How do you build a successful studio that prioritises staff wellbeing? Aries Moross shares their wisdom
For the latest in our continued Movers & Makers series with Mailchimp and Co, Aries Moross offers their insight into creating a welcoming, safe and ultimately fun workplace environment.
Welcome back to Movers & Makers! Across 2023, we’re continuing our advice series with Mailchimp & Co alongside creative freelancers and studio leaders who join us at Nicer Tuesdays this year. To kick things off, we sit down with Studio Moross founder Aries Moross to discover how they’ve built a business that values team wellbeing as much as output.
If you’re a music fanatic, a design expert or a little bit of both, it’s pretty impossible for you not to have come across the work of Studio Moross. Having designed for the likes of Kylie Minogue, the Spice Girls, One Direction, MTV and Ru Paul’s Drag Race, the studio has sat at the forefront of pop culture design for many years, characterised by its preference for colour, experimentation and bold typography.
But what the studio has become equally well known for is its forward-thinking and inclusive approach to work culture and the wellbeing of its staff. This approach is spearheaded by its founder and creative director, Aries Moross. A vocal figure in the design industry, Aries has often used their voice to advocate for a more inclusive, welcoming and fair industry. Much of this is rooted in their experiences of running their own studio for over 11 years, and the many learnings and lessons that have come with this.
“I’d say it’s worth thinking as much about your company culture as you do about your work.”Aries Moross
Aries’ desire to build their own studio is rooted in their early days as a designer – a time when they realised their preference for sociable working environments. After freelancing through university, Aries then started their own small studio; they had plenty of work coming in and were running their own record and merchandise label. “I was lucky to be busy so I didn’t feel the need to seek work in-house at a company,” they say. But one thing was missing: “It got very lonely and I didn’t enjoy the solo creative environment.” To remedy this, Aries started bringing in people – students or friends – who they would collaborate with and split the budget.
Following over 11 years at the forefront of their own studio – now with a larger team of permanent team members – Aries views it as a “privilege not to have had to work inside a company that I haven’t had control or influence over”. For the creative director, this privilege and freedom is most apparent in the ways in which it has allowed them to forge and build their own studio ethos and workplace environment. “I’d say it’s worth thinking as much about your company culture as you do about your work,” Aries says. “Starting off with that attitude will really help strengthen your foundations.” One of the ways in which Aries achieves this is by fostering as democratic and transparent an environment as possible. For example, the creative director works alongside their team to write their own rules and company culture.
This isn’t something that came instantly to Aries. Instead, they see it as a practice and outlook that’s taken them “years to fully grasp”, but is one that is now steadfast. “Don’t ignore the important things like staff support, welfare, wellbeing, feedback, communication and management,” they say. “These are core to every good company, even the creative ones.”
On top of their primary focus on group dynamics and the wellbeing of their staff, Aries also puts the efficacy of Studio Moross down to personal development and growth – an attribute which has also led to a more fruitful personal career. “It’s easy to burn out, so I try to make my working life as sustainable as possible,” they say. “I used to be addicted to work; now I have a much more healthy life/work balance. I don’t take my work home with me, my job doesn’t define my worth and I look after my body.”
“I don’t have a huge creative ego really, I just like to solve problems, do a good job and move onto the next one.”Aries Moross
Such an approach is also aided by Aries being what they describe as a “simple person”. They continue: “I don’t have a huge creative ego really, I just like to solve problems, do a good job and move onto the next one.” Now, their primary focus is creating an environment and way of working that has the foundations to last. “My main goal is to sustain my energy and creative drive so that I can continue to do this job for 15+ more years.”
And although Aries is determined to continue their creative drive well into the future, they’ve never been someone to think too far in advance. Instead, they “try to live as much in the moment as possible”. This outlook is one that’s been beneficial in recent years, with the designer identifying how difficult socio-political times can make running your own business unpredictable. “Say five to six years ago, things didn’t change much from year-to-year, but in the past three years we’ve seen the whole world change over and over again, so I think for now I focus on what is in sight. The future seems impossible to predict.”
Living in the present allows the designer to focus on what’s in front of them, what’s feasible and how their studio can continue doing what it does well. “I endeavour to run a sustainable company (both in profit and resources) that makes solid work and has a positive reputation for skills and creativity, as well as being a company that employees enjoy working for,” Aries summarises. And if Studio Moross’ past 11 years are anything to go by, this really does seem like the perfect concoction for a successful, inclusive and lasting creative practice.
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About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.