7 Questions with desktop: Garbett Design

Published:  September 18, 2015
Issac Teh

7 Questions with desktop is a series featuring some of the studios and designers who have submitted their work to us in our Project section. You’ve seen the work, now it’s time to get inside the minds behind these creations.

Founded in 2002 by Paul Garbett and partner Danielle de Andrade, Sydney-based Garbett Design was then known as Naughtyfish – a small studio based out of a spare bedroom.

The studio has since crossed many milestones – a change in name, included, and now a brand-spanking-new website – and won numerous awards both locally and internationally. The works that it produces are mostly uncluttered but thoughtful and thoroughly engaging. One of them is the desktop‘s totem spines in 2012, which many of our readers loved. Lots has happened since then and we decided that it was time for a quick catch up.

It’s been a long time since the totem spines for desktop print magazine. What’s been happening since?

The totem spines were a fun project, still a favourite of ours. Since 2012, we’ve done a lot, partially grown a couple of kids, moved studio, changed our name, started a new side business, done a few side projects and been lucky to work with some brilliant clients including Sydney Opera House, The Australian Institute of Architects and others.

naughtyfish_tribalspinesFavourite project that you guys have tackled so far and how did you guys hit it out of the ballpark? 

The Desktop spine totems ;) We don’t really have a favourite project, the fun for us is being in the process of creating, the journey. We’ve got some great projects that we’re busy with now, including our own website which we’re really excited by.

What’s the creative process like when you guys get a new project/job?

There really is no typical job or approach, but we usually try to find out as much as we can about the client, analyse the competitive market and explore how we can do something for them that will set them apart. We love clients that are ambitious and are up for something great, they push us and we like that. For us, it’s a matter of constantly asking does this feel right, is it exciting; are we achieving something different.


A lot of the work featured on your website are simple, geometric yet impactful. Is there a design philosophy that you guys adhere to as a studio

We try not to have too much of an expectation at the start of a project, besides that we try to do good work and keep evolving our practice. We let the needs of the project drive what we do. We’ve have been embracing more of our early influences (shape, colour) from growing up in Africa, that might be what you see in some projects. I’d encourage everyone to find their own voice and create work that they really can be invested in and means something to them.

Best way to break through a creative block?

I think that this is different for everyone. For me though, if ideas aren’t flowing it’s usually a sign that we have missed something. There are a few ways to deal with that: firstly, its best not to force it and get stressed out, nothing good comes from being in an anxious state of mind. Then I’d recommend research and immersion in the project and trying to get your head around exactly what the problem is. If this is crystal clear in your head, than the solution process is much easier. Sometimes engaging in a physical process helps the thinking process (sketching, cutting, making things, or even taking a walk). If that doesn’t work then getting away from the project and doing something else entirely often helps.


What do you think designers need to make it in the industry today?

I have no idea really. I don’t think anybody does. If somebody told you what you needed today  and you went and studied that, by the time you graduated it would most likely be redundant. The world is changing so fast and the industry will go along with it. I think if you have a curious, open mind with a flexible attitude you’ll be fine. A positive attitude also helps–this is meant to be fun.

What is one big design faux pas or mistake that you guys have seen and simply cannot tolerate?

When people mix up “your” and “you’re” on introductory letters. When designers spell stationery with an ‘a’.  Plagiarism isn’t great either.


Projects featured on desktop:
2014 National Architecture Conference

All images courtesy of garbett.co



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