PlayLab, Inc. is a creative studio working across the disciplines of art, architecture and graphic design to bring innovative ideas and experiences to life. With a portfolio of over 240 projects executed since the studio’s inception in 2009, the New-York based practice takes on a variety of projects. From architectural branding to a compilation of all the times Joaquin Phoenix has walked in his films titled Walking Phoenix, this multidisciplinary studio is centred around strong concepts and intriguing visuals.
The founding designers Archie Lee Coates and Jeff Franklin discuss their work with It’s Nice That, explaining how the core of each design decision “is basically the same”. With each project, the creatives ask themselves: “Is the concept strong? Is it clear? Does the execution support it? Are we excited about it? Can we get other people excited about it?”
The five members of PlayLab, Inc. are constantly expanding their knowledge. “We don’t want to do the same thing twice, so everything is new – we’re learning as we go”, explain Archie and Jeff. Like most good designers, the studio continually questions all aspects of the design process. “What do we want? What do we like? What is that?”, then basing these decisions on research, intuition and conversations with trusted advisors.
The democratic studio is always talking about the work. Every member of PlayLab, Inc. participates in all aspects of the studio, from creative direction, client communication, to cleaning the bathroom. The studio’s output is considerably large despite its five-person team; “we like seeing the boundaries between individuals, titles, careers, studios and companies become blurred through working together on something specific”, say the founders.
An example of this collaborative nature is PlayLab, Inc.’s multi-site installation Grown Up Flowers launched earlier this year. Hosted by the Avenues of the Americans Association, the project explores representations of beauty in a playful way through abnormally large inflatables. Six different flowers by the names of Jack, Rose, Teddy, Wilson, Kerri and Wilt are seen “sitting, lounging, floating, standing tall or bending down to greet visitors.”
In another project Office Hours % Joel Evey, PlayLab, Inc. launched a three-day sensorial installation for Unfinished Festival at the National Museum of Art in Bucharest in collaboration with Joel Evey. The installation features a faux corporate environment that explores the “normative methods of productivity and formation of ideas” through this speculative backdrop. Over the four day installation, “participants produced their idea of the future based on different prompts in an effort to affect the dynamics of their corporate environment.”
The installation recreates the office setting to highlight the increasing performative stature of a working day. Using plant sonification technology as a metaphor for the traditional water cooler, the transformed space “responds in real-time to the input/output of a participant’s involvement.” Office Hours % Joel Evey is an example of an atypical graphic design project, which utilises the critical skills of a graphic designer in a fine art context. This installation, as well as _Grown Flowers, _ details other ways of visually communicating ideas outside the paradigm of print and web design, while maintaining a graphic design structure of working that ensures the viewer’s readability of the work.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.