2×4’s Co-Founder Georgie Stout on Message Over Medium


Designer and 2×4 co-founder Georgianna Stout lived in Paris before the bumpy transition to the US for elementary school. Unhappy at school, she graduated early and tried on Parsons for fashion design, but it wasn’t the right fit. At RISD, she found her people. The next few years were filled with deep connections, growth, and joy; eventually leading to a fruitful collaboration with her co-founders and the formalization of 2×4. Now 30 years in, 2×4 has grown to a team of 50 and has earned a stellar reputation supporting prestigious brands from Prada to MoMa. Georgie’s unique ability to build the right team for each project is one key to her magic.

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Clever is hosted & produced by Amy Devers, with editing by Mark Zurawinski, production assistance from Ilana Nevins and Anouchka Stephan, and music by El Ten Eleven

Georgie: I think I’m a really great editor and I bring people together and I’m really about taking an idea I think very visually a lot in terms of space and digital and I think that I have that ability to really create a great team and pull it off through a whole series of art directorial roles and collaborative efforts 

Amy: Hi everyone, I’m Amy Devers and this is Clever. And today I’m talking to Georgianna Stout. Georgianna, or Georgie as she is known, is a founding partner and executive creative director of 2×4 – a global design consultancy in NY with a focus on brand strategy for cultural and commercial clients who value the power of design. Her clients include Target, Starbucks, Instagram, Nike, Tiffany & Co., Tom Ford and Malin + Goetz. In the cultural sector, she has led brand identity and exhibition design for institutions such as the Cooper-Hewitt, Brooklyn Museum, Dia Art Foundation and the Studio Museum in Harlem. She has directed product development at 2×4 for Knoll, Maharam and Tarkett. 2×4 has notably been long-term collaborators with both Prada and REX, formerly OMA and is highly regarded, and quietly legendary in their field, for being early pioneers of a holistic, multidisciplinary creative approach to working with brands. You’ll hear Georgie make mention of her husband, David Weeks, a lighting designer, current Rome Prize winner, and early guest of Clever on Episode 12. She’s thoughtful, kind, and a creative force of enormous magnitude…. Here’s Georgie

Georgie: Hi, I’m Georgie Stout and I live in Brooklyn, New York. I work in Manhattan in the Soho area of New York. I have a design studio called 2×4 and I am one of three partners. My partners are Michael Rock and Susan Sellers and we run a creative studio that really merges brand with experience in kind of, in all the ways a brand can come to life. So it could be brand identity, it could be something much more experiential in terms of a retail space or a corporate space. We do a lot of cultural work as well so we work in all realms of design. 

Amy: And it’s been a delight to research all the work that you’ve done. It’s also been really interesting to me how you were able to carve this wide open space from a very long time ago when that was relatively unheard of. We’ll get into that but before we get there I really want to know a bit about how Georgie got to be Georgie, so can you take us all the way back to your youth, your family dynamic, and the formative experiences that left an impression on you? 

Georgie: Yeah, so I was born in New York City. My parents met at college and ended up both being in New York and getting together here. I was born in the city and my full name is Georgianna and my mom had wanted me to be Janna which was one of her best friends but I was also named after my father’s grandmother and just became Georgie which was one of those names growing up where everybody was like, ‘That’s a boy’s name,’ or had opinions about. I honestly haven’t met that many Georgies in my life, so I appreciate it and I like having that kind of space to have developed my personality within. So I grew up initially in New York. My parents traveled a lot for work. My father was a programmer early on and he would get sent all over the place for different projects and the family would go with him. When I was young I lived in Arizona.

Amy: A clarifying question: A programmer early on. What is the life of an early on programmer like?

Georgie: He studied math in college and started doing computer programming in the 60s so it was really the kind of foundational languages that allow computers to just turn on and create. And what was interesting about him was he was a mathematician but he was also an artist. He had really wanted to be an artist but that wasn’t really a viable ‘career’ at those times so he was pushed into engineering by his family and then eventually into math and that’s the path he took. But he had this very creative mind so growing up he worked doing his programming during the day and then at night he painted and also was an amazing photographer so a lot of my childhood photography, I have no color snapshots of my life growing up, but I have these artful, beautiful black and white pictures of my sister and I. (Laughter) So it’s kind of amazing but also a lot of times I miss whole chunks, like I have no photographs of my home growing up because that wasn’t interesting to him as a subject matter. (Laughs)

Amy: Right, no standard blowing out the birthday candles. (Laughs)

Georgie: Totally, none of that. And because cameras were kind of a novel thing at that point you either had your little automatic camera or my dad would have a black and white that he would walk around with. We never were a family that just had a little color photo camera around.

Amy: Just composed art photos. (Laughs)

Georgie: Yes, totally. 

Amy: Wow. I also wondered if somebody who didn’t know you at all discovered your life through these photos, what do you think they would discern from them? 

Georgie: It’s very romanticized because I think the biggest part of that childhood story is that we ended up moving to Paris when I was about four until when I was about eight. I had a younger sister, two years younger, so we went to France and lived in Paris for four years and that was an amazing experience both from when I look back on it visually as documented by my dad, also because every weekend we ended up going somewhere, so there’s pictures of us in Ireland and Greece and just all over in these really amazing black and white photos. So it’s very romanticized, I would say. (Laughs)

Amy: Sounds like it. I mean it also sounds legit romantic.

Georgie: Yeah, and I think they had a great philosophy about life which was just do whatever. It wasn’t fancy by any means, it was very much just driving in our Renault 4 tin can car through the countryside and finding a hotel to stay in. It was very cool like that.

Amy: Embracing the adventure of life in a scrappy and resourceful way.

Georgie: Yeah, and my mom was always present and she didn’t work at that time so she was just with us and making our lives happen in a really fun way.

Amy: It does sound like a very romantic childhood. One of the things that sounds amazing about it, too, is from four to eight you get this picture of the world outside of your domestic landscape and any sort of ethnocentrism was probably completely dissolved. And your worldview is now shaped growing up from a much broader perspective.

Georgie: I think that’s right and also they would call themselves ‘beatniks’ when we lived in New York. I’ve had people say, “Your parents are such hippies,” and my mom would take very big (laughs) issue with that. They had a very open, and I think art was a very big part of the vision. So I went to a Rudolf Steiner school in Paris where I learned no practical. When I came back to the States I couldn’t read, I was way behind in math, but I knew how to knit, I knew how to play recorder, I could do pottery. I was very crafty and could create in all these different ways. The way we learned math was through drawing on a clock, you would draw your timetables, start at 12 and go three, six, nine with drawing and stuff like that. So my whole intro to those bigger concepts was through art in a way.

Amy: It sounds like the concept of embodied and visual learning was very much baked into it. That’s really interesting, so it sort of makes sense that graphic design is an avenue that you would choose to explore it later on. Because it probably on some level it’s in your…

Georgie: It does all those things.

Amy: Yeah. (Laughter)

Georgie: It’s sort of in my DNA, yeah.

Amy: Exactly. Okay, so we have a romanticized black and white image of your childhood, international, the daughter of beatniks, traveling around, seeing all manner of interesting places in the world. Where did that go from into your teenage years and how did you reconcile yourself with who you were becoming? 

Georgie: It was interesting to come back to the States because I think my parents, we didn’t really know anything about America, weirdly. It wasn’t something you would talk about or think about really. You were just living your life as a child, right? But you were learning mostly European ways, history, mostly French, right? Then we came back to the States. My parents came ahead and my mom decided that she didn’t want us to grow up in New York City but wanted to be somewhere where we could just have a more down to earth childhood and be in nature and whatever. My dad, though, did need proximity to the city so they drew a circle around New York City and they looked in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Long Island. We ended up moving to East Hampton of all places which this was 1976 so it was very much based around this artistic community. There were a lot of writers there, a lot of artists historically had been there. So essentially moved to the beach in this amazing, beautiful spot which was an amazing place to grow up. But also a kind of rude awakening in terms of education and American culture. We felt like we didn’t know anything about it so the first day of school when everyone stood up to do the Pledge of Allegiance, I was clueless. What are these people doing? This is cult-ish. What are they talking about? You know what I mean? (Laughs)  It was just very, very confusing and it was never explained. The whole thing was just so confusing to me. (Laughs) Then like I said, i was in whatever it was like the yellow notebook for math which was the lowest and I was a horrible speller which I to this day am, everything that I learned I had to kind of, I came in at third grade so I missed those foundational first and second grades where you learn all that stuff. So I just dove in and did my best but I was not a great student probably until sixth grade because I was just sort of catching up.

Amy: That’s interesting. I don’t think we give a lot of thought to it, but the way that you’re taught, it’s been sort of codified, right? So if you have to transplant yourself from one manner of teaching into another one where everyone who is your classmates, they got the brief, they got the memo, they’re doing it the way it’s done here. And you have to assimilate now because you are essentially trying to assimilate to an inside language that nobody is realizing they need to go back and explain to you. (Laughter)

Georgie: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. Actually I remember, too, because it was 1976 it was the Bicentennial and the first big school activity was the dress up as pilgrims and go. And East Hampton has an old windmill so there was a maypole and I remember my mom sewing us and finding it hilariously fun to sew all these colonial outfits with bonnets. We were just like, ‘What is this place? I don’t understand. Why are we dancing aro–und this pole? Why am I wearing an apron? I don’t get it.’ It was so, so confusing. (Laughter) That was my first year here and I was just like, ‘I don’t understand.’ 

Amy: That is so funny. (Laughter) It’s so funny to look at the cultures and customs that you were raised in from an outsider’s perspective and just see how absurd they are.

Georgie: Yeah.

Amy: Yeah. (Laughs)

Georgie: So funny. 

Amy: Yeah. So feeling like an outsider, but also in your homeland, did you feel a certain familiarity as well? And did those two eventually find some reconciliation with each other?

Georgie: I think so. I feel like there was obviously an awkward period of time. I don’t remember how long, but the place itself was so amazing and I made great friends right away. Just being around the ocean for example was such a huge influence on centering you and being in this place where people joke that in the summer on the last day of school you would take your shoes off and put them back on the first day of school. (Laughter) So it was really living in this really natural place and just finding connection with that.

Amy: That does sound idyllic. You said around sixth grade you started becoming a good student. What about around ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade when puberty hits and you’re really forging your identity and you’re stating your values through the things, the way that you express yourself. What did that look like? 

Georgie: I had this one teacher in sixth grade, she was sort of known in the education system there. Her name was Pinkie. Her name was Violet Webb but everyone called her Pinkie and just her particular way of teaching was really like what you hear a lot about now. We said poetry every Wednesday, you had to learn a poem, I was an expert in Shel Silverstein of course. And you had to bring in a news item every Monday. Do you remember how The New York Times used to have those ‘in brief,’ kind of the first page of the printer New York Times and it had the overview of the news? I would always be reading it in the car on the way to school. Just things like that put me much more in touch with the world in a sense. Not just ‘we’re learning everything in this classroom,’ but really thinking about the world in a broader sense. 

We started language at that time so there was just a lot more going on, I think. Ninth grade is when you moved into the high school there so that was a really exciting, fun year and I remember really great English classes and really great art and having a really great social experience at first. But then immediately coming up against the whole high school way that happens, the popular versus the artsy versus the whatevers. I think I just did all of it so it was fine but then I started going more into an art place which wasn’t really ‘cool’ I guess. So a lot of those things split there and I really wasn’t happy at all at that school after that. My sophomore year was fine, my junior/senior year were just really not fun. (Laughs)

Amy: What kind of miserable? Was it socially? Intellectually? Creatively? 

Georgie: I had a great group of friends but it was very much a small group that didn’t fit in in a sense. It was kind of a combination and I’m sure that when you look back at things you kind of exaggerate them to a degree but it culminated in my senior year being really unhappy and my mom, as always, recognizing these things before I do said, “Maybe you can graduate in half a year. Why don’t we talk to the school or whatever?” 

Also my mom was always in touch with my whole group of friends essentially, so my one other really close friend and I both decided to not do our senior year. We basically took half a year. We had to double up on gym, that was the only thing we had to double up on in order to graduate. We were so bad at gym, too. When they did field hockey they would let us play golf instead for example. (Laughter) So we were never fitting in, you know what I mean? We were always the ones who they were like, ‘just let them play golf around the track for gym because they can’t do the field hockey thing.’ (Laughs)

Amy: So it sounds like your mom sort of came to the rescue with that solution.

Georgie: Yeah.

Amy: But if you don’t mind, I’d love to unpack the unhappiness a little bit because I just think it shows resilience any time you’re able to overcome a challenge. Was the nature of your unhappiness due to feeling like you didn’t fit in?

Georgie: Mostly social stuff. I kind of felt like I didn’t fit in, but I didn’t see that as a negative per se. I was happy being me, I just didn’t feel like being there. So I would do other things and I had friends outside of school and I had friends inside of school, but I just kind of heads down, did what I liked to do, and didn’t get involved in the bigger scene, I guess.

Amy: Okay, so like your feet are happy and you have all these sandals and barefoot moments that feel really, really good. But then school felt like this really uncomfortable pinch-y shoe that you just couldn’t wait to get out of.

Georgie: Yeah, I think that’s right. Because summers were always so much fun and everybody, there would be all these different people influx into town during that time so you would have all these different experiences. Then school felt more like heads down time.

Amy: Do you feel like the structure of school was part of the problem? The sort of rote memorization?

Georgie: I think so, and I just wasn’t great at that stuff, right? I liked the concept of math. I liked the concept of science. But I just wasn’t great at sitting at a desk and just sitting there and doing whatever I had to do. I was definitely interested in the arts and I did a lot of work outside of that, but I didn’t really recognize it as what I was going to do in the future. It was just part of what I was interested in. In fact I was really interested in fashion and I was interested in photography and I was interested in all these things which to me added up to a career in fashion design. Mostly because I had no idea that graphic design was even a thing. I knew there was advertising because my bedroom was papered with Calvin Klein ads and all of that. So I had all of that visual awareness, but I thought that advertising was men with cameras taking photos of Brooke Shields with her clothes half off, you know. 

Amy: Right. Right. (Laughs)

Georgie: That was my vision of what advertising was. So I was like, ‘I want to make the clothes because I don’t want to be in that world.’ Right?

Amy: Yeah.

Georgie: So that was it. Meanwhile I just wasn’t aware of the breadth of what you could do and I’ve heard that story from other designers. It just wasn’t really an awareness that those careers were things you could do. Of course I knew architecture which also seemed to be all older men doing some kind of large skyscrapers in my tunnel vision of what it was. I knew painting in the sense of de Kooning lived out there. Not that there were no women models, but was like somehow felt very untouchable, a lot of those things. So to me it was like, ‘I want to make these clothes and I want to just figure out how to do that.’

Amy: I hear that story from so many people and it’s also my same story. I had all these creative impulses in high school but I had no idea where to place them and how to think of them as something that I could turn into a career. I also had my room littered with all of these posters and it was an incredibly creative interior space that I was really excited about. But same. It all added up to fashion design for me, at first at least. Until I found a different path. So catch me up. If this is leading to what you think is fashion design and you graduated early, what did that mean for your college trajectory? 

Georgie: So I graduated early which meant just walking out mid-year, and then the deal was that second half of the year was going to be making my portfolio and getting that work together. I actually went back to Paris on my own and stayed with a friend of hers and I did a ton of photography while I was there and took French at the Alliance Francaise (laughs) and just trying to reengage with that part of my life. Then I came back and was just sewing a lot, making clothes. I was really into collage so I did a bunch of almost fashion ads, but I was collaging existing stuff. Things like that, so most of my portfolio was that. I took a water color class I think, and i remember going to one of those portfolio day fairs at Pratt in the 85. Which Pratt in the 85 was very much in a kind of ‘dangerous’ area. It was not very user friendly from a young girl, out-of-towner point of view. But I remembered going to that and they were like, ‘we’ll accept you right now.’ I applied to Pratt, I applied to Parsons, I applied to I think what was called the Museum School at the time in Boston, I applied to RISD. I got in all of them and I was wait-listed at RISD. I didn’t really have a preference. I thought New York was best for fashion so I was like, ‘Parsons seems like the right fit,’ and went and started school there. I remember going to their kind of assembly night where you learn about all the different things you could go into in your sophomore year and sitting through. There’s illustration, there’s painting, there’s architecture, interior design, furniture and what have you. And when they got to graphic design I was like, ‘that’s what I do, that’s what I do, I could do that.’ It was this eye-opener, ‘oh, actually collage is just designing things with words.’ It was like this light went on in my head. Suddenly I felt like that’s really what I want to do, I don’t want to do fashion. Also being in New York and understanding better what the fashion design scene was. I’m not competitive enough, I’m not that ambitious that I want to do that, I just don’t think that’s me.

Amy: I had a similar experience.

Georgie: Yeah. I feel like a lot of people did.

Amy: I feel like it’s pretty normal to go off to school and figure out that your first choice wasn’t really the right choice, so I think that’s a story that we hear a bunch of times. With my story it’s not unlike yours. I went to New York City in 89 to study fashion at FIT and because I came from Michigan I think New York was very novel to me so I really enjoyed being in the city. But I also found that I was not a fit for the fashion industry. Loved, loved, loved those two years in New York City and they were foundational in many ways, part of it was learning that ‘okay, fashion isn’t where I belong, (laughs) going to go somewhere else.’

Georgie: Again my mom who was like, ‘why don’t you transfer to RISD because you got in?’ I did get in on the wait-list eventually and she was like, ‘maybe you need to be somewhere outside of the city.’ So I reapplied, they accepted me, so I did end up going to RISD for a summer session and it was a complete transformation on just everything in my life, you know. I had the most amazing time. I made lifelong friends who I’m still really close with. 

It was so much fun and it was really that cliché moment of finding your people and my people not being any particular type of people, a really wide diverse of people who were completely different from each other and from completely different backgrounds. But kind of all had this quirky way of looking at life and a really funny sense of a humor and a nostalgia for Steve and Eydie and all these really weird kinds of things that tied us together. Like I remember the movie Brazil came out that summer and I remembered going to that with this huge group of friends and it was such an example of what we all felt and believed in, you know. It was a really weird point of view, really nostalgia for some period of time, but also a really new way of thinking about things. It’s just a lot of the experiences that I had that summer really solidified at least the next 10 years of my life I feel like were affected by that. 

Amy: What a great choice. Again thank you, mom. (Laughs)

Georgie: Yeah.

Amy: For recognizing.

Georgie: Totally.

Amy: And at the same time it can be such a relief when you realize you’re in a place where you really can grow, where it feels really fertile for you, where it feels like you don’t have to struggle against people misunderstanding or misinterpreting you. And where you also feel like you can explore everything and it’s not going to be an issue. It sounds amazing and I’m glad you had that experience and you lucked into it. I wish we could all go back to that place. I’d like to be there now actually. 

Georgie: Yeah, I think also the thing is that period of time, the late 80s, early 90s, was also this really fertile time for I would say design as a whole. Kind of almost before it was called ‘design’ in a weird way but we were all making things. Of course it was called design, but I’m saying ‘design’ in the bigger sense that I feel like people use it now where you recognize everything as designed, right. 

Amy: Well, still working on getting people to understand that. But yes, we do. I remember that time. I was still in high school but MTV was a big thing and my dad was like, ‘why do you watch this MTV all day,’ and I was like, ‘it’s kind of interesting, there’s a lot of creativity in the cinematography and the direction of videos, but the graphics are great.’ And my dad is like, ‘what are graphics?’ 

Georgie: (Laughs) Yeah. 

Amy: I didn’t even really know how to explain it to him. I’m like, ‘it’s that logo that explodes and that man with the flag.’

Georgie: And what they’re wearing and everything about that. Funnily enough my parents were of course anti-TV so we always had no cable and we had a black and white TV when everybody else had whatever. But remember going to my boyfriend’s house at the time and watching MTV all night over there. And my husband now, David, we were just driving in the car yesterday and I for some reason put Annie Lennox on and he was like, ‘oh my god, when I hear this it’s just an immediate visual connection to that video.’ There are so many songs from that period which I’m sure you’ve noticed, every playlist right now that you hear everywhere is all 80s and it’s this weird visual. Whenever you walk in anywhere you’re like, ‘oh, that Madonna video, that whatever,’ it’s so visual for me, that period of time.

Amy: Yes.

Georgie: So it’s interesting that you say that because I do think MTV, both for its graphic identity, one of the most iconic and one of the first to be always changing and malleable which became I think a huge part of at least how we think about brand. 

Amy: That would make sense.

Georgie: You know. And then when you think of any video you’ve seen on there, and the fashion of it, the makeup, the androgyny, everything. 

Amy: The stories, the narrative construction.

Georgie: Yeah.

Amy: Yeah. 

Georgie: So much of it. It seems like, ‘oh it was a moment in time,’ but I feel like a lot of those things really built a foundation of visual awareness or something around all these different things.

Amy: I think you’re absolutely right and I was thinking about 2×4, the creative agency that you are the co-founder of, and how the work that you do is so adept at translating a brand ethos into all of these material aspects that aren’t necessarily medium-specific. And in a way that’s what those music videos were. It was like ‘how do we communicate the essence of this band in a short commercial that has a soundtrack.’ (Laughs)

Georgie: eah, it’s pretty amazing when you think back. And obviously that continues today in so many forms and films have always done that as well. But I think there is something to that period that felt really fertile in that way and also kind of irreverent not conforming in the way that you might think of film. Even though there are always independent films and like I mentioned Brazil or something, that felt more formal and more codified and perfect and MTV felt imperfect and in progress and messy. One would be really slick, the next would be cut and paste stop motion and the next would be whatever. It just felt like there’s a visual overload of inspiration.

Amy: Yeah. Okay, so you’re at RISD, you’ve found your people, you also discovered that graphic design is your jam. So it sounds like that was a really fertile and thriving place for you. You said it kind of set the course for your next 10 years so I’m assuming the whole college experience was pretty satisfying in that regard.

Georgie: It was great. It’s funny, too, because I feel like graphic design was my major but really the experience at RISD was more about developing a kind of way of thinking or a way of approaching any problem. And even though I was in graphic design I was a little bit irreverent about it. My influences were really Laurie Anderson or Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, things that were not traditional design in the sense that they weren’t a brochure or a book even although I was really into artists’ books. But they were more artistic versions of graphic expression in a way and that’s what I was interested in. But also there was a big push for semiotics at the time and really fully understanding what graphic design, messaging, and visuals, what they can say visually but also inherently in all of the different ways that you can understand information and expression through any number of things and design. So I feel like I was much more open in a sense of what I was studying. I didn’t envision myself as traditional graphic designer in a way. 

Amy: That’s one of the wonderful things I think about, particularly RISD as an institution, I remember studying furniture design as a grad student there and It’s still the same. The students who are in a particular major don’t necessarily feel compelled to make work that is associated with that discipline and it’s fully supported. I remember telling my teacher. He was like, ‘We’re going to do a chair project so I want you to bring in several chairs that inspire you.’ I was like, ‘I’m not inspired by chairs, I’m going to bring in the work of this California assemblage artists and these other influences that I want my chairs to reflect.’ And they were like, ‘Okay, do what you need to do, (laughs) we’ll support you.’ So from graduation which was ‘89. You met friends, lifelong friends.

Georgie: That’s where I met David, there. He’s my husband. I met him my senior year.

Amy: Yes, definitely long-term relationship.

Georgie: (Laughter) Yes. 

Amy: From graduation to the founding of 2×4, your very, very early first steps into the professional world, what are the nuggets there that are really important for us to understand that got you into the position of founding your own studio?

Georgie: I mean I moved to the city with one of my now partners, Susan Sellers and I shared a loft on Canal Street which was very interesting and fun.

Amy: (Laughs) Yeah.

Georgie: Very rough but exactly what we wanted. We both got jobs for small design studios and I worked with Bethany Johns who was running her own practice at that time. Again I had this great network-y way of getting that job where I was cruising the artists bookstores around town and just writing down who had designed books and just started cold-calling those people.

Amy: Ooh, proactive, gutsy.

Georgie: (Laughs) Yeah. And I also had worked at Bomb Magazine as an intern so I was also looking at magazines and I went and interviewed at Artforum. The art director at the time was Jean Foos and she actually said, “You know, my friend Bethany is looking for someone and I think you would be a perfect fit. She also went to RISD, I feel like you guys would really get along.” And I was like, “That’s so funny because I am meeting her tomorrow.” She was like, “I’m going to call her.” So when I went to meet Bethany there was just this immediate simpatico between us and we had a lot of the same things that we had looked to when we were studying and she was a poet and had become a graphic designer as a grad student. She was of course working with everyone who I had looked up to, she was in progress doing a book with Richard Prince at the time.

Amy: Whoa.

Georgie: She was doing a lot of work with Thelma Golden who was at the Whitney Philip Morris and working with the Whitney Museum and doing all of that, basically working with all the artists that I looked up to. So I started working with her and I think my first project was to design a book cover for the catalog for Image World which was this great show that opened in the 90s at the Whitney that had Barbara Kruger and every artist that makes visual work that feels graphic. So it was all about this idea of repurposing art and visual culture into art. It was everything, all of my worlds colliding in the right way.

Amy: That feels exciting. (Laughs)

Georgie: And she was just a great mentor. Again, like I said, she worked alone and I don’t think I mentioned but when I was at RISD I think computers did not exist until my senior year where they created a computer lab where we all went and looked at them and said, “Those are cool looking, what should we do with that?” We would often type some things and print it out and then wax it and put it on board. We were just clueless. There was no sense of what was coming. Actually Bethany and I, I worked for her for six years and it was very much this sympathetic way of seeing. We both learned how to design on Clark I think it was at the time, together, and just built that practice up. We continued doing the same kind of work really for mostly museums and galleries, so a lot of books, a lot of catalogs, a lot of film titles, things like that that were all in the cultural world. That was my background and simultaneously in different worlds, Michael, my third partner, was teaching at Yale after having taught at RISD, and he developed the graduate program at Yale with Sheila de Bretteville. My partner Susan had traveled to Amsterdam and was working at some of the firms in Amsterdam doing graphic design and then came back and Michael and Susan are actually also life partners so they lived in New Haven and started a practice there.

Amy: Okay.

Georgie: And were doing very similar work but mostly for New Haven and Boston. So at some point they decided to move into the city and they got this loft, sublet a loft from friends and it had a big studio space in it. It was at the same time…

Amy: Oh, those were the days. You don’t get those any more. 

Georgie: Yeah, no. It was right on Bleeker Street and 7th Ave, so it was this perfect spot. In addition to working with Bethany I had been doing a lot of freelance work, so a lot of book covers, a lot of album covers, CD covers, and trying my hand at ‘could I do this on my own?’ So I decided to just take the time off and try just being a freelance designer for a while and seeing what it was like. That kind of coincided with them coming into town and we shared that space. They worked on their practice and I worked on my freelance practice in a shared space and that’s the germ of where we started thinking about 2×4. 

Amy: Yeah, if you put all the ingredients in the same oven they’re going to bake together. (Laughs)

Georgie: Yeah, they were doing a lot of work with architects. They were doing this magazine called Architecture in New York at the time, that was one of their big projects and it was really about the process behind architects and how they think about the work and a lot of the architects at the time, they did a lot of features on Richard Gluckman who was a big New York architect, also Rem Koolhaas. So a lot of that work as we started working together because that project grew and then I started working with them on that, it was very much an experimental graphic design project about the kind of experimental side of architecture. We tried to do it in this way where there wasn’t a lot of authorship over anything so we would have several people in the studio working. We would work on one article and then you’d pass it onto someone else and they would work on it, and you passed things around so that it didn’t become one vision, per se. It had an underlying grid, but then all these different expressions within that. So sort of tested that boundary of graphic design in the formal sense that you have a grid you’re working with, but then you have the ability to break it and kind of express on top of it and it still holds together. 

That was this idea behind that magazine, always trying to flex as far as you could go experimentally, typographically, while staying within that one family. And it was that era or Reagan and those things had just happened so there was a lot of experimental typography happening. My background was much more formal, like bookmaking for more academic, artistic academic work. I did not come from that world at all so it was fun to just do something completely different and we merged. As we each built up our little independent practices we would get projects that were too big for one person or too big for two so we’d be like, ‘Do you want to do this together,” and that just happened more and more to the point where we decided to join forces.

Amy: To formalize in the form of 2×4.

Georgie: Yeah. (Laughs)

Amy: I mean it’s been almost 30 years, right?

Georgie: Totally.

Amy: That is pretty great. But 30 years in and of itself, that’s a long run. By any measure that is successful. But it implies an evolution, right? I’m sure you haven’t stayed static for 30 years. So I would love for you if you could paint a picture of maybe some of the highlights and challenges that you went through in terms of formulating your identity, retaining clients that turned into relationships, and maybe even some of the projects that really tested you or put you on the map. 

Georgie: Yeah. So that AMO project introduced us to a world of architects in New York. That became a really big part of what we started off doing. Not only doing books and monographs for them, but also doing a lot of their competition materials which at the time, in the architecture world it would be giant foam cardboards with a model. And I think especially Rem Koolhaas really wanted to question that and was interested especially in what we had been doing, a narrative approach to thinking about telling a story of a project through writing which he obviously had done a lot in his practice and was interested in. So we merged with him in several projects where we would do a book for his competition, where we would develop the narrative with him. And my partner Michael was already doing a lot of critical writing and he had many columns in the design world at the time, so he had that credibility and he and Rem became really great friends and worked really closely on a lot of the writing for those things. Then our studio would develop a lot of the graphic expressions so it would be both experimental in terms of the narrative storytelling of a project. When I say ‘experimental,’ meaning how architecture had been presented previously for those kinds of things. And also because his work was so experimental, right? He was really rethinking material-wise. Everything. 

He really had a different kind of approach and so a lot of that work was trying to bring that to life through diagrams, through narrative, through photography of the models. Not a beauty shot, but really digging in and trying to show all of his experimental materials that he was interested in. So that was a super fertile body of work that was happening and then on the side of that we started work in a more formal sense from brands like Knoll came to us who really wanted to think about how to write about their brands, how to explain who they were as brands. And I think part of that was because Michael was doing a lot of writing in the design/critic world, they could kind of see both our visual work but also that strength of brand strategy of thinking so a lot of our work starts to take on a more brand strategy, pre-brand strategy terminology. 

It was really about defining a brand through words. How do you explain who they are? How do you explain their values? Their DNA? And do it in a narrative way that really unfolds their story in some way and marries it with a graphic language. At that time we also got a lot of brand identity projects which kind of came through that architecture filter again. Like when an architect would get a big new project, often they would think of us because we had done a lot of work in that world so we went through doing the Brooklyn Museum back in 2002, I feel like it was, or maybe 2004. We did just many, many museums throughout New York. The Studio Museum in Harlem which was with Thelma Golden. 

Amy: Wow.

Georgie: We’ve done projects for the Picasso Museum in Malaga. We’ve done projects for LACMA. We just went through a whole range of brand identity projects for museums really through those relationships with Diller Scofidio, with Richard Gluckman, with Rem Koolhaas, with these different architects that we had close relationships with from other times and then they started really building things. So a lot of our work became sympathetic to their work and helped them.

Amy: That makes sense in terms of how an ecosystem is developing, but I also think that your particular mix of talents and background, like if they’re going to bring you to a museum client you have to in some way be able to relate to a cultural institution of that magnitude. And what they’re about and what they need, their mission, and to be able to speak that language. And I think that you particularly, with your interest in the arts and your love of what they represent, were probably in a pretty good position to really embrace that work and take it seriously, you know.

Georgie: And I think we were always interested in just the narrative behind things, too. We wanted to write about the projects. We wanted to do really broad pinups where things were unruly and not perfect. We really approached it from a messier place, I guess. Trying to really unearth all the stuff and then share that early and then make sense of it if that makes sense.

Amy: I mean I feel like now you almost have to go in with a really polished idea or else they can’t wrap their head around what it is you’re trying to do. But that chaos from which you edit or distill.

Georgie: It makes all the difference.

Amy: It does.

Georgie: Because a lot of times they’re just little sparks of ideas in there and I think if you polish or get too far down the line, it’s really your point of view and our goal is never to have our point of view. In fact we make a big point of saying we’re a collective, we don’t have a graphic style, we say. Some people will say, “Yes, you do,” (laughs) but I don’t think we do. We’re really taking a brand and trying to unearth what the essence of it is and then creating work that feels really built of that brand’s DNA.

Amy: Yeah, and it starts with word choices, narrative construction, and visuals in terms of graphics. But at some point you sort of branch into experiences and materiality and a lot of the sort of psychological implications that color has and symbols have.

Georgie: Expression and space, yeah.

Amy: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. How does it grow into that? 2X4, how does that grow into those types of projects?

Georgie: Well I think again we started with projects where we were given the graphic role in a building. So we did that IIT project with Rem Studio very early on. That was a space that was entirely about material. It was essentially almost like a Home Depot, but the materials made all the difference in terms of communicating different ideas. Our job was we could touch any surface in the building and create a kind of branded space. Not a logo, but a space that felt cohesive through the whole series of expressive behaviors in the space. So we designed, for that particular building, a set of icons that we thought, it was a student center so we had this idea that you could create a whole set of student activities from the most basic things to the most absurd because that’s what a student center is, right? You bowl there or you cheat or you kiss in the corner with someone or whatever. The idea that you could create this very formal iconography but have it be really wide ranging, and then let those icons be either a pixel, a tiny little pixel in a bigger image, or giant to express a way-finding strategy or create a space. 

So there are rooms where there are just huge studying symbols and that’s kind of a library space. There are rooms with giant photographs and when you go close up you see that each pixel in the face is made up of a little icon. So there’s this world that happened and I think that was our first project where we could point back to it later and say that was our first experience design if you will, where we really embodied a physical space with a brand idea and narrative. And that, we’ve just taken that idea and done it a million ways now. We do that with all kinds of brands and, we just did the headquarters for YouTube, so really thinking about what that physical space should feel like, what are those kinds of expressions that you want. We do that in fashion shows. We just did a, I guess it was a few years back, a big show for Prada’s women Spring/Summer where we designed a whole set of wallpapers and experiential graphics that were based in this curation of all women comic book artists. So we took an edited down set of maybe five graphic artists, some of whom are still practicing, some whose estates we were working with, and took a lot of their work and then re-collaged it to create these narratives and then wrapped a whole fashion space with that. 

And as often happens with fashion, they’re making the clothes up to the last minute and they often then take the work that we’re doing and insert it into the collection. When the show happened, the runway show had the walls covered in this content, but also the models were wearing the same patterns. So it’s this super immersive, cool experience. Then our social media campaign was all in comic book form. The work that we do sort of touches on all aspects of how the brand expresses itself, but really all tying back to this one idea, whatever that idea may be for that particular project.

Amy: As a creative what do you find the most satisfying about that? Is it being able to influence all expressions of an idea? 

Georgie: I think so, yeah. Way, way back when we were in that studio on Bleeker Street we were even toying with the idea of maybe my husband, David, being involved because he was more of an industrial designer at the time doing furniture and lighting. We were like, ‘we want to do it all and how can we do that.’ We looked to Eames for example as a collective that did everything from film to graphic design to furniture design to industrial design, etc. 

So that was always in the back of our head, we want to be like Eames Studio. We want to be sort of media agnostic and just think about whatever the problem is and a lot of times when clients come to us they might have a specific idea of what they want and we might come back and say, “But it should be a film,” or, “What if it were a space or a series of spaces,” or, “What if it were a narrative that you uncover through a series of things.” We’re always trying to reinvent the brief, not in a bad way for clients, but in a good way.

Amy: Right.

Georgie: Like really opening it up and thinking about what it could be. I think we always had the attitude that if we didn’t know how to do it, we would just do it and hire experts to help us execute, right. We didn’t worry about, ‘we’re not filmmakers, we can’t do a film.’ We’d just be like, ‘let’s collaborate with a filmmaker and make a film.’ We often would partner with small architecture studios when we started out, when we started bridging that world and we didn’t have the in-house capabilities. We would work with two or three person architecture studios to help us with the 3D part of it. But we eventually built that all up, so now we have all those capabilities in-house.

Amy: Which I want to talk about, but I also for my personal satisfaction, I need to know about the growing pains part. Where if you’re reinventing the brief for the client, did you get push-back where they’re like, ‘yeah, but we don’t know how to market a film,’ or, ‘we don’t know how a film is actually going to sell more product.’ And then also how do you budget a project for a capability that you don’t yet have and you know you’re going to be hiring out for? 

Georgie: That would be the growing pain part.

Amy: Yeah. (Laughter) Okay, so I’m guessing there were some losses and gains.

Georgie: Oh yes.

Amy: Okay. (Laughs)

Georgie: I think in terms of the first question we really work on projects with clients who value design. That’s pretty broad, right? But I think it does touch on we’re not going to just design a logo from scratch if that’s what you want. 

We’re going to go through a brand strategy process and have an idea behind that logo and then we’re going to suggest some other things you can do also because that’s how we work. And we will always of course pitch that when we’re introducing ourselves to a client and show them that, and we’re working with their budget so we’re never going to do something that they can’t afford or aren’t willing to do. We might suggest it and they might be interested and add it, or they might not be interested or save it for later or whatever the case. But there’s a very formal process on how that work gets done. We’re not going rogue on anyone.

Amy: Right. (Laughs) It also makes sense that the way that 2×4 grew you would be attracting a client to you who wants you to reinvent the brief, kind of wants what you do. And setting those expectations in the upfront means everybody knows they’re on a ride and they’re going to see where it goes which is great. I think it’s a different scenario if you’re just hustling for work.

Georgie: For sure.

Amy: Okay. So now over 30 years all of those people you used to outsource to are now in-house. You have a team of 50 people or so.

Georgie: Yeah.

Amy: Architects, designers, a digital team. Can you give me a snapshot or the aerial view of the 2×4 as a creative studio and practice today?

Georgie: Sure. So there’s three partners as I said, and we have a Managing Director who has really been key in terms of that budget piece and really keeping us on track and being realistic about how we budget things which made all the difference. Then we have a CFO and an Admin Team. But we also have really a pretty robust Project Management Team which was an addition we made maybe 10 years ago, pretty later in the game. 

That really helps us manage all the production of everything and some of the client facing scheduling and work. Which really allows the designers to be free from that And then on the creative side we have a Strategy Team who really does a lot of the initial phase of a project, so really deep dive into the client, into the world that they’re coming from. Let’s say it’s a fashion client, into other like-minded brands and other brands that may be behaving like them but aren’t in their world, narrative trends, film, music, anything that could be relevant. Also could lead into little deep dives into subject matter, like for one brand we did a little deep dive into ‘coolness,’ like ‘what is cool,’ for example. We love doing that kind of stuff, creating…

Amy: Oh, that’s probably where you learned about me. Right? (Laughs)

Georgie: Yeah, exactly. You were in there. So these little mini briefs which could be purely internal or it could be shared depending on whatever, any number of things. That team is made up of a lot of different types of disciplines. Some people were trained as strategists, some people are literature majors or art history majors or whatever, and they come and learn the way that we do it. There’s a lot of research and back-end work, but then the big part of the work is really formulating that into an idea, a kernel of an idea and then a whole expression that is verbal. That might include narrative, it could be tone of voice, it could be copyrighting or not. Then there’s a Brand Team that works very closely with that team. A lot of time there’s overlap between phases of work so our strategy is quite visual. It’s not a deck that is just words. It’s very much brought to life through design so our Brand Team if it’s a branding project, or our Environments Team if an environment project would work with them on that strategy phase. Then we have Brand which is mostly graphic designers, but there are some people who are motion, some people who are more typographers, some people who are more rigid in their work, some are super expressive. It’s a very wide range of people because art projects kind of require all aspects of design, so it’s not one type, one size fits all. 

Some people might be really great at large expressive stuff but not great at a design system. Some people might be great at a design system but not at whatever. So we really work super collaboratively and each project we create bespoke teams depending on the needs and that team has everything from Creative Director level to Junior Designer level. That’s probably our biggest team because that’s our background, you know. Then we have what we call Space which is an internal term but that’s made up of our Architecture Team and our Environments Team. Architecture is all trained architects. Then a lot of that work that they’re doing is thinking more holistically about an overarching spatial experience as well as ground-up building capabilities at building scale or at exhibition scale. It really could take any form. Then we have our Environments Team which is signage and way-finding, it’s a very specific thing that they can do but that we do in a very broad way. So a lot of it might be creating a holistic visual experience within a lobby or which might include digital or might be all graphic or might be as clinical and simple as a large scale wallpaper in a space, or as complex as a large scale digital interface like we just did for David Geffen Hall for Lincoln Center where the very large digital screens there have different states. 

There’s the programmatic state where you get information, and then there’s a more dormant state where it’s much more this graphic pattern that almost feels like the wall is moving. So ] a lot of those projects overlap and that team’s space is big because it’s made up of those two disciplines. Then on the Environments we also have a technical team who are all about code and all the kinds of rules that you need to follow when you do signage and way-finding which is quite extensive.

Amy: Yes.

Georgie: And then we have a Digital Team.

Amy: Oh my gosh. (Laughs) It sounds like you’ve built a kind of ideal empire. Where you get to go work with fascinating people and learn. You get to learn with each project from the different disciplines that are under your roof, it sounds like, and you tell me if this is right or not, it sounds like you keep it flexible and collaborative which culturally that’s a real win.

Georgie: It’s super fun, too.

Amy: Yeah.

Georgie: I think the most successful thing we’ve done in our practice is to keep it absolutely flexible so it’s really changed over time. We’ve never limited ourselves by the type of project we need to take or are we specialized in x, y, or z. We’ve always just gravitated towards the next thing and it’s changed so much over time from even when we were doing mostly graphic design projects, I felt they were not too rigidly graphic design. They spilled out the edges, but now really most of our work is expressed across all media. It’s rare that we get a very formal brand identity where we’re only doing strategy and logo and collateral or something.

Amy: I just want to salute you from a position where I’d never felt comfortable with the caste system or with categories and classifications that everybody sort of needs to impose on you in order to understand what you do and then you have to do. I just feel like the way that 2×4 has blown up the expectations for what a design studio can do and how these specialties don’t need to be what defines you, it’s the creative process that can define you and the output as you can be medium agnostic, that does a service for the whole design field. (Laughs) So thank you very much for that.

Georgie: Yeah. 

Amy: As pioneers of opening up that space for the rest of us, hallelujah. (Laughs) And also being successful at it is also key. I love to see you as a thriving creative who’s been doing this for 30 years, it sounds to me like you’re still very satisfied with this, work is still meaningful and exciting to you. That is also a creative role model right there and I appreciate that. So I think you said it when you said flexibility was one of the keys to your success. It’s also got to be about culture and long-term relationships.

Georgie: For sure.

Amy: So can you tell me what do you think is the special sauce or the magic between the three founding partners and how you’ve been able to cultivate such a thriving culture that stays collaborative and flexible which is a feat in and of itself. And also long-term clients relationships where they trust you and allow you to sort of speak in shorthand and come to them with unpolished ideas that you can then work on together which is such a luxury.

Georgie: Yeah. It’s interesting because I think that first of all we really believe that if you’re going to do a successful project we need to be engaged with the end client. So if we can’t work directly with whomever the project is really being decided on, it doesn’t really make sense to do it because the dialog that happens in the rooms of those meetings is everything, right. If you’re presenting to a team that then is going to go present to a team that then is going to present to the CFO or whatever, so much is lost in translation and it usually is not successful. We really believe in that, opening up the kind of communication channels so that we’re really directly involved and I think a lot of our long-term relationships is because of that connection that we make with that CMO, CFO, whatever they may be. And we all have very different approaches to the work funnily enough and that’s what, because a lot of people say, “How can you guys still be together after 30 years? Don’t you drive each other crazy?” Of course we probably do. I’m sure we all drive each other crazy to an extent, but we really have our own special areas of expertise. I couldn’t even tell you what they are, honestly. But it’s sort of a sympathetic, side-by-side skill where we’re not really overlapping that much. So even though I could do a digital project, I could so a special project, I could do a brand project, as can all my partners, we don’t really step on each others’ toes in projects. We collaborate on them as well, like two of us can work on a project together and it’s fine. There’s something about that, having our own unique qualities that we bring to a project that aren’t the same that have allowed us to be great partners for many years. So that’s one thing. 

Amy: What would you say is one of your unique qualities? 

Georgie: I think I’m a really great editor and I bring people together and I’m really about taking an idea I think very visually a lot in terms of space and digital and I think that I have that ability to really create a great team and pull it off through a whole series of art directorial roles and collaborative efforts and things like that. I don’t even feel like a ‘graphic designer’ any more. I rarely sit down and design something myself. If I do, it’s for a friend or for something personal, but really it’s knowing who the right person is for the right skill or for the right task what their skill is and bringing the right teams together. Then the birds eye view of everything and figuring out where we’re not going right or where we are and directing it. That for me has been super satisfying because I think if I had been left to just be a designer on my own I wouldn’t have been able to do half the things that I’ve done. I’m not a great writer. I’m not a great graphic designer. But I am good at a lot of things and all those things also are kind of a vision thing, right.

Amy: Yeah.

Georgie: If you can see the end and then make it happen. Both Michael and Susan are much more academic than me, they both have taught for many, many years so they’re very much in that world so they bring a lot more history of design and that kind of quality that I don’t really have. I’m much more the popular culture one in the room. (Laughter) Whereas Michael could bring up any number of things from graphic design history where I’d be like, ‘hmm, but have you heard about this?’ 

Amy: So I’m seeing you as a band and you’re all playing different instruments but you’ve learned to play together and create new melodies with each project and you know when to sort of step back and harmonize.

Georgie: And I would say our teams.

Amy: Yeah, exactly.

Georgie: Our teams are really, really good. It’s another interesting thing that we really do have long-term employees, people have been there for 10 years. It’s unusual. And I think it’s because we give a lot of room for people to grow and take on roles. We really trust them and we don’t second guess a lot of the work. It’s not heavy-handed directing. It’s really more nudging and I think people feel a lot of freedom and ownership over their projects. One of the things that people may struggle with is that because we are really very much a collective, any project we do we just credit 2×4 and a lot of younger designers really crave that, like having your name on something or really feeling ownership over something. A lot of times you’re working on projects where you did one part of a big thing and it’s hard to point to it and say, “Look, mom, I designed this album cover,” or whatever. You know. So I think that could be a struggle for some of the designers inside the teams, but ultimately you get to work on really big projects that you might not get to work on otherwise and you’re one of many people in an amazing expression of something.

Amy: Yeah. Well I’d like to come work there for 30 years. (Laughter) That sounds amazing. Can we take a step out into maybe the broader aerial view of Georgie Stout? Like your personal expression. You as a whole being are not just a leader in this creative studio and a designer. You’re also a mother and it sounds like a pretty fully actualized human.

Georgie: Thank you, I think that’s good.

Amy: Yes, figured out how to live your life.

Georgie: I’m a dog owner. 

Amy: (Laughs) Dog owner, yeah. Awesome. (Laughter) And I know David is a lovely human. So I’m, you know, imagining that dinner at your house is a pretty great place to be. I guess my question is in the creation of your life have you ever struggled in how to allocate your energy? Like your creative, emotional, intellectual labor? Or have you always kind of found a natural equilibrium?

Georgie: It sort of goes through waves because when we started the studio it really required all in. We were working all the time, till 9:00 every night, weekends to make it happen. That was a good 10 years of my life and I look back and think ‘Why did we do that?’ Now when you think of the way we work now, and I feel the same way about motherhood. I have these two amazing children that I craved being more involved with. I was involved with them in many, many ways, but why couldn’t I have come home at 3:00pm and pick them up from school and then been engaged with them and then gone back online and worked late at night? I could have probably. Now it’s completely accepted and tons of people in our studio do that, but at the time it just wasn’t a viable thing. It didn’t seem possible. So I feel that while work has always been really amazing, really positive, and I will say with three partners you really can if you need to take a month off or you need to do something, it’s not a problem. We’re fine, we’re all covering each other all the time. That’s a great asset, but you still feel compelled to really keep it going and you have to really be there and be involved for the people in the studio to feel ownership and invested in the work and the studio. 

So I feel like the studio itself has been a huge part of my life, like it or not, and still is. There are times where I have been like, ‘I need to back out a little bit and spend time with my kids.’ My kids have gone through things where I really needed to be present and had to just be like, “Sorry, I’m not going to show up for a week because this crisis is going on and I need to be there and I’m not going to worry about it.” My family has always come first in those cases because that’s the important thing. But both my kids are great. My oldest son actually is at RISD in Film and Video and will be a senior this year and my youngest is about to embark at Maine College of Art and Design in Portland so we’re super excited for them both. They’re doing their own thing. They’re both super creative of course, keeping the gene going.

Amy: That’s awesome, congratulations. Okay, so thank you for sharing that it hasn’t always been an easy equilibrium. I guess I’m wondering if you would be so generous as to divulge when things get intense what characteristics come out in you? Do you…?

Georgie: That’s my producer self.

Amy: So here’s what we need to do, we need you to go there, we need dun, dun, dun. 

Georgie: Yes, this is this, I’ve already booked your ticket, go here, you’re there, I’ve done that. It’s really annoying I think to my family actually because they’re all like, “Oh, should I?” And I’m like, “I’ve booked your ticket. You’re going tomorrow, you’re going to be there this time,” whatever. Or, “I’ve called the doctor, they said this.” It’s like, ‘I haven’t even had a second to process that thought and you’ve already solved it for me.’ I think that’s not a good thing but it is the way that i behave a lot and partially it’s my work thing, right, because I’m always solving the next thing, making sure this is happening, whatever. And it can translate to all kinds of stuff. 

Amy: As somebody who does these large scale projects you’re probably very attuned at looking down the road and seeing fires that could start. Like seeing the sparks, the conditions that would create sparks but then would turn into a fire, and so course-correcting before you get there is necessary.

Georgie: Yeah, I think that’s right. (Laughs) I think in general. And I didn’t talk about David at all, but he’s also a creative. He does lighting and furniture and where my partners are in the world of they do a lot of lectures, they teach, I have always not done that and chosen to focus on family if I’m not focusing on work. But also I have actually collaborated a whole lot with David, too, and always been a vested interest in his success, too. He’s an amazing designer and I’ve always wanted to bring his work to life in a way that isn’t just furniture and lighting, if you will. So we worked on his showroom when he launched that and I’ve done his brand and I do a lot of his ongoing stuff, but that’s also been a kind of side job for me in a way.

Amy: That makes sense, yeah.

Georgie: I’ve always been in that world of both in the popular culture and stuff, but also in the furniture and design world a lot. So I have one toe in that industry as well. 

Amy: And that sounds like also some of the great synergies that are happening at the studio are also happening at home in terms of being able to collaborate on life and art, bringing your strengths to complement the other person’s not necessarily weakness, but maybe where they don’t have a strength. And so you can sort of make something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Georgie: Totally. There’s nothing better than having a person like that in your life in terms of having a home and wanting to build stuff. Everything is always ‘let’s just build a table’ or whatever.

Amy: Yeah. (Laughs)

Georgie: It’s so great. 

Amy: Yes, well I understand you also have a pretty majestic creative compound on the Hudson River route.

Georgie: Yeah, yeah.

Amy: Which you’ve been able to collaborate on together. ‘ll look for my invitation, I’ll send you my mailing address after this. 

Georgie: (Laughs) Yes. Any time. (Laughter) You do have to stay in a little canvas house because our guest rooms are little canvas houses.

Amy: Yeah, I’m down.

Georgie: Because the house itself is super tiny, but it’s super fun.

Amy: It sounds like glamping. 

Georgie: Yeah, it is. Exactly. (Laughter)

Amy: Well is there anything we didn’t cover, Georgie? Is there any pressing existential concern that you feel like you want to unpack with us? 

Georgie: I mean not existential. I think a really fun bit of news is that David got the Rome Prize and is going to Rome for six months on September 1st.

Amy: I didn’t know. This is fantastic.

Georgie: Yeah.

Amy: Give him a hug and congratulations. 

Georgie: I will.

Amy: That’s amazing.

Georgie: So I’m excited to go. I’m going to go for six weeks which is not as much but it will be a real just different world to kind of step away from my day-to-day. Both kids are going to be at college. Someone is going to come stay with my dog, and I’m going to Rome and just chill. I’m going to work, but I’m going to work half-time and just be off, which I don’t think I’ve literally ever done my entire career. I think the longest I had off was maternity leave and then away from the studio would be during Covid. But I’ve really never had a moment to step away and just be in the moment, be in some other place and feel disconnected in a good way.

Amy: Yeah.

Georgie: So I’m really looking forward to that in October. So think of me there, wandering.

Amy: I will. And I also will be really interested to hear an update in terms of how being able to unplug like that and absorb a new set of stimuli. How it might change your perspective. Very excited about that. Thank you for sharing that news and thank you so much for sharing your whole life and your creative process.

Georgie: Sure.

Amy: I mean I really meant it when I said thank you for opening up a pathway for other creatives to enjoy the possibility of creating a studio that can be without borders because that’s sometimes where we can do our best work if we can only get others on board. So really, it’s really important work that you’ve been doing. (Laughs)

Georgie: Thank you. (Laughs) Well like I said, it’s been a really fun journey and it continues. It’s still ever-evolving so that’s the good part.

Amy: Yes, that is the good part. Well thank you so much, Georgie.

Georgie: Thank you. 

Amy: Hey, thanks so much for listening. For a transcript of this episode, and more about Georgie, including images of her work, and a bonus Q&A – head to cleverpodcast.com. If you like Clever, there are a number of ways you can support us: – share Clever with your friends, leave us a 5 star rating, or a kind review, support our sponsors, or hit the follow or subscribe button in your podcast app so that our new episodes will turn up in your feed. We love to hear from you on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter X – you can find us @cleverpodcast and you can find me @amydevers. Please stay tuned for upcoming announcements and bonus content. You can subscribe to our newsletter at cleverpodcast.com to make sure you don’t miss anything. Clever is hosted & produced by me, Amy Devers. With editing by Mark Zurawinski, production assistance from Ilana Nevins and Anouchka Stephan and music by El Ten Eleven. Clever is a proud member of the Surround podcast network. Visit surroundpodcasts.com to discover more of the Architecture and Design industry’s premier shows

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Amy Devers

Amy Devers is a designer, fabricator, educator, and media personality on a mission to reveal the humanity behind the design that shapes our world.

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