Friday, February 8, 2008

Paul Fuog - The Co-op

A little while ago I posted about the City of Melbourne 'hot spots' guide, which was gorgeously(?) art directed by Melbourne company The Co-op. Soon after, I contacted Paul Fuog from this little outfit and he agreed to answer some of my questions about his company, his job and his inspirations.

The Co-op seems like a really fun and cozy place to work. Firstly, they are based in Curtin House in the city (Seriously... how can there be enough room left in that building for any more coolness?). Also, They are a tiny team of only 3 full timers - Paul, and his wife Dan Honey, and designer Bec Worth. I feel like they would be type of company who would have breakfast all together at a communal table in the office... and make each other cups of tea all the time. And send each other home early occasionally. This may or may not be true. It's just the impression I get. :)

I would also like to credit Paul with sending me back the interview using coloured text to delineate the answers from the questions! *bling* lightbulb moment! How stupid am I for not realising this is a much better option for interview layout? What can I say... He's a graphic designer. They know this stuff.

OK read on for the interview!

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I guess I just sort of stumbled across Graphic Design. I had always loved drawing, sketching and making stuff and so I started studying visual arts at Swinburne and then a year later I discovered Graphic Design and decided that this was what I wanted to do. I think some of the art I was creating was probably more like graphic art that fine art, i just didn't really know much much about graphic design at the time. So it was really great to discover it.
What is the structure of your business – how many people work at The Co-Op? What is the hierarchy at the office? What is your role within the group?
We are a really small studio. There is only 3 of us full-time. Myself, my wife Dan Honey and and another designer Bec Worth. We are all pretty hands on and collaborative with most projects. When a brief comes in, we are all generally involved in the conceptual stage and then it eventually gets divided up between all of us to carry out the production. Despite the business being owned by myself and Dan we try not to parade authority or any hierarchal status. We instead acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and divvy the tasks accordingly..
How long have you been at The Co-Op?
The Co-Op has been running since late 2004
Are there any particular designers you look up to or are inspired by?
There are so many great designers, illustrators and artists in this industry that I am continually inspired by the work I see. I really love swiss design, not just graphic but furniture and architecture. I love how complex and disciplined the work is, yet it has such purity and simplicity.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Arrive at about 9.30am.
Email someone
Design something
Meet someone
Eat something
Email someone
Design Something
Meet someone
Leave at about 6.30pm
How do you approach a brief initially - do you have a tried and tested system you usually follow with every new job or is it different for every client?
We do get a variety of briefs, some more demanding than others, so the approach does vary. Once we have read through we meet to outline the objectives and discuss how we are going to tackle it. From here we will organise a creative meeting where we keep it pretty loose and encourage one another to put forward any ideas or concepts. From this we hope to gain some direction or a path or hook to explore. We now gather references, sketch ideas and then meet to consolidate the idea and refine it. The next step is putting it together in a presentation format for the client. Then we show them. Then they tell us they don't get it and we start it all again....

What are you most proud of professionally?
I find it hard to isolate one project, especially as I still feel quite young to the game. I guess at the moment I am proud of the rooftop campaign we just finished. I think mainly because it presented many challenges and rather than give up and take an easier route we stayed true to the initial concept and I think in the end we received a much better result.
Where do you find inspiration?
It sounds a little cliche but from everywhere. From boring audit forms, old library books, science books, modern art books. I guess thats the thing with graphic design, almost every bit of collateral or signage you see has in someway been considered graphically. So inspiration really is everywhere.
What's the best thing about your job?
I really enjoy the challenge of it. I thought I would always love to have an open brief, which I do enjoy sometimes but to be honest I really love responding to briefs. It's like problem solving, trying to find that little clue or hook.
I also really love having the opportunity to work and collaborate with other creative people.
And the worst?
How serious it can be sometimes. I understand the importance of design in the community and the need to educate others of its worth but sometimes I think you just need to have fun with it.
What would be your dream project?
Wow, I really don't know. I love the variety.
As we are only small we don't often get exposed to large budgets so maybe a job with unlimited funds.....But maybe not. I might end up like a kid in a candy store and end up foiling, embossing, die cutting, stitching, embroiding, laminating some 1000gsm stock invitation. It could be disastrous, like an over decorated christmas tree.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years time?
Still going through spell check on this email.
What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?
My honeymoon, which is just a month away

Melbourne Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Otsumami in Northcote.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
In summer: 13th beach
In winter: In bed dreaming of summer at 13th beach
Best bookshop in Melbourne for design books?
Metropolis Bookstore is in our building, so it is an obvious favourite.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?
The Tuck Shop on Lonsdale St. Cheapest and tastiest salami sandwich in town.

Thanks so much Paul! :)


  1. Nice interview. I love reading about creative Melbourne locals.

  2. Thanks Rhett! I love doing these interviews... I think they just satisfy my curiosity about other people's jobs... Guess I'm a bit of a snoop. :)