Variety Show is the design studio of the Asays, a husband-and-wife cooperative of Mike (illustrator + letterer) and Amber (designer + creative director). The studio produces “inspiring work with purpose,” which includes helping clients with brand identity projects. They do everything from concept and art direction to illustration, lettering, and typography.
The meaning behind the name comes from our love for early 20th century entertainment. We admire the art deco era when people were discovering other cultures, taking risks and applying it to the American lifestyle. The Vaudeville days weren’t just an expression of talents, but bringing different backgrounds together to create a truly diverse art piece. We strive for that stylistically, bringing different cultural stories and eras to our work. We have so much to learn from one another, and when we do it’s uplifting for everyone. — VS
Recently, the two launched their online shop of wall prints inspired by mid-century modern and minimalism styles. More products will be added soon, but for now you can purchase three prints on sale and read here for more information about the printing process at Mama’s Sauce. They also have a weekly series on their blog called Fortune Friday, in which they take turns designing or hand-lettering the messages from fortune cookies (check it out).
I really admire the studio’s clean and fresh work and wanted to know more about the artists behind it. See below for my interview with the design team…
Tell us a little about who you are and why you chose a career in the arts.
We were both born and raised in Southern California. We’ve grown up around music and performing arts and that ended up translating into visual arts. We are both very curious people who question and explore almost everything. And that mindset has made us who we are today. Creativity requires that type of thinking in order to come up with better solutions.
Why did you decide to start a business together?
We’ve always collaborated on creative work in one way or another. That’s basically how our friendship started — we were in art class and we’d ask for each others opinions on our projects and give honest feedback. All the way down to collaborating on our wedding invitations and website. We each have something different to offer to the creative process so when I’d need his strengths to fill in my weaknesses, it only made the work better. It just made sense that this would eventually happen, so we made it business official!
What is the most challenging thing about working with your spouse? What is the most rewarding thing about working with your spouse?
Our biggest challenge is time and resources. We both have full-time jobs and end up communicating a lot via email and texting. We actually don’t get to see each other often, which can hurt the collaborative process. In-person contact is so important for business owners —that’s the time to bounce ideas off each other and come up with new ones. Maybe someday we’ll have the same work schedules…I like to see my hubby from time to time!
The most rewarding thing is having this shared experience. You connect with co-workers on a different level than your spouse and celebrate combined efforts together. Now we’re both! We get to play and work together and I think that’s rewarding.
Do you always work as a team or do you each have individual projects on the side?
It happens to be a little of both. If there’s a hand-lettering project, that’s Mike’s expertise, but if it’s a graphic design/branding project, that’s mine.
Can you share some specific people, places or things that inspire your (individual or shared) aesthetic?
I’m just going to list whatever comes off the top of my head: Walt Disney, Paul Rand, Frank Lloyd Wright, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Herb Lubalin, Louise Filli, mid-century architecture and design, Art Deco, Scandinavian countries (and design), California, and Japanese calligraphy. I may have forgotten something, but that’s an idea of what/who inspires us.
What trends in design, past or present, do you favor the most?
That’s a tough question for us because we love combining everything together. It’s why we took on the name Variety Show. There’s so much inspiration out there (both past and present) that we like to add a little of this and that to our design. It all depends on the project and the concept.
How, if at all, has your design process evolved over time? Have you adapated to new techniques or do you mostly stick to what works best?
We’re always working on perfecting our craft and finding our niche that separates us from others. Process is so important because it plays into that. I think it’s evolved from a purely aesthetical place to a more theoretical place. We want our work to have a concept or story and that beginning part of the process is crucial to how it ends. Sometimes that concept will be the reason we take certain routes with our process. Each project is different, so it requires its own custom process and outcome.
What’s your favorite part of the design process and why?
We have two: We love concepting new ideas. There’s so much excitement and anticipation of what could be and the potential behind an idea that it gets us motivated to move forward. We also love when others embrace and appreciate the finished product. When others are positively affected by our work, it’s such a booster and confirms that we’re doing the right thing!
Who would be a dream client for Variety Show and why?
Right now we would love to work with Crate&Barrel or West Elm. They both have a good combination of mid-century modern, American, and Scandinavian design aesthetics that fit our style too.
To date, what design project in Variety Show’s portfolio are you most proud of and can you walk us through how it came to be?
We are definitely proudest of our shop right now. We’re starting very slow, but we have so many goals and ideas of what it could turn into. Bit by bit we’ll get there. Our posters were very experimental to see what our followers would gravitate towards. We love lettering, typography and illustration so we started with that as a foundation to build off of. Stay tuned for more products!
What do you think of Variety Show? Let’s talk in the comments!