Interview: SeeSaw Designs

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June 2, 2010
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Interview: SeeSaw Designs

SewSaw Design Girls

A few weeks ago I visited SeeSaw Designs at their Scottsdale, Arizona office to take peek at what they are working on. The ladies of SeeSaw Designs are (in order of image above) Raquel, Angela, Lindsay, and their trusty office dog, Feather Lemon. SeeSaw began as a design studio, they have since branched into letterpress printing and vintage retail. Just recently they were nominated and won the Phoenix New Times Big Brain Award for emerging creatives.

While I was there I asked a few questions...

How did SeeSaw become what it is now?

"Well, we didn’t start with the letterpress right off the bat, that came about 8 months or so into it.  Angela and Raquel had founded SeeSaw, we all went to ASU together and I (Lindsay) came on about a year later. I got a letterpress and I didn’t know what to do with it, so they said put it in our garage, I did, and joined up with them as their third partner. The last month of school at ASU we decided that is was what we were going to do. We then listed our info everywhere, did some cold calling and a promotional piece. We got lucky because we got a decent client who found us from an online listing and they turned out to be a retainer client. " 

How do the three of you make design decisions? Is there a final decision maker?

"There is no final decision maker — we're all equal partners, so sometimes it can be a challenge getting three passionate, creative people to come to a consensus. Usually we discuss and make the final call together, and sometimes we vote. We haven't had to resort to flipping a coin quite yet, but there has been talk about it."

Where did the name SeeSaw originate?

"There was a lot to do with the visual aspect but also the challenge of what’s good and what the client wants and meeting in the middle, cause there is that struggle for sure." 

What's the best part about running your studio? What's the hardest part?

"The best part is doing what we love and realizing that SeeSaw is something that we have created together. We are all extremely proud to say we're business owners. The most challenging thing is the business aspect of things. All three of us are creatives first, not business people, so we have had to do a lot of learning through the years to keep growing. It sounds contrived, but you have to be open to learning something new everyday." 

Many people who have heard of SeeSaw know that you do letterpressing, can you tell me about the actual letterpress machines?

"We’ve got two and they are from the late 1800s & early 1900s, they weigh about 2 - 3,000 pounds. They are pretty massive.  One was from Tucson, one was in east Mesa, they were on Craigslist."

SeeSaw Letterpress

How did you get the presses to where they are now?

"We hired movers, it was a really big challenge. We’ve talked to a lot of people who've done it before and and they talk about using cranes or a forklift that goes in sand and crazy things, so it is a challenge.  Moving the presses is incredibly difficult and expensive. If we are going to move them again, they are going to stay there for 5 years."





How often do you run the letterpress?

"It’s a little slow. It definitely has its ebbs and flows. When we are printing the calendar, we will be in there for two to three weeks straight. If we have a wedding sweep going on, we will be in there for a good solid week. We’ve been doing a lot of wedding stuff for friends, family and clients and were just there on Monday night printing a couple of cards. We’d like to be in there more. We started working out of that house where the presses were so that was kind of a benefit, so that two people could be inside and others outside printing. It’s not that far from one place to another now, but ideally, we’d like some warehouse space where we could have everything there, our presses there, our studio, not so scary so that we could bring our clients in."

What are some current projects you are working on — design, letterpress, vintage?

"Primarily what we do is design, that is our bread and butter — graphic design, after that the letterpress is kind of a side thing.  We love doing it, it’s not 50/50 time wise, we spend a lot of our time doing design.  The letterpress is for printing for clients or doing our own stuff. We sell online and at some retail outlets, we do a calendar annually and the vintage we do on our own time it’s kind of outside of SeaSaw but we bring it in, it’s out of the business theme, but we kinda get the word out about it. We all love thrifting, we are all obsessed with Goodwill.  It’s a lot of fun and I think it’s inspirational too. It's kinda cool how a fabric can inspire a design for a client.

We are working with K-Swiss right now doing some stuff for a new skate line that we are branding, that should be presented and hopefully goes through next week.  Crossing our fingers. Some pattern stuff for their other line of shoes as well as for soft liners graphics on the shoes, stuff like that. That’s kind of the fun stuff.

We do a lot of logos.  A lot of people come to us for branding, there’s been a lot of that lately.  We’d love for them to come to us from the beginning because it’s more fun if you can get them their logo and then do it all.  We are are working with Chestnut Lane a local restaurant as well as Bertha’s café, we just started working with her. It’s fun and we get yummy treats all the time. We all love food, we are all little foodies."  

What's the coolest thing you've found at Goodwill?

"A vintage melamine tableware set designed by Vignelli for Heller. They are the most perfect shell pink color, and were in pristine condition. This melamine tableware has been on permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art since 1964."

What is your favorite part of either the actual design process or the printing process or both?

"We like the balance that we get to do a lot of different things all the time. Graphic design is great because you get to learn what your clients are doing, like later we are going to a funeral home. It’s totally not something we would do normally, but for a client project we are working on, we’re going to be interviewing them and getting involved with that. It’s interesting to learn where our clients come from, getting to see that side of things and always learning something new."

What would your dream client be? Why?

"We love working with clients that are passionate about what they do, no matter what it is. Anyone involved in a creative industry: fashion, art, and especially architecture, are dream clients for us. We have a few restaurant clients and we love that industry as well — the people involved tend to be very creative and innovative."

Where do you see SeeSaw in 6 months?

"Continuing to grow our design client base and expanding the offerings in our letterpress and vintage shops. Long term goals include expanding SeeSaw beyond just graphic design to more of a lifestyle brand: we'd love to design textiles and home goods and possibly have a storefront."

See more images and videos of SeeSaw's work, letterpress and studio on my flickr.

For more information and to contact SeeSaw Designs find them at seesawdesigns.com.

Tori Bishop

Tori Bishop

I'm Tori. I am a freelance graphic designer with interests that span all aspects of design, art, science and music. I keep myself busy with my small graphic design business ToriTori Creative. I also enjoy being exhibits director and an executive member of Phoenix Design Week, writing for Design.org and rehabilitating vintage furniture. Follow my exceedingly exciting life on Twitter @catchatori.

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Designer Decorative Accessories / Minneapolis, MN, US

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