice, we approach each design brief as though it’s a piece of artwork and it’s thanks to collaborating with other professionals such as brand strategists that also makes our art work design and branding.
Every brand is unique, original, has character and it is special. Our passion is to help express exactly that in the best, unique ways. Our design practice is influenced by process-led design, which allows for the most unexpected and interesting outcomes. It's only through thorough research that the best ideas appear.
I love collaborating with artists and galleries to create posters, websites and signage.”
Tell us about one your latest projects: Yolo Solo.
“Yolo Solo is all about the personalities that we have to explore and which we choose to embody. Choreographer Romany Dear is interested in movement and in exploring different sides to our personalities.
We got the ball rolling by thinking about what show was all about and then conveyed the theme of movement and change through typography and colour–for example, the names of Romany’s collaborators are formed into shapes that resemble the crease lines of your hands. Hand because part of the title of the show includes fists. So that people knew where to go, I aligned the logistical details to the top and bottom of the poster.
Because it’s such a personal thing, when designing for art shows or with artists it’s usually much more of a collaboration; a game of consequences. Here’s more on the creative process between Romany and I.”
When did you decide to start a studio? Was there a turning point when you realised you should just go for it?
“I’ve always been doing my own thing but in 2017 my boss suggested I do something different than work in a design studio. I’ve always enjoyed making my own rules so it just felt natural.”
Who are your biggest inspirations in design?
What have been your proudest moments in your career so far?
“Pulling together a team of animators from the Royal College of Art who helped me to create a hand drawn animation for Penguin Publishers and Russell Brand; we did it in under 24 hours and by the time it had been online for 12 hours it had reached 27'000 views and the book reached sales of £230'000 in just 11 days. More recently, we worked on the brand identity for a luxury tea company, Han-Chiga. Here's what they had to say about working with us.”
What advice would you give to a designer just starting out in such a competitive industry?
“Have fun, be happy.”