Three local designers have decided to represent their home town in the best way they know how–by starting their very own studio in its name.
Queen City Studio is the product of Rob Hopkins, Nick Haas and Emily Kowzan, three visionaries whose goal as a new studio is to “Reinstate Buffalo as a manufacturer of quality through the practice of good design.” They have worked extensively in the design industry, producing work that has been featured in Graphis, Logo Lounge and on various blogs with an international audience. QCS also recently designed a t-shirt for grammy-winning recording artist Pete Yorn.
Though they have not yet acquired a physical studio space yet, they are taking the first steps to establish themselves on the local scene. Here’s what these up-and-coming designers had to share with Buffalo Rising about their great endeavor.
BR: What inspired you to start your own studio?
Rob: Nick and I have been good friends since the first week of college at SUNY Fredonia. We played lacrosse, took almost all of the same classes and lived together all four years we were there, so we had a lot of time to dream this thing up.
Nick: A big part of being a designer is finding inspiration, the more we looked around we realized most of the great work we liked wasn’t being done in (or anywhere near) Buffalo. Being the proud WNY’ers we are, we knew we wanted to try and fill that void rather then join in somewhere else.
BR: What is your background in design?
Rob: After college, I moved to San Diego to get experience I didn’t think I could find in Buffalo, always having the intention of moving back after a few years to start a studio with Nick. I’ve done a lot of print work for some pretty big clients like Asics and Newcastle Brown Ale, as well as interactive work for clients like Yahoo and Volcom.
Nick: Once I graduated from college, I moved back to Rochester to work for a software company as a graphic designer. Not satisfied with the type of work I was able to produce there, I started freelancing on the side to fill that void. Before I knew it I was freelancing full-time for local bars/restaurants, bands, t-shirt companies and small businesses.
Emily: After attending The School of Visual Arts in NYC I decided to stay in the city for a few years to explore the connections and opportunities that I established during school. I started working for a studio where I designed a lot of print work for many large clients including Chopin Vodka, Columbia University and Domaine Chandon champagne. To broaden my work and creative skill set, I started to freelance on the side.
BR: What kind of work will you be featuring?
Rob: For us it’s about making things that make sense and making them look good. That’s what we are determined to do, no matter what. Whether it’s a poster for a band or corporate identity, people can expect to see a wide variety of work coming from Queen City Studio.
Emily: You can definitely expect to see a wide variety of work coming from QCS. I think our main goal is to always produce work that is meaningful and smart- to us and to the people that come in contact with it.
BR: Will you be working with other artists/designers outside the studio?
Rob: We would love to and hope that as our presence becomes more known those opportunities present themselves. Also, Queen City Studio is a collective design studio. So the hope is that other designers, and any type of creative really, see what we are doing and want to be a part of it and live under the QCS “roof”.
BR: Are there any new projects you are working on?
Rob: I am working on a website for a recent winner of the Pepsi Refresh challenge. It’s a community based website dedicated to all things mobile with a marketplace, reviews, articles, etc. I’m also redesigning tourist2townie.com, which is a travel blog of a friend and fellow Fredonia graduate. I also just redesigned our blog, which is “a visual cleanse by Queen City Studio”.
Nick: I am working on a website redesign of a great restaurant/bar/music venue near RIT’s campus in Rochester called Lovin’ Cup. I am doing some t-shirt designs for Sesh Apparel, an design forward action sports clothing line I have been dreaming up for a while now. But, most of all spreading the word about the Queen City.
Emily: After working on a logo for an up and coming health care company, I have started designing packaging for some of their new supplements. I am also working on wedding invitations and continue to work on personal projects.
BR: What challenges have you faced with opening your own studio?
Rob: We are just starting out. A year ago we didn’t even have a website. So we don’t have an actual space or anything just yet. For now we are just trying to establish ourselves both internally and externally.
BR: Can you tell us more about the BFLO/a creative series project?
Rob: In college, some of the best and most well received work I did was self-initiated and for fun. After working in the field for a few years I realized I wasn’t doing any of that stuff anymore so the BFLO series was born. Buffalo has such a rich history, yet so many people don’t know it or even worse they’ve forgotten about it. So I was able to start doing the personal projects I loved doing and maybe teach a few people some interesting things about Buffalo, visually. Basically, I sit down and start researching some random thing about Buffalo. I usually dig around for a phrase, sentence, or image that really stands out to me and build the piece around that. Most of the people who see them really enjoy them, whether they are from Buffalo or not. Once the series is a bit larger I’d love to have them printed and displayed in a gallery or something sometime. You can only enjoy a .jpg so much.
BR: What are your goals for the future?
Rob: For starters, when people think of design, creativity, and Buffalo, we want QCS to at least cross their mind. And secondly, we want to have an actual, physical, studio space in the next few years. The goal is to have a space that is half design studio and half gallery/storefront – it’s a very popular model for designers and studios these days and it’s something that would be great for the city of Buffalo.
Nick: I would say really becoming a part of the community, whether it be the art or the design community, or the various revitalization projects that are going on. Queen City Studio isn’t just about design, it’s about Buffalo. We know we aren’t the only ones that feel the way we do and we know we are new to the scene. We’re committed to joining others to help put the city back on the map as a powerful, influential voice in the nations creative community
Emily: To get the QCS name out there and establish a reputation for doing great design. We don’t want people to think that “good” design only comes from major cities- it can come from Buffalo too!