A moving tale. | Studio Alto | Brand Design Agency in Melbourne


A moving tale.

Andrew O'Keeffe   |   Image by Eunice Yip


We’re moving studio. Again.


This is the third time since we started Alto, almost seven years to the day.

Why? We don’t particularly like moving, but as you’ve probably observed, Melbourne’s inner suburbs – especially those that were the enclave of the creative class – are being gobbled up by the property development machine, and our imperfect but lovely hot-in-summer-cold-in-winter-former-art-gallery-now-studio that we and our clients loved, is going to be knocked over and reborn as:

“sustainably designed 7 storey apartments that draws cultural inspiration from the surrounding neighbourhood and celebrates the ultra-cool style of Fitzroy.”


Fonzie Loves Fitzroy


Yep. Moving sucks.

Fortunately, we were robbed a few months back, so some of the clean-out had already been done for us (they even stole Mark’s tambourine, but that’s a story for another day).

The only good things about moving are the new studio warming party (your invite is in the mail) and the opportunity to go through all the crap you have accumulated and cull, cull, cull.

I’m not a particularly sentimental person, but I have dragged two beaten-up old cardboard boxes with me from the last two studios that contain samples of work from my last 20 years of learning and working in design. (Wow – that sounds like a long time. And I thought I was young? But then I realised that I’m not young anymore when our newest member was surprised that I was only turning 39 this week).




The only time I look in the boxes is when we move, and the only reason I look in them is to see what I can throw out so we have less to move.

So here I go again, leafing through the increasingly dusty and dog-eared samples (these are by no means archival quality).

I start by reducing the number of samples. I had kept three of everything, now I’m keeping one. There is no use keeping the old archive CD’s anymore with working files – not one of our studio computers has a CD drive anymore. Thanks Apple. The old sketch-books? They’re never going to be reproduced in a retrospective book. Gone.

Everything must go. In no time I’ve reduced it to less than half. Two boxes become one.

And then it hits me.


Twenty years. One box.

Is that all? It feels like I’ve worked so hard. Thought so much about solving people’s problems. Capturing their opportunities. And that’s all I’ve got to show? Twenty years. One box?

I start thinking about what else I could have done with those 20 years, and then quickly stop because that’s a bit depressing. #tearsforandy


Justin Timberlake's huge head crying tears for Andy


I repack the box, my feelings of pointlessness with it, and get on with the next moving task – cleaning out the ‘bits-of-sh*t’ drawer (not to be confused with the band) full of business cards, petty cash, bulldog clips and a pimp figurine that I picked up in a gum-ball machine in New York a lifetime ago.


Pimp Figurine


Mixed in amongst all the randoms I find some photos of my kids as babies and toddlers. With them is a folded-up picture from my daughter. There’s a drawing of her and me in my work-issue checked shirt, standing on the world. It reads:


“To Dab!
I love you Dad
your THe beest in The woRLD!”

And there’s hearts. Lots and lots of hearts. So many hearts #heartsforandy

That brings a smile to my face. And some perspective. As much as we fuss over the things we make, in the end they’re just things.

It’s the life we make that matters. We’re not our work, but it helps if you enjoy the ride, and I do. I’m surrounded by great people, and great clients. Of all the things we’ve made over the years as a studio, Alto is the thing I am most proud of.

So although I might not have my sketches reproduced in a retrospective book one day, at least on one day I was the beest in the world to someone.

I might just throw out that box, frame the picture and hang it on the wall in the new studio.


Alto has moved to 16/95 Victoria St Fitzroy. Drop by and check out our new digs.