Vince Frost is one of the world’s most respected designers. His work is equal parts functional, elegant and visionary.
His brainchild, Frost*collective, is at the forefront of design, diving headlong into the brave new world of virtual reality, environmental design, and technological innovation.
But underneath the array of paradigm-shifting ventures is Frost’s one guiding principle: “We believe in designing a better world.”
We spoke with Vince about his work and his team’s creative processes.
Tell us a little bit about Frost*collective. What do you do and how do the different branches of the collective work together?
“I started Frost* Design in London back in 1994. In 2014, I created Frost*collective. Over 20 years I have been continuously redesigning my business. The aim is to create the best design business to add the most value for our clients.”
“We believe in designing a better world.”
“I redesigned the business to create separate businesses that were the specialist in their specific area, which then made it much easier to deliver on specific projects for our clients.
“We have six businesses now.Frost* Design, which is strategic branding; Jack is mindful packaging; Nest is digital; Nest VR is virtual reality; Urbanite is our environmental design business; and then Pivot is our strategic innovation business.
“We all work under one roof and we all work seamlessly together. Sometimes a client will come in for one particular project and then sometimes a business will work across the whole collective.
“It works really well.”
There’s a mission statement: “We believe in designing a better world.” Can you explain to me how that mission statement has been brought to life every day in this environment?
“It was important for me in the beginning to have a vision for why we are in business. It started off as one person and it was easier then because it was just me. But my personal mission was always to help people. Deep down, I want to help people be the best they can be and treat our clients in that same way.
“But once I hired another person, I realised I needed to share my vision. Over time, I needed to really articulate the vision, which is a bigger picture – to design a better world. We feel there is a responsibility, an obligation, to do the best thing possible. We don’t say no to clients. We say yes, and it takes us to interesting places, with interesting challenges.
“Deep down, I want to help people be the best they can be and treat our clients in that same way.”
“Working with a team as we grow – we have about 55 people now – I need to share the vision and the goals. We work on personal PPMs (Personal Progress Meetings) once a month, with each and every single person.
“So it’s really important for us to work on our culture, hire the right people, help people become the best they possibly can be over time. Each and every one of us, every single person within the business is important for us to achieving our goals.”
How strong would you say the design community in Australia is and how do you think the Australian design community is perceived overseas?
“I moved to Australia in 2003. I had never dreamt about coming to Australia previously. I knew quite a few Australians back in London and they always talked about Australia being a place that is wonderful to live in. They were often quite frustrated with the clients, saying that clients don’t understand design and that you need to be a generalist to be able to be in business.
“When I came here, I actually didn’t feel that at all. What I liked about Australia was the can-do attitude, the positivity, the lifestyle. I never felt that image that was portrayed to me previously, I just didn’t see that at all.”
“In the last fourteen years that I have been here, the design community has grown very much. We have grown as a business, and we’ve got a lot of experience across Sydney and the rest of the country. I think Australia has moved from looking outwardly and copying to actually looking closely at the projects they’re working on locally. I think we’ve got some phenomenal talent in this country.
“I think we’ve got some phenomenal talent in this country.”
“There are a lot of design awards around the world, and a lot of Australian companies are winning in advertising and design. So I think that we’ve got a very bright future. It’s a new country in relation to the rest of the world, and I think that we are just beginning to grow a really strong design community and talent here.
“In the next 10 or 20 years it’s going to be quite phenomenal.”
Who are some of the designers that inspire you now, as opposed to when you first started or when you were first working in the UK?
“When I was starting out as a designer, I was incredibly naïve and I think I probably still am. I view that naivety as a really positive thing. For me, not knowing what our clients are doing until we begin working on a project with them is not a negative thing.
“I see it as a positive because we want to dig deep and learn and grow without presumption.
“Regarding designers, back in the UK, Neville Brody was famous for doing Face magazine and I loved how he played with type.
“I’m a member of AGI, which is Alliance Graphique Internationale. It’s based out of Switzerland and is an elite design club. Its membership is extensive around the world. Locally, there are people like Michael and Eva from Toko Design and James Brown from MASH out of Adelaide. He’s now the president for Australia.
“These people are all working at their own individual businesses and are standouts in terms of what they do with their clients.
“There are a lot of amazing people around the world doing amazing work. In a way, because of social media, it’s standing out less than before when it was print.
You mentioned before there are six different but unified agencies within this group. You’ve got 55 people. What is it about Adobe that allows that team workflow to be so fluid?
“I started working in Quark. Quark was the tool that I absolutely loved and it was a phenomenal leap from doing design and artwork by hand. It helped me design. Some people sketch and then get on the computer and design. I was always trying to encourage people to sketch first. For me, working on Adobe, I was sketching as I was designing. So for many years, QuarkXPress was the program that I really engaged with.
“As the business has grown, every single one of our team is working on a Mac and working in Adobe and on the Cloud. It allows us to be totally connected and aligned. It’s robust, it’s global, everybody has easy access to everything. There is no better alternative for designers.
“The thing with Adobe Cloud is it really is seamless, it’s effortless. We never lose anything anymore, it’s critical for our business. It’s a critical tool that we use on a daily basis, I don’t know what we’d do without it.
“It’s as critical as air.
“The key thing I think here is, Adobe for teams really allows that one shared platform. Today, we’re very much about co-creation. We work closely with our clients, and we work closely with each other across the teams.
“Certainly with Adobe Cloud, it just makes it so much easier.
Today, we’re very much about co-creation. We work closely with our clients, and we work closely with each other across the teams.
“Things don’t crash, we don’t lose anything anymore … thank god! I remember re-creating 300-page books from scratch after spending months designing a book and losing it. Things have improved a hell of a lot. It’s pretty seamless and flawless now, and phenomenally reliable for us as a business.
“I don’t know what we’d do without it, to be honest – it’s funny that the young designers take it for granted.
“We are focusing today on what I call the science of design, which is really getting to the heart of the opportunity, the client, the problem. Looking at data, looking at behavioural economics, looking at customer experience strategies. So I think that we, as a company, again have an obligation to get to the point where we’re really designing accurately to our clients’ needs.
“We can use technology today like we have never done before to reach that goal.
“I think if design companies don’t start thinking that way, they’re going to be obsolete quite quickly. Because not only that is happening, and the demand from our clients will start to be pushing us in that way, but also automated design is going to come up behind us, as well.
“It’s really cool when you see a project which is basically a blank piece of paper in the beginning, but you see it being realised and you see people engaging with that brand. Then people around the world talking about something which is coming out of a warehouse in Alexandria, Sydney with the Nubo collaboration with PAL Design Architects Joey Ho and Patrick Leung… it just proves that good things can happen anywhere in the world.”