Amanda Harper’s Interview with Madame Architect & the Lessons Learned from Multistudio’s RebrandPatrick Dimond September 23, 2022
Brands for Those That Build: Multistudio's Amanda Harper on Pushing the Graphic Envelope, Finding Alignment, and Being Thoughtfully Bold
Amanda Harper recently sat down with Madame Architect for an interview about her upbringing in Bainbridge, Washington, her architect father, and the path she carved out for herself as a graphic designer. Amanda’s amenable demeanor and discerning eye have led to award-winning projects. Amanda leads a brand team of interior architects, visual communication aficionados, wayfinding experts, and advertising gurus. You can read an excerpt of the discussion here, but we encourage those further interested in visiting the link at the end of the passage.
Tell me about your foundational years; where did you grow up, and what did you like to do as a kid?
I grew up across from Seattle on an island called Bainbridge. It’s a decent-sized town, so it’s not tiny. My dad was an architect, and my mom was a nurse; while growing up, my mom had several side hustles, from sewing children’s clothes to working as a chocolatier. So, I grew up in a creative environment due to my parents and their passions, and pursuing creative outlets is something I have always done.
I was also very into children’s theater, so I feel like that was a good foundation for being comfortable presenting and speaking loudly or taking on personas, if you will.
It was not a large part of my childhood, but being involved in those kinds of activities helped me prepare some confidence later in life when I needed it.
I have an aunt who lives near the Dosewallips River in Brinnon, Washington, and my mom’s business partner moved to Bainbridge, so I’m familiar. I have a feeling that the area is brimming with creatives. I love that your upbringing fostered those outlets.
There are so many creative types out there. There’s an annual tour where you can visit everyone’s studios across the island. I think it was a great place to grow up and I felt tremendously supported in whatever endeavor it might have been.
There was always something for everybody. With my dad being an architect, I remember him going to projects and always coming back and bringing something exciting. We would always hang out in the model shop or the supply room or play with the Copic markers. I felt immersed in this industry at a young age, but he always told me never to become an architect.
So, I didn’t become one. He didn’t specify enough to say don’t work in an architecture studio. Right [laughs].
I’m interested in how you chose to pursue graphic design; how did you veer into signage, wayfinding, and, more specifically, graphics centered around the built environment?
I feel like it was a bit of kismet, so to speak. I went to school and studied creative advertising. My background is rooted mainly in strategy, connecting with audiences and users, and understanding how to connect with people regarding a brand.
When I graduated from college, a friend and I had made a pact that whoever got a job first was where we would move. So, I applied to advertising and creative agencies on the coasts and thought that was where I would land. My roommate applied to four jobs, one being at ASU, so I thought, okay, here we go.
Growing up, my dad had a project in Arizona, and we would piggyback off some of his work trips and make it into an extended stay, so I was familiar. When I arrived in Arizona, I didn’t have a job and applied to traditional ad agencies. But, I was also looking for graphic design positions and found an opening at Gould Evans that supported the marketing department. I knew about architecture from my upbringing, and with my advertising background, I thought I’ll give it a go. It was my first interview, and there were about, not kidding, 12 people in the room that all sat in and asked questions, and I ended up getting the job. I believe it was the stars aligning.
Was there anything you realized about yourself during that time?
I think many people go into design and realize a lot about themselves because it is about experiencing the world, meeting different people, and hearing about their experiences.
Was there anything that dawned on you, or was it as a practitioner that you were influenced by design?
I think it was throughout my practice that I was more influenced by design. Studying it made me question my skills as a designer because there are so many strong designers and avenues you can approach or interpret design. Or the fact that design can be so subjective and that there isn’t any one correct answer. So that exploration and process and how you get there was a revelation for me.
I have always thought the process was the most intoxicating thing, figuring out a design challenge and jumping into that element.
Tell me about your work and how it has evolved with you over time.
I mentioned that I had started at Multistudio first as a graphic designer who supported the marketing department. I also had the chance to collaborate in the office on traditional signage and wayfinding projects.
My first marketing project was for a proposal we were submitting for Alice Cooper — he had a foundation that supports youth, and they were looking to build a new center. A young architect and I suggested making the proposal in the format of an album cover. We went out and bought many vinyl pieces of Alice Cooper’s inspirational artists to incorporate into the proposal. Everybody looked at us like we were crazy, but we did it. And, for that to be my first project out of the gate with an out-of-the-box proposal, perhaps set my trajectory [laughs].