Founders Jack Mussett, Chris Murphy & Dan Evans with junior designer Merren Spink

OVER THE PAST SIX YEARS, Melbourne based creative agency Motherbird has been steadily garnering increasingly high profile praise thanks to their knack for blending digital design with unique and playful hand generated content, accumulating an impressive client roster –including Computer Arts, Billy Blue and MTV – in the process.  Formed in 2009 by high school friends Jack Mussett, Chris Murphy and Dan Evans, a trio who have always shared a similar aesthetic sensibility and overwhelming passion for graphic design.

Aside from a third year work placement for Jack interning at a creative agency, the group had no substantial experience in this field when they set up Motherbird straight after finishing university. This inexperience brought an eager naivety however, which wound up being extremely fortuitous for them.

“We didn’t have any expectations. We weren’t too worried we would fail….”

A lucky break early on meant their initial studio space (they’ve just moved into their third) had barely any overhead costs, gifted as it was by an old friend. This financial breathing space gave their first year a degree of security that allowed them to get to grips with their business - learning the ropes without getting smothered by costs.

Since then the learning curve has been steadily increasing, but never overwhelming. Between the three the working roles cross-pollinate and bleed into each other. Each of their business cards reads “creative director” and they’re equally as involved in pitch presentations as they each are with account handling and creative responsibilities. It’s an approach that means each of them knows what is happening on every project and can leap between them when needed.

It was their work for Billy Blue that really began to open doors. Choosing to construct a series of three-dimensional geometric paper structures, then digitally re-touch them, they created a set of images that have brought wider attention to their work. In particular a request by Computer Arts for a similar style piece for use as a cover image – a brief which has brought its own challenges:  “They didn’t realise that the structures were actually made from paper, and wanted a four day turnaround. These things usually take four weeks!”

Perhaps the steepest learning curve has come as a result of their taking on more government-related work, specifically related to the mental health industry, “It’s been a real step up to the next level.” The work has seen them need to liaise with much larger groups of people than they were previously used to dealing with as well as working with a client of a much bigger and more serious nature than the previous “fun” design they’d been filling up their portfolio with.

This shift into more “serious” work has greatly expanded their potential for future clients; people can now look to Motherbird and see an agency that’s comfortable working with large, serious entities with ease and professionalism whilst retaining a young creative edge. “We don’t work weekends though […] it leads to burnout!”

At heart, Motherbird is three lifelong friends turning a love of design into something tangible. They’re unpretentious, enthusiastic and still somehow funneling that brand of eager naivety responsible for launching them so strongly. Though still in the early stages of finding their place in this industry, it’ll clearly be a pleasure to see what creative tangents they find themselves wandering down as they expand outwards and upwards.

Interview: Siobhan Frost
Words: Jonathan Day
Photography: Johathan Ong

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