Working from a studio in Adelaide, Anthony De Leo and Scott Carslake have been successfully running (and growing) Voice for the past decade.
desktop: The pair of you set up Voice in 1999, just 12 months after graduating. What were your thoughts at that time? Were you always determined to start up your own studio?
Voice: At the time, Scott had recently resigned from his first job as a graphic designer and Anthony was comfortable working as a freelancer. We both wanted more stimulating projects and it looked like we would have enough work from Anthony’s client base to get by for a period of time, so we created Voice. As naive 22-year-olds, we weren’t fearful of failing – it wasn’t part of our mindset. If it didn’t work out, we would have simply joined ranks with the unemployed and looked for other opportunities.
We never had a burning determination to start our own studio. Although we did find the benefits of being our own boss quite attractive. So when the waves were good Anthony could surf and Scott managed to do quite a bit of travelling.
How does the collaboration between the two of you work? How do your working styles and design strengths complement each other?
You know the old design mantra ‘contrast and harmony’, well, that extends to personalities as well. Scott is an extremely good listener, while Anthony tends to be quite reactive, which is probably why we’ve had clients say they see Scott as the thinker and Anthony as the ‘crazy ideas man’. One of the benefits of this is that each client will tend to have a different rapport with each of us and gravitate to whomever they connect with best. This dynamic has really helped to get a lot of work through the door.
Collaboration within the studio goes beyond the two of us. The team of four designers is always exploring and bouncing ideas off each other. Our work environment is very transparent, so it is rare that a project will escape input from all of us. We all have different ways of developing work and sometimes the ‘magic touch’ is someone else walking by and suggesting looking at things from another angle, or bluntly questioning the reasons for an approach.
Voice’s work spans a range of media and platforms, but your packaging projects are consistently highlighted. You’ve had a good relationship with Longview Vineyard – can you talk about that relationship, as well as some of the challenges involved in producing each new wine label?
Longview Vineyard initially engaged us to merely ‘refresh’ their existing range of labels. At the time, they believed this was the most sensible, rational approach to maintaining their existing market. From the outset, we respected their intentions, but had the courage to challenge their expectations and respond to their brief in an entirely different manner. The ultimate reason behind the success of the Longview work is their trust in us. They have never knocked back a concept to instead pursue something more expected.
The work is also a result of the great relationship we have with the brothers who operate the vineyard, Mark and Peter Saturno. We’re very open with each other and certainly do not hesitate to tell each other what we think.
The challenges in designing new labels are very similar to any other project a designer may take on. However, it’s vital to have an excellent relationship with bottling suppliers, so you can discuss and solve any application challenges well in advance.
Can you describe the studio culture at Voice? Do you have any particular approaches to how the studio is run?
There is no hierarchy at Voice, no receptionist, no front desk with a bell to ring – no business model. We’re conscious of maintaining a stimulating, comfortable and enjoyable work environment that fosters creativity and critical discussion. We encourage everyone to comment and review work in progress. In this atmosphere, where a project can be rigorously considered from different and objective perspectives by all the designers in the studio, the best work will always surface.
Can you talk a bit about your studio name? Why you chose it, how it relates to your design process?
We set out to create a unique, clear and significant visual language for every job we produce, giving each its own powerful, unmistakable voice.
Can you talk a bit about the design scene in Adelaide? What do you think it is about this region that produces consistently outstanding work?
Adelaide’s isolation may have caused us to develop a bit of an inferiority complex that makes us feel like we have to work hard to get noticed. The community here is very close-knit and, while we all harbour an innate competitiveness, there is strong sense of support and respect for each other. It’s not unusual to call another studio for advice or to organise a gathering of heads for a ‘long’ lunch.
As we lack a lot of the ‘big business’ that the eastern seaboard has access to, much of the great design in Adelaide comes from boutique studios working with small to medium clients. The jobs where you work directly with the decision makers, who also have a vested interest in the business, are the jobs that have a strong working relationship and a successful design outcome. Therefore, the majority of local studios in town have four to seven employees with a focus on building and maintaining a solid designer-client relationship.
Overall the community is relatively young, but its foundations lie with legendary designers such as Lyndon Whaite, Barrie Tucker, Ian Kidd and John Nowland, whose teachings have touched pretty much everyone here. There’s also a burgeoning collaborative and freelance culture that has created a great community of designers, illustrators, artists and photographers, who have boosted the design scene in recent years.
What are your plans for Voice? Another 10 years?
At this stage, we see Voice remaining a small, specialised studio with no more than four to six designers. This size allows us to be committed to each and every client we take on and maintain an environment that fosters great design. Staying small also means Anthony and Scott can remain focused on design rather than being bogged down with day-to-day business operations.
desktop asked Voice to select a few of their favourite projects from the past few years:
DESIGN SOUTH AUSTRALIA, 2012
Client: Integrated Design Commission SA
Design South Australia is a showcase of contemporary South Australian design. Created as a gift and resource for visiting dignitaries, it shows materials, practices, technologies, professional capacities and the value placed on the design sector in South Australia by government. Fifty-two exceptional projects have been filtered and presented across five key principles. Voice developed a disruptive geometric graphic language to interrupt the rhythm of the reader and scream “you are now entering a new principle.” To further emphasise these transitions, coloured stocks were printed and section sewn to create strong introductions to each principle.
ADELAIDE HILLS WINE REGION SIGNAGE, 2011
Client: Adelaide Hills Wine Region
The Adelaide Hills Wine Region promotes wine producers from South Australia’s Adelaide Hills at industry trade shows, expos and wine tastings. Recognising the commonality of its branding with other regions and lack of brand presence at events, the organisation commissioned a redesign to specifically play upon the theme of ‘The Coolest’ – as this boutique, diverse region is renowned for producing much of Australia’s premium cool-climate wines. By interpreting the visual nature and characteristics of the region, the brand extension revitalises the region as interesting, diverse and… ‘cool’. An adaptable eight-part signage system was designed to present the region in venues of varying sizes, as well as two custom made archways to have a strong presence in crowded trade halls. The system also deconstructs to form backdrops at small events such as tastings. Upon completion of the signage, the rebrand was further adapted to the website.
SEASON 2012 SUBSCRIPTION BROCHURE
Client: State Theatre Company of South Australia
The State Theatre Company of South Australia’s 2012 subscription brochure showcases the coming season of performances in one cohesive package. Every play is represented by a 3D collage that melds the live 3D nature of theatre with that of 2D illustration. The collages are made up of elements that allude to the themes and settings of each production. Each of the eight plays has been distilled into a single descriptive word, presented through an extensive type system that continues to expand throughout the entire subscription campaign.
Client: Longview Vineyard
Drawing on the audacious personality of the wine’s namesake, the Willy Wagtail, Voice modelled the label on the styling of a bird watcher’s membership certificate from the 1940s. The ornithological subject matter was an opportunity to feature not only the local birdlife, but also the flora that exists around the vineyard, hinting at the fruity and colourful flavours of the wine. The fictitious ‘Longview Sparkling Wine Society’ was created, along with a list of patrons and committee members featuring those involved with the production and crafting of the sparkling wine.
WALLPAPER COLLECTION, 2010
Client: Emma Hack
Body illustrator and photographic artist Emma Hack set out to present her limited edition Wallpaper Collection images (featuring the iconic Florence Broadhurst range of wallpaper designs) in a highly coveted book. Hack was granted access to the Broadhurst archives of 530 designs and began the Wallpaper Collection of works that span from 2005 to 2010.Wallpaper Collection is a combination of the human form and iconic Broadhurst wallpaper. It’s presented as a wallpaper catalogue with details of Hack’s works stamped on the reverse side, echoing the stamped identification numbers and product information on the back of wallpaper samples. It is large (410 by 340 millimetres) and heavy, and features actual wallpaper and fabrics from the Broadhurst collection.
THE PIECE, 2010
Client: Longview Vineyard
A massive drawcard to Longview Vineyard’s 2011 Krush Klinic event was the live street art competition in which four outstanding street artists battled it out to have their work adorn Longview’s most prestigious wine. The inaugural honours went to Vans the Omega. His winning artwork and personal tag are featured on the packaging, which celebrates the Krush Klinic event and various forms of street art via four overlapping labels.