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Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Designer Interviews: These Are Things

Becky

Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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Today we’re sitting down with Jen Adrion + Omar Noory of These Are Things to learn a bit more about what inspires their designs, what Columbus Ohio has to offer and how their fascination with maps began. Those of you who have been reading Hatch for awhile know about my obsession with maps, so this was a dreamy interview for me.

How did you two meet? When did you discover you two together would make a great partnership?

We met in art school where our first class together was an intro to typography class. We always had a great time together so we made to sure to schedule as many of the same classes together as we could. Many hours were spent sitting in the back of classrooms, sketching and laughing. We didn’t discover our “great partnership” until we were a couple of years out of college.

Modern World Map in Aqua

Your world map reminds me of my Cold War youth – was the RUSSIA area a nostalgic reference?

Our original world maps were heavily inspired by the mid-century modern art of the 50s during the start of the Cold War. We wanted to capture that look but also bring it into this century with some refreshes and more modern labeling (for example, choosing Russia instead of U.S.S.R.)

When did your interest in maps begin? Is there anywhere you’re dying to travel to that you stick a push pin in?

We both have a love for travel. Besides the business, it’s where most of the money we earn goes. We had traveled to a few places before we designed our first map and thought it would be great if we could have some sort of physical pin map to track our travels. We searched for months and couldn’t find anything that matched the specific look we wanted so we decided to create our own. We designed our original world map (the World Map / Aqua) and had it produced in our first run of 50 maps. Fortunately for us, lots of other people liked the look of it too. We ended up selling out of our first run almost instantly and the rest is history.

American Flags Map

How are you reinterpreting and putting your own stamp on them?

A lot of what we work with is a simplification of whatever we’re mapping. Kind of like getting the essence of that area. This means that sometimes areas get cut which has spurned a few armchair cartographers. At the end of the day, there are plenty of great sources for maps with every city, country, mountain range, river, and so on labeled; we’re just offering an alternative to that.

Map of Washington, D.C.

I grew up in Cincinnati and people I went to high school with flocked to Columbus. What do you love about it?  What’s the scene like for creative types?

Omar actually grew up around Cincinnati too. He moved for the same reason many other college-bound teenagers move, to get some distance from his parents :) Columbus is a great city for starting a business like ours. While it may not be as culturally relevant as a New York or a San Francisco, it also comes with a much, much lower cost of living which has given us the ability to invest most of money right back into the business. Columbus also has a growing creative culture, tons of great restaurants and lots of fledgling design groups along with some large established ones. Simply put, Columbus is a great balance of culture and affordability which makes it a great home base for a creative business like ours.

Please tell us about your neighborhood.

While we live in Columbus proper, we live on the edge of a neighborhood called Grandview Heights (we’re technically right across the street from it). It’s a nice quiet neighborhood with a lot of greenery and we’re only a couple of blocks away from Jeni’s, the best ice cream in Columbus.

Could you please tell us a bit about finding the perfect fonts to correspond with your maps and the places they cover?

Type choice has always been one of the most important steps in our design process. We’ve always been fans of classic fonts that have stood the test of time. We also take into account the time period those fonts came from when matching them with the look of our designs. More recently we’ve become interested in older, hand drawn typography as well.

What do you do when you have a creative block to shake it loose?

The best part of working for yourself is that if there’s a creative block, we’re not forced to stew in front of our computers. On those kinds of days we shake the block loose by getting away for a bit. We bike or walk if the weather is nice, other times we try to see if there’s a cool event going on, and sometimes we just decide to take a nap on the couch with the cats. Going back to the screen with a clear mind almost always does the trick!

World Map in Black

What’s your studio like? Any advice for keeping a good space where one’s creative juices can flow?

We live in a fairly small one bedroom apartment which also doubles as our studio. Things used to be much tougher when we also stored all our inventory and packing supplies but earlier this year we hired a fulfillment company to store and ship our prints which literally gave us back half of our apartment.

We look at our space the same way we look at our designs. Over the past couple of years, we’ve pared down all the non-essential items in our apartment. It’s much less effort keeping a clean and clutter-free area when you only have a few dozen things in your house. Without all the extraneous junk, it’s easier to focus our work and also easier to relax when work is done.

Thanks so much to Jen and Omar for taking the time to chat with us today. I’m going to have to get to Columbus and see if Jeni’s can hold a candle to Graeter’s Ice Cream.

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