Grain Design is a design collective out of Bainbridge Island, Washington. We recently printed a promotional tabloid of theirs. They took a traditional format and did something really inventive and unique with it, and we love it!
We interviewed Chelsea Green, who co-manages Grain, about how they got started, their philosophy, inspiration, and common aesthetic.
OLI: How do you get inspiration? Any favorite inspiration boards, photos, blogs or websites you’d recommend?
CG: We are most inspired by working with each other. We also find inspiration from friends who are artists and designers, such as the designers that we show with from the Pacific Northwest as part of JOIN: Design Seattle. We love design blogs, but have a hard time keeping up with all the work we have to get done each day! That said, we really enjoy the online publication Sight Unseen from the former editors of I.D. Magazine as well as the Fast Company design blog.
OLI: What’s your conceptualization process like with so many contributors? How do you brainstorm ideas?
CG: We have weekly meetings where we breakdown goals and tasks, both long and short term. From there we divide and conquer. As partners and the only full-timers, James and I manage most everything, with collaborators called in for specific projects. This is a creative practice, but it is also a business. Because of this, we find that things run most smoothly if we try to stay well organized.
OLI: Can you explain how you guys got your start? I love the collaborative spirit of your business model and am curious how that began?
CG: We started as students at the Rhode Island School of Design. James already had a few clients, so we came together to respond to those projects. In 2008 we started to focus more closely on our in-house product development, which is now the majority of our business.
OLI: What’s your favorite environmental cause, if you have one?
CG: We love spending time outdoors, so we like to donate to causes such as The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Foundation that help protect the resources we enjoy. We are also very interested in local food production and donate to organizations such as The Organic Seed Alliance and PCC Farmland Trust. We grow some of our own food here and keep chickens as well as support the our local food economy by belonging to a Community Supported Agriculture program.
OLI: Where’s your favorite place in the Northwest to vacation? Why?
CG: James is always on the look out for new surf spots, but his favorites are top secret. We also love Northwest wine weekend getaways such as the Willamette Valley and Columbia River Valley. Since we travel often for work, we try to take advantage of local spots here on Bainbridge Island as well. We have so many great beaches, trails and farms.
OLI: Do you have a favorite summer activity?
CG: Drinking rosé, swimming and beach fires!
OLI: Your design is very uncluttered and organic but still really unique—is this aesthetic derived from a common belief Grain has?
CG: I think we are still establishing our aesthetic, but we like to simplify things as much as possible. We do this with materials and palette as well as with production processes. I think this way of working definitely affects the aesthetic decisions we make as well.