AIGA SF: How does the Bartlett Brands Studio experience differ from working at other studios or in-house design teams? What’s special about it?
Luisa: We create a space were our clients trust us to not only put our best work forward but also to push back and give our expert opinion even if it differs from theirs. We've created a studio that is free to explore and discover new solutions. We go beyond simply delivering a product and dive deep into why and if that is needed. We build brands with our clients rather than for them.
Carolina: Bartlett is small and we like it that way. We're 6, sometimes 7 women who appreciate the sort of fluid creativity a small, nimble team provides—one where we see everyone's face every day, hear every discussion in the room, be it between strategists, copywriters, designers, everyone. So when it comes to brand building, the experience feels genuinely collaborative. Being all female has also helped foster an environment where ego doesn't exist and every opinion has weight.
Lauren: Bartlett Brands is definitely a special and magical little section of the design universe. We only work with brands that we feel passionately about, and feel proud to develop and put into the world. We genuinely want our clients to succeed, and we go above and beyond to make it happen. And because we’re so small, we’re able to be more agile than larger agencies and get sh*t done faster.
AIGA SF: Assuming the goal of the Studio isn’t necessarily to produce the professional designers of tomorrow, what are the main skills fostered or lessons learned?
Lauren: The goal of the studio is to produce kick-ass brands that break through the clutter. But along the way, our designers learn a lot too. Like how to work with a variety of personality types and backgrounds to turn our clients’ dreams and ideas into cohesive brands. And how to collaborate with other designers, cross-functional colleagues and external vendors bring those brands to life in the real world.
Luisa: Just keep swimming...#doryrules
Carolina: Keep pushing—the narrative, the design, the quality, the expectation (be it on sustainability practices or what an all-female team can deliver).
AIGA SF: Do you see this primarily as a competitive game, and if so, what does that teach about the competitive nature of design? What can this experience teach about the value of constructive critique?
Luisa: Design is always competitive, and in a city full of studios or in-house designers even more so. But what defines a project a success for us is the experience building it and what we accomplished in the process. Awards are always nice, but a brand that you believe in is nicer.
Carolina: Sure, design is competitive, especially in the age of brand matters; and in a city like San Francisco. But at the end of the day, what matters more to us is the brands we build, the people we build them with and for, and what we learn along the way.
Lauren: We are lucky at Bartlett to have such a collaborative, noncompetitive culture. In general, you have to have thick skin as a designer, because your designs are constantly being critiqued and sometimes brutally destroyed. You learn to stay positive and not to get too attached to any one iteration. The best designs can come from lots of evolution.
AIGA SF: Where does Bartlett Brands find inspiration?
Luisa: We're a scattered group of women who are inspired by random things. It may be a podcast, the donut from last week, the Hinge date from last night or a meme from Instagram. The great thing about a small but diverse group of personalities is that everyone pulls from different places—then we share with each other once a week (like book club, but for brands and design inspiration).
Carolina: Ummm, the internet? And each other, and art, and the city around us, books, movies,people, weird things.
Lauren: Everywhere. The city, storefronts, other brands, Pinterest, occasionally even from a dream (it has happened). We are always sharing inspiration with each other to keep the studio’s creativity level vibrating at the highest frequency.
AIGA SF: What is a normal Tuesday?
Luisa: Meetings, design time, then maybe a sarcastic comment evolves into a full blown discussion about periods for 20 min, and finally we go for a walk around the block.
Carolina: Most days start around coffee where we mix email-reading, meeting-prepping, playlist-selecting, and personal storytelling in a sort of morning ritual. That's followed by designing, writing, strategizing and business development peppered with many random thoughts-of-the-days, personal gripes, neighborhood walks, and plenty of period talk.
Lauren: Email checking, coffee drinking, office chatter about sometimes inappropriate topics (we have no HR person so it’s the wild west), meeting with clients, prepping for the rest of the week.
AIGA SF: What is a design trend you're currently excited about?
Luisa: Everyone thinking about eco-friendly solutions and refillable components in packaging. FINALLY!
Carolina: Funky fonts. All the funky fonts.
Lauren: Durable packaging! We’re so excited about reducing single use plastics and challenging ourselves to think about packaging differently.
AIGA SF: Fun Facts?
Luisa: Our team's secret weapon is a cow: Helga, the brand wench.
Carolina: The only boy who is ever worked with us is immortalized on our web site (can you find him?) and in our personal iMessage keyboard stickers as our I'm running latee sticker.
Lauren: Every Friday, we do a stretching and venting ritual where we stand in a circle and invent yoga moves while we talk about our highs and lows of the week.
To attend the Eco Warrior Series at Bartlett Brands Studio visit aigasf.org.