Three years is not a long time. In your late twenties / early thirties, twelve months morphs into three years scarily swiftly. It creeps up on you.
Three years ago I must admit I was doing a pretty similar thing to what I’m doing now – shooting, writing, chasing my tail. Rhys Gorgol wasn’t. Pre-2012 Rhys was a promising young graphic designer, who cut his teeth working at respected local graphic design studio Round. These days, he’s running The Company You Keep – a respected Melbourne design studio with a string of high profile clients, which he founded in January 2012.
Clearly, he’s talented. But one of the defining factors in Rhys’ success, I think, is that he’s a seriously nice guy. He’s humble, he always remembers you, he always has something nice to say. People just want to work with him. He attracts great people. He’s also one of those rare creatives who gets the business side of things – and relishes it.
The Company You Keep has grown quite organically over the past three years. Now working from an enviable loft-like studio space in Fitzroy (which they share with local publication Broadsheet, with whom they frequently collaborate) TCYK are, at present, a six-strong team. They’ve built up great list of clients in recent years including Schweppes, Lavazza, Seven Seeds, Smiling Mind, Etsy, The Builders Arms Hotel and Homecamp. Their growth has been swift but steady, based mainly on word of mouth referrals, and their excellent and very visible ongoing work with Broadsheet.
There’s a lot coming up for Rhys this year. A re-launch of the TCYK website is imminent (it’ll be live next month), their studio is being renovated (looks pretty swish to me already?!) and there’s a lot of exciting client work in the pipeline, including a pop-up restaurant concept currently in development with Broadsheet. Rhys is also very chuffed to be speaking at design conference Semi-Permanent in Sydney next month – tickets are still available!
Tell us a little bit about yourself – what path led you to becoming a graphic designer, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?
I don’t come from a very creative family – Dad is a manager, Mum a nurse and my sister a psychologist, so I’m not sure where the creative bone came from. I have been really fortunate when it comes to design to have a lot of amazing influences and mentors in my life – that has played a big part.
Studying at Monash with Warren Taylor and Gene Bawden, working with Michaela Webb at Round as well as Chloe Quigley, Simone Elder and Kat Macleod at Ortolan really cemented my love of design. I had always freelanced and really enjoyed the business side of design, so it was only ever a matter of time before I started The Company You Keep.
What influences the style of your work?
Our team primarily, the breadth of ideas and opinions that everyone brings to the table really make our projects what they are. The studio has an overriding approach, that being – clarity and connection. Clarity; keeping an idea simple so that it communicates effectively, connection; having a level of humanity, wit and personality so that it resonates with the audience. Aside from this we are always open to push aesthetics and ideas so long as they tie into this core belief.
What have been one or two favourite recent projects TCYK has completed?
Our relationship with Broadsheet has been really rewarding, they are close friends, which allows a lot of trust in our process and outcomes. We are currently working on a pop-up restaurant with them at the moment where we are pushing further into a spacial, conceptual and experiential realm. We are collaborating again with Alex Lake and the team at Therefore on the project and are really excited with how it’s coming together.
We have also recently worked on the branding and design for Homecamp, an online retailer of quality homewares and outdoor goods. They are super nice, and have really got behind the brand pushing it onward and upward. We’re really looking forward to the next collaboration with them too.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
A lot of emails and meetings, but more enjoyably getting a chance to sit down with the team and craft outcomes, push pixels and challenge ideas. It’s really rewarding to work with such a talented bunch of people for great clients.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? Do you work alone, collaborate or outsource any significant aspects of your practice?
The team works together on all projects. We assign a lead designer to push each project forward, but everyone gets a chance to contribute. Initially we send the client our briefing document and when their response comes back the whole team (Michael, Claire, Veronica, Monica, Luci and Celine) will sit down and run through the brief.
Everyone will then break away and do some individual research, which they bring to a group discussion. After the group discussion the project lead will refine the best ideas and evolve them through a series of proofs.
We also love to collaborate with talented folk around town, illustrators like Eirian Chapman have been great to work with, same goes with photographers and developers like PDA. It’s great to be able to work with people who are really passionate and talented, with complementary skills.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
Where to start, there are so many people crushing it at the moment, here’s a brief list of people that come to mind.
Scottie Cameron – A photographer with a perfect blend of technical prowess and personality, and he’s always good for a laugh or a contemporary country playlist.
Design Office – Mark and Damian are producing some of the most detailed and beauiful spaces at the moment. Looking forward to collaborating with them in the future.
Dan Hermann-Zoll – Dan is a young photographer who has an incredibly technical brain and is super underrated at the moment – get in before he blows up.
Hungry Workshop – These guys. The nicest printers around. I’m never not amazed at their generosity of spirit and enthusiasm.
Christopher Doyle – Chris runs a studio based in Sydney and is doing some amazing and inspiring idea driven work.
Can you list for your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
1. Our Resource Library – We have a bunch of folders on the server that the team is always filling with references, ideas and thoughts. It’s the best go-to.
2. YCN You Can Now – I only found this site a few months ago, but it’s a great mix of inspiration in different forms.
3. This Is Collate – Dave and the team at Collate are always so on the pulse, it’s the resource to see what the industry is up to.
4. Readdd – This site is great, Julian collates the best design reads online into one neat weekly email. It’s great to have more access to strong written content, not just visual after visual.
5. Mixcloud – Music soothes the savage creative, it’s also good for adding some energy. I’m a huge hog of the studio stereo, and am always playing something from here.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Starting the studio, it hasn’t always been easy but has been worth every step of the way.
What would be your dream creative project?
Redesigning the New York Knicks (basketball team). We’d need to do some courtside research of course, maybe for a season or two!
What are you looking forward to?
There’s a lot coming up which I am excited about. We are launching our full site (being developed by PDA) in the next month, the studio is being renovated and I am speaking at Semi-Permanent with the epically amazing and super lovely Beci Orpin and some other unbelievably talented folk. It feels like a good time, with a great bunch of people and I’m just excited, humbled and stoked to be a part of it.
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Fitzroy and Collingwood. I am quite lucky to have home and work 350 metres away from each other. This means that I trod up and down Smith St quite a lot and probably frequent Everyday Coffee and Hinoki Japanese Pantry a little too often. But it’s hard not to fall in love with the area – amazing food, coffee, bars and the majority of my friends are a hop, skip or a jump away.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
I had a steak at France Soir a couple of weeks ago that put a few hairs on my chest, as well as being insanely delicious. It’s not the trendiest, but is a bit of an institution. A great mix of ’90s décor, French banter, amazing steaks and even better wines.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Most likely still in bed, or down at Bluebird Espresso grabbing a bite to eat (get the baked eggs – you won’t regret it!). Weekends and weekdays seem to blend since starting the studio, my weekend versus weekday routine is pretty similar. It’s great to have the freedom to work when you are feeling most productive and motivated.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Kaprica a little tucked away Italian restaurant at the top end of Swanston Street, simple understated and tasty.