Episode 1: The Skinny Branch
To introduce Wordplay Radio, the three co-founders, Tom Rix and Luke, all sit down to discuss how they first ventured into design, how they connected at a Sydney design college and the first steps they took to startup Wordplay Studio.
A playground. A mooks cap. And Mondo Toys. Three elements that make up Tom Horne’s earliest memory of Luke Anderson in a primary school playground in Cronulla, Sydney. Becoming friends through their passion for drawing, apparel, surfing and any other subculture that caught their eyes, the two would later start Jazz Cats.
Luke and Tom’s creative ambition and against the mainstream mindset came to be everything that the street art collective, Jazz Cats, stood for. ABOUT JAZZ CATS - TYPE OF WORK, ETC.
Eventually being split up into two different high schools, the two continued to pursue art and design after dark until they spent a summer at Billy Blue Design College in North Sydney and, from there, knew that it was the industry they wanted to make their creative mark on.
Whilst Luke and Tom were gearing themselves up for design college after completing high school, Rix Lee was on the other side of the world in Humboldt County, California. With a few more years of life experience than Luke and Tom, she was being exposed to the rise of the tech startup culture. Google was taking landmark ventures into avenues that are now embedded as second nature in smartphones and Uber was just starting out as a text message service on the streets of San Francisco. Being inspired by the way in which these companies were investing design into the future and creating change on the global social platform, she decided to return to Sydney and enrol into Billy Blue College of Design.
The three Wordplay founders had their first project together working on the Billy Blue Graduate Exhibition in the final year - the Shift Exhibition. An exhibition designed for the audience to shift their thinking. The brief: ‘How can we make the city a more livable space?’ But they decided to forget the physical and, instead, decided to focus on shifting attitudes.
Following their Billy Blue graduation, instead of deciding to seek employment in an already established design studio in Sydney, all three of them decided to work on their own ventures. Tom and Luke continued working on Jazz Cats, picking up the odd client here and there to slowly work towards their own version of a studio. During this time they branded the Endless Summer Festival, as well as ________. Meanwhile, while working at Young Henry’s, Rix was focusing on her boutique beer brewing company on the side, Beer Creative College of Fermentation. Whilst prototyping her own beer and teaching others methods of brewing through the College of Fermentation, she was offered a grant to grow the business further.
Eventually, Tom and Luke realised that, despite doing good quality work and finding their own clients, their attempts at a design studio was missing the entrepreneurial edge to grow further.
‘If this is to go anywhere, who’s missing from the team? Rix.’
Apprehensive at first, Rix wanted to hear more about what the studio would look like with her involved while she continued to progress Beer Creative. Working from Tom’s grandmother’s house in Cronulla, the three decided to strategise and test what the future Wordplay Studio would look like whilst working for small local clients. They all wanted a studio that represented their ideals - something that stood for going against the grain, something that was ethical and something that worked on moving society positively forward.
Eventually, Wordplay Studio came into contact with one of Rix’s close friends, Mel Fuller, and the space that she was working out of, Maker’s Place. Here they were introduced to Leanne, a startup entrepreneur with an accounting background that offered to help set up Wordplay as a Pty Ltd company.