Kate Moross: The hands-on boss
‘We work in the entertainment world where there are always a lot of time pressures. It’s a priority to manage stress and make sure people are fulfilled.’ [EXTRACT]
Kate Moross (pronouns they, them, theirs) started making work for the music business while still a student, designing record covers, posters and live visuals for acts such as HeartsRevolution, with whom Moross toured the United States. In 2007 they founded Isomorph Records, a vinyl-only label self-described as ‘the world’s first art-driven record label’. (See Eye 76.) Moross founded Studio Moross in 2012 and published Make Your Own Luck, A DIY Attitude to Graphic Design and Illustration (Prestel) two years later. The studio, which has grown to a team of around ten, has established a reputation for warm and inventive music graphics for current pop artists (Anne-Marie), festivals (Parklife) and established stars (The Spice Girls), devising a broad array of visual assets – from YouTube videos and posters to flyers and giant stage sets. Other recent projects include work for The Depot (Mayfield), a Manchester club for The Warehouse Project; identity design for the BFI’s Flare Festival 2020 (for LGBTQ+ films); and animated titles for All That, a sketch show for US children’s broadcaster Nickelodeon. Other clients have included Nike, Billie Eilish and MTV. Moross has continued to make ‘solo’ work, including hand-lettered journals for Moo and a ‘live mural’ in Singapore for Uniqlo.
Eye How do you distinguish between Studio Moross and Kate Moross?
Kate Moross It’s nice to do both, but my role here has shifted so many times in the past few years, from illustrator to designer to creative director, etc. When it’s a big project like a festival or a tour, sometimes I have to step back from projects and let others do the work, sometimes I’m hands-on.
Jorja Smith artist card for the rebranded Lovebox festival, 2020. Design by Studio Moross.
There’s so much value in working in teams; teams are so complex, and you benefit from the ‘hive mind’. We’re trying to adapt to what employees need in 2020-21, so we’re going to a new system where people can work remotely one day a week. [NB: this was before Covid-19 obliged nearly everyone to work remotely.] There are lots of benefits to being an employee rather than a freelance – for instance if you need a visa, or a payslip when you’re buying or renting, or if you have a family.
When I called last week, you were on a mental health First Aid course. Why do you believe this is important?
My priority as an employer is that everyone is well and enjoying their work life. We send people on First Aid courses, why not do the same for mental health?
Do you think the creative industries are particularly stressful?
Capitalism pushes everyone. But there’s a difference between pressure and stress. We work in the entertainment world where there are always a lot of time pressures. It’s a priority to manage stress and make sure people are fulfilled.
You’ve managed to stay doing design for music when many people have dropped out altogether …
You don’t make much money from the music business, so we have to be shrewd about doing things efficiently and fast. We have to be very creative and work off the cuff. That means you don’t always have time to refine what you do.
When I was doing a [graphic design] panel in Manchester, Peter Saville (see Eye 17) told me that ‘music will fall out of love with you.’ But that era of being paid a lot of money for an LP sleeve has gone. We’ve had to expand the horizon of what music design is.
Live visuals for ‘Spice World 2019’, a UK and Ireland tour by The Spice Girls. Creative direction and production by Lee Lodge. Art direction by Kate Moross. Design by Harry Butt, Rachel Noble, Stephanie Fung, Berke Yazicioglu, Marianna Orsho, Christina Poku, Nick Greenbank and Oscar Torrans. Typeface design by Marianna Orsho. Photograph by Luke Dyson.
John L. Walters, editor of Eye, London
Read the full version in Eye no. 100 vol. 25, 2020
Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.