After exploring advertising’s possibilities for its last productive decade, the industry misfits of Brooklyn-based Transistor Studios are opening an office Down Under and diving back into their deep-design roots.
“Opening an office in Australia is a very logical step for us,” explained executive creative director and partner James Price. “Our success as a business is built upon doing things on our own terms, and a big part of that is being in places that excite and inspire us. It’s why we moved our studio to Brooklyn, and now it’s why we are expanding to Melbourne.”
This confident self belief and the desire to go where they can be at their most productive should stand the company in good stead as it focuses on a new region’s opportunities. Transistor started out in California with a Los Angeles studio, before settling in New York. But by opening an office in Melbourne later this year, manned by the Australian-born Price, Transistor has smartly placed itself in an opportunity crossfire that will continue to prove more popular as the industry evolves.
“We’ve done more work from the other side of the Pacific in the last couple of years, as that’s certainly a market that is expanding quite a bit,” said Price. But it’s about more than just being in a new market, “While it’s exciting to think about new clients and relationships in that territory, what I’m equally excited about is being able to offer our client base in North America and Europe a truly global perspective. Working with, and in, other cultures is so invigorating for the culture of a creative business. It’s exhilarating to think about the influence of this international outlook on a boutique design firm like us, and how that influences our output.”
“We’ve always prided ourselves on having a global accent to our work, which has translated really well to our clients in the UK and Europe, so I think we’ll be embraced in Australia, and beyond,” added co-founder, executive producer and partner Damon Meena. “Once we left the West Coast to focus on our New York office, James and I knew at some point we would return to having two offices. We are Transistor Studios with an ‘s’, after all.”
With Price holding down the fort in Australia, Meena will manage a North American operation recently blessed with the in-house promotion of two of Transistors most talented. Aaron Baumle, who has been with Transistor for 9 years, was named creative director earlier this year. Baumle’s background as a visual display artist, combined with his bachelor of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago allows him to solve problems from a very practical, hands on perspective. He shares this sense of pragmatism with recently promoted associate creative director Jamie Rockaway. Rockaway, who started at the company in 2005, recently oversaw the BBC’s dazzling “Get Into Books” and “Medieval Minds” commercials, which seamlessly merged Transistor’s gift for versatile animation, head-trip design and pop-culture sensibility.
“These guys have been creative directing their own projects but haven’t really had as much notoriety as they deserve,” explained Meena. “So now is the time for it.”
It’s not just the notoriety that excites Baumle about his new role: “Jamie, James and I have a history of collaborating together to make sure a project reaches its potential. It feels intuitive for us to work alongside each other in a capacity that allows us to take advantage of our unique skills.” And it’s an approach that will offer Transistor’s global client base the best creative fit for each individual project. “In the last 2 years we’ve been to South Africa, Shanghai, London, Los Angeles, Singapore and Amsterdam, as some iteration of the three of us,” adds Baumle. “As creative leads we are inspired by each other and the places we work in. The evolution of the Melbourne studio just offers us even greater opportunities to collaborate.”
According to both Meena and Price, now is also the time for Transistor to capitalize on its true passion –design based storytelling. Once Transistor made the jump from Los Angeles to New York, perpetually growing its business opportunities and client roster was mandatory for survival. And it pulled through on that score, landing quite a bit of interactive business and development, visual effects and live-action work, and more. But the core of its mission, partially obscured by its own justifiable ambition, has always been to extract knowledge and value from graphic design and illustrative art’s centuries-old traditions, while reinventing them for a future too easily distracted by media overstimulation. And a decade after its birth, Transistor is ready to pursue that mission with full faith in its fruition.
“Damon and I made the decision that art and design are really where our hearts are at,” said Price. “Those are the projects we’re most excited about and that we’re the best at doing, although we possess the skill sets to do many different things. The core creators of the studio have varied histories, but we all share a strong affinity for not just the history of graphic design, but art and culture. We like to draw that into our work, and pay homage to art and design movements that literally shaped the way we see the world. I think that’s what makes us interesting. We’ll put those references out there and then try to reinvent contexts in a way to make them feel new.”
Since making that internal push and resetting its operational narrative over the last year, Transistor Studios has seen a considerable shift in the projects coming its way, as well as the manner in which clients and colleagues perceive it. And as a result, it’s making even more of the type of work that it is proud to make. That includes a Victorian-flavored commercial for
featuring the fantastically animated mythic beast of the same name,
spots starring anthropomorphized CGI iconography like Facebook and Twitter logos frolicking in the snow and clubbing in the desert, and even a dizzying Hewlett-Packard reel that manages to mash computer-aided design and cinematic live-action into light-speed animation that tickles your cerebral cortex.
project is a perfect example of the company’s evolution as a design force. Extending its design eye across the spectrums of live-action has always been a natural extension of Transistor’s focus. Price explains, “So much production is now about providing a consistent vision. The live-action projects we create we proudly shelter from pre-production through to post. Design for us is about controlling the details all the way through to handing off the finished product.”
It’s not just hybrid projects that combine live-action with motion graphics that are garnering the company respect. The recent
campaign through 72andSunny highlights not only the versatility of Price, Baumle and Rockaway as creative leads, but also the breadth of Transistor’s live-action capabilities. Some of the work is pure live-action storytelling without a graphic in sight, while other spots combine the company’s strength in live-action, animation, design and editorial.
“That project is a perfect example of our strengths,” says Meena. “It’s the ultimate design compliment to have someone trust you with such diverse stories told in such a variety of mediums. It’s more than artistic continuity that made the project such a success. Our soup-to-nuts mentality extends beyond creative vision. We were able to stretch the production further because we took it on holistically. It’s the future of production, both creatively and financially, and we are excited to be offering that to our clients, wherever they are in the world.”
Once Transistor’s expansion into Australia is complete, its next decade of existence promises to be even more productive than its last, despite its unorthodoxy. Even though it has fit quite nicely into an evolving industry, it has still managed to keep its outsider spirit alive in a sea of conformity. “We are firm believers that observing and understanding from the outside allows you to project back something that is new and unexpected,” explains Price. “This has become Transistor’s badge of honor of sorts: It thrives on existing apart from the moment, while taking advantage of the moment’s opportunities.”
“I hate to use the term, but we’re a bunch of talented misfits that wouldn’t fit into the culture of other design companies, so Transistor became a great outlet for us,” explained Meena. “James and I are from different sides of the planet, but we’ve got the same mindset. It’s always been about design for us.”
“The new studio will encompass all the trademarks that make us unique” concluded Price. “We’ll still draw from our love of the history of art and design to create the most visual work we can. It’s the infusion of new cultures and ideas that we’ll be exchanging between Brooklyn and Melbourne that just adds a new dimension to it. What someone in Melbourne sees on their lunch break can inspire an idea for a project being created for UK clients in our New York studios. To be able to offer that perspective to our staff, and to our clients, is the most exciting thing to happen to us so far.”
About Transistor Studios
Brooklyn, NY and Melbourne, Australia -based Transistor Studios is a highly regarded multiplatform production company that enjoys an international roster of creative personnel. Their expertise in motion design, animation, and live-action blends as they create award-winning design for broadcast, commercial, and interactive clients from all over the world. The company has been responsible for recent spots for Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Sprint, BBC and Kraken Rum. Transistor Studios has also received recognition from the Cannes Lions, AIGA, New York Festival, One Show, and the BDA Awards.
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