Vince Frost: why saying yes means anything is possible

"I still work just as many hours as I ever did – if not more," admitted Vince Frost last night, addressing a sell-out audience at the latest Typographic Circle talk.

Same Shit, Different Country’ was the title of Frost’s presentation, held at the JWT ad agency in Knightsbridge, London. The acclaimed graphic designer and head of world-renowned studio Frost Design delivered a fascinating retrospective of his work over the past decade, punctuated with insight and weighted by experience.

What’s the point?

Frost may have moved his award-winning studio to Sydney in search of a better work-life balance but, as it turns out, his passion for helping people through design isn’t related to location.

“I live minutes from turquoise warm waters. But I’ve never worked harder in my life,” he said.

During the hour-long talk, Frost touched on topics ranging from open briefs – “You have to create your own parameters” – to the challenges of establishing a name for yourself as a new studio, to the dangers of committing to long-term projects, while walking through Frost* Design’s rich back-catalogue of work created on both sides of the globe.

Frost updated the Lawrence King marque, turning the ‘K’ on its side to represent a crown/

Frost updated the Lawrence King marque, turning the ‘K’ on its side to represent a crown/

Simplicity is key to Frost Design’s work. “A lot of our ideas are quite simple. I look like an idiot trying to explain them,” he laughed. “With every idea, we try to pare it down to the minimum – with maximum output.”

D&AD is about thoughts, ideas and thinking,” said Frost

D&AD is about thoughts, ideas and thinking,” said Frost

A key idea covered in the talk was that of learning: “You go through life and never stop learning,” Frost reflected. “I like being in the situation of not knowing. The less I know of something, the better I can learn.”

“One thing design school never taught me was the business of design,” he confessed. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Setting up Frost* Design

Despite his five years at Pentagram – being taken on in the early 90s as the iconic design firm’s youngest ever partner – Frost found the initial stages of starting his own studio tough.

“When I left Pentagram, it took me years to establish my name,” he revealed. “And then, moving to Australia, we had to do it all again.”

Fortunately Frost’s first exhibition in Australia – “I felt terribly exposed” – held at the Sydney Opera House, lead to a monumental job for the studio: rebranding the Sydney Opera House as a cultural centre open to everyone, rather than a elite venue purely for opera-goers.

Frost's first exhibition in Australia led to a job rebranding the Sydney Opera House

Frost's first exhibition in Australia led to a job rebranding the Sydney Opera House

“I’m a yes person. I see opportunity in everything,” he said. “One year I said yes to about $500,000 work of pro bono work, which put us in a tricky situation with the bank.”

Frost is an ideas man. If one message shone through at his Typographic Circle talk last night, it’s that anything is possible – if you can start the dialogue.

Now watch this! Frost* Design case study (HIV campaign)

  • To see more of Frost’s work, head over to the Frost Design blog.
  • For a full listing of what’s coming up next at The Typographic Circle, keep an eye on the site.

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