Tin Nguyen and Edward Cutting form two halves of one whole. That whole, is aptly and economically, named, tin&ed, a catchy abbreviation for what has now come to stand for a super talented, young and vibrant graphic design duo based in Melbourne.
With the companionship of Bert and Ernie, the highschool foundations of Romy and Michelle, the drive of Thelma and Louise, and the originality of Adam and Eve, they could, quite honestly, conquer the world. Ok, maybe they couldn’t conquer the world, but they sure are great image makers. And realistically, in a world like this, which only a miracle or maybe Angelina Jolie (Mother Teresa syndrome) could save, it’s the creators and artists that make things a little bit more beautiful, and a little bit more bearable in the meantime.
Tin&ed was formed by two friends after they finished University together in 2004, when they worked on a punk rock magazine. But like all of history’s great duos, they’ve realised the power of two, and subsequently come a long way since then. They’ve had clients like Nike, The Australian Ballet, Visa and MTV-UK. They’ve featured on Paul Barbera’s website “Where They Create”, and last year won the Qantas Spirit of Youth award, which will see them flying around the world and mentored by Vince Frost. They finish each others sentences and share a jua de vie that I could sense over the phone; a whole state away. They’re also the creative force behind a Tourism campaign that really reaaalllllllllly makes you love, every piece of Victoria.
How, and when did you guys meet?
Tin: Umm, I think we met in 2004.
Ed: No wait, no no, 2001; the end of 2001. And we actually met designing a punk rock magazine, that was pretty awesome.
Tin: At uni.
Ed: Yeah and it was sort of like a Christmas project or something, in the holidays.
So were you guys friends before you started this venture?
Tin: Yeah, we met at the end of the first year of university when we were doing that punk rock magazine, and then we just continued working together from then. When we finished uni we got a big break and started working together officially.
Ed: We got a big job right after we finished uni. We did a pitch for it about three weeks before, which was a bit crazy really because we were busy enough as it was…
And what was the big job?
Ed: It was Next Wave Festival, which is an arts festival in Melbourne, its on every 2 years. We totally thought we’d fucked up the interview…
That’s what everyone always thinks though.
Ed: Yeah, maybe it’s a good sign if you think that.
Tin: So naturally we were very surprised when they called us. Actually the day it happened I was at Kinkos crying, trying to print out a project.
Ed: And Tin forgot to tell me the good news.
Tin: It’s cos I was really worked up about the project! I told Ed eventually.
Ed: It was a bit funny because we were so ecstatic to finish uni that I couldn’t have actually been any happier until I got this other news.
Was that a well-paid job?
Tin: It was a very high exposure project, it was definitely the most we’d been paid for anything up until then
Ed: It was all free work before then.
Tin: It’s a very big festival here in Melbourne and a lot of people get to see it, and it was just the perfect thing for us to get, because we didn’t really know anyone except for our uni friends and then we got thrown into this office where there were people from the arts industry and we got to meet so many people through that job.
Ed: We had a really great response to that job.
How would you describe the Tin and Ed aesthetic? Do you think you have a signature style?
Tin: Maybe it’s just the mood of our work that ties it together. Our work varies so much, we do illustration and collage and installation, and they’re all very diverse, but I think, if anything, there is the element of the ‘hand made’ in it.
Ed: We do just try and have fun with our work, so, if it’s interesting to us, I think that produces the best result.
Tin: We get really bored very easily so we go from one style to another quite fluidly.
Did you guys start off studying graphic design at Uni?
Tin: Yeah, I studied graphic design, and we did visual communication together at uni. Then we started making sculptures and stuff, cos we love making things with our hands.
Ed: Just getting off the computer as well, and setting limitations, some projects we just say, alright, we’re gonna do it all off the computer and take a photo of it and not have any retouching or anything. Its a different kind of expression when you’re off the computer and it’s a lot more personal and it can be a bit more engaging.
Speaking of the handcrafted, I believe you also had a role to play in one of my favourite commercials, the Tourism Victoria ad with the ball of twine?
So you guys did the sculptural stuff for that with the still images?
Tin: Yeah that’s correct. it was a really amazing project because we were working with a team at Publisis Mojo.
Ed: Yeah, they came up with the whole concept.
Tin: And we knew them from some other work they’d done, and they asked us to do a print version of the ad.
Ed: It’s really interesting because we had been in an exhibition a year beforehand when we had built a big sculpture out of string. I think it was about 8 metres high; they really liked that, and then they told us that they had the perfect project for us; somehow thinking we knew what we were doing with string.
I noticed as well, was there a Visa campaign where there was a ball of twine in the corner?
It seems to be a link through some of your work
Ed: I had never made that connection before!!
Ed: Maybe it’s our signature, we’re just trying to get it in there!
Tin: It’s funny because we’ve done quite a few projects with string now and whenever people think of string they think, ‘we could get Tin an Ed to do this’. Once people see that you can do something, I think they just keep coming back to you.
Tell us about some of your other clientele, is there something that doesn’t involve string?
Tin: (Laughs) We have quite a broad mix of clients, we work for a lot of commercial clients through agencies and that kind of thing. We’ve done work for pretty much all of the credit card companies, Mastercard, Nike, MTV. A lot of our other works were for more cultural clients, people who work within the arts field. We also do stuff for architects and dance companies, that sort of thing. Then we balance it all out with more commercial work, which is also a lot of fun.
Ed: Generally with the much more commercial clients we sort of like coming in really early in a job, at the conceptual stage, and building on the ideas with them. With some agencies we do get to do that, but a lot of the time they’re usually fairly advanced in their process, and they’ve got an aesthetic that they’re after and the time lines are always ridiculous, like they will say, ‘we want all of this in a week’, or even, today!
Wow. Stressful! Anxiety aside, which brief have you been given that most excited you?
Ed: It’s funny cos a lot of the briefs excite us, but it’s probably a bit further down the track when we do get really excited, when the brief is actually going to be a reality.
Tin: It’s great when a client comes to us with a brief and they really get what we’re about, you know, we like when a client comes to us and says, we kinda know what we want, but lets work it out together. They’re the ones that excite us
Ed: I don’t know if i can specifically name a favourite though. Actually the Melbourne International Design Festival was in 2008 and that was a really fun job. Again, the time lines for that were really short, but they really worked in our favor, because we had to come up with a different way of thinking about it. It was an open brief, and they trusted us with it, and we kinda got our friends involved in it because the theme of the festival was ‘strength in numbers’. And we looked at the collaborative side of it, and got all our friends involved, so that was fun.
So you also dabbled in fashion design with some fabrics for the label TV?
Tin: Yeah, they’re good friends of ours, we also did the video footage that ran before and during their show at Sydney Fashion week. Before then, we’d actually collaborated with them on a fabric they used for their range for Sportsgirl. We think they’re so amazingly talented and stuff so we knew that what they were going to do with it would be cool.
Yeah, TV is an awesome label.
Ed: Yeah, we love them!
You guys are so varied in what you do, what inspires you?
Tin: Everything! I know a lot of graphic designers who tend to get bogged down in the world of graphic design, I think our work is very much inspired by creative people in other fields, architecture, dance, art, music, just everything, writers, as opposed to being only influenced by other designers.
You know, I just interview Jasper Goodall, and he said exactly the same thing. He basically said that if he was to constantly look at what other designers are doing, then he may end up losing his signature.
Tin: Yeah, I definitely agree with that.
Ed: I mean, we sort of look at some of the stuff that’s going on, and certainly, there is incredible work going on, but I think that you need to just look at the whole, and I mean, if it’s a beautiful concept, it doesn’t really matter what discipline it’s from.
Exactly. So how did you guys come to feature on Paul Barbera’s website “Where They Create”?
Tin: Well, we know Paul, so he just called us and asked if he could come in and take photos, and that all happened very quickly. We haven’t had the privilege to work with him yet, but yeah the photos that he took are awesome. We were actually really busy that day, but he said not to look at him, that he’d just blend in, and he was there for a couple of hours.
You guys have an epic view from that office!
Tin: Yeah it’s awesome isn’t it! That’s probably why we aren’t as productive as we could be! But yeah we’ve been in that studio for, i don’t know, how long now?
Ed: About 4 or 5 years
Tin: And it’s just full of so much stuff.
Its really cool though to look at designers studios and see what quirky stuff they’ve got going on.
Tin: It’s like a weird op shop.
It’s definitely eclectic. Have you guys moved into animation yet? or is that still a dream of yours?
Tin: Yeah, we’ve actually done some title stuff for the ABC and those ones are quite hand-drawn. We did the title sequence for a show called “Not Quite Art”, and that’s been on twice, last year and the year before.
What are you both working on right now?
Tin: Well, we’re working on our website, which is really exciting, we can FINALLY get that up.
Ed: It’s the never ending website. It’s funny being a designer because you do all this stuff for everyone else, but to actually find the time to do it for yourself is getting quite difficult.
Tin: We’re doing some stuff for a dance company, it’s a dance production which is going to come out towards the end of the year, which we are sort of just doing all the promotional stuff for. We’re also doing some illustrations for a primary school, that’s been an ongoing project which is going to include printed murals throughout the school, all the way down the halls and up the stairs.
Ed: And we actually worked with the kids on that which was really fun. Basically every kid had an A4 sheet and we sort of briefed them to do drawings. Essentially we’re doing the landscapes for these things and they’re populating the landscapes with their characters.
Tin: Some of which are mind bogglingly crazy! I think they’re about 600 kids there, and we got drawings from all of them, and they’re just completely psychotic. We are going to integrate them with our drawings and put them through the halls.
Ed: We’ve already done the first stage of that, but we haven’t seen it yet, so hopefully it looks good. (laughs)
It seems like there is never a dull day in the lives of Tin and Ed!
Ed: We DID have to do some drawings for the National Australia Bank. I can’t say it was “dull”, i’ll say it was interesting!
Interesting is a great euphemism for so many things.
And you guys won the Qantas Spirit of Youth Prize?
Tin: Yeah, we won that last year, which came as quite a shock to both of us! It’s awesome because it means we get to go overseas for two months!
Yeah i was going to ask you where you’re flying to?
Tin: I think we’re going to go to New York, Barcelona, which we haven’t been to before, and then London and Tokyo. Its going to be an awesome trip.
Ed: The problem is though, there is everywhere else I want to go to as well.
I know, its never ending.
Ed: In a good way.
I hear that you’re both also making a book? And planning an exhibition in Japan?
Tin: We hope to, we actually want to publish a few things, maybe a few zines, and then a larger book, hopefully get our shit together in time for when we leave for overseas, so we can get some stuff happening over there. We have some ideas of where we want to show and some shops and galleries we like over there. So that’s the plan.