Dot Dash Design’s Paula Rich and Christa Mavroudis on pushing the boundaries of briefs

Dot Dash Design’s Paula Rich and Christa Mavroudis talk research, the heritage sector and bringing fresh angles to established brands.

Paula, Christa, it’s been a while since we caught up! What have been some of the highlights for you work-wise over the last year?
Recently, we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with some fantastic brands. We have a special fondness for heritage brands because their projects often overlap with our own print and pattern work. One example of this is our work with the Natural History Museum on a Botanical Style Guide.

Using botanical illustrations from the Museum’s archives, we handpicked a selection of images that complemented one another. We then created additional watercolour assets in a similar botanical style and turned them into pattern repeats for gifting and homewares.

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

It looks great.
Thanks! We were thrilled to see how these assets were brought to life on products showcased at BLE, especially Joanie’s “Monkey’’ print blouse, which quickly became one of their bestsellers. If you look closely, you’ll notice a subtle but charming monkey with a cheesy grin within the pattern, guaranteed to put a smile on your face when worn!

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

Museums and galleries also used our “Deep Sea” print to create a stunning jigsaw puzzle.

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

Additionally, we thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with several classic evergreen brands, catering to diverse age groups from babies and pre-schoolers to adults. Our inhouse designers’ art styles complemented these projects seamlessly. And we have received very positive feedback from the teams.

When taking on a new project, do you have a set research process in place?
Thorough competitor and market research are crucial at the outset of any project. It’s equally essential to fully immerse ourselves in the brand we are working with.

One effective approach we adopt is watching a TV show or a new film multiple times, preferably with a child or someone of the target age range, to gain valuable insight into their reactions and perspectives. By observing what makes them laugh and identifying tag lines that resonate with them, we can create graphics that cater to their preferences and sensibilities.

This strategy is especially effective when designing graphics for fashion and home. To gain more feedback from a child’s perspective, we are also exploring the option of conducting focus groups at local schools.

How easy is it to stay on brief? Do you find things can evolve beyond the initial brief when you get started?
We take pleasure in pushing the boundaries and exploring new ideas at the outset of each project. This is precisely why we place so much emphasis on the research stage. Our customers appreciate our ability to propose suggestions that are often unexpected, refreshing and perhaps not initially included in the brief.

The Alphabet project we executed for the Natural History Musuem is a prime illustration of this. Though the original brief entailed designing artwork for the Alphabet, we found ourselves so inspired that we created graphics for t-shirts centred around the theme of environmental conservation. These graphics were eventually incorporated into a range for John Lewis.

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

On that, one of your core areas of experience is designing for the apparel market, which of course is still a buoyant part of the licensing market. Have you seen other product categories emerging that you have to incorporate in your design work?
Certainly, our designs are tailored for a diverse range of product categories, including apparel, stationery, gifts and home goods. Interestingly, even when we create guides for a particular product category, they often find their way onto completely different product types.

For instance, our Tatty Teddy guides were primarily fashion-focused – but were extensively utilized on greeting cards. Similarly, our Natural History Museum guides have been repurposed for homewares, fashion, jigsaw puzzles and even chocolate bars!

You have also just worked on classic and evergreen brands like The Gruffalo, My Little Pony and Peppa Pig. These brands are well known, successful and very active. How do you find and identify a fresh design angle for them?
We have a strong affinity with evergreen brands as they allow us more creative freedom to explore new and unconventional ideas. A recent example of this is our baby collection for Tiny Tatty Teddy, where we developed a jungle theme and dressed Tiny in a lion suit – the results were adorable!

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

Another project we worked on last year was an apparel range for The Gruffalo, designed exclusively for Primark. Despite having a limited colour palette, the range had a striking and distinctive look that was both simple and beautiful. We firmly believe that sometimes, less is indeed more!

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

Outside of your design work for IP owners, you have developed a licensing business creating and selling your own patterns. Can you tell us more about this and how you identify gaps in the market to develop new designs for?
Our process for in-house work is similar to that of our licensed work. We begin by creating mood boards at the start of each season, drawing inspiration from our trend analysis and market research. These mood boards serve as the foundation for our collections.

Additionally, we collaborate closely with a few of our clients in the United States, who regularly share their trends with us. This allows us to design to a specific brief for their product areas.

We have seen our designs prominently featured in Christmas and seasonal collections, as well as new product categories such as ceramics, gift wrap, and even umbrellas! Moreover, our designers have been developing their unique styles in parallel, which has opened up opportunities or us in the NFT space and beyond.

Paula Rich, Christa Mavroudis, Dot Dash Design, Ian Downes

Finally, if you could invite a couple of designers out for lunch, who would it be and why?
If we had the opportunity to invite a couple of creatives out for lunch, we would choose Natasha Dyson and Sophie Tea.

We would love to meet Natasha Dyson to discuss her experience with NFTs, copyright ownership and licensing. It would be great to learn from her insights on these topics.

We’re also fascinated by Sophie Tea, who has made a significant impact in the art world. We’ve been following her on Instagram and have even invested in one of her NFTs. It would be inspiring to chat with her and gain some insights into her marketing strategies. Ultimately, it would be fantastic to meet her in person.

Great stuff. Huge thanks again – let’s tie-in again soon!

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