We sat down with the founder of Studio Herrström, Erik Herrström, to hear about the studio's design process, what it's like working in music and what are biggest challenges in starting an agency.
How did Studio Herrström get started? What motivated you to launch your own studio focused on brand identity and design systems?
Prior to founding Studio Herrström, I spent the majority of my career in New York City, designing mainly for Spotify, Nike and Google, both in-house and at agencies. After nearly a decade in the U.S. love has brought me back to Europe.
Ending up in Vienna, I started off freelancing for a variety of agencies, where I was embedded in teams, leading brand design work for clients such as Discord, Airbnb and Sony Music. However, soon I found myself in a position where I had established my own vision. This in combination with enough inbound requests made me take the leap to start my own brand design studio.
What has changed since you launched? What has stayed the same?
Since founding Studio Herrström we continuously worked with selected freelancers that we leverage based on our projects. Running a business and leading all creative work by myself became at some point too much, which led me to grow the team and add additional skillsets by hiring Lukas Haider, who now serves as Creative Director and Co-Lead.
Additionally, we've integrated project management by hiring Lindsey Skipworth into our team who helps create further structure in our work, better communication and smooth processes with our clients.
What is your approach to getting to know a client and truly understanding their brand before starting the design process?
Getting to know our clients is the most important part of any project. We have in-depth conversations, and workshops to understand where they are today, their vision, their obstacles and what’s driving them to full-fill their goals. We want to make sure that we understand where they want to go and how we can help them get there. To us, it’s important that we can create value in any project we’re in.
Prior to starting any design process, we want to make sure that there is alignment on the brand’s idea, mission, vision, and core values.
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How do you stay on top of design trends while also ensuring your work has a timeless quality?
Our work is focused on having a strong core concept from which the visual ideas originate. To create timeless work; ultimately the strategy, design concept and visual aesthetics must align. This is what makes the difference.
Our inspiration is typically tied to the project we’re working on, and our concepts and visual ideas are inspired by everything around us.
We believe that if you stare too much on the same inspiration that everyone else does, then your work will end up looking like everyone else's. (Yes, we also spend too much time going through our feeds sometimes.)
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in building Studio Herrström over the years?
As with any business, it’s been a challenge to realise what we do best, and who we are best at helping. From the get-go it’s been important to us to hone in on what we’re best at and allow that to create our focus. We see this as an ongoing process that we constantly have to work on in order to stay relevant.
You work on branding and campaigns across a diverse range of industries. How does your process differ when tackling different verticals?
While we have created work in a range of industries, most of our clientele is within music and lifestyle. No business have the exact same needs nor are at the same place in their development. We have helped brands in all kinds of stages, ranging from initial brand launch, to pivots, mergers, repositionings and expansions. Therefore we believe in understanding our client’s needs instead of offering vertical specific packages. We always create tailored solutions for our clients that suit their needs.
What principles or philosophies guide your work and shape the Studio Herrström aesthetic?
At the heart of Studio Herrström lies a deep connection to music. Both of our creative directors have dedicated the majority of their careers gaining extensive experience within the music industry.
This includes: Leading campaigns and brand initiatives at Spotify, visual identities for iconic artists such as Whitney Houston and Elvis Presley for Sony Music, brand identities for music startups such as Sound.xyz, Stage and SONX, as well as partnering with record labels such as TAU by the renowned DJ-duo Adana Twins.
In the music industry as a whole, it's all about being unique and bold to stand out in order to reach a big audience – and being ready to enter the big stage.
To us, branding is like a catchy song. It’s stuck in your head even after just one listen. It reaches people all over the world, and in best case, it turns into a real classic that lives on forever.
How do you evolve existing brands in an impactful way while respecting their heritage?
Evolving a brand usually involves certain strategic changes. So, the question of how much connection should be made to the actual heritage is based on the chosen path forward. During our strategy phase, we always dive deeply into this and provide our clients with different approaches in order to find the sweet spot.
What upcoming trends or technologies within branding and design are you most excited about?
To be honest, we really value technology that give us, as creatives, more time to focus on the actual work. We for instance try different project management and CRM tools to improve our workflows. On top of that, AI is incorporated into many of our workflows already, including image and text generation. We see it as a powerful tool that can be both inspiring and effective at the same time.
If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring designers wanting to do meaningful work, what would it be?
Stay true to yourself. Your own and individual story might be the biggest differentiator at some point of your ongoing career.