New York-based designers Leta Sobierajski and Wade Jeffree are loved-up and a match made in high-impact visual heaven.
Not only do the artistic couple live and work together, they also collaborate on an ambitious personal project entitled Complements. Referencing their own unique intimacy, Leta and Wade explore the weird and wonderful realms of love and relationships in bright photographic portraits. Think simultaneous spaghetti eating or surrealist sticky-taped visages and you get a ringside seat to their quirky aesthetic sensibilities!
Their studio combines traditional graphic design elements with photography, art, fashion, and technology to create satisfying and emotional visuals. The couple are headed to State Library of Queensland’s The Edge as part of a national AGDA talk series later this month and kindly answered our questions for Design Online.
What does a creative day look like for you?
W: For us, work and life are intertwined, so we see every day as a creative day. We also do everything together, well, except one thing… leave the apartment for the studio — that’s our time to collect thoughts and digest the best moves for the day, clear our minds.
L: Productive days are the best days! As Wade said, every day we are “on” unless we happen to be on holiday. Typically, I’ll get to the studio shortly after Wade and we will divide our tasks for the day. We don’t work on the same project simultaneously because, from our experience, we burn out too quickly when that happens. Instead, we alternate responsibilities so we have variety in our daily tasks.
One day we are designing a logo and the next we are photographing a campaign. The variation is refreshing and essential.
Explain the Complement project and how that came about?
L: We complement each other through our personalities, interests, and mannerisms. It’s as simple as that really. On a particular summer morning two years ago, we were preparing for the day and going about our separate yet synonymous routines, and were ultimately inspired by our compatibility even in the most mundane of situations. Our series explores that complementary relationship through portrait photography in which we share our penchant for humorous and often oddball imagery.
W: We began Complements quite early on in our relationship. We became close rather quickly and knew that, regardless of how little time we had spent together, we were incredibly complementary to each other. Both being graphic designers, we wanted an opportunity to work together as our full-time work would not allow it. We photographed our first of the series around June 2014 and continued to evolve the series (and our relationship) from there onwards.
How do you keep your creative energy flowing? Where does the inspiration come from?
L: Every project we do seems to involve a new challenge, whether it be sewing costumes, building human tables, covering ourselves head to toe in body paint… you get the picture! A project typically begins with research, and we try to avoid bingeing on visual stimulation via the internet, so a more favourable option is to pursue our extensive book collection or go visit a gallery.
W: I guess that covers it! We try not to do things the same way twice, this way, whether it’s through collaborations, reading or just playing we can learn and get better. My thinking is that if you don’t know something, work with someone who does.
What are five design books/magazines that you have on your book shelf? (We have to ask you that since we are a library!)
W: You will be happy to know that I have a problem, and it is that I collect books! On our travels it can often become a problem as I have to carry them and risk my luggage being overweight. On a recent trip to Japan I found a book that I have been searching for since my first studies, I literally screamed out “Fuck off!” when I saw it on the shelf — that said book is The Work of Ikko Tanaka, [published in 1975 and designed by Katsumi Asada]. It documents the work of none other than Ikko Tanaka, my hero.
L: I could go one for days, but there is nothing like flicking through a book and being inspired.
Why is design important to you?
W: From a personal perspective, design allowed me an outlet from an early age. In high school I was introduced to the thinking and mentality of design as something that wasn’t just for me — maybe that taught me to be somewhat selfless in the pursuit of creating. I think that idea still stands whether the objective is for a commercial purpose or more for self-expression, there is an acknowledgement that others can take something from what you create, no matter what it is. There’s something beautiful in that.
L: Dependent on the scope of the design you are working on, there are many things that are important, as everything is designed. The keyboard I am typing on, the headphones I have on, the bike I rode in on — that, of course, is only on the man-made perspective — nature is on another level when it comes to design…but I hope we all know that.
Who is your double doppelganger? E.g. two people who resemble you when their faces are combined. Example: The Queen = Elizabeth Taylor and Dame Edna.
W: Good question! Tough! Maybe Adam Driver and Adrien Brody—that just might be in the nose though 🙂
L: Anne Hathaway and Rachel Bilson. We think!