“If people enjoy working with you, they won’t hesitate to recommend you” Designer and director at Risotto, Gabriella Marcella
Designer Gabriella Marcella set up specialist print and stationary company Risotto after graduating from Glasgow’s Graphic Design course in 2012, and has been carving out a bright, colourful and pattern-filled niche ever since. For Gabriella, one of the joys of running a service means getting to work with friends as well as attracting new clients. When she’s not running Risotto or battling with her inbox she’s busy putting her stamp on murals, artwork and T-shirt designs for Puma, Dr Martens and Stussy. The studio also produces its own product ranges, and recently added Liberty in London to their list of stockists.
Designer, Director, Risotto Studio (2012–present)
BA Graphic Design, Glasgow School of Art (2008–2012)
Stussy, Puma, Dr Martens, Liberty London, Bloomberg, British Council
How would you describe what you do?
I’m a graphic artist based in sunny Glasgow. I juggle running Risotto (a Risograph print specialist and stationery company) with various design commissions. These generally involve decorating objects and surfaces with colour, and playful patterns. Both strands are equally delightful but work across different aspects, outputs and processes.
Risotto was set up through my desire to have my own means of production. Being able to play and experiment first hand has been so influential to my design process and work. The Risograph is the perfect print machine as it encourages experimentation and quick outputs with a wonderfully limited ink spectrum. In parallel to this, we produce new product ranges each season. Being a print service has also allowed me to meet and work with a whole range of creatives, both locally and internationally.
Between days, I work on commissions or collaborations that have ranged from murals for Puma, T-shirt designs for Stussy and store art for Dr Martens. One of the largest commissions to date has been art directing a huge Indian folk art exhibition that launched in Tramway (one of the largest single galleries in Europe, approximately 1,011 square metres in size) last summer. The range of work keeps me on my toes, and the scale of outputs is really exciting.
What does a typical working day look like?
9am to 6pm, five days a week. I’m trying really hard to keep ‘regular and normal’ working hours. But when there is a deadline, or any big job, naturally this all goes out the window. Fighting my inbox is also where a lot of time can disappear, so I have a strict-ish rule of an hour a day maximum The rest of the time is filled with designing new products, the website, and generally growing and developing the studio. 50% is in front of the computer, and tea is a constant.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
Most of the time I’m in our studio at The Glue Factory. The room itself has become a great archive; it’s plastered with posters and oddities I’ve been collecting over a long period of time. The room has an inside-out approach, where nothing is in drawers or boxes, but instead lining every surface, which subsequently creates more ledges and shelves which I can add stuff on top of. I dread the day I have to move! Paper stocks and inks take up half the room, but my magpie tendencies for coloured plastics means I have develop a substantial collection of 60s office gear that can hide all the boring paperwork.
How does your project-based work usually come about?
New projects often come in through word of mouth or Instagram – if people enjoy working with you, they won’t hesitate to recommend you to others. With social media anyone can create a platform for themselves, with the potential to become as visible as massive and established brands. Having Risotto has given me a leg up as designer. With the studio being service-based, it has the potential to reach a lot more people than I would as a solo designer. It’s niche and colourful which helps too.
How collaborative is your work?
I love collaborating with other designers or brands, but it’s often in a very ‘solo’ capacity. It’s important for me to have a defined role, and focus on that independently but alongside my counterpart.
“The range of work keeps me on my toes, and the scale of outputs is really exciting.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Admin is bottom of the list! I’m sure everyone says the same. It’s not my bag at all, but I do love problem solving, so finding shortcuts is top of my list. Being able to travel is also up there; I was recently invited over to Sao Paulo to host some Risograph workshops. It was so rewarding to meet like-minded people on the other side of the globe.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
It’s less of a project, and more of an achievement. Liberty recently became a new stockist of Risotto’s products – paper goods from their zero-waste workshop. It’s all about sustaining the power of small-scale artisan quality as an alternative to mass production.
What skills are essential to your job?
Multitasking is so essential; 50% of each project is the design itself, and the rest is filled with time keeping, management, budgets, and liaison with clients. Communication skills are also really vital. I’m getting better at discussing or raising any concerns at the start rather than trying to solve them behind the scenes and crumbling when things start to escalate.
Are you currently working on any side projects?
Risotto’s website has been an ongoing labour of love for a while now – it’s our most advanced yet. We worked with motion designers and a good friend of mine, Brendan Bennett. It’s all singing with downloads, subscriptions, tutorials and a print simulator, as well as playing host to our online shop. It’s been six months in the making, so we’re very excited to get it out and see how people play with it.
What tools do you use most for your work?
Adobe Illustrator; Photoshop; Indesign; Evernote for transcribing my scribbled ideas and Trello for managing lists. Notebooks and sketchbooks are always in the background.
“The Risograph is the perfect print machine as it encourages experimentation and quick outputs with a wonderfully limited ink spectrum.”
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
A hairdresser or pilot.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Studying graphic design helped me develop a design sensibility and my approach to self-directed projects. But mainly it’s been about the friends and peers I have now. Their support is invaluable and being able to still work with them on projects is a great bonus.
What were your first jobs?
I did a few internships throughout university which really helped me understand what I did and didn’t want to do after I graduated. Urban Outfitters HQ in Philadelphia was one of them. I was part of the graphics department and got experience creating designs for store ads, carrier bags and gift cards. It was a really cool studio filled with really talented designers and illustrators. Nieves Books in Zurich was another summer internship. It was great to see how an independent publisher works. I was exposed to so many great artists during my time there too.
“If you’re a freelancer, establishing a ‘niche’ can be invaluable. If you become known for something specific, your expertise will set you apart and hopefully keep you busy.“
What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
Deciding what my strengths were, and focusing on that. Staying in Glasgow and utilising all the supportive benefits the city had to offer. Asking peers and other designers in similar situations for advice.
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
Running my own business has taught me the most by far.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Not quoting enough for large jobs; underestimating the work involved.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
No…but I don’t think I’ve ever thought that far in advance!
What would you like to do next?
My dream commission would be to design a sports strip, or a game show set.
Could you do this job forever?
I think so, as long as no two months are the same.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
I have no idea!
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a graphic artist?
Get as much experience as you can while you’re a student. After graduating things can quickly become competitive and money dries up fast. The earlier you make mistakes, the better; test a variety of work environments and see what works for you.
If you’re a freelancer, establishing a ‘niche’ can be invaluable. If you become known for something specific, your expertise will set you apart and hopefully keep you busy. The nice part of being a one man band is the scale. Your overheads in a city like Glasgow are super low, and you only need a certain amount of jobs to sustain a relatively comfortable lifestyle.
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
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