Designer Spotlight: Turnstyle

This monthly online series shines the spotlight on a design firm or freelance business creating amazing work. It’ll give you an inside look at the design team, their philosophy and their work.

Firm: Turnstyle
Specialty: Graphic Design, Branding, Packaging, Digital Media, Art Direction
Location: Seattle
Firm Motto: Style is a simple way of saying complex things—Jean Cocteau

The S-word in the world of graphic design is a fairly controversial and taboo subject: the S-word, of course, referring to “style.” Geez, what’d you think we were going to say? For whatever reason, be it overuse, bad connotations or simply fear that the word may turn off potential clients (aka “we don’t have a style. We can design anything you want.”), it’s extremely rare to read or hear of a design studio even mention the word.

Breaking the silence on the S-word is the Seattle-based creative firm Turnstyle. They boldly embrace “style” not only in namesake and motto, but also in philosophy. The company was founded six years ago on the belief that in a crowded marketplace, people gravitate emotionally toward companies and products that project a distinctive style. Turnstyle adds, “Its [style’s] application in the design process is inevitable. We embrace it. We harness its power to cut to the chase. And failing that, we resort to potty humor.”

Turnstyle’s work on DRY Soda’s brand and packaging is a great example of their philosophy in action. Through bold, minimal, modern graphics, Turnstyle communicates the beverage company’s sophisticated, modern, all-natural, refreshing personality. Using Helvetica (the king of minimalism), simple, clever graphics and bold use of a single color on the bottle’s packaging, the purity of the product takes center stage. The result: a stylistic distinction that clearly differentiates DRY Soda from the competition and sets the tone for a unique brand experience.

Well, it certainly looks like the young company’s brazen use of the “forbidden word” didn’t turn off the masses afterall. On the contrary, the growing graphic design and branding studio is celebrating its six-year anniversary by moving its twelve-person-strong crew to some fresh new digs in the historic Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Considering Turnstyle’s humble beginnings where owners Matt Diefenbach, Ben Graham, and Steven Watson worked out of Matt’s 10′ x 6′ spare room of his condo and had to literally get up out of their chairs to let each other out of the room, this is a very big move. And, of course, they’re doing it all in style: their office will encompass the second floor of a renovated warehouse complete with original architectural features, exposed hand-painted brick, masonry block walls and more. Hey, maybe the S-word isn’t so bad after all.

Stephanie Orma is a San Francisco writer, designer, illustrator, and buzz builder. She’s principal/creative director of Orma Design & Communications and “chief clever creator” of the outrageously clever card and gift company She’s SO Creative. Steph offers unique insights on graphic design, branding and creativity. Follow her at




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2 thoughts on “Designer Spotlight: Turnstyle

  1. Pingback: Journal #4 | Corey Brickley

  2. Pingback: The S-word + Graphic Design | Stephanie Orma