MNML Thing – an illustration project by Spencer Harrison
Last year I was very chuffed to be invited to speak at Creative Mornings – a global network of casual morning speaking / networking events for creative people. The Melbourne chapter of Creative Mornings is run by a handful of wonderful organisers and volunteers from various creative fields, and one of those people is Spencer Harrison.
Spencer is a lovely lad with quite a bit going on. He’s a graphic designer with qualifications in nanotechnology (true story!). Originally from Adelaide, Spencer moved to Melbourne in 2011, and set up his own design studio, HAPPY STÜDIO, with the assistance of the government funded NEIS scheme.
There is some really cute work to check out on the HAPPY STÜDIO website, but today we’d like to introduce you to one of Spencer’s many side projects. MNML Thing is an illustration-a-day project Spencer launched late last year… it’s so rad! I love Spencer’s super simple illustrations of everyday things in block colours… to me it seems somehow very international and ‘Monocle‘-esque, which in my head can only be a good thing!
Check out MNML Thing here! It makes me smile. You can also purchase giclee prints from the website, for the obscenely reasonable price of $35 for an A4 print.
We asked Spencer a few questions about himself and his many extra-curricular projects –
Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you study and what initially led you to graphic design?
I grew up in Adelaide and started out studying a Bachelor of Science in Nanotechnology after High School but realised near the end of my course that my heart wasn’t in it and I wanted to try something different. While I was still studying science I would always procrastinate from writing lab reports by playing around in Photoshop, which I found way more fun. As everyones favourite typographer, Jessica Hische said ‘the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.’ So at the end of my course I decided make the switch and enrolled in design school.
We’ve done a little stalking and would love to know how someone so young is so accomplished! You run your own design practice – HAPPY STÜDIO, and you co-manage Creative Mornings Melbourne… and you have a great new BLOG, AND you have this excellent little illustration project on the go called MNML Thing! How and why did you become involved in all these extra-curricular activities!?
From the beginning I have been quite involved in the design industry in general, and much of where I am today is due to the help and support I have gotten from some amazing people I have met in the creative community. It can be pretty difficult as a young designer to get started, but if you put yourself out there and are passionate, sociable and work hard, people will help you out and give you a shot.
When I first arrived in Melbourne there weren’t really any jobs around, but thankfully a friend of mine told me about a government program called the NEIS scheme. NEIS gives you the training and support that you need to set up a business, so I decided to jump straight in the deep end and start HAPPY STÜDIO. It was a massive learning curve in the beginning but I survived the first year of business and I’m looking forward to growing HAPPY STÜDIO this year with my friend Scott Kirkman joining the business.
Creative Mornings came about as I had been following it online in New York and had been dying to start a chapter over here in Melbourne but didn’t have the resources to pull it off. When I saw on Twitter that Jeremy Wortsman from The Jacky Winter Group had put in an application to host it, I emailed him straight away and put my hand to help out. For me it all comes back to the creative community, and I wanted to be part of something that gave back to the people that had helped me, as well as foster and build the community here in Melbourne.
What’s the deal with MNML THING, why did you start it and what are your hopes for it?
I’ve always been a fan of side-projects and have been inspired over the years by projects such as Brock Davis’ Make Something Cool Every Day and Kate Bingaman Burt’s Daily Drawings to do some myself. Side-projects are great for designers as they let you experiment with new techniques, learn new skills and play with ideas without any client restraints.
The idea for MNML Thing came to me in the shower one morning and it seemed like it would be fun project to explore the objects around us, with simple forms and playful use of colour. I try and post a new MNML Thing every weekday, as it’s about constant exploration and delivering something every day, as opposed to over thinking a design.
People have seemed to respond really well to the illustrations, so this year we will be growing MNML Thing into a line of products around the style that has been developing on the blog, inspired by minimal forms and bright colours. We have a set of alphabet cards for kids in development and are investigating some other products as well. The blog will still continue as a daily project as we can develop and test new ideas there and there might be an exhibition of prints sometime in the future as well.