Designer Spotlight: Hybrid Design

Firm: Hybrid Design,

Specialty: Approaching projects—everything from film to packaging—with a philosophy of balancing work and play
Location: San Francisco

Design Mantra: If you don’t love your work, nobody else will either.

Hybrid DesignFor husband-and-wife team Brian Flynn and Dora Drimalas, going to work at their San Francisco design firm Hybrid Design is a lot like going out to play. That’s intentionally so, as they’ve crafted much of their business plan around the idea that taking time to play—something of a lost art, even in the design world—is essential to unleashing creative solutions.

“We know from experience that the best work happens when we are having fun and feeding our natural curiosity,” Drimalas explains. “You must constantly be learning new things to stay creative. I tell my designers to ‘be a sponge.’ You must always, always be learning.”

For the couple, cultivating a sense of curiosity is what makes their studio stand out, attracting top-tier clients like Nike, Apple and Starwood Hotels, who appreciate the innovative solutions the team brings to projects. For instance, when they were tasked with creating the program for last year’s TEDWomen conference, they decided to make an interactive version as well, transforming the printed piece into an iPad app.

Hybrid Design

“We combined our love of learning something new with a great project and created a wonderful tool out of it,” Drimalas says.

Perhaps the thing that sets Hybrid Design apart the most is not only that they’re willing to play with these kinds of questions, but that they’re also willing to act on them. It’s that bold and enterprising spirit that has seen them take their designs beyond successful client work and turn playtime into a successful business in and of itself.

Today, the duo also runs Super7, a one-of-a-kind toy shop that was sparked by Flynn’s passion for collecting obscure Japanese figurines. Much of what you’ll find on the store’s shelves has even been designed by Flynn, providing him the chance to bring dozens of the monsters and robots from his sketchbooks to life as limited-edition figurines for sale.
“It’s our laboratory,” Flynn says of Super7, where they can experiment with new design ideas, which sometimes become the fodder for client work, as well. That was the case when they designed some wallpaper featuring cameos of Star Wars villains for the shop.

Then, when they were creating a retail environment for Nike to show off a line of women’s sportswear, they created an installation that included custom designed, flocked wallpaper—inspired by their work creating the Super7 wallpaper.

 “People take the notion of inspiration for granted,” Drimalas says, musing on the intimate link between play and creativity. “Curiosity and discovery drive inspiration. Inspiration drives creativity. And voila, great things happen.”

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