“Where do you want to start? Do you want to?” Phoebe Glasfurd asks, turning to her husband, Aren Fieldwalker. “No, you can,” he replies. “You’re good at these stories.”
Glasfurd explains how the couple founded their agency, Glasfurd & Walker, after meeting in Glasfurd’s native Australia, both working in Sydney in broadcast design. “We worked in a larger agency that did network branding: Nickelodeon and that kind of thing,” she recalls. “Aren, at the time, had been in Australia for 10 years, and he wanted to move back to Vancouver. So I thought I would go as well, literally sight unseen.”
It is safe to say Glasfurd’s leap of faith paid off. Today, the eponymous design firm that the duo started upon landing in Vancouver is one of the city’s most prominent, having developed stylish branding for the likes of Boboli, L’Abattoir, Kissa Tanto, Bao Bei, The Juice Truck, Botanist, and Ask for Luigi, to name a few. Led creatively by Glasfurd, with Fieldwalker taking on the business side, the company’s work is simultaneously recognizable—glamourous text; lush, rich colours—and singular, bringing a new perspective to each client. At a time when the in-vogue style leans toward the aloof and cold, Glasfurd & Walker’s designs are defiantly different; narrative-based and warm, they welcome you in.
“I think there’s definitely always a story or a feeling that’s greater than the project itself. You kind of create a world,” Glasfurd explains from their crisp, white office in Coal Harbour. One such world is Yaletown’s beauty den The Glamoury. Echoing shimmering interiors done by Ste Marie, the salon’s branding is Art Deco opulence at its peak. Satin black robes feature the golden logo, as does the house line of makeup. The dazzling attention to detail brings guests back to the days when red lipstick was applied dutifully at a vanity and curls were primped daily.
Glasfurd & Walker’s concepts present new twists at every corner—there’s no copy-and-paste involved. Instead, the created identities roll out and unveil themselves over time. “If you look at a lot of our projects, no one touchpoint is the same—there’s no logo repeated,” Glasfurd says. “I think because we start with a story, with a narrative, people want to feel an experience; there’s no one-size-fits-all.”
Whatever characters or tales Glasfurd & Walker come up with, they are always based on the client’s original vision. “We spend a lot of time getting to know our clients because I think, especially for start-up brands, if the founders don’t really believe in what you create, then they don’t take care of it and treat it well,” Glasfurd explains. “So, you have to look at the person and create something that they can own and foster a bit.” For their recent restaurant project Savio Volpe (meaning “clever fox” in Italian), the team collaborated with Vancouver tattoo artist Shannon Elliott to illustrate the fox character who appears on the large front windows. It speaks to the care that goes into each Glasfurd & Walker venture.
At this point, Glasfurd and Fieldwalker are more selective about who and what they take on. Working with projects and people they feel passionate about is something that the duo considers essential to their business now. “As a designer, she has a tremendous amount of empathy,” Fieldwalker says affectionately of his wife. “So, she’s always looking out of herself and towards our client or other people with her work.” As all good storytellers understand, you have to know your audience.