The couple behind the design consultancy Graven have found fresh inspiration at their Ayrshire farmhouse
“Everyone is doing the same thing,” remarks Ross Hunter, exasperated. “Everyone is super-familiar with all of the resources that are online. There are all the manufacturing sites; you want to find something, you go online. Not just every company in Britain, but every designer everywhere – whether they are in the middle of Argentina or Korea or France – has access to the same things. Consequently, they are all using the same source material and the same suppliers. It’s becoming really boring.”
He and Janice Kirkpatrick, partners in life and in business, have never been the type to follow the crowd. They met as students at Glasgow School of Art in the 1980s, where Janice was studying graphic design and Ross was in the architecture school, and had formed their business, Graven, even before they’d graduated. Janice and Ross forged ahead, recently celebrating the business’s 30th birthday. “At the time, we said we’d give it three years,” smiles Janice.
They had plenty of opportunities to move to London or the States. But, unlike many other talented and ambitious Scottish creatives seeking work, they remained in Glasgow, almost to prove a point that you could succeed without leaving. “There were only a handful of design companies in Scotland at that time and we saw this huge exodus of talent to London,” she recalls. But, she adds, it has never been a disadvantage for Graven to be in Glasgow.
Their office moved to the Merchant City in 1990, first in Candleriggs and now in Albion Street. The couple lived in a one-bedroom flat so close by that “you didn’t even have to cross a road on our walk to work”, as Ross recalls. When they considered moving or buying somewhere bigger, the thought of the suburbs did little for them. “People say it’s the best of both worlds, but I think it’s the worst,” Ross continues. “In the suburbs, you’re not in the city enough to really enjoy it, but you’re also not far enough out of it.
“We love the outdoors. We had motorbikes, and we’d bomb off up north at the weekend. We’d thought about getting a bolt-hole that would hold all of our outdoor gear, but then we realised that we didn’t really need our city flat.
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Photography Neale Smith
Words Catherine Coyle
Art direction Gillian Welsh