Actual Source co-founders Davis Ngarupe and JP Haynie on finding the balance between multiple creative endeavours
For episode seven of our It’s Nice That podcast, the co-founders of the much-loved design studio and bookstore discuss the joys and challenges of creating their multifaceted brand.
When starting out in the creative industry, it can be daunting to navigate all the conflicting guidance that’s thrown around: namely that you need to follow your heart and make authentic work, but you must also make money and sell those ideas. In the midst of this baffling process, you’re often encouraged to hone a particular area of expertise, to find your USP, but this can come at the cost of losing the other creative outlets which really inspire you. However co-founders of Actual Source, Davis Ngarupe and JP Haynie, are two creatives who decided to aim big and bring all their creative interests under one core practice. So, for the seventh episode of the It’s Nice That podcast, our editor-in-chief Matt quizzed the talented design duo on how they’re making the balance between their multiple endeavours in the realms of graphic design, publishing and fashion.
A juicy episode full of reminiscences from the early days of the brand, the duo take us back to 2004, or “the best year of our lives” as JP dubs it. This was a year the two creatives met and began working together. We also hear about how they came up with the name for the business on a road trip to Salt Lake City, on the way to buy JP an iPod shuffle from the Apple Store. Looking back to these early days as partners, JP and Davis share insights which will put many graphic designers who are finding their feet in the industry at ease, with Davis admitting: “I don’t think I even knew what the term graphic design was back then”.
What they did know is that they wanted to make books. So far, so good. But, as it transpires, actually figuring out how to make the books and communicating with printers to get what you want can be a minefield. Then there’s selling the books to think about. Davis explains how the idea of opening a bookstore initially materialised as a “way of sneaking our books in with some amazing books and to sell them”.
But how did their little bookshop become a fashion brand and a design studio? At first, Davis’ answer seems straightforward: “the way that we’ve done that is just by being engaged and pursuing our interests. We’re into apparel and clothing and we wear hats all the time – these are just things that we want to make for ourselves so we do.”
But we all know it can’t be as simple as that, and, later in the episode, the co-founders knuckle down to explaining how they balance the multiple elements of the brand. In fact, while Actual Source is perhaps most well-known as a bookstore, the duo reveal that the majority of the work they do is studio commissions. Admitting that the bookstore is the favourite part of what they do (“book delivery day is the highlight of our days”), the team discuss the importance of studio work for sustaining the business. “It feels like one practice where they feed each other…Actual Source as a practice needs both elements to survive”, says Davis.
Taking a down-to-earth view of the brand as a whole, JP explains that pushing creativity in so many different directions really just boils down to “a desire to do it”, he says. “It would honestly be much easier not to!” But, if you have that urge to take on multiple challenges, then this is the episode for you. The duo share a whole host of tips, from not being too picky about mistakes to knowing when to delegate tasks and roping your friends in to help out. You’ll also hear about Andrew or “Scandrew” as JP calls him, a key ingredient in the success of the Actual Source – the team’s “ultimate scanner”...
Finishing up with the latest instalment of the Nice Note, we whizz across the Atlantic from these Provo-based creatives in Utah to the sunny county of Somerset. Here, the artist and designer Ryan Todd takes us to the creative little town of Frome where’s been building a creative community of ceramicists, carpenters, photographers, film directors, (the list goes on).
Don’t forget, if you want to hear a longer version of the podcast, featuring an extended interview with Actual Source, you can do so by signing up to Extra Nice, It’s Nice That’s membership programme. This is just one of the many benefits and goodies you get by being an Extra Nice member. To find out more, head over to the Extra Nice pages of our website.
#006 Actual Source
In this seventh episode of the podcast, our editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah speaks to Davis Ngarupe and JP Haynie, the co-founders of design studio and bookstore Actual Source. They talk us through the challenges of juggling client work and their more self-initiated publishing projects, and offer up a mini masterclass on the core principles of book design. After that, we head over to Frome to hear from an artist and designer who has put down roots in the Southwest of England.