Profile: Salmon Design

Published:  December 29, 2011
Profile: Salmon Design

If ever there was a rocky road into design then Pete Salmon- Lomas surely followed it. Born in the south of Western Australia, he spent some of his time growing up working in and around Perth, in what he describes as ‘all kinds of weird and crappy jobs’ – from abattoir floor hand to general handy man. In 1998/99 he decided to move to Melbourne to study graphic design and the 2000′s saw him settling down in Victoria’s capital for what he thought would be a good few years of study. The only fly in the ointment of an otherwise fool-proof plan was that Salmon-Lomas had apparently missed out on a placement in the Swinburne TAFE bridging course he needed to attend. Even he admits that his phone interview had been terrible. Not to be deterred, however, and with a dogged determination, Salmon-Lomas simply camped out the front of the course coordinator’s office until he had the opportunity to plead his case. Happily the course coordinator concurred and the rest is history.

Though Salmon-Lomas advises that initially he was quite naive when it came to graphic design as a profession, and how the industry ‘worked’ as he puts it, he was still drawn inexplicably to the diversity that the discipline offers. “I really enjoy that each week or day, or even hour, can be quite different to the previous. You can start the day in healthcare management and by afternoon you’re throwing coloured milk on members of an electronic band,” he explains.

“Design is a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions at times, I guess, but it’s a process I love,” he continues. “The excitement that comes with a new project and all that it entails, from getting to know the project, to that final moment when there’s an idea that just makes sense. I always learn something new during that process too, which is obviously good. I could probably do without the anxiety during the in-between bits, but in saying that, the feeling of solving something far outweighs those anxious moments.”

Before founding Salmon Design, Salmon-Lomas spent a few years working for other design studios. The decision to start his own studio came as a practical answer to the pressure he was feeling to try and force the creative process during business hours – something he found tiresome and far from productive. “Working for myself was probably always on the cards, so when I had the opportunity to do some lecturing at Swinburne with a couple of clients waiting in the wings, I thought, ‘F**k it, it’s now or never’. The whole premise from the beginning was to keep it quite small, which means I can remain involved in all aspects of the business. My job is that of designer, art director and also project manager. I still enjoy every part of the design process, and if things were to get too much bigger, I’d then be taken out of one of these roles to some degree. From the beginning I have always consulted with [my partner] Kate on the concepts I develop, but it’s only recently that she has been able to devote more time to the studio. So it’s just the two of us, which is great, because we work easily together.”

Salmon is ready to take on just about any project, with traditional print and identity systems mixing it up with website design and interactives, yet there is a definite trend towards book and album design showing through in its online folio. Salmon-Lomas advises that this affiliation tracks back to Salmon Design’s early days. “I started doing things for friends, and for friends of friends, and really enjoyed the process. So I contacted some record companies, artist management and publishers etc and got some more! We listen to music at home and in the studio 24/ seven, and books are also hugely important in our lives, so to be involved in that process is really gratifying. More recently I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot more illustration and fine art design, which is nice.”

Describing the studio’s ethos as conceptual led design, Salmon- Lomas would like to think he offers his clients something a little bit different. “We like the idea of there being a purpose behind an idea and not just an aesthetically pleasing image. In saying that we don’t necessarily want it to be the ‘obvious’ connection. We do try to start any project without preconceived ideas of what it ‘should’ be. We never try and force anything – the idea should just fit with ease.”

Salmon-Lomas and Salmon Design see each project they approach as a new opportunity to try and create something unique – whether it’s an album cover, café interior, website, book or poster. Being inspired by ‘regular everyday things’ also means this boutique studio has an endless supply of concepts. “Not one thing in particular inspires me. I don’t think I’m ever really uninspired to be honest. I don’t mean that my head is exploding with ideas constantly. It’s just that I feel inspired doing regular everyday things – washing the dishes, drying the dishes, putting the dishes away! Seriously though, just going to the post office, riding my bike, walking, waiting for a train, standing on the train, sweeping the floor… I suppose it’s the everyday menial activities that seem to allow the space for inspiration to come to me.”

Though he is already pumped to be starting his next project, before we say goodbye we ask Salmon-Lomas to tell us about some other projects that stand out in his mind. “We have collaborated on a number of projects with an impressive interior architecture firm called Zwei, for a series of cafés and retail spaces within Melbourne’s CBD,” he replies. “Both visually and production wise, each one has been a completely new and very exciting experience. Our client is both trusting and venturesome (the best type), allowing for some truly unique outcomes,” he says. “One standout for me is an 80-square metre mural I painted by hand onto the interior walls and roof of the Cafenatics café in Docklands. In one section of the painting, eyes cry psychedelic tears that pour into another character’s brain. It’s about the hallucinogenic effects of too many coffees! I’m down to just one a day for the record.

“Another project was one we did for the Red Cross Emergency Services Department – within the aftermath of Black Saturday,” he adds. “It was an animation style presentation developed as a training tool to help educate those in disaster prone communities on how to prepare, and be safer, before and after an emergency. It was the first time the Red Cross was able to present this information in such an interactive fashion – it was a huge job, and a lot of work, but very rewarding.”

All images are copyright by Salmon Design.

From desktop magazine.

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