Friday, October 2, 2009

Interview - Suzy Tuxen

Custom wedding invitations by Suzy Tuxen (plus Suzy's work in progress above)... stunning!

LOVE the simple, retro-inspired identity for London cafe Milkbar... and the 'mapkin'!! Genius!

Beautiful work for The Modern Flower Company in London - created under the direction of Suzy's previous employers, London design firm Multistorey.

These days I get so many emails everyday... press releases from PR agents, notes from friends and strangers sharing links, photos or other creative work, sweet emails from students and graduates asking me to check out their portfolios, and everything inbetween. I try to respond to everyone... but truthfully there are just not enough hours in the day to showcase all the incredible talent that is out there!

ANYWAY my point is, once in a while, amongst the many emails that find their way to my inbox daily, I receive a sweet note out of the blue, and am truly blown away and instantly compelled to share. This was the case when I received a lovely email recently from Melbourne-based graphic designer Suzy Tuxen. Is her work not amazing?!

Suzy has a magical way with custom typography... often characterised by a retro aesthetic and just a hint of nostalgia for eras gone by. Her thoughtful, considered design approach results in work which seems at once classic, timeless and understated. I'm an instant fan.

Suzy studied at RMIT and was lucky enough to work with fantastic Melbourne firm Studio Round, before cutting her teeth in the UK with London-based design agency Multistorey. Now settled back in Melbourne, Suzy has launched her own boutique design practise called A Friend of Mine (that's AFOM for short!).

Hope you enjoy learning a little more about Suzy's work and inspirations... do pop over and check out her website for more!

Tell me a little about your background — what path led you to what you're doing now?

I grew up in a family full of doctors, so I'm not really sure what led me to design! I have always loved art and painting, and my family encouraged this. I was always a bit worried about what I would do, so when I was 16, I did a folio preparation course at RMIT — which was unnecessary at that age seeing I was still at school — but cemented my desire to work in graphic design.

Invitation to the opening of an innovative new multi-faith worhsip centre in London called Lumen - designed by UK architects Theis & Khan.

You've worked both here and in London, in well-respected tiny boutique companies, and in very well-known larger firms. How would you compare your experiences working in London compared to working in Melbourne?

When I graduated from RMIT, I went to work at Studio Round, run by Robert Nudds and my former lecturer, Michaela Webb, in 2004. I feel very lucky to have had such a great first job — they were incredibly kind, encouraging and non-hierachical. I think my love of customised typography was harvested there. I worked there for 3 years and am still very close friends with everyone.

In late 2007 I moved to London and began work at
Multistorey in London, who I really admire for their originality and individuality when confronted with trends in graphic design. I worked with Harry Woodrow and Rhonda Drakeford, who were not solely interested in graphic design. I was able to work on some interesting jobs that I found incredibly challenging at the time — namely the shopfit for green grocery store, 'Unpackaged' in Clerkenwell, London. I had never done interior work before — and it was a heritage listed building which could not be touched structurally — so it was a big learning curve! The approach was graphic, with black and white tubs rising out of the chequer-board tiled flooring.

Unpackaged signage and shopfit (above) and branding (below). Read more about this unique store and the creative brief on Suzy's website here. This work was produced under the direction of Suzy's London employers Multistorey.

In London I felt that my colour palette preferences shifted — maybe this came from my obsession with Tottenham Court Road tube station, tiled in bold primary colours. I was also able to explore different materials and more structural techniques — so I feel braver venturing into more 3 dimensional realms now.

What have been some of your favourite projects or collaborations?

I am currently working on a project for United Soul, a new retail company which will open late this year in Toorak — designing the brand identity, collateral (bags, swingtags, label etc) and the shopfit. The concept for the store which caters for men and women, centres around yin/yang themes, and the merging of souls. I collaborated with my friend, designer Emily Fitts — who is a lovely, switched on person, and enlisted industrial designer Anthony Hamilton-Smith to realise the signage, which we are planning to hang from a double height ceiling.

I collaborate on a daily basis with my boyfriend, designer Shane Loorham who works at Büro North. He is quite technical and has a completely different eye. He is also a wonderful photographer and is really good to bounce ideas around with.

There is another project in the pipeline to work on some film titles with film director Kess Broekman-Dattner (The Directors Group), a new medium which I am looking forward to.
I would love to collaborate more. Part of the idea behind the name 'A Friend Of Mine' is the notion of working with friends in different fields and talents to create something amazing.

Where do you turn for inspiration — nature, travel, books, magazines or the web etc.?

I love going to the library. I live in North Carlton so visit the library there often — this year I took out books on ornate borders, weaving, a history Vogue magazine covers, Modernist interiors & furniture, and Art Deco. I'm a real nerd! Several years ago I borrowed a Letraset book from my friend and haven't been able to return it yet (though I probably will have to after this article!). Travelling is incredibly inspiring too — I take photographs of typography wherever I travel or live.

Suzy's bookshelf... full of inspiration!

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?

Several years ago when I first saw Felice Varini's book 'Point of View' — it completely blew me away. I was impressed initially by the beautiful, witty object that it was: the printed front of the book and the sides (page edges), which are initially abstract shapes, converge to form a series of circles when looked at from 1 particular viewpoint. Then of course discovering his work — which the cover represented so well — was incredible too.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

On a good day it would be waking up quite early to a coffee, then a clumsy attempt at pilates, breakfast, checking up on emails and working, perhaps meeting up with a friend for more coffee and going for a walk, or going to the library. Then I would get back to work again, and perhaps knock off at about 5 or 6 to cook a meal and rest. Last summer I often went to the pools in Carlton Baths at lunchtime. I think ideas often come when relaxed or through conversations. I am really anti overtime and sitting at the computer too long. I don't always practice what I preach, but I try to stay sane by being really organised and efficient when I need to work, and then recognising when your brain is fried and you need a walk, and that sitting at a computer for hours on end is not that productive! I also try to meet up with clients fairly often — to really engage with what they are saying and thinking — it is all too easy to become distant over email.

Identity for weaver Carla Grbac - Suzy's inspired design takes inspiration from technical weaving diagrams and the large weaving loom used by Carla to create her designs.

What would be your dream creative project?

To brand, and art direct an extravagant photoshoot for a 20th century danish furniture store — and perhaps get paid in beautiful authentic furniture! Perhaps it could involve designing some typography, building a set, enlisting a brilliant photographer and stylist, and flying to an exotic location! (You said dream, right?) But actually, I am easy to please — I look forward to any projects with friendly people and open minds.

What are you looking forward to?

I am very excited to see where A Friend Of Mine takes me. I'm so lucky to really love what I do. I am interested in collaborating with people in different fields, and experimenting more. But most of all I am looking forward to summer.

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

Metropolis Bookshop and Brunswick St Bookstore are always amazing. Op-shops often have interesting / obscure books too if you're lucky. I go to Lincraft for wool — knitting is my winter sport!

Preliminary sketches for Pixel Flix Identity

Identity for Pixel Flix

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

I love iCarusi! In Holmes St Brunswick, there is also one in St Kilda. Their pizzas are incredible — and they have a dessert pizza of peach and white chocolate which features on my death row dinner list!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

My friends run café Mixed Business in Clifton Hill, and several of my friends work there too. So you would probably find me there, killing two birds with one stone — saying hi to everyone and having a great breakfast and coffee.

Melbourne's best kept secret?

This is hard to answer... I really love going to Melbourne General Cemetery. It's close to where I live, and I don't find it spooky at all during the day, if it's sunny it's incredibly peaceful. I love the scripts on the old tombstones — anyone who loves typography should go for a wander there.

Working drawings and finished branding for Melbourne-based personal stylist Frockerphiliac.


  1. Truly inspiring work! Great interview. Love those logos!

  2. What a truly inspirational blog post - I love typography and her work is amazing. I now want to go and do a Graphic Design course! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Amazing work, love, love, love this designer!! Reading this was a good start to my day :)