The Interview Series // 33

What do you get when you mix up two cool kids, no money, and a shit load of imagination? Tin & Ed (http://www NULL.tinanded told us all sorts of crazy things about starting out as designers. Not only were they young-en’s that started their own kick-ass studio (http://www NULL.tinanded straight out of Uni, they’re now represented by the one and only Jacky Winter Group (http://jackywinter and are wrapping Australian design into a tornado of coloured paper and loopy costumes. Look at those outfits! They’re super cool bananas!

Jr: First of all, tell us how you guys met and started out.

Ed: In the Melbourne Design Guide it said we met in Vietnam designing a punk rock magazine.

Tin: We did meet designing punk rock magazine but we didn’t meet in Vietnam.

Ed: It does make it sound like I picked Tin up in Vietnam.

Tin: I was the punk rock kid on the street.

Jr: That’s so funny.

Tin: We met at Uni, at Swinburne, at the end of first year. Ed was in multimedia and I was in graphic design.

Ed: I did visual arts, and then I took a year off, and then started up at Swinburne doing multimedia. The good thing about Swinburne was that there was a major class that was with everybody else so I got to meet the graphic guys, and got to see what they were doing. I was much more interested by what they were doing, so I fought like hell to transfer over into graphic design – so I was in Tin’s class in second year.

Jr: Did you start working on projects together?

Tin: We had this collective with two other guys, John and Pete. We worked together and did things like magazine covers, which we thought was what graphic design was… We designed just one cover together which was completely ridiculous.

Ed: Neither of us are very punk.

Tin: We did it as an opportunity to do something outside of Uni, which in the long run was really good for us because you have real clients, and real deadlines.

Ed: Uni didn’t like it at all.

Jr: They didn’t like you doing stuff outside of class?

Tin: They didn’t make it easy for you to do it because they have so many projects, and they weren’t adaptable enough for you to actually try and include your external projects.

Ed: I think it’s a little bit of a shame that you can’t say, I’ve got this real world project – can I build it into one of these fictitious projects – and it’s like no, you can’t do that. And from a folio point of view that was one of the biggest things in terms of getting work. If you can say, this is the stuff that my lecturer asked me to do, and this is my real world stuff, I think that’s really important.

Jr: I would imagine that any employer would look far more favourably on someone that had real world work.

Tin: Exactly. We wanted to work together and they didn’t know how to mark us that way. It was a constant fight with the system and it wasn’t flexible enough for us to work the way we wanted to work. They want you to work in a particular sort of way. They train you up to be a junior designer for a design studio. That’s their goal for you, and that’s not really what we wanted to do. So there was a conflict there and I think that made it difficult. But, I’m glad that we went through it…

Ed: I think the art of Uni is that you’ve got all this criteria to meet, but you also have to try and work out how you can still do what you want to do. I think that’s pretty much the only way I got through it — by changing or engineering a brief to be something that I was actually interested in.

Tin: We saw a lot of people coming out of Uni who didn’t want to be designers anymore. What they were probably really saying was that they didn’t want to be that kind of designer. There’s all that confusion there. I don’t know what it’s like now though.

Ed: The biggest thing for us was that we realised that marks were totally irrelevant, and at the end of it you really need to have something strong that you‘re happy to sit down and talk about…

Tin: That you are proud of…

Ed: Even if you didn’t get a good mark.

Jr: It is so subjective.

Tin: Yes, it is really subjective. I remember they were teaching us all this stuff about design and what it should be. Some lecturers don’t allow you to put your own personal spin on what you’re doing, and I don’t really agree with that. Shouldn’t design be something that you do because you are enjoying it, and you are doing it as much for yourself as for the client? Don’t you get a better result if you are doing something for yourself as well?

Ed: I think it still is all about the client. But, I think you can do both. Something we try to do, and what we feel makes our work stronger, is when we are interested and passionate about it – and that’s when we are invested in it. We do things we are interested in at the time, things that we want to explore, in a way it’s really just for ourselves but we are connecting that back to the client too. We are not just going off and doing whatever the hell we want, it’s really is about making those connections and bringing them back to the client.

Jr: Does the client ever shun that sort of reason?

Tin: I think we’ve been lucky in that. For the most part we’ve had some really open clients, we don’t really get too many clients that are too prescriptive about what they want which is good for us because generally we are interested in very different things at different points in time and…

Ed: I think we can always say why things are the way they are.

Tin: We think a lot about things so it is not like we are going ‘let’s just make stuff out of paper’. There are an infinite amount of answers to any given problem. If you can do something you are interested in, that also works really well for the client too, then you are both happy. And you’ll do a better job.

Ed: You’re building on the concepts with the client in mind. The final outcome will be representational of that. It doesn’t really matter what it is.

Jr: One of the most interesting things about you guys is that you didn’t work anywhere before you got together. When did you decide to create Tin and Ed? Was Next Wave the start?

Tin: We got the Next Wave project, which was the day we finished Uni.

Ed: That was crazy…

Tin: I think I was at Kinko’s crying because my film wasn’t coming out, and I got the call. We didn’t expect to get it because when we had the meeting with them, they asked if we could design a 100 page publication and we were like yes! But we’d never done anything like it. At Uni when you design a magazine you do the cover, the contents page and a double page. We just said yes to being able to do everything.

Jr: So how the hell did you get the job?

Tin: I think they must have liked our ideas and we also had a quite big folio of work that we had done as well. Then, they gave us an office, in their office; it was a little room, just a side room.

Ed: It was a pretty amazing project. We didn’t know anyone, and we were surrounded by all these artists. We immediately became part of the community.

Tin: That was really good because we met the Crumpler guys who we have done heaps of work for and as a starting point, it was really fantastic.

Jr: When that finished what happened next?

Tin: That did go on for a long time. We started working for Crumpler (http://www NULL.crumpler and people just started coming to us with projects because the Crumpler stuff had such a large exposure, and people really liked it. Then, we moved into our studio here, and the work just kept coming in.

Ed: I suppose the other thing, because we haven’t been in a studio, or this is the way I see it, we haven’t got used to earning a decent wage…

Tin: It was a long time before we started really earning. You are just scraping by but that’s the way it is. I think because we have never really had proper jobs before it didn’t matter because we were doing what we wanted and…

Ed: I’ve spoken to guys who’ve been in studios and gone on and done their own thing, they find it much, much harder.

Tin: They can’t do it because they are living off half the amount of money that they had so it was good that we just skipped the whole getting paid.

Jr: Did you have jobs at coffee shops or something?

Tin: No, never, we had to live off what we made.

Ed: It was definitely tough…

Tin: When you first come out of Uni you still have that crazy energy to make stuff and that really can take you a long way and I think that sustained us for a long time. We got really burnt out because we were working seven days a week and we took five days off a year.

Ed: Remember the time we worked Boxing Day or something stupid?

Tin: Yes. And New Years Eve.

Jr: Where does that motivation come from?

Tin: I think it was just this energy that we had from finishing Uni and just all of a sudden we were able to do what we wanted..

Jr: You had a real sense of purpose to what you were doing.

Tin: Yes, it was like, this is our life. This is what we are doing. We still have that feeling now, but I think it is a little more controlled.

Ed: I think it is also realising that your off time is really important, and that having weekends is actually a more productive thing to do – because when you are working you want to be working, instead of feeling overworked.

Tin: We got really burnt out at one point, and now we try to cultivate the creativity by having time off and going overseas, and taking the time to do things which will actually refill our creative reservoir.

Ed: Because when you’re working all the time, there ends up being nothing left.

Tin: What we were doing was amazing, really awesome work, but it wasn’t sustainable at all, you couldn’t keep on going with that forever because you would probably just decide not to be a designer anymore. It’s not really healthy to be working seven days a week forever, but for that time we just had this crazy energy.

Ed: We still do when we have to, certainly when the deadlines are crazy. When we get a big job that’s just part of what you have to do.

Jr: Are your friends hard working artists too?

Tin: Yes. We are surrounded by lots of really amazing creative people. I think that’s the best part of being in Melbourne. Everyone is really supportive of each other and everyone works really hard.

Jr: Have you had kids asking for internships or work experience?

Tin: We get a lot of people who want internships from France for some reason.

Jr: Really?

Tin: Yes, I’m not really sure…

Jr: You guys are big in France.

Tin: I don’t know, maybe, I really don’t know, but we get a lot of emails from them.

Ed: It has been quite funny because we have updated our website relatively recently and it’s good because the people asking to do work experience, the caliber of their work…

Tin: It’s completely increased, and it makes you feel good. We’d really like to bring someone else in.

Jr: On a full time type of thing?

Tin: No, just work experience, generally when we are working on big projects we will involve all our friends and stuff. The studio is called Tin & Ed, we don’t really want to expand…

Ed: I think we like the idea of collaborating. That is really what we do, when we get a lot of work on or whatever we get other people involved. It’s collaboration.

Jr: Collaboration rather than come work for us.

Tin: We like working with other people, I think lots of different people.

Ed: I think you get much better results when you are collaborating, you get someone that’s awesome, that can do stuff that we can’t do from a totally different point of view.

Jr: Where to now? What’s the plan, do you just want to work somewhere cool and be with your friends until the end of your days?

Ed: That’s a big question isn’t it.

Tin: We have lots of ideas.

Ed: We have lots of plans.

Jr: You’ve just got to pick one and run with it.

Tin: I don’t think it’s necessarily having to choose one, I think that we can have a few plans. We are very easily bored so I think that it is good to have a few plans that we can go with.

Ed: Really one of the biggest things that we’ve done is having this business adviser because essentially what she does is really simple. She asks us what we want to do and how we are going to do it – so it’s working out what are the things involved, and when are you going to do it by. It is very simple, but then she’ll come back to us next time and ask how we went with those things. It’s really great because we keep that going and to have somebody there…

Tin: Somebody who you have to answer to. She tells us that every time we finish a project we have to reward ourselves. So, we always have oysters…

Ed: That’s a big thing, we do owe ourselves quite a few oysters.

Tin: We used to do it religiously, maybe we can do it today.

Ed: I think we should do it. But she is really good at helping us feel like we are going somewhere. It is one thing to set goals but to realise you are actually achieving them is a really good thing, because then I know within myself I feel better about it, it’s like I’m not running around in circles with no idea.

Tin: I think that our plans are to work on more collaborative projects with other people, like product based collaborations and also our own..

Ed: We’ve got shit loads of exhibitions coming up.

Tin: We have four exhibitions this year, two of them are solo shows, two in Melbourne and two in Sydney so we’ll be busy with that.

Ed: There is heaps of stuff that is happening and I guess we don’t need to make that many plans this year because there is so much to do already. But we will definitely continue to make plans beyond that.

Jr: What’s the best way to get you involved in a project?

Tin: Email us and tell us about the project you are working on. We have been involved in agency projects really early and also conceptual stuff as well – we used to do a lot of conceptualising for publicists.

Ed: My favourite thing is to follow a project right the way through so the best thing is to start off talking about what ideas you might have for the project.

Tin: That is, if you have a slight idea and want help developing it. But even the smaller projects, the projects where we have been brought in later have been enjoyable. We really like the agency work actually. It’s always been really, really fun and challenging and we have always gotten a lot from them.

Jr: Any advice for kids who are just finishing Uni and want to start their own studio?

Tin: I say go for it, I guess that’s all you can really say isn’t it. It’s a scary sort of thing.

Ed: Just work hard…

Tin: I think that you have to be prepared to work really hard when you are starting and you have to be prepared not to have very much money and…

Ed: I think pretty much anyone can do it.

Tin: But you also have to decide what sort of studio you want it to be, because you have to be selective about the sorts of jobs that you get. What’s in your folio is the sort of work that you will get; so only put the sort of work that you want to do in your folio. I think that’s probably good advice.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 05/08/2010