Fresh

Open

Location: A loft in what was traditionally called the Printer's District in downtown Manhattan, New York City.

Duration: Open has existed in its present form since the first of January, 1998.

Staff: Our in-house staff is just five people, but we collaborate with a network of freelancers and consultants, including other designers, writers, producers, filmmakers, animators, type designers, illustrators, musicians, sound designers and web developers.

Education: [Scott Stowell] I have a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Others in the office went to Cooper Union and Parsons. Our two current interns are both from the School of Visual Arts. These days I also teach design at Yale.

Cultural Influences: Conceptual art, documentary photography, bad printing, common sense, electronica, international travel, underground 'zines, Noam Chomsky, stationery stores with outdated products, Charles and Ray Eames, Japanese television, sign painters, improvisational comedy, old type-specimen books, subway maps, radical environmentalism. four-color process, Lester Beall, supermarkets, the English language, etc.

Environment: Our office is bright, airy, and rectangular. We share the space with illustrator Chip Wass, and this arrangement has facililtated some exciting collaborations over the years. True to the studio's name, there are no private offices or walls in the space, which I think fosters the kind of collaboration which comes from easy communication among everyone in the studio. The atmosphere here is casual and friendly: there's always music blasting, often snacks, and occasionally a PlayStation game breaks out. But it's also very intense, as everyone here works very hard on a lot of projects. Thankfully, Chip's French Bulldog Ruby, our de facto studio mascot, is influential. It's very hard to be stressed out when something is licking your leg.

Philosophy: We have a kind of motto for our approach, which is "mixing form + content in two, three, and four dimensions." What that means is that we think that the best way to develop design solutions is to develop a deep understanding with the content at hand, so that the results have an inextricable relationship with that content. Often we have a hand in creating content, and these days we are starting to work on self-generated projects like fonts, products, and publications, where we are the client as well. The "two, three and four dimensions" part refers to the range of media we work in: print (two), packaging and product design (three) and interactive and time-based media (four). I have a problem with the idea of specialization. I feel that it's much more interesting to develop an approach which works in many different contexts, rather than sticking to one type of project. People are smart. If you keep that in mind, a lot of possibilities open up.

This article originally appeared in
Communication Arts, March/April 2001.