In our first design-led breakfast conversation of 2019, we gathered in Dishoom's delightful conservatory to hear from Patternity co-founder, Anna Murray.
We've enjoyed hearing from a feast of design-driven entrepreneurs in the comfort of the conservatory at Dishoom's Kingly St eatery — from Wagamama founder Alan Yau to Suitcase Magazine's Serena Guen. All have generously led conversations around how they built their businesses and the lessons learned along the way.
On the morning of 23rd January we were joined by Anna Murray, one half of the design duo Patternity — the multidisciplinary "conscious design organisation" founded by Anna and her business partner Grace Winteringham in 2009.
Inspired by a shared passion for the positive power of pattern, Patternity counts Vogue, the V&A and Nike among its clients. Anna and Grace have built a thriving creative business that combines client work with their own events programme and product collections, aiming "to inspire more curious, collaborative and connected ways of living."
2018 saw a high profile collaboration with UK high street institution John Lewis: POSITIVE PATTERNS. As well as reflecting on such past partnerships, Anna shared upcoming projects, predictions and challenges for her visually-driven business.
Here’s what we learned.
A “smorgasbord” of experience in art direction, editorial fashion and set design (among other things) informs Anna Murray’s creative vision. She met co-founder Grace Winteringham, whose background is in product design, in 2008, and since then their complementary skill set and shared passion for pattern has won them an exciting array of commissions. Anna told us how she and Grace had been working with pattern in different ways and realised they “had quite similar ways of seeing pattern in everything.” Both had been implementing patterns in “tangible” ways, but were in search of “something else beyond the aesthetic.”
Anna’s personal and professional philosophies are very much driven by the patterns we find in nature, science and spiritualism, and not just those at surface level: “pattern is literally everything.” These are the patterns “in our DNA”: recurring symbols and motifs that connect us to the earth we inhabit. Both Anna and Grace “wanted to create something that would obliterate boundaries,” marrying “visual appeal” with social conscience: “our values were always very aligned.” With Patternity, they put “depth and mission at the heart of” their business by being selective with who they accept commissions from, and actively searching to have a positive impact in everything that they do – whether it’s a window campaign for the Wellcome Trust, or collaborating with a brand of sustainable knitwear.
The Patternity philosophy
There are plenty of brands and businesses that claim to operate according to the values championed by Anna and Grace, but “behind the scenes” the work doesn’t quite reflect that. Anna spoke frankly about how it has sometimes been “really hard” to turn down work that didn’t comply with their ethics — particularly “at points where [they] really needed the money.” Their “multifaceted” social, environmental and spiritual philosophy is an antidote to the modern “disconnect with nature.” Anna believes that when we open our eyes to the “interconnectivity” of our environment and wellbeing, “it shifts the way you think about your own life.” At Patternity, “the ethos is to rekindle that connection,” not by preaching, but empowering people through pattern — in everything from immersive workshops to curated “PATTERNITALKS”.
Conscious business. A contradiction?
“I think business can be conscious,” says Anna. Selectively participating in projects that “communicate causes” in which they are invested is how Patternity ensure they have a “positive ripple effect,” but it’s hugely challenging for small businesses to operate in this way. Taking on employees, for example, introduced added financial pressure which meant “there were certain jobs” — ones that really reflected Anna and Grace’s interest in education and wellbeing — that weren’t profitable enough to accept. Anna felt that the “pressure to bring in a certain amount of money” was “totally stifling [her] creativity.” Suddenly, “everything had a price tag.” It’s a common conundrum for creative businesses: how do we monetise creativity without compromising our work? “In creative industries we’re not giving ourselves enough space,” says Anna.
Navigating the work-life balance
It’s not just in creative industries that lack ‘space’ for pausing, reflecting and gaining the perspective we need to do our best work. In this “life of alerts” and inbox overload, it’s easy to get caught in negative patterns. The ways in which practising gratitude positively impacts our mental health are numerous and scientifically proven, and Anna is a huge supporter of this technique. She explained how she avoids “burnout” by making “meditation practice”, “checking in with [her] feelings” and “writing down three things” for which she is grateful, part of her daily routine. In 2017, true to their practice-what-you-preach philosophy, Patternity created the Be Great Be Grateful gratitude journal with Ebury Press, which encourages readers to “chronicle their moments of gratitude and set their intentions” while “looking beneath the surface, finding inspiration in the unexpected and living more positively.”
With values to protect, Anna and Grace seek out clients who demonstrate an “alignment” of views, “openness” and receptiveness to new ideas — even with a large corporation like John Lewis, where they ran meditation sessions before buying meetings. Anna explained how it was “so simple” and started “the collaboration in a different way”, paving the way for a working relationship in which people “listen to each other”. Although a little unorthodox, it was “very well-received” — and it seems to be working. Collaborators “have become friends” because Anna and Grace have made good client relationships an integral part of their practice. “It’s not what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it […] and leaving good vibes along the way.”
Anna mentioned that her ultimate goal, London rent rates aside, would be to “set up a centre where people can come and break the pattern of their lives,” but there are other projects slightly closer on the horizon. She hopes to publish a few more books, launch some more products (“along the educational, sustainable theme”), “made on demand” rather than en masse. In 2019 Patternity will mark its 10th birthday, and Anna foresees a number of activations and events. Most prominently, this year will be a year of preparation for an exhibition planned for April 2020, following the success (and enormous task) of the month-long “curated cultural festival” they organised with Getty Images and Guinness in 2013. “Watch this space,” says Anna.
Want to read more? Details of the books mentioned in this talk are:
The Hidden Messages in Water, by Dr Masaru Emoto
Sharing The Quest, by Muz Murray
All photography Sam Bush.