PEOPLEText: Nicolas Roope

I’m always pleased to meet people who give a shit. STATE are such an outfit. Progressive and inspired, the group have generated a solid fan base in the London design community. Mark Hough, Philip O’Dwyer and Mark Breslin from State dropped in to Oven today to talk about stuff. Ann Kelly and Steven Price couldn’t make it.

STATE got together at St. Martins. After college they all found themselves sharing studio space designing Raise, a well known London student mag. The magazine folded but they liked working with each other so much they started STATE, the glue to hold it all together.

Whilst at college the group reacted to some of the constraints of their course which had not been conceived with screen based design in mind.

“At that stage there were interactive media courses and graphics courses and they didn’t really meet. They seemed like separate entities, but when you think about it it’s all about information so you’d expect more convergence. The gap was the most interesting part: forging the link was where the interest was for us.”

To explore this gap the members of STATE took to old media forms, novels, film etc. We never consider the structure of these forms and what impact a state change would have on the content, its’ reading or experience. They told me how they’d chopped novels and laid all the pages out on the floor and how it made you think about it differently.

The usual student missions, you know deconstructing stuff, we’ve all done that. The only reason why it should be taken seriously is that unlike lots of student nonsense these ideas have matured into something interesting.

“The early work we were doing in college was trying to use established methodologies from print that didn’t work that well on screen. It seems like an obvious thing to do; a new thing comes along and you just need to sort it out, to figure out the rules. It’s obvious that direct translation from print isn’t working so we need to find out what does work.”

From what I could gather, the group are concerned with the common threads that run through everything, the threads you expose when you try doing something in a different way. Take the Onedotzero designs as an example.

STATE have been designing all visual and time based (apart from sound) matter since the festivals inception. The design operates across video, print, text and tactile interactive pieces. One memorable treatment is the film clip which is broken down into frames and presented as an object for the user to manipulate in order to discover the clips’ different nature.

One thing I’ve gotten a taste for these days is design that understands content in the interactive environment. Of course I was pleased to hear that:

“A lot of people approaching the media are very expressive with it. The general tendency is to jazz up content that doesn’t seem exciting by introducing peripheral distractions. We’re excited by the process of working the content itself, trying to make that interesting in own right without reliance of gizmos and peripheral junk.”

I liked that.

With all interviews you have to ask what’s next. Somehow it just seems important. SATE think this ‘common thread,’ business should conclude with them taking on a range of seemingly different projects across a breadth of media, products, buildings, whatever.

As the interviewer all I want to know is why; even though I guess it’s pretty obvious.

“It’s inspiring to work across different mediums, it gives you new methodologies, it means you can attack each new situation with a range of contrasting and complimentary methods and ideas. Approaching problems from a different viewpoint and range of priorities tends to make the results at the very least more interesting.”

Text: Nicolas Roope

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