Graphic design duo Tin & Ed go way back. “We started working together at uni…” says Ed Cutting, “… and never stopped!” Tin Nguyen fills in. After graduating from Melbourne’s Swinburne’s School of Design in 2004, they landed their first gig creating prints for an emerging art festival, and have worked together ever since.
The duo boast an eclectic, impressive portfolio of work. They’ve created bouncy breasts to show the ‘cup size’ of Linden wood cups, worked with Vice on a live video projection shown at Sydney Opera House and designed playful inflatable sculptures for kids. At South African creative festival Design Indaba 2019, they showcased their project ‘We Come in Peace’, a global digital dance party. Through 3D scanning, the designers turn people from all over the world into AI-controlled avatars that are able to interact with each other and throw shapes, powered by game engine Unity. “It connected a lot of things we’ve been exploring already,” Nguyen explains. “The project started in Mexico last year, when we spoke at the AGI conference and just started asking people if we could scan them.” Cutting adds, “We like the idea of bringing people from all around the world together for a virtual dance party!”
They work a lot with digital, and are excited by the way the design industry is developing. “I think graphic design is in a fantastic position now – it’s open for whoever wants to create and make designs, the tools are very accessible,” Cutting says. Nguyen adds, “The tools have become more democratic, which means there’s more ugly design out there, but there’s also more interesting, experimental design. Anyone can do it, though not anyone can do it well. That’s really exciting, because it allows for lots of new voices and different perspectives.”
As well as exploring the intersection between the digital and the physical, Tin & Ed are also working on more tangible projects. They recently created the branding system for the Lyon Housemuseum in Melbourne, a private art collection that opened a new public gallery in March 2019. “It’s one of the most important collections of Australian contemporary art,” Nguyen explains. “We worked with them ahead of the museum opening and it’s been really exciting; the project is more related to our background in branding and design.”
Though they’ve been based in New York for a few years, the designers go back and forth between the city and Melbourne, a place they still have a lot of love for. “Melbourne was a very hard place to leave; it’s such a creative city. I can’t say enough good things about Melbourne – it’s always gonna be our home,” Nguyen says. Here are the duo’s best tips for their former home town.
The new public galleries for the Lyon Housemuseum are the continuation of the Lyon family’s long history of showcasing its art collection – its family residence, the Housemuseum, was designed by Corbett Lyon in 2002–2006 and has been open to the public since 2010. “Corbett Lyon comes from generations of architects, and the family is behind many of the major institutions in Melbourne. They’ve been collecting art for years, and this is their private collection. It’s an incredible way to live, and blurs the boundaries between the public and private space. The new gallery is open to the public all the time, and the first exhibition, which we did the identity for, commissioned a number of contemporary Australian artists to interact with the architecture of the building,” says Nguyen.
The National Gallery of Victoria has two spaces in Melbourne, one (NGV International) that focusses on art from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania and one (NGV Australia) that showcases indigenous and non-indigenous art from the colonial period to the present day. “They’re doing really interesting things in terms of their exhibition design and the shows they put on. I also love certain areas in Melbourne, I love going down Smith Street – there’s always things going on there, and you bump into your friends,” Cutting says. As well as art exhibitions, NGV hosts regular events, including Friday night DJ sets that let you dance to music inspired by the exhibitions.
RMIT University is a global university of technology and design in Melbourne, and offers plenty of opportunities for enlightenment even for non-students through its Design Hub Gallery, which is located inside the 10-level Design Hub. “It’s a really amazing location, with interesting exhibitions,” Nguyen says. The gallery is “dedicated to exhibitions and programs that explore progressive projects and research across creative disciplines”, and is a safe bet if you’re after a thought-provoking experience. The Design Hub itself is worth seeing – the glass, concrete, steel and rubber edifice is a green building and an impressive piece of architecture on one of Melbourne’s most prominent sites.
“An incredible, massive space – it’s a Japanese contemporary café that also has a nursery and Japanese products. The food is great and it’s a space that brings the community together. The idea of community is very important for us and our work, we want to create things that really bring people together,” explains Cutting. The huge Collingwood café and shop, located in a converted warehouse, is popular with locals; don’t miss its traditional Japanese breakfast, and check out the beautiful ceramics and Japanese denim products, as well as its coffee. Cibi also holds regular masterclasses, with themes like pickling and knife sharpening, for those who want to apply Japanese cooking skills in their own kitchens.
Nguyen says, “This is another place we love. It’s a wine bar and the food there is very simple but done incredibly well, with amazing ingredients. They also have great wines.” Among the dishes on offer at The Marion in Fitzroy are fresh favourites like prawn roll and tomatoes and seaweed, as well as sturdier options such as roast chicken and grilled pork scotch. The wine selection is impressive; wines by the glass range from local favourites, like a pét-nat from Victoria’s King Valley, to must-tries from Europe and South Africa. Take a seat outside to enjoy a glass wine in the sunshine if you visit Melbourne during the summer.