Thomas by name, trenchant by nature: Meet Studio Thomas and its rigorously reductive practice

We talk to the perceptive pair about simplicity, collaboration and the excitement of a blank canvas.

Date
13 November 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

London-based design agency Studio Thomas is, as you could guess, full of Thomas’; specifically, Thomas Austin and Thomas Coombes, the co-founders of the branding focused practice. After meeting at Falmouth University, the duo moved to London together where they shared a house whilst they were trying to get their foot into the design industry, collaborating on several occasions during their spare time on posters, record covers and identities for friends. “It wasn’t anything serious,” Thomas Coombes recalls, “but was often a good antidote to a day spent image searching for the internship we were on at the time.”

After partially working together for five years, along with their friend and developer James Homer, they grouped together and made the leap into starting their own studio. Due to the pair sharing the same name, Thomas explains that “the moniker Studio Thomas was more of a placeholder or joke at the time,” adding “we didn’t really imagine in ten years we would be running the studio full time under that name.” 

With one decade already under their belt, it is refreshing that both Thomas’ still have the eagerness and excitement of designers just starting out, something translated in the fresh and youthful energy captured in the lively work they create. In discussing what excites them most, Thomas tells us “one part is definitely the very first moment after getting a brief, especially when it’s a start-up or completely blank canvas,” as fortuitously is often the case with the work they do.

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Studio Thomas: Two Days Drink (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

“There’s a period of time when ideas begin to fill that space – names, copy lines, visual concepts,” he explains, “the type of thoughts that are sort of jumping the gun but come from a gut instinct.” In following their initial aptitudes, the twosome “let those thoughts run” prior to pulling them back towards the more conventional stages in the design process. “Often it’s those gut instincts that re-enter the project at a later stage,” Thomas adds, “it’s for this reason and the joy in working quickly that we work on smaller, sprint-based and start-up projects.”

Contrary to this, however, Studio Thomas also thrives working on a larger scale, citing their love for collaboration – “there’s only two of us in the studio full time, so it’s great when we can involve other creatives, commission and art direct photography or illustration.” This is also paired with the buzz of sharing a vision with another artist who can realise their interpretation alongside the original idea. 

In tandem with their excitement is the process of creation itself, one largely based on reduction. “It isn’t very unique as an approach,” Thomas caveats, “but I think what’s important is what that reduction leaves, and what you add in.” This element is where Studio Thomas’ intentions become clear; not subscribing to minimalism but instead leading its designs with simplicity in mind, resulting in striking, playful work that at its core is both considerate and functional, but importantly fun and original.  

A perfect example of Studio Thomas’ masterclass in simplicity is its recent identity design for Two Days, which saw it designing a satisfyingly elemental visual system, resulting in a brand with a charming tone of voice and an immediately eye-catching aesthetic. “This was the kind of project we enjoy as we were able to work on the name, the creative position, copywriting, brand design and packaging,” Thomas explains. “As a lower ABV drinks brand we wanted to frame this in a positive way, and a way that would resonate with a millennial target audience.” Putting a spin on the notion of ABV drinks whereby rather than seeing them as something that gives you less, instead it allows you more – “maybe being able to drink more, or just being able to drink but do more the next day,” Thomas summarises. 

The duo’s sister company Guest Editions, a platform to support artists and designers in the design and production of artists’ books, has several new titles due to launch soon from the likes of Laura McCluskey and Denisse Ariana Pérez.

As if they weren’t busy enough, they have more things in the works. “It’s been a funny year what with everything” Thomas concludes, putting it rather lightly, telling us that “after a few changes we actually feel like we’re now finding our feet in terms of our output and how we present ourselves as a studio.” Positive for the coming year, the pair is potentially splitting locations, originally hailing from the southwest of England anyway, hoping to work between Thomas Austin’s likely new base in Cornwall and Thomas Coombes in London. “We have worked with some great businesses that way including a recent project with Bristol-based Grace & Green,” Thomas explains, “so it will be good to further that connection and have some Cornwall roots.”

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Studio Thomas: Two Days Drink (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Two Days Drink (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Elsewhere Coffee (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Elsewhere Coffee (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Elsewhere Coffee (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Elsewhere Coffee (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Grace and Green. Photo by Amy Currell (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Grace and Green Photo by Amy Currell (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: London Art Fair (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: London Art Fair (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: London Art Fair (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: London Art Fair (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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Studio Thomas: Sandows (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2019)

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Studio Thomas: Sandows (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2019)

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Studio Thomas: Sandows (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2019)

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Studio Thomas: Two Days Drink (Copyright © Studio Thomas, 2020)

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About the Author

Harry Bennett

After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. Feel free to get in contact with Harry about new and upcoming creative projects.

hb@itsnicethat.com

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