Studio Visit

James Brown of Mash

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
3rd of February 2012
'Chef's Special' - a seasonal print publication from Meat and Livestock Australia, designed by SA-based design studio Mash.  Photography -  John  Laurie, Food Styling - Simon Bajada.
'Chef's Special' - a seasonal print publication from Meat and Livestock Australia, designed by SA-based design studio Mash.  Photography -  John  Laurie, Food Styling - Simon Bajada.
Branding and design for NSW restaurant Rojorocket
Branding and design for NSW restaurant Rojorocket

Mash is a graphic design studio based in Adelaide, headed up by young designers Dom Roberts & James Brown.  At just 34 and 31 yrs old respectively it's hard to believe these guys have been in business together for 10 YEARS this year!  Yup, they founded Mash way back in 2002.  This supremely talented duo and their team take on a variety of projects and clients, but I must admit their impressive portfolio of work does seem to have a definite leaning towards MEAT and WINE!  And hair products.  :)  I guess they like to eat well - and look good!?

What first caught my attention about these guys was the amazing work they've been doing for Meat and Livestock Australia.  'Chef's Special' is a seasonal promotional print publication that is so so SO beautifully designed I would quite happily subscribe if it were available to buy!  The magazine, which has received a impressive slew of awards from ADGA and D&AD, is brought to life with the contributions of excellent Melbourne-based food stylist Simon Bajada and photographer John  Laurie - masters of the rustic overhead food shot!  (To really appreciate this inspired collaborative project, check out what the magazine looked like before Mash got their hands on it!).

Aside from being particularly great at art directing MEAT, Mash's varied portfolio of work includes branding, packaging, print and web design for  a mixed bag of clients including hair care brand EVO, Victoria's Secret NYC, The Big Day Out, AGDA, NSW restaurant Rojorocket, and a bunch of excellent Australian and international wineries. I reckon it's safe to say these guys probably have a well stocked studio 'fridge!

Big thanks to James and Dom for sharing their stunning work with us.  They are very entertaining and I have a feeling James in particular is slightly mad.  His answers below seem to border on Russell Brand-style wit at times, and I hope I have made sense of everything correctly!

Please tell us a little about your backgrounds – where did both you grow up, what did you study,  what path led you to founding Mash in 2002?

We grew up in Adelaide - Dom to the posh side, James to the rough side. James parents northern rough English, Dom's refined southern English. We studied in Uni, Dom won Dux of class, James partyed his way through and never passed. In fact both didn't finish school. Illustration and visual communication brought the bond together. Dom was a bad speller. James was good at spelling but wasn't punctual. The rest is history.

What have been one or two favourite projects in recent years?

Alpha Box & Dice for pure freedom and ability to put weird things on bottles and for it to sell out before anyone has even tasted a drop. Chef's Special doing interesting things with gristle.

Alpha Box & Dice wines - branding / labels / packaging by Mash

Judging by your previous clients you guys seem to really love MEAT and WINE.  How did you come to be doing so much lovely work for the food and beverage industries?  And as a result, are your fridges always stocked with Wagyu rump steak and fine South Australian wines?

Of course our fridges are laden with fine creatures, exquisite drops and the creamiest of creams. It is like the garden of Eden everyday in Tinseltown. It seems food and beverage is our suit at this point in time. I assure you we also can design and artify alfoil crowns and make great dance partners at parties. James is a "passive vegetarian" and doesn't drink booze and Dom is carnivore that loves a margot.

More amazing Chef's Special brilliance - Photography -  John  Laurie, Food Styling - Simon Bajada

How is your business structured – where is your studio based, how many people does Mash employ, do you both still play a very hands on role in each project, and what significant tasks does the studio outsource?

8 peeps sometimes more. Structure - toughest wins. Studio is in the ciudad de Adelaide but aim is for farm overlooking surf with a bouncy castle. We like to touch our staff whenever possible, we are hands on, hands off, wax on, wax off.  Every day is different, we all appreciate each other and outside artistes, outsource when we are busy or need a certain panache like a knot expert like Curtis the knot man. That boy can tie.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

James: get in late, eat some lentils and jicama, leaves early, drink water, make inappropriate jokes  Dom: in on time, eat cooked dinner, drink coffees, make inappropriate jokes.

Can you name for us 5 resources across any media which you visit regularly for a bolt of creative inspiration, or just to be kept in the loop!?

Books and people

Koruna and kaspar

Not blogs, books

Travelling to developing countries

Salvador Dalis Cook books

Iron chef!!


Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Good-doing people. In particular right now - a homeless man drawing pictures of houses that I just bought some pictures off today!  His cactuses are stellar. Naive Escher. But what a man, his pictures aren't as important as he is, a good man. Like Zinidine Zidane. And my girlfriend who is working with kids/youth in Timor.

Print design for hair care brand EVO

What are you most proud of professionally?

Painting with kids in Timor. I just stripped and painted a ukelele and raised a few hundred bucks to buy guitars for the kids in Nicole's centre, that's definitely the most meaningful and rewarding project I've done recently. All in 1 day. Fuss free.

What would be your dream creative project?

All of the above.

What are you looking forward to?

Standing on a ramp with Tony Hawk tomorrow, seeing Nicole in April. Painting a surf board and a motorcycle at Deus in Bali.

Adelaide Questions –

Your favourite Adelaide neighbourhood and why?

The shire! Shire mutts. Henley, pt willunga, pt Elliot.

Where do you shop in Adelaide for the tools of your trade?

Oh I have someone to do that for me now. I love poscas. The posca shop. I like South Seas Bookstore.

Where /what was the last great meal you ate in Adelaide?

Parwana! We decorated the place but seriously good Afghan food. And Neon Lobster that is our taqueria opening for barrio at the Adelaide festival of arts.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?


Wine label for Napa Valley Linnaea Vineyard

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