Distinctive Repetition is an award-winning independent Dublin based graphic design studio. The studio practices design primarily in the disciplines of graphic identity and print media.
The studio's output is driven by three core principles; education, experimentation and creativity. We are influenced by the desire to understand the fundamentals of every brief and then assess them against our own capabilities. We take the time to investigate the range of production methods and possible outcomes inherent in any brief. To this end the studio practices design outside its core fields of training, applying our philosophy that the role of the designer is to solve problems and the role of the graphic artist is to make communication and design visually engaging. If you are interested in contacting the studio please feel free to get in touch with us at:
As a small studio we are not in a position to hire that often, however we are always interested in talented designers and the possibility of working with them. We may not get back to you immediately but we do take the time to review any portfolio that is sent into the studio. We are happy to receive internship requests and as a studio we endeavor to undertake a small number of internships in any given year. We see internships as an important part of both the design industry and our own development as a practice. Requests for either internships or possible positions at Distinctive Repetition should be sent to:
Our brief from ICAD was to design a striking call for entries poster that would be distributed to the ICAD membership and design and advertising agencies and studios throughout Ireland to announce the annual awards submission process.The brief itself was left somewhat open in terms of its graphic design with a number of significant considerations, to deliver it within a tight budget, to focus on the ICAD bell as an aspect of its design and for it to be considered the first building block in a larger identity project for the 2017 awards program.
Down through the years work produced for ICAD has featured the ICAD bell and its inherent colours in a variety of graphic manifestations, whilst we were conscious to adhere to the commissioners request we also wanted to provide a previously unseen graphic take on the bell that would allow us to build a strong visual approach to our designs. Our view of the bell is one of an internal perspective, the main graphic unit is designed to reflect the bell and its actual proportions whilst reminding viewers that the reasoning behind a bells shape is entirely relevant to its function, to make noise.
This key graphic was created using a simple architectural perspective which was intended to bring a texture and depth to the piece. A symbol that visually invites the viewer to "enter". Our intent was then to use this symbol as a unit from which we could create a strong yet abstracted typeface that would conform to the typographic grid and division of space we were designing for. Given that a choice had been made early in the project to screen print the poster (in order to add a greater sense of value) this allowed us to further develop the typeface across 4 designs. This allowed us the ability not to overload a single poster in a numerical fashion rather create a series that when viewed as individual posters were abstracted enough that stand alone as individual graphic compositions that conveyed their relevant content and are yet part of something bigger in keeping with the idea that individual members are part of a larger organisation.
ICAD call for entries posters were screen printed using 4 spot pantones over 4 designs on FSC certified curious skin black 140gsm paper in editions of 40.
We have worked with Christian Aid Ireland over the last number of years with a view to providing a greater sense of visual identity for the Irish based section of the charity. Christian Aid’s work spans the globe as the development organisation pursues its’ ultimate goal of ending poverty. In 2016 Christian Aid Ireland has taken the global lead for the international charities ‘Tackling Violence, Building Peace’ program and in November Christian Aid launched its global strategy for this campaign in Dublin.
In our work with Christian Aid we have continually strived toward creating visual communication around the charity that is informed by both its heritage and goals whilst being contemporary in its design and implementation. For all of its’ printed media (which encompasses magazines, reports, strategy documents etc.) the studio has worked with Christian Aid to introduce a new style and format of publishing its content. Our design proposals have included the creation of a single format for any publications that is both environmentally and economically sound.
The format designed for the charity allows for forward prediction of publication costs whilst reducing unnecessary printing and creating a consistent visual and physical output for their work. Essential rules governing typographic style, use of existing imagery, creation of new imagery and creation of visual graphics to name but a few have been laid down as or work has progressed. Alongside the fundamentals of implementing an identity style we have spent a great deal of time researching and developing our approach to communicating the charities overall identity.
“Violence and conflict affect almost one fifth of the world’s population or 1.5 billion people. The daily fear, uncertainty and suffering borne by people living through violent conflicts is immeasurable and unimaginable.
The fact is most of the world’s poorest people live outside any form of protection, and remain vulnerable not just to war and conflict, but to violent criminal organisations, gender-based violence, police abuse, forced labor and violent theft of land and assets.
‘Tackling Violence, Building Peace’ is Christian Aid’s pledge to work tirelessly and collectively towards a safer future that secures justice and human rights for all”
CEO, Christian Aid Ireland
To compliment our designs for the report we commissioned new still photography by Dublin photographer Sean Breithaupt. We chose to focus on
the peace element of the reports title, illustrated by producing a series of images of sunflowers. The sunflowers formed the overall backdrop for the reports design and launch event. We chose to focus on a positive new image that has both a fundamental Christian relationship and at the same time a
simplistic contemporary message.
Christian Aid Ireland is a part of the larger global organisation, however they both understand and appreciate that visual communication styles should differ depending on the country they are communicating within, taking into account important aspects such as history, cultural context, individual preference and backgrounds. We are in the process of developing an approach to identity that balances both the heritage of the charity and the fundamental principles that define it along with the open and progressive approach and strategy for the future development of Christian Aid in Ireland.
The latest additions to Third Circle's range are the Rye Stout (left) and Samhradh (right). Our aim with each new label is to both maintain and expand upon the existing graphic identity of Third Circle. A new icon is created for each beer representing the main ingredient, and the colour of the foil block is changed to clearly identify the given beer within the range.
For more information on Third Circle Brewing and our previous work with them, see further down this page.
“Designing logos is generally seen as the quintessential graphic designer’s art. It is the compression of meaning into just a few memorable marks, the distillation of the big and the complex into something simple and unique that presents the defining challenges of the modern era. No other part of a graphic design firm’s output will be open to such intense scrutiny. As a communicator there is no better way of making your mark on the world’
Left, from top left: azouro olive oil, jolly restaurant, epoché educational psychology, third circle brewing ltd.
Right: veronica roden, jewellery designer.
Wooden panels laser etched by linear thought.
Left: new dublin press.
Right, from top left: new dublin press, mobile art
school, the tramline inn, linear thought.
Epoché is the professional practice of child educational psychologist Patrick McCaughey. We worked with Patrick to develop a strong and measured identity for his practice. Our work included assisting in the naming of the practice as well as developing its traditional corporate identity assets. Having spoken about and researched various possibilities the word “Epoché” was arrived at by Patrick. “Epoché is an ancient Greek term which, in its philosophical usage, describes the state where all judgments about non-evident matters are suspended” Given Patrick’s background in education and in particular classical Greek studies the name felt incredibly apt for the practice.
Fundamental to our brief was the fact that Epoché's identity would have to cover a large number of areas. The practice's work spans over a wide-ranging number of services and so our identity solution had to ultimately be highly adaptable given that the practice would be working in so many varied areas. We wanted to create a logo for the identity that could grow into a sequence of logos and also one that reflected our clients own beliefs and philosophies of practice.
Our decision was to create a logo or mark that is based on the kaleidoscope which when directly translated means beautiful form. Designing a system for the logo based on the mathematics of the kaleidoscope means that Epoché's logo can take an infinite number of forms depending on the elements within it and yet at the same time retain its fundamental structure and visual form. Furthermore the logo itself is an acknowledgement that every human being is individual; there are sometimes slight, sometimes great differences between each of us, yet regardless of those differences we all fundamentally deserve to be treated and viewed the same.
Resort Revelations is the combined output of artists who have completed the Fingal Arts artist residency project located at Lynders Mobile Home Park on the Portrane/ Donabate Peninsula. In acknowledgement of the importance of time to the incubation of the site specific idea the residency is offered in two parts: an initial visit and a return research development and production phase. This year the artists have continued their
enquiry into the very depths of this context drawing on history, fiction, geology, communication and community. Resort Revelations provides a platform to make visible the artists experience of the area to the local and wider audience.
Our work with photographer Brian Cregan involved investigating various locations around Portrane before selecting an infamous local cave, one which was to be used in a performance by artist Alan James Burns during the showcase. The cave itself has rock formations that are deep red in color and unique to the area, a result of the volcanic geology of the peninsula. Our intention in selecting the cave was to reflect the sentiments of the residency by looking more closely and deeper at the surrounding area. We set out to achieve a highly detailed and abstract image. Brian shot this single image using a Mamiya RB67 Pro SD with Kodak professional 100 Ektar film. The result of which was a photograph of incredible depth and richness of color.
Distinctive Repetition was commissioned by Fingal Arts to design a poster to showcase the fundamental process of the residencies intentions whilst also serving as a schedule for the events surrounding the Resort Revelations showcase. The studio worked closely with photographer Brian Cregan and writer Suzanne Walsh to create a piece that further explored the area of Portrane. Suzanne was commissioned to write a new piece of text whilst on residence that would form a significant part of the piece and commemorate the program entitled ‘Who will silence them at last’. Embedded in the piece are a series of fragments from the Samuel Beckett short story ‘Fingal’ published in 1934 and quotes from an undelivered letter written by a patient in St.Ita’s
hospital in 1912.
Our design for the piece was implemented as a B1 poster that was divided into four visual sections to
create a sense of democracy toward all content of the piece. The sections contained; the program information, Suzanne’s piece, Brian’s photograph and a minimalist graphic overlay of a dotted grid. The patterned grid appears on the side of the mobile home that is used for the residency. As part of the piece's overall design we printed Brian’s photograph in its entirety using both the front and back of the poster. The full B1 sheet was then cut down into two sections that carried all of the posters information on either side. The result was that the image was essentially cut in half providing two finished schedules that had a different section of the image
on their reverse.
In order to retain the richness of the image's color, we swopped out the standard process cyan, magenta and yellow inks and replaced them with their fluoro pantone equivalent. Finally we printed the grid over a section of Brian’s image on both the front and back of the poster using a metallic ink which added a layer of depth to the photography which was intended to reinforce the idea
of looking deeper to find something that may at first
Waves is a partnership programme between Fingal Arts Office and Cleo Fagan, curator of Superprojects, the project has seen Irish artists Clodagh Emoe, Sean Lynch, Ruth Lyons and Eoghan Ryan devise a series of compelling workshops for second level students in response to the rich context of the 1916 centenary. During this enquiry students and teachers from Fingal Community College and Hartstown Community School have explored ideas of zeitgeist, civic agency, collaboration, collectivity, public art, memorialisation and cultural representation.
The studio was commissioned by Fingal Arts and Superprojects to create a limited edition poster that would serve as a commemorative graphic piece for the project. Our brief was incredibly open and straightforward, the project commissioners specifically requested we produce a stand alone piece of design that would complement the work that had been completed on the project to date.
Alongside our design work, Fingal Arts commissioned
a new text by artist and writer Sue Rainsford (titled 'Disperse') concerning both the overall project and the themes explored by the participants and artists throughout its workshops. Our finished design incorporates Sue Rainsford's text un-disturbed and
in its entirety on the posters reverse.
Our design goal was simply to produce a striking piece of poster design that reflected energy and movement in a simplistic abstracted style with the projects title being our focal point. Various wave frequencies were explored and expressed visually using a vibrant colour palette and attention to detail in both the overall compositional work and the printing methods used in the posters production.
The final composition for the poster was completed on the afternoon of Sunday the 24th of April 2016 the significance of the date only truly becoming apparent after the work was completed. The poster represents the studios only contribution to the canon of work being created by Irish graphic designers concerning the Centenary of the 1916 rising. The poster itself is a modest piece of graphic design work however its commission by Fingal gave us an opportunity whilst working on the project to reflect on the remarkable courage, strength and perseverance of individuals who contributed to the creation of our unique nation.
Printed using 3 process colour and 2 spot pantones on FSC certified Olin Regular Cream.
Third Circle is an independent microbrewery that has its beginnings in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, where Third Circle Director and Brewmaster Jon Grennan grew up. Much like other craft beer enthusiasts, Jon spent several years home brewing all the while developing a passion and love for the art of craft brewing. With his background in freshwater biology, Jon has always taken the scientist’s precision and approach to brewing his beer and mixed this with a healthy disrespect for convention.
Since its inception, distinctive repetition has worked closely with Third Circle and its founding directors to create all of the visual assets surrounding this new brand. The studio created the Third Circle identity toward the end of 2014 and has spent the intervening time seeing its implementation across the brand’s various printed collateral.
Our priority for Third Circle was to create a simple yet unique label that clearly identified them within their rapidly expanding market place. Third Circle’s label carries the brand’s logo (foil blocked) as its main visual asset, with the company’s various beers being identified by their own individual mark. Each mark is designed to represent the beer’s primary ingredient in a clean and modernist fashion.
As the company creates a new beer we rotate the colour of the foil block to best represent the beer in question and develop a new symbol accordingly. This approach keeps the label fresh, allows for individual beers to be easily recognised through both colour coding and iconography whilst being printed in a cost effective and sustainable way, the latter being a fundamental aspect of our original brief.
“Imagines is an edition from New Dublin Press that gives one faith in the ability of artists from different genres to meet with a common cause to deliver a certain enlightenment on a subject that might at first seem obscure, but in fact touches upon contemporary reality. Every little detail on every page is astonishingly beautiful and out of the ordinary. One cannot fail to sense the ultimate care and love which has gone into this production.
We are very privileged to have had the official launch of this book at our Barrow River Arts Festival, and it was wonderful to witness how everybody involved in the production of this very special book was very moved and full of joy that their intense labour of love which lasted for over two years has finally become a touchable reality.”
Barry Guy and Maya Homburger
Festival Directors Barrow River Arts
The photography for Imagines was taken by the studio on Friday the 31st of October 2014 on the island of Achill Co.Mayo. The compositional work and poetry that form the basis of the project were produced by Benjamin Dwyer and Kimberley Campanello whilst in residence at the Heinrich Boll cottage on Achill island.
This is how performance, composition, poetry, sculpture, sketches, field work can all interact to create a work of art.
The studio developed a bespoke geometric musical typeface for Imagines. Benjamin Dwyers score was then re-created using this new typeface giving the project a unique identity.
A strict baseline grid was created and adhered to for the entire project, this forms the basis for the books layout and composition.
The studio was commissioned by azouro founder Stephen Firth to design and implement this new brands identity. The first milestone in the brands application was reached in late 2014 when azouros new bottle arrived from Portugal.
The studio was asked to create the identity and consequently a bottle design that reflected the culture of the oils country of origin, Portugal. A cornerstone of the clients brief was to take inspiration from Portugal’s unique heritage of decorative tiling used extensively within its architecture. Our designs were intended to clearly reference this cultural aspect whilst at the same time providing an abstract design that conveys the fluidity of the actual product, PDO olive oil. Significant consideration was given to how the bottle(s) would eventually be displayed in the marketplace. To this end the patterns design was developed to create a continuous effect when displayed in multiples.
The bottles 360 degree design was a first for the studio and the bottles’ printers. During the development process the bottles’ printers excelled in their dedication and patience, developing their own new printing techniques in order to ensure our design was implemented to the high standard we had envisioned for the project.
Two specific fiddles, two specific players, one specific outcome. The primary request when creating the design for Laghdús album cover was to produce something that could stand alone as a piece of art, where information takes second place to overall composition. The materials and methods used in the production of this piece juxtapose both a distinctive tactility and importantly a responsibility toward the environment in the way it was printed by our colleagues at Generation Press England.
The integral and unique relationship between Dan Trueman and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh that makes the album what it is ultimately provides the focus for its design. They talk using the 10 strings of their Hardanger d'Amore fiddles and the sounds created by the players seem to endlessly cross, expand, redirect, contract and ultimately lessen. Laghdú is a conversation between friends, the cover is our attempt to visualise that conversation.
Custom 220mm x 280mm CD Sleeve, Printed 1 spot pms on 650mic 100% recycled Cairn Board Charcoal, Finished single bespoke die-cut and blind emboss.
Mobile Art School runs artist-led workshops and in-school artist residency programmes that connect artists, students and schools in a shared educational and creative context that is always evolving and dynamic. Mobile Art School provides a structure of communication and elucidation between artists and schools, and a lateral conduit between contemporary art networks and new audiences, which extends from participating students to their parents, families, and wider communities.
The identity created focuses on the collaborative processes of the project. The Mobile Art School seeks to create a connection between contemporary artists and educators through the programmes it develops. The ability to create a diverse range of unique programmes gives the project its mobility. To reflect this diversity and structure the studio developed a simple process for creating a logo using three elements.
B1 poster printed both sides 3 PMS Colours on 70gsm Olin smooth. Booklet information overprinted and finished as a B5 32 pp self cover.
Distinctive Repetition collaborated with goodform and thirtythreetrees to create the internal design and layout of this 80 seater restaurant in the heart of Kildare. The selection of materials used in its construction and interior design was paramount to the over-all style and finish of the space. In response to the client’s brief, bespoke furniture, lighting and artwork were produced for the restaurant.
The project team's goal was to produce a space that used familiar materials and aesthetics in a unique and distinctive way, coupled with a clear focus on simplistic modernist design. We designed and produced bespoke pendant lighting for the restaurant, the design of which is based on the identity that was developed for the restaurant being evolved into a three dimensional form. Further to its interior design brief, Distinctive Repetition was also directly in charge of the creation of the restaurants visual identity. All images of Jolly interior have been kindly provided by Maria Jose Alvarez of goodform.
Heterodyne is a project where composers are commissioned to create site-specific scores for roads. The Studio worked with the artist who conceived the project, Fiona Hallinan, to produce the graphic identity and print media for the project. The first piece of print media created for the project was a limited edition poster which when folded housed a cd containing the original score created for the military road. The project was launched at a former British military barracks in Aughavannagh Co. Wicklow.
Due to its success Heterodyne has now become an ongoing platform for the creation of site specific scores. At present Heterodyne is being developed for a variety of different sites both nationally and internationally most notably a scenic plane journey over the Aran Islands in the west of Ireland.
B2 limited edition poster printed 4 colour on 400gsm 100% re-cycled cyclus offset.
Someone to Care: The Mental Health Needs of Children and Young People with Experiences of the Care and Youth Justice Systems, is a 208 page report into the experiences of young people that have found themselves within state care and youth justice systems in Ireland. This extensive 208 page report examines the impact current state systems have had on the lives of young people who have found themselves within these systems.
The report employs the use of the CMHC logo (which is a green isosceles triangle) as the primary element in its graphic design. Using the triangle as a single base unit and the children’s game of tangram as a structural influence. The report contains a series of colourful graphic compositions that divide each of its sections and internal chapters.
190mm x 285mm 208 pp Thread sewn report. Printed using 3 PMS colours on 100% recycled cyclus offset 100gsm internal pages and 400gsm cover.
The compositions are intended to communicate the commissioners primary brief “a report about children but not for children”. The typographic approach to the report had to be sympathetic to the way in which the report was written. Given that the report is a comprehensive piece of academic research its typographical layout had to be highly considerate of the way in which such information is traditionally imparted.
During the summer of 2014 Michelle Darmody of The Cake Café produced a number of food based events for the Irish Museum of Modern Arts Summer Rising festival. The festival gave visitors a new and interesting way to interact with IMMA and its surrounding gardens. Architects, designers and artists commissions brought a strong visual and creative element to the festival. Michelle commissioned the studio to produce a limited edition run of food platters. The platters were used to serve the Cake Café’s food to guests during the event, after which they were allowed to keep the piece as a memento of the occasion. Each board was made to our designs using FSC certified pine by Irish carpenter Paul Shields.
The design itself is somewhat of a homage to Irish Artist Patrick Scott. Scott’s work has long been admired by the studio for his beautiful use of materials, simplistic forms and graphic compositions. At the time of the event a retrospective of his work was being exhibited at IMMA and this felt like a modest yet fitting tribute to one of our strong influences.
Gowl is a short experimental film that was written by Donal Flynn and directed by Luke Sheehan. The short film was created around a single piece of text which forms a background monologue for the overall piece. The poster was designed simply to mark the creation of the film. The poster itself features the films monologue unedited and in its entirety, the dramatic pauses within the film are highlighted by the use of typography and complemented with stills lifted directly from Gowl.
B2 Poster screenprinted 1 colour on 100gsm GF Smith Plike.
Yogandha is one of the first companies to produce body oils specifically designed for yoga practice. We worked closely with its founder Sinead Duffy to create a brand identity and packaging range. Part of the project’s brief and the Yogandha brand is a 100% commitment to environmentally friendly products and production methods. We developed packaging for the project that used no chemical glues to bond or seal the packaging. The packaging and print media was produced using eco-friendly inks as well as paper stock made from 100% recycled pulp. The media was produced by brighton based Generation Press in their carbon neutral plant.
Business cards and packaging printed 1 colour on 350gsm cairn board with foil block finish. Custom point of sale box designed by Distinctive Repetition and produced using 100% recycled birch plywood.
As part of its ongoing work for artist Fiona Hallinan’s Heterodyne project the studio was asked to design and produce a plaque for one of the projects latest iterations, Heterodyne: Living Bridge. To identify the project within the chosen location a copper plaque was designed by the studio consistent in style with the identity previously created for Heterodyne. The information displayed on the plaque gives the viewer a background to the project as well how to engage with it. The piece was screen printed in white and copper was specifically chosen as a material due to its natural ability to discolor over time when exposed to the elements.
© 2016 Distinctive Repetition
“Heterodyne: Living Bridge is a commissioned artwork for the 20th anniversary of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Students and alumni of the IWAMD are invited to create scores for the Living Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that traverses the Shannon river and leads to the entrance of the Academy itself.
Living Bridge thus takes form as a participatory art piece in collaboration with contributors from the Academy. A video by the artist of a walk across the bridge is used as the basis of each score. There are no rules regarding the style of sound that is recorded.”
Distinctive Repetition was pleased to accept several awards at this years ICADs, namely for the ICAD Call for Entries poster (silver bell), Fingal Arts Waves poster (bronze bell), Fingal Arts Resort Revelations poster (commendation) and Veronica Roden's logo (commendation). See icad.ie for more details.
It was a gannet.
Congratulations to client Sven Anderson who has launched the second phase of Continuous Drift in April 2017 in Meeting House Square, Templebar, Dublin. See continuousdrift.com for further details.
We are thrilled to announce we will be working with Rua Red in Tallaght this year on their exhibitions and identity.
I'm pretty sure I saw a vagrant albatross over Dublin Bay this Easter Sunday, currently in the the process of confirming if that is a possibility.
The studio is excited to be working with Fingal County Council's Public Arts Commission on a new project for 2017 and beyond.
The studio is happy to announce that Rossi McAuley (principal designer) has been elected as a board member of ICAD, looking forward to working with them over the coming months. icad.ie.
Distinctive Repetitions work for Third Circle Brewing’s packaging and New Dublin Press’s ‘Imagines’ book were both awarded silver in this years ICADs, as well as a commendation for Third Circle Brewing’s logo.
Distinctive Repetitions work for the New Dublin Press limited edition book 'Imagines' and also our work for Third Circle Brewing's identity and labelling have been included in the 100 Archive of 2015. Our thanks to the team at www.100archive.com for selecting the work and their continued dedication to an excellent project.
'As part of the Fingal 2016 Centenary Programme, Fingal County Council’s Arts Office is working in partnership with Fingal Curator Cleo Fagan, founder of Superprojects, to provide a unique arts-in-education initiative for two post-primary schools in Fingal titled Waves. The project explores the multiple layers of meaning and contexts associated with the 1916 Easter Rising and the commemorations in 2016. The project links history and the everyday, bringing awareness to the influence of individuals, collectives and our material environment on social and political changes, past and present.'
The studio is delighted to be working on the creation of a limited edition poster which is being designed to commemorate the project.
Distinctive Repetition is delighted to have been asked to present its work for Imagines alongside Jonathan Creasy of New Dublin Press as part of ID 2015 and the Dublin Art Book Fair curated by Sophie Bagnall and hosted at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios. The presentation of the project is due to take place on Thursday the 19th of November. www.templebargallery.com and www.irishdesign2015.ie for further details.
Distinctive Repetitions work for Azouro Olive Oils and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman's album entitled Laghdú has been awarded two Bronze ICADs at this years Institute of Creative Advertising and Design awards.
Distinctive Repetition's work for Mobile Art School, Yogandha and The Children's Mental Health Coalition received commendations in this year's ICAD awards.
To see all of the year's commended design work visit the Irish Times Innovation website.
Distinctive Repetition was profiled on the website www.designersjournal.net. Thank you to the good folk at Designer's Journal.
TTT, the multi-disciplinary practice of Jimi Shields + Maria Vlahos will be giving a lecture about their work this Thursday, March 20th in Trinity College Dublin. The lecture will take place at 19.15 in the Arts Block of the University.
Raglan Road's Cherry Blossoms have begun to flower. Proof that Spring has arrived.
Distinctive Repetition are delighted to be working with musician Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh on album design for his upcoming collaboration.
Tonight sees the launch of 'Research on Common Ground', the Journal of Postgraduate Research for Trinity College Dublin, designed by Distinctive Repetition.
The studio is happy to have been commissioned by Jonathan Creasy and New Dublin Press to create its identity and inaugural publication, due to be launched in 2014.
"Man's use of symbols to make sense of the world distinguishes him from roughly a million species and the other hundred and ninety-two different kinds of ape and monkey."
Quote by American Poet Joyce Kilmer, taken from Alan Fletcher's The Art of Looking Sideways, which was one of this year's Christmas presents.
Distinctive Repetition projects "Mobile Art School" and Report for "Childrens' Mental Health Coalition" profiled on the 100 archive.
Distinctive Repetition launches its new website at www.distinctiverepetition.com today.
"It is alright to smile" this information was given to me today by a lady with a small dog whilst in line to purchase two bananas and a cup of coffee.
This is an edited transcription of two interviews between Rossi McAuley (principal designer) and Fiona Hallinan (artist and assistant) about the practice of the studio Distinctive Repetition and the working methods and design philosophies of Rossi McAuley. The interview format was an idea to produce an essay on the studio's practice by initiating a conversation, which took place over two days in October 2013. The recordings of these conversations were transcribed and edited to create the below text.
The Studio and Clients
Tell me about how and when you set up the studio.
I set up the studio in July 2012, having been a partner of swollen design studio for five years, which ceased to exist in 2011. I decided that I wanted to set up my own studio mainly because I wanted to retain an independent approach to graphic design and create a studio that had its own voice, its own language and style but one where I was the principal designer, so that it was my studio and my output. In order to do that I needed to acquire space, clients and projects. I spent a year doing that before setting up the studio and then just going for it I suppose.
When you say acquiring clients what was that process?
In some cases I had preexisting clients. From my previous experiences before I enjoyed working on particular types of projects. Where clients trusted the designer and were willing to trust in the direction that the designer was choosing to take. Not all clients not all commercial clients are interested in working that way, however I don’t want the studio to be purely a commercial enterprise. I want the studio to have a particular set of clients and a particular type of client, ones that value and engage with the process of design.
The type of clients that I most enjoyed working with would have been those working in the NGO sector or charities, clients working in the arts and those who were setting up new businesses and really wanted to invest in design as part of that, not just buy a logo and put it on something, but actually who were interested in creating a real identity for their project, or company. So I suppose there were three types of clients that I wanted to get. Commercial clients who dealt with products and branding in the open marketplace, that made them money, so selling a product. I wanted to work with clients within the NGO sector which I think is one of the areas of graphic design that seems to be overlooked. I do want to bring higher standards of graphic design to that sector.
Then, in the arts, well, I suppose that's the one area where a designer is expected to really excel in terms of expressing themselves and what they do and it always provides a more abstract brief. It allows the graphic designer to become a graphic artist, which is a direction that I always want the studio to go in and a side to the studio's practice that I always want to maintain. Design at its core, when all the information is removed, is or can be viewed as art.
You work in a lot of different media and forms – do you want to talk a little bit then about medium as well?
My background in design is mainly in print media. Print media and identity. Print media, which is a kind of a dying art in itself, is the foremost ability and specialisation of the studio. Print media on its own encompasses so much that people aren't really aware of. I think most clients think that you can print onto paper that's it. My approach is that everything you can do in print media should be investigated per project, depending on what the desired outcome is. I spend a great deal of time as a designer, looking at what you are capable of doing within print media. Be it printing onto an object, or producing a book, or a report, how you might print, what print processes you can use.
My course title in college was visual communication. Visual communication by its very nature crosses into so many disciplines, and so the medium changes all the time, depending on the project brief and the client's needs. As a designer, you can adapt to that but you have to do it very carefully. So you don't just go from designing a book to designing a table or a light. Although both can be seen as a form of communication I suppose. So what's the logic of going from designing a book to designing a space? I suppose the answer to that is that a space is just a three dimensional form of two dimensional compositions. Or a space is just a three-dimensional form of a book, and that's how I see it. A core principle in the design of print media is that you select the different elements that are required for the piece through relevance. So if you are designing a book, you look at the paper you use as your base material. The printing style that goes onto it, the binding techniques, the colours, the compositions, typography, ink, even the guy who prints it can be part of your selection process.
All those things exist in spatial design as well, they're just not presented in a two-dimensional platform. So if you value and appreciate aesthetics and tactility there's no reason why a graphic designer can't be a party to the production of spatial design. A wall is essentially a two-dimensional object, and it only becomes a three-dimensional object when you put a corner onto it. You turn it into a cube, or you turn it into a corridor. You can still apply the same rules to how you would design a wall, or what goes onto a wall as you would with a book.
Style through Practice
It seems to me, I don't know if I'm right in this, but that if you're going to cross format in that way, you need to have a very strong sense of your own design style in order to be mobile. Do you think you would agree with that? It's maybe to do with confidence. I can see the identity of the studio in the different things that it does.
I think that when I started out I had the opinion that a designer could do anything, there should be no such thing as a style to their work. The job of a designer was to take a brief and respond to it, and to create something new every time. When you've been practicing for a long period of your life, you realise that you do actually have a style, and there are certain things that you gravitate towards. For me I gravitate towards simplicity and functionality, minimalism and modernity. So that is quite evident in my work. Whether that's true in printing process, or whether it's true in an application to printing processes, or the actual visual graphics that are produced, the tools that you use to create those graphics, the capabilities that you choose to learn as you go along. What ends up happening is that you develop a set of tools and you know how to use those tools very well. For example one of the things that is very evident in my work is the application of two-dimensional monotone graphics. Thats something that I know how to do very well, the way I create a third tone or something else that is interesting is by selection of material.
I believe style actually comes from your ability and confidence to make decisions. The ability to make decisions quickly and to create something within a timeline, to create something using the constraints of time, because every project will have a time constraint on it. It means that you fall back on making decisions that you are confident will work. And the more you make those decisions and the more they work, the more confident you become. Style is actually to do with your ability to make confident decisions, using the tools that are available to you.
The Role of a Design Studio
I might ask you a more general question about the phrase 'bringing things to the world'. You used a phrase before, that what the studio does is it 'brings ideas into the world'. Is that something you see generally as the role of design, or specific to this studio?
I think generally that is the role of design as a whole, but then the word design needs to be prefaced by what discipline of design you are working within. I think what this studio does is it brings ideas to the world in a very different way than other design studios.
The brief of all design studios is to take an idea or a concept and visualise it, or to materialise it if needs be, but to visually communicate somebody's idea. How you go about doing that is what separates you from other design studios and I suppose that is where style gets applied. One of the things that makes the design that this studio brings to the world different is its philosophy in how we go about designing in the first place. A goal of this studio is to always seek to tell the truth or to communicate the truth, not to fabricate anything. To look and to listen to what the client has to say, what they are truly trying to communicate. To understand the aesthetics that they feel comfortable communicating in.
I suppose the best way to actually think about that comes when we are finished working on a project with a client. They should know more about themselves and what their idea is at the end of the process. It should have become more refined, it should be clearer and more concise when they're finished going through the process of identifying anything, or creating anything. A client will come in with an idea and a set of parameters on how it’s going to be produced. However during the design process they should be learning about themselves. At the end of it, the situation I have with my clients is that they're rarely surprised by the outcome. They feel like that’s what they wanted all along. I'm not sure that other design studios actually end up with that result. There is a school of thought that your client should be completely surprised when you present a final solution or outcome. Presentations should not be a battle to convince a client that what you've done is right for them. I see that as a problem, creating graphic design that you have to battle with the client to use.
The process this studio goes through is very different from that. Every project is assessed differently. Every client is assessed differently. No presentations are the same. While outcomes do have a visual style, no outcome is ever the same. The repetition the studio produces is in quality, philosophy and approach. But the solutions are always distinctive. They're always different. Always the same quality, but always a distinctive visual result, always one that the client feels attached to. The power of identifying somebody through visual communication is remarkable. It's probably something that requires a much longer conversation: that visual communication empowers people however, that is the end goal. To give them the confidence when they go out there that their idea is right, because they now know how to communicate it. Not just visually, but they are clearer on how they should be communicating their idea because of having gone through a design process.
Use of Materials
Could you talk about the materials you use and why you select them – also media, and types of software – do you have a set of rules?
It's not so much a rule thing, it's more what's required. If you're a designer who takes a modernist approach to design, and that's part of your style then you work with image, solid shapes, typography and materials. If they are your tool set then you don't need to concern yourself too much with all the wonderful effects that come with software. I have modern software as is required, but I probably use only 10% of what's available to me. I suppose an artist could have loads and loads of different paintbrushes but might only use two or three. That's the way I think about the software. It's obviously a very important tool to get something from an idea to something visual but I think any development or anything new that happens in print media happens at a design level, rather than at a software level. Actual progression of design comes from designers' own creativity, not from software programs. So I kind of steer clear of giving them too much of my attention, unless I want to achieve something particular. I think software just provides you with shortcuts to what you are trying to do anyway. They even call them shortcuts. Too many shortcuts. You need to set out to understand how something actually works.
I suppose the other thing is physical materials.
Physical materials and tactility. Tactility is an incredibly important aspect of design and visual communication. When someone has to come into contact with something or the environment in which something has to exist. That's why I consider it. Material selection in print media gives you so many other levels. So you've got the image that goes onto the page. You've got the shape of the page itself. And then there's the printed page and that goes into some sort of medium be it a book or whatever it is. You could stop there and just use the same material or paper over and over again. But its that material and paper itself which adds fourth dimension to it. It's all about the amount of variables you have available to you. When you introduce the material aspect into it, all of a sudden you are given a different multiple.
Material shouldn't be just considered as what physical thing a design is printed onto. All of the elements available to you can be treated as material. The ink you use can be considered a material. The process you use to get the ink on the page can be considered a material. The extender that you put in the ink to make it more or less opaque should be considered a material. You can throw materials into inks. You can print on paper, you can print on wood. You can print on steel, you can make shapes out of steel. You can attach them to wood. I suppose if you think about it then a page is just a flat two dimensional object. If you can find materials that have a similar quality and it's relevant to the project then you should explore it.
Relevance is the absolute key here. When I was in college I used to print onto all sorts of mad shit just because I could which was non-sense. But if its relevant to a project to print onto plywood, then print onto plywood. For example if you have a client who has a product that they want to be 100% recycled throughout all its printed matter, they want everything to be eco-friendly, then you as a designer have to find materials that are truly environmentally friendly. Like instead of putting something into a steam-pressed corrugated box, you decide to put it into 100% recycled or sustainably farmed birch plywood boxes, then you can figure out a way to put those boxes together that is environmentally safe and package the product in that then you meet the brief.
When it comes back to the relationship that you have with the client, they are going to assess your tools at the start, that you're going to use to find that thing. They are allowed to look at them, they are allowed to see how you've done it before, and they're allowed to make a decision, before they ever agree to anything, as to whether you have the right tools to uncover what they want to uncover. Of course you can only learn so much about somebody before you engage with them. As a consequence of this the next biggest element in the whole process is the trust that your client places in you. That you're the right person to find that truth for them, and that you're going to display it in the right way. I would also say in terms of the commercial aspect of it that you don't have to sacrifice that honesty just because its a commercial project. Although more often than not what happens is clients and the commercial world sacrifice your work after you're finished. But the creating, and the bringing-into-the-world of the design idea. That's what you do, that's what the studio does, you bring it to a point where the client can make a decision either to pursue the philosophies and the ideals that the studio has for the design and the continual implementation of it, or you can go and you can choose to do it a different way, be it cheaper, or using a different style, or different media, or different designers or whatever.
That's not really our concern. Our concern is to bring it to a point, where a client can present themselves to the world for the first time and say, this is who I am, this is my idea, this is what I am. Everything after that belongs to the client. All the decisions that happen after that belong to the client. But as a studio you can input and impact right up until that point. Certain clients realise that design and communication is a process of guidance and to keep the ideas real, to keep the ideals strong, to keep the identity strong, to keep the communication clear and consistent, they always need to have that voice, but we can't concern ourselves with whether they chose that path or not.
So the studio is quite content to bring ideas, brands, products, packaging, posters, whatever it is, to the marketplace, to the wider public, and cease its association at that stage because that's what it sees its primary goal as. To take an idea, visualise it, contextualise it, and give it back to the client and let them head off with it.
The Last Question
The last question I had then was: could you tell me a little bit about what brought you to design from a biographical point of view?
From a biographical point of view? What does that mean? Why did I decide to be a designer?
I don't think I did decide to be a designer.