OMFGco is a group of creative/talented “thing makers” out of Portland, Oregon. Their design agency runs the gamut from print to signage to interiors, all of which looks and feels great. Mathew Foster, Fritz Mesenbrink, and Jeremy Pelley are guys behind OMFGco and I shot them some questions about what they do.
Be sure to click around their site.
For those who are not familiar with OMFGco. please tell us a little about yourselves.
We are thing makers based in Portland, Oregon. We are a multi-disciplinary design studio that isn’t afraid to get our hands dirty, or try things we’ve never done before.
How did the 3 of you come together to form OMFGco?
J: We crossed paths between our time spent at Wieden+Kennedy, Ace Hotel, and some other freelance jobs and became friends. We were all tired of working by ourselves and decided to try to make our own company happen. Seems to be working, so far at least.
M: There wasn’t a huge premeditation to make this the way it has become, initially – we were in a studio together, realizing that we worked really well together, and the decision to make it official was really natural.
F: Starting the company was probably the easiest thing we’ve done. Running the company has been lot more challenging.
Do you ever get people thinking that OMFGco stands for “Oh My Fucking God Company” instead of “Official Manufacturing Company” like I did?
M: The acronym coincidence was totally unplanned, a happy accident that we just own now.
F: Yeah, we realized it while we were trying to purchase shorter urls than http://officialmanufacturingcompany.com, which is a long one. We went to officialmanufacturingco.com, then officialmfgco.com then omfgco.com and said, “oh my fucking god, that’s it!”
J: It happens all the time. And that is kinda what we wanted to have happen. Its funnier that way.
Do the 3 of you have similar tastes in design, or are you all different? Care to break down each person’s aesthetic/style?
J: We all have our own styles and tastes, but they are congruent with one other in many ways. Fritz always has a smile on his face and is usually wearing purple somewhere on his person and loves sports and doesn’t get to sleep in anymore. Mathew likes to channel his creativity from a heavy dose of metal or rock, and thinks the best ideas come along with a glass of whiskey, or vice versa. I grew up skateboarding and listening to punk and hip hop in Texas, learning very early that if I wanted my life to be cool, I had to make it that way.
M: We generally all love the same stuff. Our swipe/eye candy folders of inspiring things we find do bleed over a lot.
F: We’re all into bikes, cameras, dumb jokes, and TCBing.
When it comes time to tackle a project, how do you guys run it with 3 people? Is everyone involved in each job, are certain people in charge of certain things or do you all trade hats? Organized chaos?
J: Organized chaos is fairly accurate. In the early days, we all used to work on everything all the time, because we all like to be involved in the overarching ideas and directions for our branding and designs. But we are finally getting better at dividing and conquering individually while still maintaining a point of view that we can all get behind.
F: It’s really different for us job to job, because some of the jobs require all of our attention the whole time, and others are really a one person job once the big idea is figured out. We all have and know our strengths & weaknesses now, which helps out a lot in the process of divvying tasks.
The first thing I recall seeing from you guys a while back was the “Spirit of 77” stuff which nails the sporty vibe of yesteryear to a T. How much research goes into something like that?
J: It was a mix of research and a point of view. Not all of us are the biggest sports fans, but we liked the challenge of making a sports bar a warm and welcoming space with a cool vibe. Portland is a rare place in which Blazer fans range from hardcore sports fans to total metal- head-heshers to fixie-riders to skaters to families in the nosebleeds. We really wanted to play on that and see what we could cull from the era when all sports and the graphics associated with them were cool.
You point yourselves out as “thing makers” and you run the gamut from print/design to interior stuff. Is any one thing more rewarding than the other for you?
J: It’s all fun for us. We love working on projects that we can believe in, either because we like who is doing it, or because we feel like it is actually contributing something good to the world. Its not worth it otherwise.
F: For me the 3D tangible stuff is the most rewarding. I like that you have more of a chance to physically interact with it once it’s done. (and then pick it all apart and lay awake at night thinking about how we could do it next time).
Who would you consider OMFGco’s first big client or job to be, and what did you produce for them?
J: Our first client as OMFGCO was Olympic Provisions, but they weren’t “big” necessarily. We did their overarching brand and identity, and we are still continuing to work with them to this day. Our first “big” client would be Nike, and we produced some books (with a bunch of photos we shot for them) and room designs for some big internal marketing events.
True or false. You guys must all be fans of typography.
M: Duh, true.
F: Death to False Typography.
What is your favorite medium to work in?
M: That seems to be a question for artists, not designers.
J: Anything with my hands. Its great to use a computer as a tool, but we all love to get away
from it and have something you can actually interact with at the end of the day. F: Wood. But I’m starting to like metal more and more.
Who are 3 people that inspire each of you and why?
J: The skateboarding inventiveness of Richie Jackson, the simple elegance of the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy, and the drumming styles of Slayer’s Dave Lombardo.
M: This changes a lot, depending on how drunk I may be at any moment… a book on Tibor Kalman got me initially interested in being a designer – the work from M&Co had this tongue- in-cheek edge that I feel we try to incorporate in our work. Kapital in Japan is consistently amazing in both their clothing and brand presence, as well as the singular vision of Christophe Loiron at Mister Freedom. Oh, and Steve Powers. That’s 4!
F: Enzo, my son. He’s 14 months old and such an amazing little person. It’s just crazy how fast they can learn new words and skills. And he’s such a joker. He makes me want to be the best person I possibly can. I think Aaron Draplin is inspiring. The dude is prolific. He cranks out so much good work and manages to make a ton of awesome stuff for himself, all while maintaining his no-bullshit attitude. And he’s a great guy. Maybe an obvious one, but Charles and Ray Eames would be my third one. Has anyone else ever made so many cutting edge things that were also so timeless? Even when they failed it was cool and interesting. Plus I’m a sucker for anything out of bent-ply.
If we were to look at your personal desk/work station, what would we see?
J: A big ol’ monitor, a laptop, a wacom tablet, a children’s wide-ruled paper stack, a few books, an old metal drawer stack, computer speakers, a few external hard drives, a danish bent ply stacked file holder, a vintage orange Swingline “cub plier” stapler, a vintage poker chip with nice typography, cube beads that have letters on them to spell OMFGCO, a vintage Oregon postcard, a leaf skeleton, a black desk lamp, a Stumptown Coffee mug from Wes Lang full of coffee, a letter opener that looks like a knife, and a beaded OMFGCO art piece made by our friend Susanna. Probably some other minimal clutter, too, but those are the mainstays.
F: Piles. I’m the least organized of us. Got the same big monitor, which blocks my view of Jeremy (so I often talk to him when he’s not at his desk) A stack of hard drives, several vintage rulers, piles of papers for just about every project we’re working on, a pile of about 100 Polaroids that for some reason doesn’t have a home. I’m starting to get self-conscious about it now that you’re making me write all of this out. It’s like a psychological test or trick or something. Did Mathew put you up to this? And a bike helmet and some film.
M: Tools to work with.
If we were to look around the OMFGco office, what are some things we would see?
J: Cameras, tools, computers, books, piles. coffee. beer. old beautiful objects. Bikes, papers…
F: and Interns, and Mathew & Jeremy
M: My dog, Diego.
J: & Fritz.
What are some websites you frequent daily?
F: Lately, TheSamba searching for VW Doka. Otherwise, I’m not much of a blog looker, I’ll get too distracted and waste a bunch of time if I go “surfing”. I typically just wait for Mathew to send me a link. He’s my human blog filter.
Are there any current projects you guys are working on that you would care to spill the beans about?
J: We’re working on a store in Los Angeles for a large clothing retailer, as well as the interior for a new location of Portland’s heavy metal pizza, Sizzle Pie. We’re also working on branding for Vanport Outfitters, a local company who makes gorgeous leather and canvas bags, a food cart, a bahn mi shop, a chocolate maker, a furniture maker, and ongoing things with our neighbors at ADX, Olympic Provisions and Spirit of 77.
Thanks for your time, anything you would like to add before we wrap this?
You are very welcome, and no.
Bonus question – Have you been to Voodoo Doughnuts? And if so, what is your favorite doughnut?
J: Yes, and the maple bacon bar and the blueberry cake doughnuts are tied for me.
F: The Maple Blazer Blunt is my fave. Otherwise I’m into the classics, old fashioned donuts & maple bars.
M: (no comment.)