Andersen M Studio was founded by Martin Andersen (MA, RCA) in 2001 after having spent two years working with acclaimed graphic designers Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg at v23: design celebrities for their beautifully crafted design work for 4AD records.
In 2006, Line Andersen, Martin’s sister, upon graduating from CSM with an MA , won the Creative Futures Award for her design work – one of the highest accolades for a graduate. Later that year she joined the company, creating an interesting creative partnership between the siblings, having specialised in different disciplines (Martin in typography, photography and sound, and Line in stop-frame animation and hand-drawn typeface design). The studio became a reality due to their wish and vision in creating beautifully crafted and engineered work. Over the past five years they have worked side-by-side on nearly all projects that have come their way.
Andersen M Studio create beautiful unique animations, design, typography, identities, films and music and has grown to become a creative multi-disciplinary studio, with wast array of projects for clients such as: Accenture, American Express, Cartier, Channel 4, Colenso BBDO, Martini, More 4, New Zealand Book Council, Nokia, Pan MacMillan, Sony Ericsson, South Bank Centre, Thames & Hudson…
1. Please tell us about you! How did you end up being designers in UK, what did you study, where do you come from, etc.?
In 1992 I moved from a small fishing village in Denmark to the UK to study Graphic Design in the UK. The opportunities were limited in Denmark and I was keen to seek a less commercial education abroad in the UK.
My journey started off with a one year National Diploma at Falmouth Colege of Art and Design, followed by a BA (HONS) at Ravensbourne College of Visual Communication Design, then followed by a MA at the Royal College of Art.
2. Instead of staying in Denmark you went away and studied in UK (Martin BA+MA, Line MA). Is there a particular reason for this?
Staying in a smaller country like Denmark limits you in terms of project possibilities. We both wanted to create work that is artistic, creative and challenging.
Being in London you can seek these opportunities and that is why we settled here, working for record labels, fashion houses, etc. This is much easier to achieve in places like London, NY, LA etc. rather than in Denmark.
3. How important is a Masters degree for a graphic designer and how does it help in everyday life?
We both wanted to do Masters as we both felt we needed more time in education to explore and experiment with concepts and techniques. It helps you analyse what you do and how you approach projects, this has certainly helped me being a better tutor and helped me having time to learn more about disciplines I was interested in outside of Graphic Design –such as photography, painting and film making. Also doing an MA course at either CSM or RCA puts you amongst peers that are the best at what they do and the competition makes you work even harder to be one of the best.
4. Do you feel that working at Vaughan Oliver’s v23 studio left an imprint of their working methods & aesthetics or you shared same kind of aesthetic vision before joining them?
I was a big fan of v23’s work before I even studied design. I used to buy all the 4AD records releases simply because the artwork was innovative and beautifully printed.
In the two years at v23, I learned so much, as a Designer, Photographer and Art Director but also more importantly, I learned not to compromise your dreams and your visions as an artist. Vaughan and Chris had consistently created beautiful artwork that continued to inspire and amaze me and being able to work alongside them helped my confidence but also my persistence to this day.
After I left, the first years were very intense. I worked solidly day and night on every project I would get, and luckily a few bands had noticed the projects I had been in charge of at v23 and so started asking me for both design and photography work. …slowly the ball started rolling, momentum built and I was commissioned to design a book for film director John Waters by Thames & Hudson, of which I hold a strong relationship to this day. My working routine was varied – in the initial years, I worked alone and did photo shoots, music packaging, identity work, book design…
5. What inspired you to become a Lecturer at University? How has education changed during the last decade while you have been Lecturing at University of Brighton and Central Saint Martins?
I never set out to be a Lecturer. I have always been a shy person in bigger groups and never thought it would be something for me. This all changed back in 2001 when I received a call from Lawrence Zeegen (at that time Head of Graphic Design and Illustration at Brighton University). He asked me to come down to Brighton to give some lectures and to be part of critting the 3rd year with my good friend Daniel Eatock (at that time Head of Graphic Design). I really enjoyed these crits and were offered a permanent position there.
As I was working from my flat I was happy to have the one day a week where I could leave and be part of inspiring young students. My position at CSM teaching Fashion Communication Design came about from being a designer and photographer for a job for L’Oreal who were sposoring the CSM show. The teacher at CSM offered me a position after having finished this job.
I truly enjoy teaching now and feel like I gain as much as I give which is a fundemental part of doing the job. I have a lot to give my students in terms of research, but also a honest critique which, from memory, I often found was very vague while I studied myself. Also it is very important to help our students. In this country alone, we graduate more students per year than there is work for in the entire of Europe.
6. How do you balance your life with so many responsibilities at Universities, Commercial Studio, Band, etc.? What do you do in your free time, when you have it?
I have always been a workoholic and I work between 11-13 hours every day. But to be honest I do not see it as work, it’s a journey that I am on. My personal work is as important if not more important than the commercial work. Both feeds into another. I have dreams and visions and don’t want to stay in the position I am in. I started off as an illustrator, then moved to graphic design, then photography, then music and now Line and I are directing film and animations. It’s exciting and so it should be.
Too many young designers are too busy worrying about what everybody else are doing and forget to find out what is their own language and to seek new adventures that makes them excited.
At the end of the day, you have to find what makes you happy and excited, I have always grapped every opportunity I am given, life is too short to stay in the same spot!
7. Could you tell 3 things you have learnt since you have started your studio?
I could tell you a lot more than 3. But here are some:
- Always have a contract, stating the excact working conditions you work under and make sure to get a Purchase Order before you start any work. If the client really wants to work with you they will be more than happy to do so. If they don’t, then do not work with them.
- Never be scared to suggest something you feel is right, even if this means changing the client’s brief.
- Keep a time schedule on your wall, you will need it once things get real busy!
We shall include 4 more things Martin has suggested in another interview:
- Ambition is key: always push yourself to do better than the last project. Always improve. Take risks, experiment and never repeat yourself.
- Respect is paramount. One should always treat everyone with positivity, honesty and respect – I don’t believe in being nasty to be successful.
- Attentiveness. Great professionalism and being attentive should allow you to really listen to what your client wants so you can successfully meet their brief.
- Have a good relationship with your clients – this is how lasting relationships are formed and the art world is so small: bad news or recommendations travel quicker than good ones.
8. What is good graphic design for you?
Innovative new work. Creativity that touches the soul and that communicates. I have personally always preferred work that suggests rather than describes.
Posters for If You Could Collaborate…
If You Could Collaborate is the fourth annual If You Could exhibition. Aiming to provide a platform for the finest creatives from all over the world to question their conventional working methods and outcomes. The contributors have been challenged to produce something a little unexpected, by working with a partner of their choosing from any discipline, profession or background. There is no brief to answer, or format to honour – the only limit being the enterprise and imagination of the artists involved.
Andersen M Studio worked with LekaGape, a South African care home for women and children to produce a set of limited edition A2 screen printed posters. The prints were on sale at the exhibition, with all proceeds going straight to LekaGape.
9. Where is the design world going? world in general?
The world!!! That is too bleak to comment on, HA HA!
Design, it seems that nobody believes they can exist without an Apple computer, which I think is a real shame. We have a history of craftsmen using their hands: painting, drawing, filming etc. It is important not to forget these skills. There is more bad design than ever before because of time restraints and because every client has a computer and wants to get involved with their own opinions. As a tutor I have noticed that more and more of my students are forgetting or discard or simply do not know how to draw or to view artwork away from the monitor. On the other hand these advanges in technology create new opportunities and these are very exciting.
10. Is there anything you would like to say to designers in Latvia?
Come see us!
We enjoyed the interview so much that we decided to get Martins opinion on stuff that hopefully will be interesting for contemporary Latvian design scene:
In an effort to preserve the places they fly to, Star Alliance has donated seats to scientists and field workers to destinations all over the world. Andersen M were comminssioned by DDB, London, to create five films, which will run at the head of specially commissioned programmes by the National Geographic Channel, to highlight Star Alliance’s efforts at five specific destinations.
What is your view on pitches and bidding against other designers & studios?
It’s unfortunate, but it’s very common in our industry to pitch against other creatives for work, we get asked to do so all the time, but our answer is a resounding — NO!. We have a strict no pitch attitude. We never pitch on projects, we believe that if the client, despite coming to us and expressing great interest cannot see what we can do, or cannot trust our creativity or experience, we are not willing to participate …next! In our industry, so many designers have become accustomed to spending weeks working on pitches for projects which don’t materialise. I truly feel this ruins it for everybody so would strongly appeal to everyone out there not to do so and stand by your work, your vision and your capabilities.
How do you stay at the cutting-edge?
We do not see ourselves as being cutting-edge, far from it …I am actually not sure what ‘cutting-edge’ is anymore.
Fundamentally, I just want to do a great job for all of our clients and never think about how the work will be perceived by others in the industry. As long as we are happy and our clients are satiated, that is all that really matters.
This Spring, the Homes of Alfred Dunhill present ‘Modern Craftsmanship’. Illustrating the brand’s commitment to culture and creativity, exclusive works by four contemporary designers – each with a passion for craftsmanship – will be exhibited in each of the four Homes.
Andersen M Studio’s ‘Clouds’ showcases the partnership’s originality and imagination through expert stop-frame animation and an intricate model making technique. The piece centers around the formation of a cloud and it’s journey through different weather conditions.
What’s the secret of your success?
We are both incredibly driven, we love visual art, we love to be able to communicate in different ways and love the many forms of creative expression. We generally always feel excited about the projects we are working on and the fact that, as siblings, we share this enthusiasm means a great deal to us both. Most people find this very difficult to understand, but it probably stems from growing up in a very small fishing village, in which we really only had each other to share our interests in art with. Not many of our peers or friends were excited about surrealism or old Czechoslovakian stop-frame animations… We understand each other so well and always know what we are good at individually so collectively, we both strive to create something that excites us.
What’s your opinion about awards for a designer or a studio?
We do not like the idea of awards and have never entered any within design, photography etc. We do like the idea of elitism and do not feel creativity should be judged by a panel. Having said that our animation Going West has won a lot of awards, but mainly due to our clients having entered them or because we were requested to enter it. Though we would never pay to enter any award. Last year we won 2 Gold Lions at Cannes, which we are proud of, but for us, a project is successful if both we and the client is happy.
Tagi: Andersen M Studio, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, Chris Bigg, cover design, Falmouth Colege of Art and Design, graphic design, Line Andersen, Martin Andersen, Ravensbourne, Royal College of Art, stop-frame animation, tactile design, teaching, university, University of Brighton, v23, Vaughn Oliver