Brooklyn design duo Leta and Wade are out to show how design can be more fun. The pair talk Dezeen through five of their favourite projects, ranging from a series of idiosyncratic couple portraits to an alternative Valentine's Day party.
"We don't really know what to call ourselves," explained Jeffree. "We do so many things and we don't really have set roles."
"Basically we're just total goofs who want to have a good time while we're making our work," added Sobierajski.
"We're just total goofs"
"I think we aspire towards creating an environment and an atmosphere, as opposed to just delivering a brand or a logo, giving something that really encourages a feeling," Sobierajski told Dezeen. "We just want to make sure that things aren't staying stagnant."
Jeffree added: "I guess we're just trying to build more holistic worlds for people that are inspired by our world."
Here are five projects that Leta and Wade think best encapsulate their diverse approach:
The first project the pair worked on together, Complements is a series of self portraits that offer a new spin on the concept of the cringe-worthy couple photo. One shot sees the pair chewing on toilet rolls, while in another they have spaghetti hanging out of their mouths. There's also one where they're both soaking wet and one where their faces are distorted by sticky tape.
"The project helped us develop how we wanted to be as a couple, and how we wanted to be as partners in work," said Sobierajski.
"It also encouraged us that improvisation is totally okay," she added. "We realised that we felt really comfortable using ourselves in the work that we were making."
"The way we can direct each other – we wouldn't feel comfortable directing a lot of other people," added Jeffree. "It's never been about us wanting to be the centre of attention. It's more about how we can make it fast, make it great, make it personal, and make it engaging."
The pair's first commission was the branding and art direction for Le Turtle, a restaurant in Manhattan with interiors that combine black leather with pink neon lights. Their designs – completed while both were in different countries – include a bespoke typeface drawing on psychedelia and the occult.
"This was a project that really helped us develop an infrastructure for the way that we would work with one another," said Sobierajski.
"We both love the way each other thinks, we both have different things to bring to the table, so we just send files back and forth. It's like drawing on somebody else's sketchbook essentially," she added.
The couple said the restaurant become personally significant to them as they went there after their wedding. However it closed down earlier this year.
"Hopefully that's not a sign of our relationship!" joked Jeffree.
Leta and Wade designed the visual identity for the 2016 edition of a conference that brings together creatives in the tech industry.
As the event takes place in Upstate New York, the pair explored the idea that the countryside brings out people's wild sides. Their concept centres around fictional forest creatures.
"We wanted to help facilitate this notion of connectivity, but also embracing your other side, your weird side, giving into Mother Nature, essentially," said Sobierajski.
"When people go into the forest and it's nighttime, we all tend to be a little strange, right?" added Jeffree. "These characters are there to instigate the notion of freeing oneself from inhibition."
"This was also the first time we were really utilising performance outside of Complements," continued Sobierajski. "This turned a light on in our heads about how we love working this way."
AIGA Eye on Design
A huge graphic eyeball is at the heart of this branding design that Leta and Wade created for the AIGA Eye on Design blog and the conference it hosted in 2017. The imagery was used everywhere – on social media, as a pattern on clothing and was even made into a huge inflatable.
"We work a lot of brands, we do a lot of photography, and we're also obsessed with Anime, Manga, comic book culture and pop culture," said Jeffree. "This is the perfect dichotomy of those things coming together."
"You can tell we fetishise mascots, we love them," continued Sobierajski. "They always give everyone so much joy."
A Party for All
When the duo were asked to art direct a Valentine's Day party for Brooklyn creative space A/D/O, they decided to create an event that embraced everyone, not just couples.
They ditched hearts, flowers and anything else that seemed sappy, and instead opted for bold colours, shapes and patterns. They then applied these motifs to huge sets they built themselves and brought them to life with dancers dressed in head-to-toe bodysuits.
"A/D/O was the combination of all of these things that we love doing together," said Sobierajski.
"Embracing physicality, making things by hand, having people perform, getting people to kiss in our sculptures, getting people to get lost, getting people to take photos, dancing and letting go of your inhibitions. Some of it was fuelled by alcohol, but some of it was fuelled by sheer joy."
"Dancing, colour playgrounds, these are things that even as adults, we really enjoy, all of us," said Jeffree. "If everyone's feeling good, you can feel it."