KSW Studio was founded in 2012 and its Q West home is the perfect breeding ground for creativity and innovation – as some of their latest headline projects for Fortnum & Mason and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games testify.
Icelandic-born Kristjana is a graduate of Central Saint Martins, of the University of the Arts London, and received tremendous acclaim for her work as Creative Director of Beyond the Valley, one of the inaugural pop-up shops, featuring work from a host of Central Saint Martins graduates.
The store had its own fashion label and a vibrant narrative, but Kristjana soon set out to create her own brand and business using all the skills and experience she had obtained since finishing art school.
That brings us up to the present day, where Kristjana and her small but brilliant army of designers are putting themselves on the map working out of their creative oasis in Q West. We caught up with Kristjana to ask how their Workspace design studio has helped them grow and what the key ingredients are for establishing a design agency in such a crowded industry.
What made you choose Q West to house your studio?
Firstly, the business centre is conveniently located in close proximity to home, which makes things much more relaxed. It doesn’t matter if we have to work a little late one evening as the commute home is so small. Long commutes aren’t the best way to get the creative juices flowing!
Internally, the real attraction of Q West studios was its high five metre ceilings, creating a feeling of space and providing us with ample wall space upon which to showcase our artwork.
What are the most substantial changes you’ve made to make the studio your own?
We were very fortunate to work with interior designer, Doris Lee, who helped create the perfect backdrop for our creative brainstorming.
We had new flooring fitted, installed wall-to-ceiling shelves to maximise storage space and fitted cork mood boards to present 3D artwork.
Doris understood the importance of creating a functional yet creative space for us to work in. Doris used little tricks to create both display and storage. For instance, our cushion display was created using Ikea shower wire with hooks attached to the cushions; while the metal grills are hung on a bike storage solution, providing additional light storage and allowing for mobiles to be hung off whilst we design window displays for our commercial clients.
For aspiring designers – what three things should they look for in a potential studio?
- Affordability – most new design agencies don’t have huge amounts of money so sharing space if you can keep costs to an absolute minimum.
- Storage space – don’t rule out even the smallest studios. You really can do a lot with a small space, especially with clever use of storage on walls, for example.
- You don’t have to go it alone – we really can’t fault Workspace as a business centre provider. Our centre manager takes care of all angles, from postage to telecommunications, which takes the pressure off.
Tell us more about your recent projects in Rio and at Fortnum & Mason... how did they come about?
We were delighted that the Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel installed a series of our works throughout the 2016 Olympic Games. The showcase being a light projection that played out on the hotel’s façade every evening, which told the story of the day’s events at the Games.
The creative story behind the projection work was a series of animations of butterflies that were beamed onto the hotel façade, with each butterfly bearing a different nation’s flag on its wings, indicating the countries that had won medals each day at the Games.
We’re also exhibiting in-store at Fortnum & Mason this Christmas with 340 products showcased as part of our display, which features three-dimensional artwork that’s suspended from the ceiling. After working with the store over Christmas last year it was great to be able to work with them again.
What commission have you and the team been most proud of?
It’s very hard to pinpoint one project in particular! Can we choose three?
- The Connaught Hotel, Mayfair
We were commissioned to provide a 3m piece of fine art featuring hand-cut gold leafing. The end result – The Magic of Mayfair – was stunning and captured the imagination of guests, as well as other potential clients!
- The Shard
We were so excited to work for them because we love the Shard. This 5m high, 2.8m wide artwork comprised of thousands of pieces of paper and was displayed as a backlit glass piece. It reflected beautifully the influence London has had on me, with its blend of industry and history.
- 2016 Olympic Games
It goes without saying that this was a tremendous privilege and thrill to be involved in something on the global stage.
How hard is it to establish a design agency? What do you have to do to stand out in a crowded industry?
There is so much design talent in London and that helps to drive you forward. The most important thing is to be yourself. I believe that everybody has some form of creativity inside of them. ‘Make more, make more’ is my philosophy – the more you do the more you understand what works, which helps you to gain in confidence.
External feedback is absolutely invaluable too; it helps you to learn from your mistakes and focus on your strengths.
Collaborative working within your team helps enormously. Three or four creative brains working together are much better than one!
Are there any emerging trends within the design industry that we should be aware of?
The biggest thing to note is that design and fashion trends seem to transcend the seasons nowadays; they overlap and develop. Digital media and animation has made it easier than ever for designers to build on trends and ideas and evolve them into something different or bigger.
Finally, is there anything you would do differently if you were starting a new design agency tomorrow?
A billion things!
In all seriousness, the most important thing is to accept that you can only be good at so many aspects of running a business. Getting your head around the administration aspects of setting up and running your own business can be tough. A good accountant certainly helps!
Kristjana and her team are also doing their bit to raise money for local charities. An in-house sale of items is planned at Q West in aid of Age Concern Chiswick – a charity which brings local older people together for social activities.
“My business is so much more than what I do 9 to 5,” adds Kristjana.
“It infiltrates everything and I love that I can use my creativity to raise funds and awareness of causes I support.”
Q West is part of a newly developed area in Brentford, comprising of bright office and studio space close to Heathrow Airport, the M4 and mainline and underground stations. Nestled close to the leafy, peaceful enclaves of Kew Gardens, it’s an inspirational place to do business for Kristjana and her team; and it can be for yours too. If you’re interested in viewing our available spaces at Q West, click here to arrange a viewing with our Centre Manager.
Images: Chris Snook Photography