We're a studio much like and a little not like any other. I'm not a fan of the 'what makes you unique?' conversation, but I think the best way of getting to the heart of what Alter is about is through our work. We've been lucky to take on some very diverse projects over the years and I hope that what is reflected in our work is that we're prepared to approach many ways of looking at things. We don't have a desire to make the world look Alter.
How big is the team and how is it broken up?
We're basically four designers and a manager right now. We also work closely with people in specialist areas (such as web development) to make things. At the moment it's myself, Dion, Rick, Dane and Louisa. The structure is fairly flat, but always subject to change given the workload. Sometimes we're all managing projects individually, but they're always open for discussion. One of the key things we do that seems to work very well is sharing our individual ideas. If someone is struggling with job, it's usually handed over to someone else for a while.
10 year of operation is huge, how has Alter changed since you started out?
The studio began with a somewhat idealistic attitude to work and life (we've managed to hang on to some of it). We were almost a hobby back then and didn't work regular (if at all) hours. It has been a slow process just becoming 'regular' in terms of the way we approach business. I guess we've grown up in that time.
We can bring a great deal to projects these days and, with the trust of good clients, we are able to produce interesting and engaging work. The reward has always been in how people respond and it's still something that we measure our success by. This might seem 'needy' but it's also (obviously) a large part of the actual purpose of communication in whatever form it may take.
Tell us something unique about your space.
We're above a service station that has become a bar. Everything becomes a bar sometime. Is that a song?
Your work is extremely varied, event sets through to video clips - (a terribly clichéd question), do you have a favorite medium?
No. Yes. No. Umm… stuff that moves? Posters? The beauty of varied mediums is also very cliché, it helps to keep renewing the challenges and broadens the base of ideas that we're working with. Again, we've been very lucky in this respect. We'd love to work on the art for a film or television production. That would be fun.
What project do you feel made Alter's mark as a company?
Tough one. The answer changes on this one depending upon who you're asking, but there are things that we know have contributed to the profile of the studio. The most recognised work we've produced is probably music related and for a brief moment or two some of this enters the vernacular. It's fun watching the way pop culture filters and blends.
The relationship with Modular is quite unique, as Dan being an artist (Cut Copy) and a designer - what was it like to explore all facets of the creative process on that project?
For Dan this is probably about as close to the ideal situation as he could have imagined. He has been able to realise more of his ideas because of it. As a studio we've always felt well positioned to bring something to music projects. Modular just kind of trusted us to do our own thing and it's somewhere near there where design and idealism meet up.
Does Cut Copy ever get in the way?
Quite the opposite. At the moment Dan's working on the new record so we don't see much of him. He does seem to turn up whenever we mention a good restaurant though. We probably need to talk. Dan, if you're reading this…
What other side projects are Alters team members working on?
Good question. We've all got some pursuits outside the studio. I do some sessional work in Visual Communication at the Monash University Faculty of Art & Design and I'm slightly obsessed with bicycles (though not cool ones). Dion has been teaching at other institutions and customising his motorcycle (which is looking cool). Rick has a band called The Twerps (he's out of the studio today, because they're playing in Sydney) and is starting to exhibit some work he produces outside the studio. Dane is kind of new around here, but he's also just been touring with some kind of insanely heavy band and eating in fine dining establishments.
As a studio we've just started a restaurant list which we hope will become a slightly ignorant and clumsy internal guide to Melbourne food. Yes good guides already exist, but ours will be without the all that cumbersome critical experience, knowledge or justification. As you might have gathered, we're not trying to sell it. We do love Melbourne's food though.
When a new brief comes in, what is the Alter process?
Well, I can't give you a handy PDF link to a brochure on this because we don't roll that way. And we don't employ jargon (as a rule, but there are exceptions where the client has long forgotten the layman's version of the language and only speaks a marketing dialect or in arcane acronyms). EPID. Every project is different. All of them begin with different people (otherwise known as clients), different ideas, objectives, markets, you name it. We like to try to approach every new project from a sort of 'clean slate' ideal, but obviously the world intervenes to various degrees in most cases.
You learn from your mistakes, what have been yours and how did you fix them?
I recently backed my good bike (which was on the roof of my car) into the rollerdoor at my house. Only now do I hear that this is a very common mistake that can damage a bicycle and should be avoided. Yes, it was also incredibly lame and my fault. In terms of fixing it, I bought a more expensive bike. Not really a solution, but hey.
But you're actually asking about Alter's mistakes. We've been through the regular issues and, thankfully, nothing has gone too seriously wrong. I guess that with experience you develop some sense of where the pitfalls might be in projects and help to lead the clients around them. The odd thing still happens, but we simply try to make repairs and move on. Sometimes this has actually helped our relationship with the client by building more trust.
To use the wise words of a mentor (though less eloquently put), 'you get reasonable results with reasonable people'. Almost Confucian, yes?
Alter's top 5 places to eat in Windsor?
Mmm. Lunch. Closely guarded secrets, no particular order. • Sicilian Orange - Penne Bolognese • Windsor Deli - Number 11 Sandwich • Mileto's - Variety of rolls • Thai Food to Go - Grapow Chicken • Tyranny of Distance (Minute steak)
+ If you want a cheap pizza… Lucky (Coq) is still ridiculous (yes they're a client, consider that disclosure).