Dennis McInnes & George Edge, Cave Studio, Creative Founders & Graphic Designers, London

Dennis McInnes & George Edge, Cave Studio, Creative Founders & Graphic Designers, London

ART

INTERVIEW

7 MINUTE READ

WORDS BY

Israel Musa

Can I ask what your job titles are, and what do these titles really mean?

 

Dennis:  

We are both the co-founders and creative directors of Cave Studio. We are graphic designers, traditionally. That is our medium of creativity.

 

What does the day-to-day of this role look like for you? 

 

George:  

We work across a range of projects at one time. We feel quite lucky that we get to work with so many different brands in different industries and dip into these separate worlds at the same time. Week to week, you’re kind of jumping from a fashion brand to a tech brand, or learning about a new way of milling metal or something.¬†

 

Did you guys go to university or college? And if so, how did it help? What are the formative experiences that have landed you where you are now?

 

George:  

Dennis and I had quite different university experiences. I went to Glasgow School of Art and did graphic design but it was a super conceptual course and I was quite frustrated. At first I had imagined going to university as this thing where I would arrive and download all of these new skills, but I came to find that that’s exactly what I needed for the process that I now have. I think Dennis and I both have that same outlook, but we’ve arrived from different positions.

 

Dennis: 

I was what people might call a ‚Äúlate bloomer‚ÄĚ, creatively. I just liked making stuff in a creative way and working with people and I ended up studying Fashion Communication. We had a semester on graphic design and then that was all I wanted to do for the rest of the course. That caught my attention, and from that moment I became obsessed with looking at stuff on Tumblr.¬†

 

Can you briefly walk us through the inception of Cave Studio? What led you to come together and establish it?

 

Dennis:  

It’s a tale of two people ending up in the same room and having really similar sensibilities towards taste and design. We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and we just ended up being the two nerdy designers in the corner talking about stuff and geeking out. That led to us wanting to hang out and do that more often. With time we were like, Okay, let’s work together, let’s collaborate on something. We worked on one project and then that became like, Oh, let’s do this thing together, and that slowly snowballed into us just wanting to work together as a duo.¬†

 

George:

As for the name, when Dennis and I were working on our first project together my girlfriend and I were on holiday in the south of Spain. We found this converted cave Airbnb which we stayed in the whole week. Dennis had just moved house and he was in his own little dungeon. We were both in our caves and making jokes about ‚Äúcave studios‚ÄĚ. So, when we came around to actually naming the studio and formalising the business, it had already named itself.

What were you doing before creating Cave Studio?

 

George:

I was freelancing – working on similar projects but as a single entity. What I really missed during that time though was being able to bounce ideas off someone. I think that design needs to have a kind of community. When you’re working as an individual for a brand and you can’t really access that relationship with someone before sending the work it feels like there is something missing. Meeting Dennis felt almost like a blessing, because it’s meeting someone that thinks in the same way as you and understands things in the same way as you. It feels like you found your soulmate.

 

Dennis:  

I had a slightly less traditional route. My first internship was NTS radio, creating digital assets that they would use for show promotions. I then ended up working at MTV as an intern. I went from being an intern to a senior designer at VICE media, where I had to manage my own department building a whole design team that would eventually be the team that created all the editorial design and contributed to the film assets for the documentaries and motion graphics. I then had a six month stint at Nike. That was at the beginning of COVID and, during that time, George and I had already sort of established this idea that we wanted to work together. So I left my team and just felt like that would be the logical next step.

"We don't just take things at surface value. We go very deep into each subject and try to find things that resonate with the concepts of the world."

Your studio speaks about ‚Äúunearthing visual stories‚ÄĚ. How do you ensure you capture the essence of a brand or artist in your designs?

 

Dennis:

The core value of the phrase ‚Äúunearthing visual stories‚ÄĚ is that we try to go very deep into research. We don’t just take things at surface value. The research aspects of our role as designers is one of our favourite parts of the process. We go very deep into each subject and try to find things that resonate with the concepts of the world. These can be things that are outside of design themselves. We find these interesting nuances in old work or cultural movements or in a book. We find some correlation between what this new thing is supposed to be and what that old thing might have been, and we find a way to create a new language through the merging of old or new. I think there’s so much rich information out there that you can build so many new forms of thinking and designing from just being curious about stuff.¬†

 

George:

A lot of clients come to us with an aesthetic value that they have in their head or a reference point. However, we tend to divert more to the cultural or emotional feeling of the project. Deep diving into that, sometimes you come across some visual reference that’s way more interesting than the original reference point. And from that we can create something that feels so right for the project, but also visually new in that realm.

 

Can you explain your process from end-to-end?

 

George:

Say you’ve come to us and you need branding for your new handbag company – we would look into why this product has value. Say, maybe, it has leather that’s from a specific part of Italy‚Ķ Dennis and I are quite interested in history, so we’d look into what the process of that leather is. Maybe there’s some icon that was used to stamp this leather 100 years ago. That leads us down an iconography path and we end up in this fun, non-linear process. Then we build the visual from that. We’re always referencing back to the more surface level reason of what the client is trying to do. In this example it’s to sell bags, but we like to pair that deep research with a kind of key visuals that clients need to meet the audience they’re looking for.

Given that you operate within fashion, music, art and more, how do you adapt your design approach to each specific realm? 

 

Dennis: 

We try not to be overly prescriptive to the medium. We have a very purist idea of what design is and we think that can be translated in any form. We approach all these different mediums or industries or sectors with the mentality of a purist designer. There is no real difference to me between creating a pattern that gets added onto a dress as there is in making a logo for someone. It’s bringing shapes and forms and lines and some of them you can read, and some of them have embellishments, but I see both things as graphic design. In short, we don’t prescriptively adapt our style to those different things. We just see them as all forms of graphic design.

"There's so much rich information out there that you can build so many new forms of thinking and designing from just being curious."

Even with a purist approach, the creative industry is always evolving. How do you ensure your designs remain fresh and relevant? 

 

Dennis: 

We try not to be influenced by what’s happening now. There was probably a point in time where, in our formative years, we idolised a lot of the trendy designers, the guys who are getting spoken about the most and who have a really significant or specific style that people can recognise. We have kind of matured past that stage and realised that being open minded to design allows for a lot more creative freedom, and that means that we haven’t ever formed an aesthetic style that people could be like, Oh, that’s exactly the studio that does that thing all the time. That helps us keep every project feeling unique to itself and less about us. That’s probably the best way to avoid feeling like you have to stay ahead of the curve. That’s not something we ever have to worry about because we trust our decision making.

"Over time you experience the ups and downs of a project and you figure out how you work and you think, Okay, cool, I'll just stick to my own instincts."

Where does the confidence to trust your own decision making and tune out the noise come from?

 

Dennis:

It definitely takes time to get to that mental place. I’d be lying if I said that I’d always had that perspective. Over time you experience the ups and downs of a project and you figure out how you work and you think, Okay, cool, I’ll just stick to my own instincts. The times where I’ve not trusted myself or I’ve not been as confident in my decisions, things haven’t formulated in the best way. It’s time and experience that’s got me to a point of not worrying about the outside world too much in terms of other designers or other design trends.

 

George:  

Going back to mentioning why working with Dennis is so great for me personally‚Ķ Just finding like minded people that you can develop ideas with, I think that builds confidence. For one, you’re getting out of yourself and you’re presenting something, even if it’s to your best friend. But if you both are interested in design you kind of grow together, and you kind of enrich each other’s process.

 

How do you see Cave Studio evolving in the next five years, especially with the rapidly changing digital landscape?

 

George: 

We are both very conscious that we want a smaller studio, as it allows for experimentation; doing your own self-initiated work, less corporate influence or need for those kind of processes. We were very set on growing sustainably, wanting to match the kind of organic path that will work as the work comes in. We want to grow sustainably being able to keep working on projects we work on.

Lastly, for budding graphic designers out there, what advice would you offer when it comes to storytelling and pushing boundaries in design? 

 

George: 

I think it’s within yourself. It’s trusting your decision making, as Dennis said. And it’s having people around you that challenge you, that can make you think, help you develop and work on things quickly while pushing the boundary. Obviously we’re not a finished article and never will be, so at any stage of your career if you remember that, it kind of frees you up a bit and you can just try and seek out work that you find fulfilling.

 

Dennis: 

The thing that helped me get to a good place creatively was following my intuition. Allowing that to guide me and not being too worried about the end result while at the beginning. When you’re a young designer, just don’t let any one thing negate your idea. It’s really good to be experimental. Try things out. And with time, you will figure out your processes. Follow your intuition.

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