Play on Play

An interview with Play On Play

Play On Play (POP) is a small Naarm/Melbourne based graphic design studio specialising in art direction, branding, editorial design and title/credit design for film. Located in the creative hub of Collingwood, it consists of designers Naomi Akikusa-Dawber and Lucy Fry.

Play On Play works closely and collaboratively with other Melbourne and international creatives to produce graphics imbued with substance and meaning. The studio was founded on an interest in working on projects that align with their beliefs, and shine a light on topics that resonate widely today.

We spoke to Play On Play.

How did Play On Play first come about?

We met each other during our Communication Design course at RMIT University, and it was best friends at first sight. Through uni we worked on various briefs together and had many a late night in the computer rooms.

We’d always romanticise about starting our own studio. It wasn’t until after uni when we found ourselves collaborating on Edition 3 of Ladies of Leisure that we really understood our desire to truly make it happen.

There were a lack of jobs in the industry that catered to our values and ethos. We worked so well together, the confluence made sense.

Describe your collaborative process.

We work from a studio space in Collingwood, that we share with some other talented creatives. We’ve found that we work mostly through online correspondence, though it depends on the scale of the brief. For larger more involved briefs we’ll always insist on a face-to-face meeting if our client is Melbourne-based. However, a lot of our film clients are internationally based which means we rely on email, Skype and good ol’ Facetime for those liaisons.

We are both Creative Directors who share a lot of the responsibilities. We do play to our strengths. One of us is more experienced in management so will project manage and take care of administrative tasks. And the other is more experienced with the advanced finished art and web/social media marketing. Together, we’ll liaise with clients and join forces to research and devise concepts. For the most part we like to both be involved with each project we do, but sometimes is necessary to break apart and carry a project through to completion.

Your clientele includes filmmakers, literary journals, and venues. Do you have a preferred discipline to work with, or do you like to keep your scope broad?

We like to keep our scope broad and welcome new briefs with open arms. As designers we enjoy working on a range of creative projects that aren’t limited to our current project themes right now.

In saying that, the film industry, editorial and music industries are safe for us. In any given industry we always make it a point to work on projects that align with our core values. We work on projects that we feel passionate about and love being involved in.

Designs for Calendar Girls: A 12-part short film series


What do you look for when taking on new clients and design briefs?

It’s important for us to work with clients who share the same beliefs as us. We won’t work on briefs that are related to the dairy and meat industry, or discrimination of any kind.

When taking on new clients we always do our research first. We want to make sure that our values of inclusivity and environmental awareness are met.

Meeting clients face-to-face allows us to get to know the person on the other end. This is vital to us in forming a nice client relationship and tells us more about who we are working with.

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Design for DysphoriaA dramatic thriller directed by Natalie Falt


What do you consider the qualities of a successful design?

A successful design for us is something that has been considered each step of the way. It effectively communicates what it sets out to convey. Something that’s innovative and honest, whilst being as environmentally friendly as possible.

Knowing the completion of the brief ties into how successful it is. Is the client happy? Are we happy? These are the two important things to check off. Sometimes we won’t always been 100% happy with a brief when a client is, but in these circumstances it’s about emancipating ourselves from our ego.

Can you recommend any online groups for emerging designers wanting to connect with their community?

Facebook groups such as Full-Time Part-Time Freelance Melbs and Melbourne Creative Network are great for snappy, quick job offers. It’s Nice That is a London-based platform showcasing creatives from all around the world, but a great place to find out what’s happening in design communities overseas. They always have briefs and ways to connect their following.

Despite living in such a digital age, nothing really beats getting out into the real world and experiencing what your community has to offer. Whether you’re going to an art opening or a zine/book launch, you always meet people. It is the most effective way to connect with the community and meet fellow creatives to help grow your circle.

What does the future hold for Play On Play?

We’re dreaming big. We hope to expand, but not too large or too rapidly. We see ourselves hiring in the future as we grow and taking on long term briefs that are more involved.

We love giving back to the community. The community has been so good to us on our journey with the studio. We recently did a talk at General Assembly with VICE on how to respond to a design brief. We loved being able to connect with people who might have been following us for a while and meeting new faces. We definitely plan to do a lot more of this in the future.

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