EK Interview: UNA Studios

Andrew Archer and Kelly Thompson are the creative minds behind UNA Studios. Their work is dripping with triptastic, eye popping color and just makes you want to pop a handful of whatever is closest to see the world through their eyes. Check out their interview:

Can you tell us about UNA? How did it start?
​UNA is a creative studio and we specialise in illustration, and art direction. We work with brands, individuals, and agencies to generate marketing ideas, offer creative consultation, and create beautiful visuals. Collectively we have been working for around 20 years in the creative industry. As solo entities we have both been fortunate to have worked with some dreamy clients and ticked a lot of our personal creative goals. When Andrew first contacted Kelly to do “something new” we both agreed that we needed to set new goals and be challenged again​,​ we wanted to do more. Over the last couple of years our work has diversified a lot to also include more creative consultancy, and we both found that clients were not only interested in our personal illustration abilities, but also us as individuals, our ideas, our suggestions and the creatives we associate with. After many months of brainstorming, goal setting and collating we decided that joining forces under the UNA umbrella was the best way to bring our combined skills together and move up to the next step.


When undertaking a piece as big as what you did for the Chalets Marquee, how do you approach it? What was the background for the piece? How did you decide to cut it up to best fit the space?
​The client approached us with a very specific brief for that project​, they were really in love with a piece by William Morris, but unfortunately were unable to get hold of it. At first we were quite cautious as the client was very hooked on the original, and obviously we didn’t want to directly copy it, so we had to carefully create something new, but with very strict guides from them. The original sketch was drawn by hand on recycled cardboard to add to the vintage feel, and was then coloured digitally. The budget allowed for one image so all of the panels seen on the walls are sections of one image that was dissected and flipped or cropped for the various spots on the wall. In this case the client directed what was required where, we just suggested the best cuts to fit their requests and make sure the image wasn’t sliced in any strange spots.


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Tell us about the piece you did for Good Fuel Co, how much influence did they have on the piece? It looks very hallucinogenic. Would you agree? Are you experienced? If so, how have such experiences influenced your work?
​Everyone thinks we are high these days, but in this case no​. The client was a dream on this project, no revisions, just free reign on palette and composition, we love it when clients are comfortable to do that, it really is the best way to get something bold and original and those are always the works that people comment on the most. We were inspired by what the Good Fuel Co is, we wanted to convey an idea of energy, speed, and feeling alive, it’s just fun to push reality sometimes, through your imagination…or other things

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What kind of guidance can you give to starting artists who are working for the first time in a corporate setting? How can you find a way to do the art that you want to do but also make a client happy?

​At the start​ ​you probably just need to suck it up, ​and focus on paying the bills and also developing your style, you learn so much and grow a lot in the first couple of years, so you don’t want to be cocky and need to realise that you still have a long way to go … be a sponge. Doing personal work in your own time to boost your folio is the best things to do, if you have a strong body of work and a concise style you’re more likely to be asked to do things that are similar to that. When you’re starting out you won’t have the reputation and folio that encourages clients to trust your opinions, focus on client communication, consider what they need, and if you have an idea that you think is great, back it up with visual references, explain it to them well, and try and find ways to add your personal touch. Talking your way in is a great skill until you have to work to back yourself with!

Also on a side note, research pricing, ask your pals, learn about licensing your work and get your tax and paperwork down from the start.

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What personal work are you doing? Does your collaboration extend beyond the work you do for UNA?
​At the moment we are pretty flat out in the studio, and if not doing work or talking with clients a lot of our energy is put in to our expansion plans and research for some things we are doing next year and in about three years from now (mysterious answer). Right now we are not doing a huge amount of personal projects, but we are always making lists of ideas, and chatting about things we want to do soon. In spare moments, or when we just need some time out we have been playing around with some illustrated type, but overall our efforts are solidly focused on the studio at the moment. Outside of the studio we are great mates so we head to gigs, exhibitions and industry things together, it’s good to appreciate your collaborators as people too.

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What was it like making a music video? Had either of you worked on visual art before? What was the idea behind the video? How did you go about executing it?
Music videos are the best! ​We have both worked on motion pieces before and really love doing them. For the Zed’s Dead video it was inspired by memories, and a rough outline of these were provided. After that free reign was given to interpret them as we wished​, so we developed the style and palette, luckily got the go ahead, and then just went for it.

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What was your connection to Pukehina beach? What did the two different perspectives mean to you? Why did you choose to portray them in the ways that you did?
​Andrew- ​P​ukehina beach ​is a wild little beach in NZ, and as a child I spent a lot of weekends there with my family. To be honest I did the yellow bright one first and didn’t like it, so I redrew it again in the darker style, now they just make a nice team.

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What are you excited about that you’re working on now?
O​ur biggest job at the moment is with VCCP London doing the visual collateral for the FIA Formula E 2015-2016 racing series. It’s a pretty epic job, 10 races in 10 different countries, developing a signature poster for each and then 20 illustrations inspired by the drivers. ​Our artwork is being used all over the place, one billboard is an LED display the size of a football field which is nuts, hopefully we get a photo of that! We are aiming to get over to see the Long Beach race next year if we can. We also have a few things in the pipeline for one of Andrew’s favourite shoe brands, and some fashion advertising which will be fun. We are usually pretty selective these days, so find excitement in 90% of our work.

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What does it take to make a successful collaboration? Or company? What have you learned from each other?
​It may be a boring answer, but communication is key, and goal setting is really important. The main thing we have learnt/are learning is that you have to stop trying to do everything yourself and instead communicate and delegate tasks. You don’t have to be the best at everything, instead focus on your strengths and do what you do well. If anything isn’t working for you, or you have an idea, or you want to do something your own way it is important to speak up so that you can keep moving on with good energy. It’s also important to be honest to yourself about what you’re good at and what you’re crap at….can’t polish a turd.


Do you have any inter-office competitions?
We definitely have unspoken competitions! It started with getting to the office first in the morning, but Andrew kept getting earlier and Kelly was forced to give up as a girl’s gotta wash her hair. We are both control freaks to some extent and naturally competitive, so if one person does something awesome the other one definitely wants to do something equally if not more awesome. It’s good though, we push each other forward and it’s good for our creativity.

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