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The Ideal Studio
A Practice For Everyday Life

A Practice for Everyday Life was set up by Kirsty Carter and Emma Thomas in 2003 and works across branding, art direction, signage, print and web design. APFEL employs six staff and is based in east London, in the roof space of a former Victorian workshop.

Kirsty Carter, co-founder and director of APFEL, on... 

Studio culture... 

Dialogue and conversation between everyone in the studio is key to APFEL’s success, so we have an open office setup with no hierarchy, just a large table which everyone sits around. It’s important for us that the studio feels comfortable, light, airy and relaxed; this allows the entire agency to talk about their ideas and overhear what’s going with all the other projects that different people are working on.

Having a separate meeting room is extremely useful. It’s more private and is a place where we can be surrounded by our work, which is great for us if we need some peace and quiet to think ideas through or go through printers’ proofs, which is a process that takes time and concentration.

Separating client and creative time...

If possible we would implement a ban on constant emailing, and a rule to only look at/answer them at certain times of the day, and we’d condense client meetings into two days a week.

Both these things are near impossible to put into practice, and we can’t say we haven’t tried. Emails are so distracting and people are becoming so used to an instant reply — it’s the biggest distraction from the creative process and a huge interruption. I find it difficult if I am on a roll with designing to have something like email interrupting me all the time, it’s undoubtably a pause in the creative process and means you lose ideas that you often never get back.

The immediacy of clients’ demands over email never allows time for reflection. It is hard to judge how this really affects work we produce, but it is very difficult to be disciplined and “switch off” your inbox, as ultimately our clients expect us to always be contactable.

Keeping up with the business side...

We found as APFEL grew that we were getting increasingly bogged down with administration. The roles of our administrative staff are really crucial as they help us run the business smoothly, and also allow us to get on with what we are good at. We have seen some of our most talented friends and colleagues not get the business side quite right — you can easily underestimate how important it is and get carried away, and everything can then all come tumbling down very quickly. 

APFEL spends a dedicated number of hours working ON our business rather than IN it, both on our business strategy, and on the upkeep of our accounts and finance. We of course have to take professional advice on certain matters, certainly when it comes to people and HR.

It is our responsibility to understand employment law and keep this up-to-date, because nobody else is going to do this for us. As a director of a small agency you need to be a person of many talents to run it successfully, it is not all about fancy private views, famous clients and design presentations all the time, there are some really hard business demands on us too.

The ideal studio...

Creative, professional and passionate.


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