On a narrow street in Portland, Oregon, a small industrial-looking building – complete with garage doors – sits between a petrol station and a garage. Welcome to Factory North.
The building’s facade – like the company name – tells us little about the nature of the enterprise within. You won’t see trucks full of boxes pulling out of this factory, but it’s not standing idle, either. Inside this former garage, Tyler Segel and Nicole Sakai are busy producing great designs for local food vans and global corporations alike.
More than most design firms, Factory North seems to take a special interest in signs. Of course signage is a big part of any identity design, but these folk see to it that it’s an important part. Although not sign-makers themselves, they’ve collaborated with numerous letterers and makers in their area to come up with some very original and eye-catching signs in a city that has a special appreciation for it.
Today they’ve taken some time to talk about design, craft, and of course signage:
In our design work, we definitely make a conscious decision to utilize the wealth of amazing talent here in Portland to collaborate on projects for our clients. There’s so much talent in this town that it would be silly not to seek out these craftsmen when the resources are so readily available. Portland is a city where both our clients and the design community notice and appreciate the hands-on approach and the craftsmanship that is required in sign painting. It also makes sense for Factory North’s brand and builds the community of strong design here in Portland.
The Big Egg’s logo was developed in house with custom lettering by Tyler. Jeremy Richter of Richter Signs hand painted the hanging wood sign. We met Jeremy through a friend who thought we should meet him, because he does all the hand drawn signs at Whole Foods (Gourmet Grocery chain) in town. Jon Stanton of Orange collaborated with us on the menu board.
Chop’s logo was custom designed by Tyler. We handed the design off to a friend of ours who works at Nike as an industrial retail sign designer. We met him through a friend who manages Hand Eye Supply, Core 77’s flagship store in town. He routed out the butcher block sign and stained the wood. It was just a fun side project for him, not a regular job.
The Trigger logo was developed by Tyler and we had Justin Riede who we’ve collaborated with on a number of different projects. He does a lot of hand painted signs around town and was referred to us by OMFGCo, another design studio in town. Justin did the large painted sign on the building and Jeremy Richter did the smaller hand painted signs inside of Trigger.
Creative signage gives a small business something unique to get noticed and does something different for your brand than just having a vinyl plexiglass sign that was made by a machine. It shows that you really care about your business’ perception and that you pay attention to all of the small components that build a strong brand. It’s also a win for the business when the customers are doing marketing for them by sharing photos of their sign or space on social media. They’re also supporting other small businesses when they choose to have a sign painter or woodworker create a custom sign for them. We’re all about building a strong sense of community.
We balance our work by treating both local clients and multinationals the same way. We have a process that we go through for every client that we take on and helps us stay true to our studio structure. When working for larger companies that already have a brand in place typically that’s a lot of production work that we can give to other people on our team and free up time for our principal creative, Tyler.
The word Factory encompasses many capabilities and has the industrial feel that’s in line with the type of work that we produce; minimal, classic, timeless, and reflects the personality of each brand that we’re representing. The North direction/location was added with potential to eventually open other offices. It’s also worth noting that Andy Warhol called his creative space The Factory, it’s hard to deny his influence on contemporary creative work.
Tyler is especially inspired by Aaron Draplin of DDC and Christian Helms of Helms Workshop. Both of those designers have aesthetics that are super clean and reference classic modern design. I’m inspired by OMFGCo because of their capacity to build brands into full environmental experiences and they have a similar studio structure to ours. We both look at blogs and social media daily and are constantly inspired by the work that so many people are producing!
We’re especially seeing an appreciation of the hand-crafted aesthetic here in Portland where there’s a greater interest for the hand made, small business atmosphere. Plenty of people like that aesthetic but it’s another thing to get a small business on a budget for something hand crafted. A lot of is on the designer to educate the client on what the budgetary restrictions are for materials and production. If we can figure out a realistic and affordable way to create things that are more long lasting and aesthetically pleasing it’s a win for everyone. We’re interested in making the city we live in more aesthetically pleasing. Growing up in places where it’s strip mall after strip mall of cheap looking work, we don’t want our city to become that.
There are certain spots in the US where there is a greater appreciation for the hand-crafted aesthetic; Portland, Austin, Brooklyn. We think that appreciation is going to keep spreading to other cities that haven’t yet experienced that wave of resurged interest in hand-crafted quality.
Right now we’re working with a bike builder and designing his brand and bike frames that will be hand painted. We’re working with Widmer Brothers Brewing on a project to design 30 different bottles of beer where we’re curating the selection of local designers and illustrators to collaborate with. We’re also beginning work on a restaurant in San Diego where we’re designing the brand as well as the space where we’ll be working with mural artists, sign painters, and be very involved in the build out process of the space. And many more this year!
We can’t wait to see it! Thanks Tyler and Nicole for taking some time with us. Keep filling your city with great signs and designs!