network is an interesting new idea from seasoned producer Alex Dervin, who started with Imaginary Forces 10 years ago and was an integral part of The Ebeling Group’s establishment. The defining quality of network is its artist in residence program, which “offers creatives the opportunity to continue exploring the art that inspires their designs, showcasing their independent work through the studioâ€™s on-site boutique and online shop.”
Admittedly, that sounds a little like marketing fluff, but I think the actual idea is fairly courageous: instead of a static team, create a ever-changing roster of talent. This has some obvious advantages: stagnation will be kept at bay, budding designers have a place to blossom, and networkâ€”as a brandâ€”could build a reputation as the place to go for unexpected solutions to design challenges.
Those are the ideal outcomes, at least. The challenges are also obvious: Finding the right talent, knowing when to bring on new talent (and free up space), and establishing a clear enough identity that clients have at least some idea what to expect. It’s a pretty sophisticated balancing act. But I suppose if anyone can do it, Alex can.
network reminds me a little (in spirit, at least) of Blacklist, Psyop’s initiative to promote, young, international, boundary-pushing designers. These experiments indicate a couple things to me: 1) a growing need for “fringe” designers, i.e. creatives who live and work just outside the mainstream, and 2) a future that is increasingly hospitable to small, agile studios, especially as alternatives to big, lumbering ones. I’ve wondered for a while at what point a studio’s size and maturity become more of a liability than an asset. Maybe these experiments will help us figure that out.
network’s first artist in residence is Tatiana Arocha, who’s body of work is a diverse medley of styles and tones befitting network’s promise of eclecticism. Don’t miss her still designs as well.