Designing for Ethical Small Businesses: An Interview with Lumo Design Studio
This article, by Eden Spivak, is brought to you by our friends at Editor X
Lucy and Imogen Borrill, co-founders of the Australian Lumo Design Studio, don’t think of branding work as something to be delivered to a client. Rather, they strive to build a brand together through a collaborative effort. “We educate and bounce ideas off each other, so we can understand their vision and help them express it,” the duo says.
A key component to their branding process is listening. Lucy and Imogen kick off each new project in a strategy workshop that they conduct with clients. This method aims to “unearth those gems of inspiration that only our clients—the experts on their business—could know.” The two designers thus learn to see these businesses through the eyes and vision of their founders, giving them a unique viewpoint that is clearly evident in the resulting work.
We chatted with Lucy and Imogen about the driving force behind their work, as well as their approach to branding and digital design.
Designing With Empathy for Clients
Lucy and Imogen have a special place in their hearts for small business owners and the passion that motivates them. “No matter if it’s their first or 100th business, every small business owner shares the same balance of vulnerability and determination driving them,” they say. “This fuels excitement, nervousness and creativity—all the things that keep us inspired.”
As co-founders of their own design studio, it’s easy for the two to relate to the needs and pain-points of budding entrepreneurs.
“We love being the guiding hand we wished we had way back when Lumo started.”
For Lucy and Imogen, a big part of their job is helping clients take a step back from their busy work lives. “In the swarm of day-to-day tasks, business owners often have their head in the sand. We help clients come up for air,” they say, referring to the studio’s ability to paint a larger picture and offer a broader perspective.
“We know our clients spend countless hours brainstorming and lying awake at night thinking about every facet [of their work]. They know the importance of having a good brand and website, but they don't have the bird's-eye-view clarity or skills to translate the myriad of ideas into a result that’s both authentic and compelling to their customers.”
This discrepancy between the client’s dedication to their brand, and the struggle to formulate a coherent, compelling story around it, is where Lucy and Imogen find themselves especially effective. They dig deep into the client’s work until they manage to decipher the overarching idea or theme behind it.
In Lucy and Imogen’s experience, once this concept is put into words, it resonates with business owners instantaneously, like a good friend telling you a profound truth about yourself that you hadn’t yet realized.
When the foundations for a good narrative are laid early, the design process runs smoothly, leading to a brand that feels genuine and that clients will connect to and be proud of.
Web Design Inspired by the Australian Landscape
Originally from Perth, the studio currently operates remotely from opposite ends of the country, with clients spanning the globe. “Our design aesthetic is inspired by our hometown in Western Australia and its sparse, oceanic landscape,” Lucy and Imogen say. “We like subdued tones, natural lines, white space and design that gives you a sense of calm.”
On top of their distinct visual language, their design work is also rooted in strategy and research. Lucy and Imogen pride themselves on designing with the project’s specific goals and metrics in mind, making sure that it will match their client’s business expectations.
When it comes to web design, both strategy and aesthetics are of equal importance to the two designers. “In this digital age, websites can be the primary brand touchpoint so it is important that a website properly communicates the brand we have worked so hard to create,” they say.
For their studio’s own website, created on Editor X, they evoked a neutral, white cube–like appearance that serves as a platform for them to display their works. “A clean, white space was key for us as we wanted our site to act as a gallery for the work we do for others,” Lucy and Imogen say. “We use our website to share our story and show the humans behind it all. Ultimately, we wanted to communicate our style and capabilities to encourage connection.”
Passion Projects, and Attracting the Right Clients
As noted, the clients that Lumo Design Studio works with are diverse, but all fall under the category of small businesses or startups. With plenty of experience in that department, Lucy and Imogen strive to attract the right types of clients by effectively communicating who they are and what they stand for.
Much of their work is made for brands that place an emphasis on sustainability and ethics, including nonprofits. “We’re enthusiastic about community and well-lived lives,” Lucy and Imogen say. “In turn, we advocate for niche businesses who are creating products and services that make this world a better place.”
Another passion of theirs is their “wedding mags,” a creative side project that’s entirely different from most of their branding work. Serving as an alternative to wedding albums, their bespoke wedding magazines give Lucy and Imogen the opportunity to work in the print medium, which they enjoy, alongside their other, mainly digital services.
“Our wedding mags are just a little ode to love,” they tell us, speaking about the stories of the couples they feature. Yet at the same time, it’s their own love—for their clients and for design—that ultimately shines through in their work.
Eden Spivak is a design expert and editor at Shaping Design by Editor X. She is also a freelance illustrator, with a love for editorial and children’s illustration. Working at the intersection of text and image, she is passionate about putting visual concepts into words and dreaming up imagery to accompany written text.