Peer Poll: Australia’s top art direction

Published:  October 1, 2014

We have just conducted the first of our ongoing professional Peer Polls, asking renowned and respected designers and studios across the country to tell us who it is in the industry that inspires, motivates, amazes and engages them. We hope this segment will develop to celebrate the efforts of practitioners who might not be well known (or particularly interested in their own promotion) but producing some of the best work in the country. We want the admiration from their peers to be widely recognised, where perhaps it was previously unspoken.

When we asked “Who is at the top of their game in art direction?”, we realised we started off with a bit of a hard one. It’s a difficult term to define, and one that is often mixed in with creative direction, so we have concentrated on ‘art direction’ as an action within the design field – an interdisciplinary, collaborative or multi-skilled instruction when realising a project. All of the “art directors” mentioned, however, are designers who also muck in with the design process and production, rather than giving orders from afar.

We have collected the most mentioned names below, but there was clearly one standout.

Suzy Tuxen

Suzy Tuxen, at A Friend of Mine, for K.W. Doggett. Photo: Sarah Anderson

Suzy Tuxen, at A Friend of Mine, for Supergraph. Photo: Sarah Anderson

Suzy Tuxen started Melbourne studio A Friend of Mine in 2009, and already the young studio is a source of international inspiration (and probably a fair amount of design envy). Somewhat hesitant with their self-promotion, the studio makes waves regardless, and Suzy’s work across design, art direction, and artistic and multidisciplinary collaborations displays a design eye that extends far beyond the page or screen, as seen earlier this year with their event work at Supergraph (working with cardboard connoisseurs All of This), to the running of Significant Others.


Tin & Ed for Chet Faker

If it’s difficult to define the boundaries of ‘designer’ and ‘art director’, then it’s impossible to define Tin&Ed. No longer the ‘graduate studio’ on the block, the duo have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, and despite their youth, have both introduced and retained a magical alchemy of design and art, mixing experimental work and client commission in a practice as flexible as a rubber band. They are designers, illustrators and makers, with art direction just another expression of their creativity, as seen in their motion piece for Melbourne Music Week and set design and arrangement for Chet Faker’s album artwork.

Sonia Rentsch

Sonia Rentsch, with Ortolan, for Habbot

It’s been a while since we have caught up with art director and ‘still life artist’ Sonia Rentsch, who is currently working her way around New York. Her work represents a new form of set design that is both referential of mid-century ‘artvertising’ and an experimental form of interdisciplinary arrangement that mixes products, original handcraft and photography. Her direction is often collaborative, especially in her work with MASH and Ortolan studios, but also works solo, as seen on her cover of desktop #289 and for Assemble Papers (video, above).

Honourable mentions go to those whose standout work was also acknowledged by a number of their peers, including Paul Fuog of U-P.coJonathan Zawada, Dom Roberts and James Brown of MASH, and Dan Farmer of Farmwalker Films.

The most nominated designer/art director, however, goes to Chris Doyle.

Chris Doyle for Chet Faker

Chris Doyle for The Jezabels

Chris Doyle for Secret 7″

Chris Doyle is generally regarded as more than a multi-faceted talent, but also an all-round nice guy and a hit public speaker. Much of his work is refined identity and branding projects, but his longstanding work with musicians is where his eye for direction and image making is almost the antithesis – forming subtle but disruptive, memorable imagery through the layered use of photography, arrangement and mixed media. This work shows a mind that thinks about imagery as a process of new translations, its final one being a square in the hands of a music lover.

Chris Doyle for The Jezabels

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