Interview: Frank Chimero on Another Studio

Until June this year, designer Frank Chimero worked under his own name. A lot of us designers do this and just as many will find a suitable moniker to work under. It is a question that I struggled with over the past year. In the end decided to ditch my company name in favour of my own.

When I read that Frank was starting a studio called Another I thought it would be a great opportunity to get his thoughts on the topic.

Hi Frank, first of all can you tell us a little more about Another Studio?

Another is my one-man design studio focused on taking the knowledge and conventions of digital and bringing them back to print (and vice versa). Projects come in one of two forms: I handle everything and work closely with the client like a traditional studio, or I plug into the client’s internal design and dev team to help shepherd along a project. It’s a lifestyle business—meaning it’s primary reason for existence is to act as a little Frank-powered machine to contribute good things to culture and help me have the life I want to live.

So you’ll continue with your personal work under your own name?

Yes! Working under a studio name leaves my personal name free for my books, writing, and other artistic pursuits.

Do you feel that a company name will open other doors than working as Frank Chimero?

Of course, otherwise there’d be no reason to do it. I suppose the day-to-day looks a lot like my work days from the past few years, but I decided to formalize the endeavor to leave some room for collaborations and to not have to stick to the aesthetic people have come to expect from me.

Another can (and probably should) be more than Frank Chimero. Many of the projects that come through my door give me the opportunity to build a team and collaborate. It’s always been funny doing that under my own name, but with a company name acting as an umbrella, it becomes a little easier, a little more manageable, and a little more autonomous and equal for everyone involved in the creative process. It’s better for everyone, really.

How do you collaborate on a project. Do you work remotely with others or do try to work with people that you can sit around a table with to discuss ideas?

I find a mixture of both works best. Remote is great because I can collaborate with folks from anywhere, but it’s best to punctuate the process with a few in-person, all-day work sessions at critical points of the project. There are some ideas that can only happen if you’re in the same room, one person riffing off the other. It’s hard to get that high remotely.

But, I’m a big fan of remote working and chat rooms, because you communicate through text. Writing forces you to be specific and articulate. I find that helps me identify problems, sort through my ideas, and identify what needs to be done. On larger web projects, the verbosity of a chatroom helps with the work process. There aren’t terms for a lot of the ideas or methods that happen for interaction design, so it helps to be in constant contact, participating in a kind of wasteful, productive, high-maintenance communication stream. Efficient communication in the workplace is overrated, I think, because it front-loads the responsibility for clarity on thinking alone, rather than thinking together in conversation.

Lastly, Where do you see Another Studio heading? Can you imagine hiring full-time staff some day?

I think the studio is in an interesting spot right now: one foot in client work, one in self-initiated projects. I’d like to continue that and increase the number of publishing projects and get back to teaching. Right now, each kind of work is spread evenly over the whole year. I’d like to change that so each type of work is more contained, and the modes of the business has a seasonality. I find that it’s good for me to intensely engage in a certain type of work, then to have some time away to work in another way. It helps balance my crazy schedule and busy mind, and suggests a timeliness to different kinds of work, which hopefully will make the year not blow by so quickly. Basically, I’m looking for methods that will slow down time. I’m tired of accelerating.

As for the size of the studio, I have been flirting with the idea of hiring a part-time research assistant for internal projects. For now, though, I’m perfectly happy with Another being just me. But, I’m often wrong about what I want and things change, so who knows? I’ll just keep trying to play things as they lay.

Thanks for you time Frank!

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